For most of history, people didn’t think of God as a “problem” so much as a solution. But times have changed. Today, belief — let alone trust — in God seems to be hard to reconcile with science, evil and suffering, hypocrisy in the church, questions about the reliability of the Bible…and more. Whether you’re wrestling with these questions yourself — and who doesn’t sometimes? — or know someone who is, you won’t want to miss a single weekend of this series.
“Why do bad things happen to good people?”
“If God is so good, why is there so much evil in the world?”
We all struggle at times to reconcile a good God with the evil we see in the world around us. Join us as we kick off our new series and examine the problem of God and evil.
Hey, welcome to Mission Hills on all of our campuses. I’m so glad you are here. I realize this is a weekend where it would be really easy not to come to church, but I’m so glad you are here. I know we are between Christmas Eve and New Year’s weirdness and the chaos of that, so it would be really easy to stay home, but I’m glad you are here because we are launching a new series. I’m really excited about this series. It’s something God laid on my heart a couple of — well, early last year, actually. I’m really excited to see what He does with it. It’s a little bit of a different series for us. I want to explain why it is that we are doing it. I think everybody listening probably falls into one of two categories, okay, and the question for you is, which one am I?
The first category is people that have faith and questions. People who have faith, they believe in God. They have faith in Jesus, but they also have questions. There is this myth out there that somehow people of faith don’t have questions, but having faith doesn’t get rid of the questions. What it does sometimes is scares us into not asking them anymore. You get to this place where — I have told everybody I have faith, so I can’t admit that I have any questions, so we don’t want to admit it. The problem is, if we don’t ask the questions we have, we are never going to get the answers we need. The answers actually can drive us deeper into a much more profound and life-giving faith if we are willing to ask the questions and get the answers.
That’s one category of people, people who have faith and questions. That’s the biggest one. I certainly fit into that category. There is another category of people that have no faith because they have questions. I think there are a lot of people listening that say, well, I don’t have faith. I don’t necessarily believe in God. I’m not really a committed atheist. I haven’t settled into unbelief, but I haven’t been able to settle on belief yet because I have some significant questions, and I haven’t gotten satisfying answers to those. That might be you as well.
What I want everyone to understand is that we are all on a similar page here. Faith is not really a black or white, yes or no, either or kind of thing. Faith really is kind of a spectrum, and you can think of the spectrum from zero — I have no faith, and I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t want to examine any evidence. I’m happy where I am, all the way up to maybe ten where people go; I have all of the faith and none of the questions. Got complete confidence. I have all of the answers I need. The question I want to ask you today is where are you? Where am I on a scale of 0 to 10? Take a quick minute to think about it. Zero again is no faith, no questions. I don’t need to look at the evidence. I have everything answered to my satisfaction, no God, no nothing. Ten would be all faith no questions. Like, I got God figured out. He makes perfect sense to me. Everything He does, yep. Got it.
Where are you? Then let me ask you this — any tens? I’m not seeing a lot of tens. Okay. You know what? Here’s what I want you to do then. I want you to look at the person to your right and say, it’s okay. I have questions too. Now look at the person on your left and say, I have questions too. I don’t want anyone to be left out because what we are realizing is, we are all kind of on the same page. You see, faith is a spectrum. If you think about that scale, five is the tipping point from unbelief to belief, but there is still process in either side of those things, and questions that can actually be what helps us to make progress in faith, and so we are all kind of in the same place. You are among friends no matter where you find yourself on the scale today.
That’s really what this series is all about. Today what we are going to do is tackle the problem of God and evil. We are going to ask the question, if God is so good, why is there evil, right? Let’s make sure we frame the question properly. Here’s the way it works. Christians teach a number of things that become difficult when it comes to evil. One of the things that Christians teach is God is good and great. Christians teach that God is good and great, right? So we teach that God is good meaning God is kind. He’s benevolent. He’s gracious. That God wants good things for His creation. We also believe that He’s great, meaning that He’s powerful. In fact, He’s all-powerful. God can do absolutely anything that He wants to do. Nothing that God wants to do is going to be blocked by something that’s out of His ability to control.
This is where the problem comes in. We go, if God is good, He should want to eliminate evil. If God is great, He should be able to eliminate evil, but evil exists. That’s the problem we are dealing with today. Christians say God is good and great but evil exists. And that’s the question we are going to tackle today. It’s a really important question. It’s probably a question you have wrestled with, if you are a believer or not, it’s probably a question you have wrestled with.
It’s a question a lot of people have wrestled with. A study a couple of years ago found, they asked thousands of people around the United States, hey, if you could ask God one question and you knew you would get an answer back, what question would you ask Him? The number one answer was, I would ask God why there’s so much evil, why He allows evil, so obviously, it’s a widespread question. Interestingly enough, they asked the same question of a bunch of Christians, and they found that question was the number one question that we are most afraid our nonbelieving friends are going to ask.
So obviously, this is an important question to have an answer to, and I believe there is an answer to it. I would to ask you to go ahead and grab a Bible from the seat around you, or one you might have brought, or pull one up on your phone. We don’t really care how you get there, but I would love for you to follow along. I’m going to be in Mark 10 today, starting up in verse 17. While you are turning there, let me just say something. I really appreciate the way Christianity deals with the problem of evil, because not all religions deal with it in the same straightforward way that Christianity does. Christianity goes right for the throat. It says there is evil. It’s a real problem, and they deal with it from that perspective. There are religions that try to take kind of a sneaky, round about way of dealing with evil.
One of the things that some religions say is, what evil? What are you talking about? There’s no evil. Doesn’t exist. It’s an illusion. It’s a myth. It’s a misperception. It’s a misunderstanding. It doesn’t exist. There are eastern religions that do that. There are even western religions that do that. Christian Science does that, which by the way is neither Christian nor science, but it does say that there is no evil, okay? So there are religions that say, no, evil is not a problem for belief in God because evil doesn’t exist. Christianity doesn’t do that. Christianity says, no, no, no. Evil is very real, and it needs a solution. What I have come to understand over this last — I don’t know, 25 years or so wrestling with this in my own life as well as with other people, what I have come to understand is this, Christianity offers the only complete explanation for three things, for the existence of evil, for our reaction to it, and for the solution for it.
I have really come to believe, that’s what I’m trying to show you today, that Christianity offers the only explanation for the existence of evil, our reaction to it, like why do we respond to the things we perceive as evil, as well as the solution for it. Mark 10:17 shares a conversation with a young guy and Jesus. It’s a conversation that got way too deep, way too fast. I feel bad for this guy. He had no idea what he was in for. Verse 17 says, As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and he fell on his knees before him. Good teacher, he asked, what must I do to inherit eternal life? So we got a guy, he’s probably a fan of Jesus, not necessarily a follower, but he’s intrigued by him. He’s interested in him. He’s got a big question, so he runs up and falls down and he says, good teacher. And understand, when he called him “good teacher,” he’s not saying hey, you’re good at teaching. What he’s saying is you’re good. I see goodness in you.
He’s kind of buttering him up a little bit. He’s going, hey, hey, got a big question, but first let me acknowledge something about you. I see that you’re good. But it’s interesting, that word is what Jesus jumped on. He says, good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life? Verse 18 Jesus said, why do you call me good? And I feel a little bad for the guy, okay? Because that’s not even the question he was there to ask, right? He wasn’t there to talk about what is good. Why I call Jesus good? He’s there to talk about eternal life, but Jesus hears literally the first word out of his mouth, let’s talk about that. I was watching “fails” the other day, all time favorite fail — a guy hopping from puddle to puddle, making them splash. He gets to the third puddle, and he disappears. It wasn’t a puddle. It was a pit. He had no idea he was getting himself into that. That’s kind of what’s happened to this guy.
He’s come to ask a spiritual question. He’s like, good teacher — Jesus is like, let’s talk about “good.” What do you mean by that? Why do you call me good? What Jesus is doing, he’s asking him a really deep question that the guy didn’t realize he was raising, which is what is your basis for saying it? What do you mean by that? When you say that I am good, what does that mean? How do you know that I’m good, and how do you know that something else is not good? What Jesus is doing, he’s challenging his sort of casual usage of a term like that. He’s going, man, don’t use words like that without some thought behind what you mean by them, which is interesting because we do it all the time, right? We use words like that all the time and we don’t think much about what they mean, but think about it. Good and evil, those are relative terms, and I don’t mean that they — just what you happen to think. I don’t mean everybody gets to decide.
I mean that they are relative to some kind of an objective standard. I mean think about it, I’m in front of this backdrop right now. If I go around behind it, I’ll be behind the backdrop. But the words “in front of and behind” they only mean anything because of where the backdrop is. Does that make sense? Good and evil are similar kinds of words. Good and evil require some kind of a standard so you can tell what side of it you’re on, and that’s really what Jesus is asking. He’s saying, what’s the standard here? You’re calling me good, okay. What’s the standard here? What do you mean by that word? And that’s really important for dealing with the problem of God and evil because the first step — listen to me, the first step in answering the question of evil is defining evil, okay? The first step in answering the question of evil is defining evil.
I have had dozens and dozens of these conversations where people will say, hey, it’s great that you are a person of faith. I just don’t have faith because — I don’t know how you can have a good and great God and still have all of the evil in the world. The way we need to respond to that question — or the way you need to deal with that question if it’s your own question is to actually step back a little bit and go, what do you mean by evil? Let’s define that word. I think we need to respectfully go, I agree. That is a difficult question. This is a hard subject, and I would love to talk about that with you, but before we do, we need to make sure that we are using our words in the same way. That’s always important. You are saying your problem with God is evil, would you just tell me — and again, very respectfully. We are not looking for a gotcha moment here. Very respectfully, would you tell me what you mean by evil?
What’s your standard? How do you know if something is evil or not? What I have discovered over the years is that most people are taken back by the question, honestly. They go, I don’t know that I really ever thought about it. You go, well, I don’t know that I have spent all that much time thinking about it, but let’s think about it together. What you are normally going to find is that people begin to try to answer the question. They try to define evil. There’s four different answers that they give, okay? These are a little oversimplified, but I think almost every answer I have ever heard fits into one category or the other. First category is this. People go, evil is the opposite of good, right? Which makes a lot of sense. Doesn’t it. Evil is the opposite of good, and we need to say, I totally agree. I think that’s absolutely right. The problem is, now we are back to the same question Jesus is asking, right?
Why do you call me good? What is your standard? How do you know that I am good? What is your basis for that decision? If we just say evil is the opposite of good, but we don’t define good, we are kind of circling the question. So that doesn’t really work. The second category of answer that people will give is that evil is whatever’s unpleasant. That’s not necessarily the word that they are going to use. They are going to use words that are a little bit deeper, more emotional. They go, there are some things like you just look at it. It’s awful. It feels — like I can’t believe that people are trafficking women around the world. That’s clearly evil because it — clearly, it makes me sick inside, okay?
Or bully, or child neglect. There are all kinds of things. It’s – it feels; it’s clearly unpleasant. Whether that’s the word or not, that’s really what it ultimately comes down to. I think that’s better than the circular thing of saying good is the opposite of evil and vice versa, but the unpleasant thing kind of falls apart too, for a couple of different reasons. First, different people have different standards of unpleasant, don’t they? Like my brother-in-law — he runs Ironman triathlons — and he likes them. Like he clearly has a different standard for what is pleasant than I do, okay?
Then there’s the issue that a lot of things that are unpleasant actually turn out to be good, right? Let’s talk about kale for just a second. Like I know that kale is really good for you. I get it. You can stop with the kale propaganda. It tastes like the devil’s vomit. I’m sorry. I know it’s good for you, but it’s super unpleasant, right? And there’s so many things that are unpleasant but turn out to be good. Medicine. My dad’s taking chemotherapy pills every single day, and it’s not pleasant, but it’s prolonging his life, and it’s actually giving him some more energy back as hit white cell count gets to where it should be. It’s unpleasant, but it’s good, right?
I’m sorry, I’m going to mess a bunch of New Year’s resolutions up here. How many of you have New Year’s resolutions to exercise more? I have bad news for you. At first, it’s not going to be pleasant. People that have been doing it a long time, they are like, no, I love exercise. It makes me feel great. Yeah, you have been doing it a long time. When you first start it, it’s not pleasant — but it is good. It is good for you. Stick with those resolutions. I’m rooting for you. You see what I’m saying? Just because something is unpleasant doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s evil, or that it’s not good, so that doesn’t really work.
Another option people go, the third option is that evil is whatever society agrees it is. It’s the social consensus. Like I don’t know how else we do it, so whatever a group of people says is good or bad, that’s what’s good or bad, so evil is just whatever society agrees is evil for whatever reason. That might be one of the only options people have without God, but it’s really an unsatisfying answer if you think about it. Because what does that mean? If it’s a group of people deciding what’s good or evil, then what happens if another group has a different definition? Is that all we have is a difference of opinion? Is that all we can do about it? Was the holocaust just a difference of opinion between the Jews and the Nazis? Anyone ready to go, yeah, yeah. Just personal preference. Was American slavery a difference of opinion between blacks and whites? Or was it evil? You see what I’m saying? If it’s just social preference, which group gets to decide?
Is it a simple majority, and does it matter if another group — you see what I’m saying? It doesn’t work, and we find ourselves going, no, no, no. Some of those things, I don’t care what anybody thinks, or what anybody decides to do, that’s just wrong. That’s just evil. Why do we feel like that? Then the fourth category of possible answers to what people mean by evil is. Evil is whatever is counterproductive. That’s not really the word that they use, but practically, that’s what it boils down to. Evil is whatever keeps society from moving forward, or evil is whatever keeps our genetics from surviving. There is a lot of evolution tied up in this particular approach.
Evolution says, well your human existence is a result of random chance, but survival of the fittest kicks in, and it does whatever’s necessary to preserve the genes being passed on from generation to generation, so the evolutionary teaching is that well, evolution — blind chance and survival of the fittest has led us to the point where we feel good about things that continue our genetic line, that keep our DNA in play, and we feel bad about things that don’t. For instance, we feel like it’s good — protecting children is good, because it keeps our genes going, and we feel like killing small children is bad because it doesn’t keep our genes in play. Make sense? From an evolutionary perspective, I think that’s a pretty solid attempt to explain why we feel like things or good or evil.
The problem is, again, it doesn’t work its way out when you carry it to its conclusion, because we also feel that it’s good to do thing that is don’t help our kids and help other people’s kids, even if those other people ultimately have kids that end up competing with ours. Why would evolution teach us to do that? I mean, how many of you sponsor children through Compassion International? That’s awesome. Compassion International is closing in on their 2 millionth child sponsored. How cool is that?
Yeah, that’s worth applauding. That’s fantastic. We love Compassion here at Mission Hills. Compassion’s goal is to eliminate child poverty. Not to impact it. It’s to eliminate it. A whole bunch of us have said, that’s a good thing to do. So check out what we do — we take money away from our kids, and we send it to the kids of other tribes and nations and other places that we’ll never see, and here’s the thing — I mean, think about this. It’s going to be brutal for a second, but let’s just follow it through to its conclusion. We are helping them escape poverty, which means they are going to grow up and industrialize and modernize their nations which means they are going to start driving SUVs and things like that, which means they need more of the resources we need, and you understand that those resources are going to run out, right? Natural gas and coal and oil — they are all running out, so we are helping people to get to the point that they are going to consume more of the resources that our kids are going to need someday, and — what are we, idiots? Like why are we helping when it’s going to hurt us down the line — going to hurt our genetic off bring further down the line.
And on a logical basis you are like, yeah, yeah, yeah, but — helping kids in poverty in other nations, it’s just good. It’s the right thing to do. Not helping kids out of poverty when we have the ability to do that, that’s just wrong. We feel that deeply, don’t we? Why? Why? And here’s what happens. I have been wrestling with this question for years with all different kinds of people. What I have come to understand is that our belief in the existence of evil — our belief in the existence of evil is very difficult to explain without the existence of God, do you hear me? Those four options, and almost every answer I have ever heard that doesn’t involve God, fits into one of those four categories, but when you follow them through to their conclusion, they are all very unsatisfying because they just boil down to, I guess I just don’t like it.
And that’s not enough, is it? To look at genocide or human trafficking and go, yeah, that’s just not my preference. That’s not enough, is it? That stuff is wrong. That stuff is evil. Even more — you know, everyday at home evil like bullying, or child neglect. To look at something like that and go, yeah, that’s just not my cup of tea. That’s not good enough, is it? Those things are evil. We have this deep seeded belief that things are just evil, and all of the major answers for explaining it just don’t work. See our belief in the existence of evil — and we do believe that deeply, profoundly, our belief in the existence of evil is very difficult to explain without God, because without that standard, why do we feel like people are either in front of it or behind it? Why do we feel like people are in alignment with it or out of alignment with it?
Why do we feel like that if there is no standard? Our belief in the existence of evil really very difficult to explain without the existence of God, which, interestingly enough exactly what Jesus says in answer to his own question. This poor guy jumped into way deeper a conversation than he thought. He said, good teacher — and Jesus said, let’s talk about that. Why do you call me good, he answered? He said this, No one is good except God alone. Understand, he’s not saying God is better at being good than we are. He’s not saying God is gooder. This is not a comparison. What he’s saying is God is the standard by which you decide whether or not something is good or bad.
He’s saying, you see goodness in me because I’m like God, and you may be using the word casually, but understand, every time you use the word good or evil, you are saying something about the nature of God Himself. This is the Christian answer to what evil is.
Christianity says evil is whatever is not like God. Christianity says evil is whatever is not like God. It’s not lined up with His nature, His character. And Christianity teaches a couple of things. Christianity teaches that God exists, right? That’s not news to anybody, right? That’s basic. Christianity teaches that God exists. Christianity also teaches, as we see here, that God is the standard by which we decide something is good or evil. If it’s in alignment with his nature and character, it’s good. If it’s out of alignment with his nature and character, it’s evil.
So God exists. God is the standard for good, but Christianity also teaches — this is so important, Christianity teaches that you and I were made in the image of God, and that means a lot. We find all the way back in the very first page of the Bible when God announces the creation of human beings, He says let’s create mankind, human beings in our image. We can talk a lot about what that means, but one thing that it means for our purposes today, it means human beings were made with an instinctive awareness of what God is like. We have an instinctive, hard-wired awareness of what God is like, and it’s that instinctive, hard-wired awareness that causes us to look at some things and go, that’s just wrong. That’s evil, and we look at other things and go, that’s just good, because there’s something in us that lives in the constant awareness of who God is and what He’s like.
So here’s an interesting thing that happens. I want you to follow me on this. If you don’t believe in God, if you believe that God doesn’t exist, you really can’t use words like good or evil. You kinda understand why I’m saying that? Because good and evil are terms that require an objective standard. If you don’t believe in God, you can’t say, that is pure evil. That’s an atrocity. That is awful. That is just bad by every– you can’t just say that if you don’t believe in God. Which means, only people who believe in the existence of God can actually talk about the existence of evil without hypocrisy. Only people who believe in the existence of God can actually talk about things that are evil without being hypocritical.
A hypocrite is somebody who says, I believe this, but they act in a way that’s different from that, right? Please understand, I’m not mocking anybody at this point. If we have to talk about hypocrisy, we have to talk about hypocrisy in the church, and there is an awful lot of hypocrisy going on in the church. A lot of people who say, I believe this, but I live in a very different way. I’m not pointing fingers. I’m not casting stones or any of that kind of stuff. We are going to talk about the problem of God and hypocrisy in a later part of this series, but what I’m saying, if you don’t believe in God, but you insist on using words like good and evil, there is some hypocrisy — there is some inconsistency going on there.
I remember a few years ago I read a book by one of the most famous atheists of our era, Christopher Hitchens. He died a couple of years ago, but he wrote a book called “God Is Not Great,” and in the book, there was a section that really caught my attention. He spent quite a bit of time about what he called religious atrocities, evil done in the name of religion. And I remember thinking, you can’t talk about evil done in the name of religion, because you have said there is no standard. There is no objective thing to say one thing is evil. It’s really kind of just about what a society agrees, or personal preference is or what you think moves us along, but you keep using words like atrocity and evil.
I never had a conversation with Dr. Hitchens, but I thought, if I did, one of the things I would say is, hey, you know what? I agree with you. Some awful stuff has been done in the name of religion. The Crusades were an atrocity. The Spanish Inquisition was an atrocity. The Salem Witchcraft Trials, they were an atrocity. Those were evil things. I completely agree with you. It’s just that I’m the only one who gets to say it. You — you can’t actually say that because you are borrowing capital. You are borrowing my worldview to make a point that you feel, but you can’t actually say that it’s evil. There’s hypocrisy there.
And I need to pause for just a second here. I want to say this, if you are not a follower of Jesus, feel free to tune out for a couple of minutes. I just want to talk to the followers of Jesus right now wherever you might be listening, because I know that if you followed that, if you follow what I shared, and you have this idea that when an atheist talks about something being evil, like religious evil especially, you are like, they are being hypocrites, and part of you is going, yes. Like yeah — I cannot wait to meet an atheist. I cannot wait to use that. I cannot wait to get them to that point where they say something’s evil, and I’m going to be able to slap ’em with this. I can’t wait. Got a weapon.
If that’s how you are feeling, can I beg you to stop — heading down that road? Please, stop, and listen to me really closely. What I’m doing today and throughout this series, I’m giving you something that you can use in conversation, but please understand, these arguments are not weapons. They are medicine. Do you hear me? Do you understand the difference? Atheists are not our enemies. Our job is not to inflict wounds of retaliation. Our job is to bring healing and hope. These arguments are not weapons. They are intended to be medicine. Listen, the Bible says those people that are far from God because they don’t believe in him, and they struggle with issues of faith, Ephesians 4:18 says this, They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.
Now understand, some of the hardening of the heart comes from sin, as it does for all of us. Sin calluses us. It makes it harder for us to be sensitive to truth and to light and goodness and those kinds of things, so some of their hardened hearts come from their own sin, but some of the hardening of their hearts comes from lies they have been fed and taught day in and day out in our public schools and in this world. People who don’t believe in God are not our enemies, and we are not out to inflict wounds. We are out to bring medicine, and that’s the goal of this. These are not weapons. It’s medicine. Do you hear what I’m saying? Could I get an Amen?
That’s not enough. This is really, really important. These are not weapons. They are medicine. Can I get an Amen?
Okay, let’s remember that, okay? Okay, everybody else can tune back in now. What we are saying is this, people often go, I have trouble believing in God because I see evil. What we are trying to help them understand, no, no, no your belief in evil actually points to the existence of God. Does that make sense? See our belief in evil is actually evidence for the existence of God because without God, we can’t really explain why we have this deep seeded, universal, cross language, cross culture, cross history belief that evil is a real thing, and it’s not a matter of personal preference. But that requires an objective standard, a transcendent standard, and that transcendent standard; I think the best answer is God.
So our belief in evil is actually evidence for the existence of God. But that doesn’t solve all of the questions, right? That doesn’t solve all of the problems. Because the question that we want to ask at that point, okay, I understand the existence of evil doesn’t disprove God, it actually requires God to explain why we even believe that, but why? Why would a good, great God allow evil? Why would he do that? Kind of along those lines, we want to ask the question like, where did it come from, right? If God is good and great and he created all things, does that mean he created evil? That’s a big question, right? Where did evil come from? Did God create it? And the answer to that question is — no — but — God didn’t create evil. I mean, really, you can’t create evil directly. It’s like dark. Dark isn’t a thing. It’s an absence of light. Cold isn’t a thing. It’s the absence of heat or molecular motion.
Well, evil isn’t so much a thing, like you can’t carry around evil. It’s the absence of good. It’s the absence of God likeness. Right? And God didn’t create the opposite of Him. What He did was He created creatures, human beings and angels that He allowed to make a choice. They could either choose to live in alignment with Him, or they could live out of alignment with Him. Instead of following the beat of the drum of His heart, they could set their own rhythm and it’s off center. It’s out of control, and it leads to chaos, but He allowed us to make that decision. Then we go, wait a minute. Didn’t He know that was going to happen? I mean, if He knows all things, didn’t He know that Adam and Eve were going to choose that? Then why on Earth did He make them with that ability if He knew what it was going to lead to?
That’s really the big question. If God is good and great, why did He choose to create us with the ability to choose evil, right? Anybody ever wonder that? Anybody know somebody who’s asked you that? If God is good and great, why did He create us with the ability to choose evil? There is an answer to that question. I’m not going to give it to you today. I’m totally kidding. I’m going to give you an answer to that question. I believe it’s right. I believe it’s 100% true, and I think it’s easy to understand. But before I give it to you, I want you to understand that there is a difference between something that works in the head and something that works in the heart.
We need to deal with both of those. I’m going to give you the head answer, but then we need to unpack how we deal with it at the heart level because something that works in the head doesn’t necessarily give us courage and comfort and whatever else we need the midst of things that are difficult. When we are facing evil, when we are facing pain and suffering, going, I know this thing philosophically doesn’t necessarily help. So we are going to deal with the head, but we also need to commandeer with the heart, but let’s start with the head. If God is good and great, why did He create us with the ability to choose evil because our ability to choose leads to great good.
Our ability to choose leads to great good. I mean, if you think about it, it’s pretty logical progression. If God is good and great, then whatever He does leads to what? Great good. Say it with me. If God is good and great, whatever He does leads to — great good. I have talked about this with philosophers. I have talked about this with scientists. I have talked about this with all kinds of people, and we have all kind of agreed that on the head level, yeah, I think that’s true. That’s the answer. Anything God does — if God is good and great, anything He does leads to great good. He wouldn’t do it if it didn’t lead to great good. That’s the head answer.
But then the heart jumps in and goes, okay, but how? Like help me understand how because life’s hard. Evil is real, and pain and suffering that are caused by our choice of evil, I deal with these everyday in my body, in my family, in my work, all around us I see the consequences of God. Help me understand how on Earth does you letting us choose evil lead to great good? Help me understand that. You know, when my kids were little, they were fascinated by the burners on the stove. They glow bright red, you know? And of course, they really wanted to touch them and we are like, we are not going to let you do that. Then one day, I was — I had just kind of kept my daughter from doing that.
I was sitting in the living room. I was thinking about it. I don’t know if any of you parents do that. I was like, what would happen if they touch it? If my back was turned and they touched it? Oh my gosh, the searing pain? That would be awful. The burned flesh, and — and I’m getting really upset. Like tears are starting to form in my eyes. It hasn’t even happened. I’m just imagined this. Does anyone else do that? Maybe I’m just broken. I don’t know. I was like sitting there really upset about this thing that had never even happened, and all of a sudden into that — and I don’t know if it was God speaking, I really don’t know what I was thinking, but I suddenly thought of two questions I thought were really interesting.
The first question is this, let’s imagine that ever happened. Do you think that they would ever touch the burner again? Most people are shaking their head. I’m thinking, no. They wouldn’t do that again. As long as they remembered what happened last time, they would never touch the burner again. But then I thought the second question, which I actually think is the more interesting one. The second question is this, would they be able to touch it again? I mean, would they still have the ability? Would they still have the free will to choose to touch it? I thought, well, yeah. It’s not like touching the stove got rid of their ability to choose. It just got rid of their interest in touching it, right? Not their ability. It got rid of their interest. I had at that moment a sudden thought that I wonder if, I wonder if that’s what God was doing.
You see the Bible is very clear that God made us for a purpose. Part of that purpose is that God made us to have a relationship with Him– to actually have a relationship with Him — with you. God wants to have a relationship with you. Not with you as a group, but with you as an individual. God made you with the goal of having a relationship with you, but the thing is, relationship requires choice, right? It doesn’t mean anything to say yes to somebody if you couldn’t say no. Guys, I mean, if your wife or if your fiancée– your girlfriend became your fiancée became your wife, if she said yes when you asked her to marry you because there was like a sniper rifle pointed right here, and she could see the glow, and she was like, I’m definitely going to say yes. You wouldn’t have rejoiced at that, right? Saying yes doesn’t mean anything if you can’t say no.
Like I have a Roomba at my house. Like one of those little round robots that goes and cleans up stuff. I love my Roomba, but I’m not in love with my Roomba, okay? I don’t have a relationship with my Roomba, and here’s the thing. Roomba has never said no to me. Every time I tell it to do something, it’s like, yes. It goes and does it. It’s awesome, but it doesn’t mean anything because it can’t say no, right? Saying yes doesn’t mean anything if you can’t say no. Relationship requires that choice, and so God wants to have a relationship with us, which means, He had to give us the ability to say no. Then the Bible says an interesting thing. The Bible says that one day God’s going to fix it. God’s going to make all things new again. He’s going to fix everything that we broke because of our sin; every bit of it, and then the Bible says that we are going to live with God in relationship with God in a loving relationship with God — forever.
That those of us that say yes to God now will live with God forever, and we are going to say yes to Him over and over and over again because we want to, and the Bible says there will be no more sin. The Bible says that nobody who says yes to God now will ever say no to Him for the rest of forever. You go, how is that possible? How is it possible to go forever and never sin, never say no to God? Does He take away our free will in heaven? I don’t think so. If He takes away our free will, then it doesn’t mean anything that we say yes, plus it makes this world a cruel joke, doesn’t it? If God could get what He wanted without giving us the ability to say no, then why do it now?
No, I think in heaven we have the ability to say no, but I don’t think we have the desire. We have no interest in saying no to God. Why? Because we touched the stove. Because we remember what life was like when we said, I’ll do this on my own. I’ll set the course. I’ll set the beat. I’ll do it on my own. And again, I realize in the midst of hardship, that doesn’t necessarily help as much as it should. It works in the head. I think it’s absolutely true. But we may struggle sometimes to grab a hold of it with our hearts, but let me help you do it. Maybe this is the way to do it. You realize that great struggle often leads to greater good, right? Great struggle often leads to greater good.
We see it around us all the time. How many of you learned to ride a bike? How many of you learned to ride a bike without ever tumbling off, without ever scraping a knee or any kind of — no? You had terrible parents. They didn’t love you, clearly. Why would they put you in a situation where you could scuff — you know, your toes or skin your knees, or bang your elbows or your head off of an embankment? Why would they do that if they loved you? Well, because apparently riding a bike — I mean, Lance Armstrong. You understand Lance Armstrong fell off his bike a couple of times. Great struggle often leads to greater good.
Or butterflies, right? You are like, that was a big shift, right? What just happened? You know, caterpillars, they go in and they build that hard cocoon around them, and then while they are in there, they metamorphosis into this beautiful butterfly with these wings, and then they try to escape, but the cocoon is hard, and it’s hard for them to get out, and what we have discovered is, if you go in and cut the cocoon open to help them out so they don’t have to struggle out, they come out, and they look really good, but they can’t fly. Because the process of struggling to break out of that cocoon is actually what allows them to get their wings strong enough to take to the air.
You see, great struggle often leads to greater good. We see it around us all the time. I just saw a study that apparently 1/3 of all Nobel Prize winners have dyslexia. Wait, what? Apparently the process of overcoming that learning disability, the process of learning to read and to write, and it being so much harder, it creates a mind, and a persistence and a perseverance that leads to people that literally change the world for everybody else. Great struggle often leads to greater good. We see it around us, so why shouldn’t it also be true that God has allowed Him to say no to Him because it will lead to a group of people that will say yes to Him now and forever because we remember what saying no was like, and that is a great, great, great good.
But you know, honestly, if — if it were just that, I would still struggle to say God is good. If God just said, I’m going to let him go through this, if it was just that, I think I would still struggle to say God is good, but — and this is so, so important. God didn’t leave us to solve the problem of evil ourselves. It is so central to the Christian story, the Christian faith. God didn’t just go, I’m going to let them do what they are going to do, and they’ll learn. He didn’t leave us to do that. In fact, the essence of the Christian Gospel is that God looked at our struggle and our pain and our suffering because of our choice, and He came to us as one of us. In the person of Jesus Christ, God came to us, and His Son lived a perfect life, and he took all of the consequences of our choices on his own shoulders, and he paid the price for them.
He touched the stove for us. He drew the pain out of our little fingers. He took it upon himself. He died, and three days later, he rose from the dead to show that it was paid. It was done. He offers new life and forgiveness to everyone who will simply trust in him. For me, that is the ultimate proof that God is good. Not the philosophy of it. I think the philosophy is good. I think the arguments are helpful, but at the end of the day, it’s what God did for me in the midst of my choices to walk away from Him that prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that He is good and He is great.
Okay, so what do we do with this? I’ll give you two possible questions. Question number one is this. If you are a follower of Jesus, especially, I would love for you to answer this question. Is God calling me to reach out to someone who is struggling? Because if you know this good and great God, then you are in a relationship with Him, and part of that goal in that relationship is to be on mission with Him, to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the world, and to step into people’s worlds when they are struggling, and to be the hands and feet, to help them, and to point them forward and help them move from where they are to where God is beckoning them. Maybe you are listening to this today and you are going, I know somebody, or maybe you start to pray, God, would you show me somebody?
Somebody who is struggling, I can be you to them; I can step into their world and help shoulder their burden, and help them move forward. The second question, this one is more for those that would say, I’m not really a follower of Jesus yet, and that’s okay. I’m really glad that you are listening to this. But if you are not really a follower of Jesus, then my question to you would be this — am I willing to take one more step toward trusting God. Maybe you are not ready for faith, but maybe you are willing to take one more step towards it. A couple of things you might think about doing. One of them, you might decide, I’m going to come back next week. We are going to tackle another one of these big questions next week. It might be exactly the one that you need. Or you want to come back another week. Maybe that’s your next step. Maybe you heard about our Discovering God class. A tremendous opportunity to gather together with people who have questions.
A lot of people don’t have faith because they have questions. A great environment to wrestle with those questions together and move toward answers that are actually helpful, that will help you move forward. We have classes starting in January. You can sign up for them online. You can find out more information about them at the Welcome Center. Maybe that’s your next step, to join a Discovering God class. Maybe it’s to go home and pull up Amazon and order the book Jay was talking about, “The Case For Christ.” Maybe that’s your next step, but are you willing to take one more step toward trusting God? Let’s pray.
God, on behalf of all of the followers of Jesus that are listening, we want to say thank You. Thank You that You did not leave us in the darkness that we chose for ourselves. That in spite of our sin and our wrongdoing, and let’s be honest, our evil, You continued to love us. You came to us. You died for us, and You rise from the dead, Lord You have risen from the dead, and You offer new life. For those of us that have received that, Lord, we just give You thanks. Lord, would You open our eyes to the ways that we can be Your representatives in the world in the midst of places where people are struggling? Would You give us courage to step into those situations, and to be like You to those people who are struggling there. For those who are here, and they don’t have faith in You, thank You that they are here. Thank You that they have been listening.
My prayer is, Lord, would You allow the conversation we have had today to stick with them? Would You allow them to continue to reflect on it, to think about it? Would You use that to help them arrive at truth, to understand the truth about who You are, and how much You love them, and how much You want to be involved in their lives both now and forever. In Jesus name. Amen.
2 Timothy 3:14-16
“Can we really trust the whole Bible?”
“Do we even know if Jesus really existed?”
In today’s message we’re looking at the validity of the Bible. God’s Word says that Scripture is inspired and inerrant.. but can we prove that the Bible is true?
Good morning. Welcome to Mission Hills. So glad you are with us. Before we get to our message today, let me just do a couple of quick things. First, I want to remind you — or maybe this is the first time you are hearing this, but I want to let you know the purpose of this series we are in right now, “The Problem of God”, the thing I want you to hear, hopefully again, is that the arguments that we are talking about in this series, the arguments we are giving aren’t weapons, they are medicine, okay?
What we are doing, we are looking at problems people have with God, questions people have with God, and the goal of this is to give you arguments and answers to the questions people have to help them get unstuck, but what I don’t want anybody to do is walk away from this going, I’ve got it now, and I know who I’m going to use this one against. These are not to be used against anybody. Our goal isn’t to stick it to anyone. Our goal is to help people get unstuck, because the reality is that people can get stuck in their journey of faith, and that’s true whether you are a person who would say, I have faith, or a person who says, I’m still figuring out whether or not I’m going to have faith, no matter where we are in that process, we can get stuck if we don’t get answers to the questions we have, and so the goal of the series is to give you answers to help you get unstuck. They are not weapons. They are medicine. So, so, so important.
The second thing I want to let you know about is a resource that I want to encourage you to get a hold of, and that is a book called “The Problem of God.” I actually ran across this book a couple of years ago. Mark Clark, a pastor out in Vancouver did this great book where he deals with some of the problems people have with God. I liked his approach so much that when we decided to do this series, I wanted to honor him by including his title in our series title. In fact, we got permission to use the graphic from the cover of his book in our series graphic. I want to do that as a way of honoring him and point you toward that book. Just so you know, I’m not actually teaching the book, and the content I’m giving is quite a bit different than his, but it’s a great, great supplement to the series and deals with some questions we are not going to get to, so I really strongly encourage you to pick up a copy of that book and have it on hand.
Last thing I want to tell you before we get to our message is that next weekend is a really special weekend. We have a guest speaker with us. His name is Dr. Steven Meyer. Steven Meyer works with the Discovery Institute, which is probably the leading organization exploring what we call intelligent design, which is scientific evidence for the existence of God. In fact, what Steven is going to be sharing, what is going on in biological sciences right now is so astounding that he’s going to argue that faith in God is not only reasonable when we look at the evidence, it is actually required by the evidence in science. He will be speaking on the topic of the problem with God and science. It’s going to be a great, great weekend to invite some of your unbelieving friends and family to, especially if they have questions about whether or not believing in God makes sense given what science teaches us.
So Steven Meyer is a scientist. He’s respected by scientists. He’s going to say, yeah, yeah, it makes sense honestly, as I said, believing in God is not just reasonable when we look at the evidence in science, it’s required by the evidence that science gives us, so really looking forward to having him here next weekend. Make sure you take advantage of that.
Alright. So our content today — the topic for today is “The Problem of God and the Bible”. Now I’m going to be honest with you, I didn’t grow up having any problem with the Bible. I grew up in a Christian home. It was a Bible believing church that we always attended, and so I really didn’t have any problem with the Bible. I was taught a couple of things growing up. Number one, I was taught that the Bible is inspired. How many of you have ever heard that? The Bible is inspired by God. It just means that it came from God. That God was ultimately behind the production of the Bible so that it was what He wanted. I heard that growing up. I also heard the Bible is inerrant, meaning it doesn’t have any errors in it. It doesn’t have any mistakes in it. There are no inaccuracies in it. How many of you have heard that? Yeah, honestly, that’s what I heard growing up. I never had a problem with that in part because I realized pretty early on, if I did what the Bible said, if I lived according to what the Bible taught, my life was always better. When I wasn’t living according to what the Bible said, my life was always harder, so I didn’t really struggle with the idea that the Bible was inspired and inerrant.
Then, I got to college. Yeah. I went to a very secular college. It was Kent State University, Northeastern Ohio — very liberal. I had Christians in my life that said, hey, hey — you are moving into hostile territory here, okay? You are going to get there, and the professors are going to try to destroy your faith. Oh, okay. That’s scary, but okay. I remember I walked into my very first class, first week freshman year. It was an English class and the TA handed out a list of the books we were going to read, and I was looking through it, and I realize one of the books is the Gospel of John. We are studying the Gospel of John, how bad could this be? And then my professor walked in. He was this kind of round guy with this huge white beard, and this shock of white hair. I was like, I have scored Santa Claus for my college English teacher.
I thought, I’m going to be taught the Gospel of John by Santa Claus. How bad can this be? The answer is really bad, actually, because what it turns out, the reason we are studying the Gospel of John so that he could say how full of inaccuracies and contradictions and historical errors and problems it was so at the end of the course what he basically said, at the end of our study of the Gospel of John, what he basically said is, if you think that you can put your faith in the story that this book tells, you are an idiot. I had never heard anything like that. I would be lying to you if I didn’t tell you that it kind of rocked my world. I found myself asking the question, is what I learned about the Bible growing up – that it’s accurate, that it’s reliable, that it’s trustworthy – is that right? Or is it what my professor is teaching me, that it is inaccurate and unreliable and untrustworthy, is that right?
It was really the first question that I began to ask about the Bible or really anything about faith at that point, and honestly, I’m so glad that I began to ask that question, not only in my own heart, but to ask other people that question because I began to learn something there that I say it constantly these days, which is, if we don’t ask the questions we have, we won’t get the answers that we need. Honestly, I believe that asking those questions is one of the things that God used to set me on the path that I’m still on today, and a lot of what God has done in my life and through my life really goes back to a path that I began by asking those questions, but I’m going to be honest with you, when I asked the questions, I didn’t get great answers.
When I started asking Christians I knew, how do we know that the Bible is inspired? How do we know that it’s reliable and trustworthy, how do we know that? Here’s the first answer I got. Well, you just have to believe. I was like, well, I want to believe, but I’m looking maybe for some help in that. They said, well you just need to believe harder. I was like, I don’t know what that means. Okay, like, I’ll try. No, I’m still struggling. And so I continued to ask questions. I had another Christian who heard my question and said, I’ll give you everything you need, and so he picked up a Bible. He said let me just read you something. This is going to give you everything you need. If you want to follow along with me, I’ll read from the Book of II Timothy 3:14.
I was asking my question about whether or not the Bible could be trusted, and he said this, this is what you need to know. He says, But as for you — and he kind of looked at me like — for you — continue in what you have learned. Didn’t you learn that the Bible is trustworthy? Didn’t you hear that growing up? I said, well, yeah. Well, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of. And I said, well, that’s what my question is. Like I would like to move from what I learned to what I’m convinced of. Can you help me? He said, yeah, yeah, yeah. Here’s what you need. You can move there because you have known these things because you know those from whom you have learned it. He said, didn’t your pastor teach you this? I said, well, yeah. Didn’t your parents teach you this? Well, yeah. He said, well, there you go.
He said, and from how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. I remember thinking, well, that’s really my question, can I really trust the Bible to lead me to salvation? Is the story it tells me true? Because, if it’s not true, if it’s not trustworthy, I don’t know that it’s going to lead me to salvation. That’s what my question is. He said, well here’s what you need to know. Verse 16, All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. He said all scripture is inspired by God. It’s breathed out by God, therefore, it’s trustworthy. It’s true. I remember thinking, but how do you know that? Because that’s really my question, because there’s no point in — like, you know, believing that if that’s not reliable, if that’s not true, and that’s what my question was.
I was pretty frustrated by the answers that I got, so I drove myself to the library. I sat down in the library, and I thought to myself, well, okay, how can I move myself from what I learned to what I’m convinced of? What would it take for me to do that? I thought, what I need to do, I think, is I need to prove that the Bible is inspired. I thought, I don’t think I can do that. I don’t think that I can prove that the Bible is inspired. In order to prove that the Bible came from God, I would have to be on the mountain when God handed Moses the Ten Commandments on those tablets. I would have to be there, and I wasn’t there, so I can’t really prove that, that happened. I would have to be there and hear the voice of God dictating words that He wanted the prophets to write down, and I wasn’t there, so I can’t really prove that, that happened. In some cases, I would have to be in the minds of the authors like Luke or Paul, and somehow be able to perceive that the Holy Spirit was guiding their thoughts to write what He wanted written.
I would somehow have to do that, and I don’t have that experience, and I don’t have that ability, so I can’t actually prove that the Bible is inspired. That doesn’t mean it’s not, but I can’t come to that level or verification of proof. So the next thing I thought, I’ll prove that the Bible is inerrant. I’ll have to prove that the Bible has no mistakes no errors in it. I realized, I don’t think I can do that either, because — well, basically because of this, some of what the Bible says is verifiable, and some is not. Some of what the Bible says is verifiable and some is not. Meaning, some of what the Bible says, you can find other evidence to confirm what it says, but some of what the Bible says you can’t verify. That’s not just true of the Bible. That’s true of any group of claims, any collection of claims has some of what is verifiable and some that’s not.
If I told you that last Wednesday I left the church at 4:00 p.m., and I traveled south on I-25, and I got off at the Castle Rock Outlet Mall exit, and somebody cut me off, but I was good, and in my head I thought, “that was bold.” There’s a group of claims there. Some of it you can verify, honestly, you can talk to some of the staff. They’ll go, yeah, yeah, yeah, Craig left at 4:00. And I hope you know this, but your cellphone? It gets tracked. Like the cell towers, they pay attention, and you can get a hold of those records and find out, yeah, yeah, he did actually travel south on I-25. Maybe there’s some dash cams or traffic cams that confirm that there was a guy who cut me off, but you’re never going to verify that I thought in my head,” bold “as opposed to another four-letter word, right?
That’s an unverifiable claim, so any group of claims, some of it can be verified and some of it can’t. When it comes to the Bible, some of what it says is verifiable, and some is not. Maybe we’ll find Noah’s Ark, right? Maybe we’ll find it, and we’ll prove that he really did build a huge boat, but we can’t verify it. We can’t prove that two of every kind of animal got on it. What would that even look like? It’s not like they are going to find Noah’s Ark and be like, yeah, yeah, we found it, and there are a whole bunch of skeletons inside it, right? That would be super creepy, right? The animals aren’t still there. We can’t prove that he put two of every kind of animal on it. It’s not verifiable. Understand, that doesn’t mean it’s not true, or it doesn’t mean it’s wrong. It just means we can’t verify it.
I sat there, and I realized, I can’t prove that the Bible is inerrant. Understand, this is really important, the Bible makes thousands of claims that are verifiable. Thousands. There are names and dates and facts and figures and times and places — thousands of verifiable claims. The truth is that the track record the Bible has when it comes to verifiable claims is spotless. In fact, I’m going to make a big statement, but I believe it’s true. A lot of other people have come to the same conclusion, and that is, there is not a single verifiable claim in the Bible that has been proven false. There’s not a single verifiable claim in the Bible that has been proven false. There’s debates about things. Sometimes there’s debates about, what is the Bible really saying? What is the interpretation of this? Sometimes there’s debates about how the historical evidence is supposed to be understood, and how it lines up.
There’s places of debate, but there is not a single, verifiable claim of the Bible that has been proven false. The track record is unbelievable, but that is not the same thing as saying the Bible is inerrant and having proved that. I just realized, I can’t quite prove that, so I sat there in the library at Kent State University, and I thought, well, what if — what if I can prove that the most important thing in the Bible is true? What if I can prove that the most important thing in the Bible is true? What is the most important thing? I thought, well, that’s easy. The most important thing is the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus. See the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus is the heart and soul of Christianity, right? That’s really the middle of the whole thing, isn’t it?
If you are standing at the edge of a pond and it’s frozen over, and you’re really kind of feeling, I would like to walk out in the middle of that pond. I would like to feel what it’s like out there in the middle, but I’m not quite sure if the ice is thick enough. I don’t know if it’s reliable. I don’t know if it’s trustworthy, how would you go about figuring out if you could stand in the middle? The easiest thing would be, well, you can take core samples and find out how thick the ice is, right? Yeah, I mean if the ice is thick enough, you know it’s going to hold me up, but where would you want to take the sample? You can take samples from around the shore, but all you would show you is it’s reliable, there, there, there, there. If you want to stand in the middle, what you really want to know is if it’s trustworthy in the middle, right? Because the middle is what matters most, right? That’s actually kind of fun to say.
Say it with me, the middle’s what matters most, so I sat there and I thought, I wonder if I could prove what the Bible says about the middle, the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, that’s the heart and the soul, so I wonder if I can prove what the Bible says about that? Because here’s the thing, and I discovered this not only there at Kent State University, but I have seen it time and time again since then, is that we can get caught up on the periphery. We can get caught up on the outside borders, and never really get around to talking about the middle, and I always want to drive people to that middle. People say, I don’t know if I can become a Christian. I don’t know if I can trust in the story of Jesus because I just don’t believe what the Bible says about Noah’s Ark. I don’t know that I can believe that this guy built a big boat and two of every animal went on it, and my response to that is, okay. I don’t care.
Can we talk about the evidence for what the Bible says about the life, the death and the Resurrection of Jesus. Somebody says, I don’t know if I can become a Christian. I don’t know if I can put my faith in that because I really struggle with this idea that the Bible says Moses parted the Red Sea, and they walked through it. And I go, okay. I don’t really care. Are you willing to look at the evidence for what the Bible says about the life, the death and the Resurrection of Jesus? Somebody says, no, no, no. I’m not sure if I can follow Jesus. I don’t know if I can become a Christian because I read the Old Testament, and it seems like the God of the Old Testament is really different from the God of the New Testament. I just don’t get that. Okay. I don’t really care. Are you willing to look at what the Bible says, and what the evidence that it says about the life, the death and the Resurrection of Jesus?
See that’s the middle, and the middle’s what matters most. Now, please understand — I don’t want to walk out of here going, Craig doesn’t believe in Noah’s Ark or those kinds of things. Let me be really clear here. I believe in the inspiration and the inerrancy of Scripture. I believe that as Paul says in II Timothy, all Scripture. is God breathed. It all comes from God. I believe in the inspiration of Scripture. I also believe in the inerrancy of Scripture. I believe that it’s philosophical, theological, psychological, historical. All of the things that it asserts, that it claims, I believe they are all accurate. I believe they are all true. I believe that. I just don’t care if you do. Not at first. Not at first. The middle is what matters most, and that’s where I always want to drive this conversation, because here’s the thing, and please — if I am wrong about this, I would love for somebody to come up to me afterwards and go, you missed a verse in the Bible, and tell me what the verse is, because here’s the thing — I don’t know of a single verse anywhere in the Bible that says, in order to be saved, you must believe that Noah put two of every kind of animal on the ark.
I can’t find that verse. I believe it happened, but I don’t know a verse that says you have to believe that to be saved. I don’t know of a single verse that says in order to have a relationship with God that goes on for all of eternity, you must believe that David killed a giant with a slingshot. I don’t know of a verse that says you have to believe that — not to be saved. Here is what I do know the Bible says, Romans 10:9. If you declare with your mouth Jesus is Lord — that he is who he says he is, and you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. That’s the middle. So the question I began to ask as I sat there in the library at Kent State University was, can I prove what the Bible says about the life, the death and the Resurrection of Jesus?
Because my English professor told me, we don’t even know if Jesus was a real person. Like we don’t even know if he actually existed. He could easily have just been a myth because the only thing we know about Jesus comes from the Bible itself. I thought, let’s find out if that’s true. You know what I found out? Santa Claus wasn’t even close. Not even close. In fact, what the Bible says about the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus can be confirmed without the Bible. Let me show you what I mean. I’m going to share quotes from ancient historians. What I want you to understand, these ancient historians are not Christians, for the most part. They are not pro Christianity. They are not looking to advance the cause of Christ. In fact, in most cases, these historians were part of a group that was anti-Christian. They had every reason to want to stomp the whole thing out.
But what they say about Jesus just confirms the facts about Jesus that we find in scripture. Let’s start with a Jewish historian. His name is Josephus. Josephus in his book “Antiquities,” wrote this. Now there arose at this time a source of further trouble in one Jesus. I just got to say, that is my favorite description of Jesus of all time, right? He’s a troublemaker. I love that, because he is, kind of, isn’t he? Anyone else find out that Jesus messed up your life? In a really good way, but he messes with our priorities and our plans and all of these kinds of things. I love it. He is a source of further trouble. He was a wise man who performed surprising works. Now, what do you think he might be talking about? We call them miracles.
Now, I want you to notice Josephus doesn’t say, “he claimed to.” But he did. Pretty widespread agreement. No, he actually did these things. He was a teacher of men who gladly welcomed strange things. He led away many Jews and also many of the Gentiles. His followers weren’t restricted to the Jewish community. Gentiles began to follow this Jewish Messiah. He was the so-called Christ. Now, when Pilate acting on information supplied by the chief men around us, condemned him to the cross — he was executed on the cross under Pilate, which is exactly what we find in scripture. Now remember, Josephus is not looking to advance the cause of Christ at all. Not at all.
Yet, he confirms an awful lot of what the Bible says about the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus. Here’s another quote from Josephus. He writes, so he assembled the Sanhedrin of judges, that’s the Jewish ruling counsel, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James. The Bible tells us that Jesus had a brother, or technically half-brother, named James. He became the leader of the church in Jerusalem after the Resurrection. Josephus says, yeah, yeah, we know about James, and he was brought before the leading council, ruling council.
I’m going to give you another quick one. There are several we could look at, but let me give you one more Jewish source that says this. On the eve of Passover they hung Jeshua, the Nazarene. And the crier went forth before him saying, he hath practiced magic. What word might we want to reinsert there? Miracles. Done miracles. Not claims to, but he’s done them, and he’s deceived and led Israel astray. Meaning, large groups of people, this was not a small band of followers. Huge numbers of people were following him. Let’s talk about Roman historians. Let’s start with Tacitus. Tacitus writing toward the close of the first century writing that Christus — Roman version of Christ, he suffered the extreme penalty, which would be — crucifixion. He suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius Caesar — which is exactly when the Bible says. Tiberius is mentioned in the Bible. At the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, the Roman version of Pontius Pilate, and a most mischievous superstition — I love that word. What mischievous superstition do you think he’s talking about?
It’s the Resurrection. It’s what the Romans called the Resurrection story. I love it because they use the word mischievous. You know why they used that word? Because it was causing them trouble. The story of the Resurrection was causing them trouble because what was happening was, you had a bunch of people saying, I have a Savior whom the Romans killed and he rose from the dead. I have a Risen Savior. Who gives a rip about Rome? Who cares about the Roman Empire? Who cares about loyalty to a human empire when I have a Savior who rose from the dead, and so what was beginning to happen, the story of the Resurrection was getting in the way of the Roman agenda. It was causing a loss of loyalty and those kinds of things. It was messing up things, so they called a mischievous superstition. So a mischievous superstition broke out not only in Judea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome.
The story of the Resurrection spread all the way to Rome. I think that’s significant because one of the things I was told, was that even if Jesus was a real human being, even if he was a real historical figure, the story of the Resurrection, that wasn’t part of Jesus’ original whole deal. That was something that Christians added on later, like hundreds of years later people like added on to the story of the Resurrection and kind of wrote it backwards, but no, no, no. What this historian is proving is that the story of the Resurrection was at the center of the story of Jesus from the very, very beginning.
The Resurrection of Jesus was always inextricable from the story of Jesus. Suetonius, another historian Roman historian writes this, punishment was inflicted on the Christians, a class of men given to a new and mischievous superstition. Here’s what I love about that. He’s defining Christians as people who believe in the new and mischievous superstition, the Resurrection. It’s not one of the things they believe. It’s the core of the whole thing. He said that’s how we define them. They are a class of people defined by their belief in the Resurrection of Jesus.
This is Julius Africanus. He’s writing a little bit later, and he says some really interesting things. On the whole world there pressed a most fearful darkness, and the rocks were rent by an earthquake and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down. This darkness Thallus — Thallus is another Roman historian, so now we have two Roman historians talking about this. This darkness Thallus in the third book of his history calls, as appears to me without reason, an eclipse of the sun. What we have right now is to Roman historians talking about a period of time when a great darkness spread during the middle of the day, and an earthquake happened.
Now, the Bible describes that’s exactly what happened during the Crucifixion of Jesus. That everything got dark, and there was an earthquake. Julius is talking about it. He’s also talking to Thallus. Thallus has tried to explain it. Well, I think it was an eclipse of the sun, and Julius goes, no, it wasn’t. What are you smoking, dude? No. That’s not a good reason. It’s not a good explanation. They were able to predict solar eclipses back then with huge precision, and there wasn’t one predicted for that day, so he goes, I don’t think that explanation works.
Phlegon is another Roman historian. Phlegon records that in the time of Tiberius Caesar, at the time of the full moon — which is Passover time, there was a full eclipse of the sun from the sixth hour to the ninth. Manifestly, that one of which we speak, which is exactly when the Bible says that, that happened, when Jesus was hanging on the cross. Interesting, right? Let me give you one more. This one is really fun. Can you throw that picture up here?
This is what we call the Jesus Bowl, super creative name, right? Let me see if I can try to explain this. This is a fairly new discovery. A few years ago this was pulled up off of the coast of Alexandria, Egypt. The bowl that we are looking at here is a soothsayer bowl. It was used by fortunetellers and magicians to try to tell the future, that kind of a thing. It’s been dated to possibly early as 200 B.C., but it has some writing on it. The writing is not original to it. It was actually scratched into the bowl after the bowl had been fired in a kiln, and that’s actually really helpful because while we can sort of date the bowl to around 200 B.C., when they scratched it, it allowed things like pollen and mold and other kind of spores to get in there and we can date when the writing happened, and the writing dates to somewhere around 50 A.D. So what we have here is a 250-year-old bowl that somebody decided to add some words to.
Now, I don’t know about you, but it’s a little hard for me to imagine scratching something into something 250 years old. Anybody own anything that’s more than a hundred years old? Couple? Can you imagine having something that’s 250 years old and going, I think I’ll just scratch some new stuff here — pretty it up a little bit, right? Not only was it an old, venerated object, but it’s what they considered a magical object. If it lasted that long, they would have thought this has a lot of power. This is a very powerful, magical object. Why on Earth would you deface it with writing? The answer is, the only reason you would ever do that is because you thought you were making it more powerful. You thought you were increasing the potential of this object. So what exactly did they scratch into it 250 years later? The answer is, they wrote “through Christ the magician.”
Now, this is added about 50 A.D. What you need to understand is, the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John — the stories of Jesus, hadn’t really been written at that point. Mark might have been in progress, but it certainly hadn’t spread to Egypt, so even without the Gospel, they had heard about Jesus, and what had they heard about him? They heard about his miracles, and probably his Resurrection. So convinced because the people they heard it from were so convinced, maybe eyewitnesses, that they believed they were improving the power of this magical bowl by adding the name of Jesus to it. Interesting. Very interesting.
So what does this show us? Well, okay, it shows us that even if you want to set the Bible aside, the existence of Jesus — confirmed. The existence of his brother James, confirmed. His fame as a teacher, confirmed. His reputation for performing miracles, confirmed. His Crucifixion on Passover, during the reign of Tiberius Caesar under the authority of Pontius Pilate, confirmed. Earthquake and darkness surrounding his Crucifixion, confirmed. Immediate, widespread belief in his Resurrection, confirmed. You don’t need the Bible for any of that. These are not matters of faith. These are facts of history. Let me say that again. These are not matters of faith. These are facts of history. These things happened.
You go, okay, well, so have we proven that the Resurrection of Jesus happened? What do you think? Have we proven that Jesus has risen from the dead? Weird head motions going on. Some of you are yeah. Some of you are going, no. Honestly, if you are going, no, you are actually right. We haven’t proven that Jesus rose from the dead, okay? We have not proven it. What we have proven is that the evidence points there, but we haven’t proven that he rose from the dead. I don’t know how you would do that, but we have proven that the evidence has gone there, and we haven’t even considered all of the evidence. Here’s what we know. We know that belief in his Resurrection appeared immediately, wasn’t something that came on later. It appeared immediately, spread wildly and did so within the lifetime of eyewitnesses.
There were all kinds of people around that said, no, that’s not what happened. It was this, as well as people that said, no, I saw what happened. It was this. The belief in the Resurrection wasn’t added on later. It spread wildly from the beginning, during the lifetime of the eyewitnesses. We know that those who claimed that Jesus had risen from the dead were changed by their belief. We also know that. Peter. Peter went from cowardice to courage. He was a man who ran when they came to arrest Jesus. He claimed he didn’t even know who he was when he was asked. He cursed a girl out who said, I think you were with him. He said no, no, no. He cursed. Trying to get attention off of that. That’s cowardice. He became one of the most boldly out spoken followers of Jesus. He ended up being executed for his belief in who Jesus was.
How do you make that move from cowardice to courage? He claims it’s because he met the risen Jesus. Or Paul, right? Paul, he began his career as a Christian bounty hunter. His job was to hunt down Christians and bring them to trial and execution, and he became probably the greatest Christian evangelist the world has ever seen. God used him to write most of the New Testament in the Bible. How do you go from hunting down Christians to not only being one of them, but maybe being the foremost of them. He says it’s because he met the resurrected Jesus. We know that the people who believed in the Resurrection, it fundamentally changed them. We also know that those who claim that Jesus had risen from the dead, they were willing to die for that belief. They were willing to die for it.
Peter was executed. Steven was described in the Book of Acts as the very first one that was executed for his belief in the Resurrection. In fact most of the 12 apostles were executed, and most were given an opportunity, history records, to just recant. Take it back. Say it didn’t happen. Say the Resurrection is a lie. They said, I can’t do that. It happened. If you have to kill me, then go ahead and kill me, but it happened. They were willing to die for that belief. What this means, let’s be very clear, what this means is that the Bible is proven reliable when it comes to the most important part of the Christian faith. The life, the death, and the Resurrection of Jesus. You may not believe. That’s okay. You may not believe the Resurrection happened. That’s okay. But I want to ask you — I want to challenge you, if you say, I don’t believe that Jesus rose from the dead, I want to challenge you to be intellectually honest about it.
Which means that you have to recognize that if you choose not to believe in the Resurrection, you are doing so against all of the evidence. You are swimming against the current of all of the evidence. There is literally no evidence that I had did not happen, and there is a ton of evidence that it did. If you choose not to believe, that’s okay. I’m not casting judgment. I’m not implying any kind of irritation or frustration with you, but I would challenge you to wrestle with the idea that if you choose not to believe in the Resurrection, you are doing so against the evidence, not with it. The Bible is proven reliable when it come to the most important part of the Christian faith, the life, the death and the Resurrection of Jesus. So what do we do with this?
Let me give you a couple of questions. The first question, this is really for followers of Jesus, people who say, I have faith in Jesus. What you have shared today reinforces that, and that’s great. I love that, but here is the question I need to ask of you. Who do I know that I need to share this content with? Who do I need to share this content with? Because at Mission Hills, our whole goal is to become like Jesus and join him on what? On mission. Become like Jesus and join him on mission, and the reality is that when you are mission with Jesus, you are going to find yourself building relationships with people who are stuck. Stuck in the progress of their faith or stuck somehow before they have come to faith, and maybe this question is where they are stuck. If you are on mission with Jesus, you might need to share that information to help them get unstuck from that.
Who do I need to share this with? There are a couple of ways you can do it. One of the ways, we have heard a lot of content. You can get the notes on the website. You can get all of these citations. You can find them on the internet too. This is not secret information. It’s out there if you know where to look. The other thing you can do, and this may be an easy way to do it, you can share a link to this message, this podcast with somebody, and just share it with somebody and say, I listened to this kind of interesting message. I thought of you. I wonder if you would listen to the message, and then we could grab coffee. I would like to know what you thought about it?
It’s a really, really easy way to share this content, but who is God calling you to be on mission with, with this content? The second question, this one, really, it’s probably aimed a little more at those who are listening who say I don’t know that I have faith in Jesus. Maybe, I’m intrigued. I’m kind of moving in that direction, but I’m stuck, I think. My question for you would be this, am I ready to take the next step toward the middle? Am I ready to take the next step toward the middle? Maybe you are going, well, I just — I’m struggling with the whole parting of the Red Sea and Noah’s Ark — okay, that’s fine, but that’s not the middle. Are you willing to take the next step toward the middle, the life, the death and the Resurrection of Jesus? Are you willing to take the next step toward trusting in Jesus?
The other stuff, we’ll take care of that later. We can take care of that as time goes by, but the middle is what matters most. So if you would say, I’m not a follower of Jesus, are you willing to take a step toward the middle, toward trusting in Jesus? Because honestly, maybe you are here today going, that was the place I’m stuck. That was the obstacle, the hurdle I was having a hard time getting over, and maybe, honestly, for you, the next step is all the way out to the middle. Or maybe it’s not. Maybe for you, the next step would be to say, I’m going to come back next week. Maybe that’s the next step. Come back next week, hear from Steven Meyer about the evidence for God from science. Maybe that’s your next step. Maybe your next step is the Discovering God series we do.
Great opportunity. We are going to be launching three different versions of them, midweek, Saturday and Sunday, coming up here toward the end of January. It’s a great environment where you can ask your questions with other people who are asking questions, and you are never going to be slapped down. We love the questions. If we don’t ask the questions we have, we are never going to get the answers that we need. So maybe that’s your next step, sign up for that and join that experience.
But maybe — maybe that next step is to go, I think it’s time for me to head to the middle. I’m going to give you an opportunity to do that, but before we do that, I’m just going to ask everybody, would you just join me in prayer? Father, as a follower of Jesus, as somebody who has put his faith in the life, the death and the Resurrection of Jesus, I want to speak on behalf of all of those others here that would say the same thing about themselves, we just want to say thank You. Thank You for the Bible. Thank You for the reliability of the Bible. Thank You that what it tells us is trustworthy and true. Lord, help us as followers of Jesus to live out that faith. The Bible tells us all kinds of things, not just about the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus, all kinds of things.
And Lord, maybe some of those things we don’t pay as much attention to. We say we believe them, but we don’t put them into practice in our lives. Lord, forgive us for that, convict us of that, and help us to trust what the Bible teaches us in all of its areas. We thank You for the reliability of the Bible.
If you are a follower of Jesus, would you do me a favor? Would you begin praying for people around you, people listening online that may not know Jesus? Because I do believe that in all of our campuses, including Church Online, right now there are some people going, huh. That question whether or not I could really trust what the Bible says about Jesus, that was my sticking point. Maybe right now you are realizing, I’m not really stuck there anymore. That’s pretty convincing. That actually happened. Maybe right now if that’s you, you are beginning to think, maybe if the Bible says what happened is true, maybe it’s right about why it happened. Because the Bible is very clear. The Bible says what happened is because God loves you.
The Bible says for God so loved the world that he gave his one and only sin. The Bible says that the wages of sin is death. That our wrongdoing separates us from God, but that Jesus came and lived a perfect life. He went to the cross willingly to pay for our sin, to pay off the consequences of our wrongdoing. He rose from the dead to prove that he had succeeded at that, and to prove that he had new life and forgiveness to offer. Maybe right now you are listening, and you are thinking, well, I think I believe that what the Bible says happened, did. Maybe you are realizing for the first moment that the Bible can be trusted about why it says it happened, that he died for you, and that he’s offering you forgiveness and new life.
If that’s you, and you are ready to take a step out into the middle, to declare your faith in Jesus, to put your trust in him, to receive forgiveness and new life, if that’s you, would you just slip your hand up right now? That’s awesome. I see those hands. That’s fantastic. If you are watching online, just click the button below me. And right where you are, just say this to God, the first thing you do is just confess. God, I believe that Jesus is Lord that he is who he says he is, that I believe who the Bible says he is. I believe. I believe he died on the cross for me. I believe he rose from the dead. I believe he’s offering me forgiveness and new life right now, and I accept it. Jesus, I put my trust in you. Come into my life. I’m yours, for now, forever. Amen. We had several people decide to walk out into the middle and put their trust in Jesus. Can we just welcome them into the family of God? Awesome.
THE PROBLEM OF GOD AND SCIENCE
DR. STEPHEN C. MEYER
Romans 1:20 + Psalm 19
“Creation or evolution?”
“Can we reconcile what the Bible says with modern-day scientific theories?”
Today we’re joined by special guest Dr. Stephen C. Meyer of the Discovery Institute for a discussion on the problem God and science, and the evidence for intelligent design.
Maybe that’s you. Maybe you are stuck somewhere in that process, and so these answers are for you. That’s great. It’s awesome. We are so glad that you are here with those questions because if we don’t ask the questions we have, we’ll never get the answers we need. But maybe it’s not your questions. Maybe it’s that somebody you love, somebody that you care about, somebody that God’s put in your life is stuck on one of these questions. The goal is to give you what you need to be on mission with Jesus for them and help them get unstuck. Now, when I decided to do this series, I knew one of the things I wanted to make sure to cover is the problem with God and science because I know that’s a sticking point for an awful lot of people, so as I began to think, what on earth am I going to do when I start talking about God and science, and then I realized, I’m not going to do anything. I’m not going to say anything because I know somebody who is an actual honest to goodness scientist who spends his life actually work on these issues and looking at what science has to say on not only the reliability of the idea that there is a God, the reasonableness of it, but actually that the science requires really, a belief in God.
He’s on the cutting edge of that. I said, I’m not going to say anything. I’m going to invite Dr. Stephen Meyer, a friend of mine, to speak on this issue. Stephen Meyer works with the Discovery Institute, one of the leading organizations pioneering the scientific work in what we call the intelligent design field. That again says, the evidence from science says believing in God is not just do it if you want it, but that’s really what’s required by the evidence itself. I’m not going to say anything more except welcome Dr. Steven Meyer. Would you do that with me?
Dr. Meyer: Thank you. It’s really great to be with you guys. I’m thrilled that you are addressing these deep questions. I was a college professor for 12 years and spent a lot of time with college students who had many of the questions you are addressing in this series, and I found in my time working with them, the issues of faith and science were often very much at the forefront. We have done polling data. The Pew Organization has done some polling data on students in the pre, post and college years and have found, yes, indeed, the idea that there is no scientific evidence for God is one of the main reasons that students who came out of a religious background have rejected their faith during those crucial years, or maybe students that never had a faith have been unwilling to consider the possibility of God.
It’s not really that hard to understand how people could get that perception that science and faith are in conflict. There are many powerful voices in our culture that are saying just that. Many of you would have heard of Richard Dawkins, the famous Oxford atheist who has written books on neo-Darwinism, one called “The Blind Watch Maker” and very famous and best selling monster called “The God Delusion.” Dawkins has become in a way the leading spokesman for what’s called the New Atheism or scientific atheism, the idea that science properly understood undermines belief in God, and of course, young people who go off to college pick up on this perspective, maybe not as overtly stated as Dawkins, but it’s in the water in the universities, maybe more than in the water, kind of the dominant perspective in a lot of places. Dawkin’s famous statement says things like this that have been very influential.
The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at bottom no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference. Very famous statement of Dawkins. Basically, he’s saying, and this is the message the distillation of the message of the New Atheists, that if we look at the natural world, we look at it scientifically, that our scientific understanding is incompatible with belief in God, that science, properly understood, undermines belief in God, and there have been many, many of these books by the New Atheists. This is, in addition to “The God Delusion” another called “Breaking the Spell” by Daniel Dennett of Tufts University. I bet you can guess what the spell is? Religious belief, belief in God. What breaks it? Science.
This is the message. For Dawkins, this message flows directly out of his commitment to Darwinian philosophy or Darwinian science. He says up until the 19th century, it was perfectly reasonable to believe in God because the evidence of design that we had all around us in the natural world, but since Darwin, we know — he argues, that evidence of design is merely an illusion. It’s an illusion because there is an unguided, undirected process called natural selection acting on random variations and mutations that mimics the powers of a designing intelligence and therefore explains away that appearance of design. Design becomes merely an appearance, an illusion.
And so, there is no public of evidence of design, therefore no designer, therefore you can believe in God if you want to, but you don’t have any evidence, and therefore your belief is tantamount he says to a delusion. It’s delusional. Now, this perspective is obviously very different than the perspective of the Biblical writers. St. Paul in Romans 1 says, For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities, His eternal power and divine nature – divine nature, sometimes translated “wisdom” in the older translations of the scriptures, have been clearly seen, being understood, and I put in italics, “from what has been made.” In other words, if you look at the natural world around us, we cannot only discern or detect the reality of God, but also some of His attributes, His wisdom, and His power.
I was listening to the music during the worship service, also thinking about the beauty of nature, and the beauty of music, and realizing that, that beauty, I think, reveals the goodness of God, but this is the Biblical perspective. You might always remember Psalm 19. It says, The heavens declare the glory of God. So there is something about nature that is revelatory, reveals the nature of God, so say the Biblical writers, very much in contradiction to the perspective of the New Atheists, and I suppose that’s not very surprising to think that the New Atheists and Bible writers would disagree about what nature tells us about God, but what might be surprising to you and to others is that the New Atheists perspective is very much at odds with the perspective of the early founder of modern science, the people that got science going, in a period that historians of science call the Scientific Revolution. That’s dated sometime it is between 1500 and 1700. Now historians are pushing it back earlier because they think that there were important intellectual developments in late medieval Catholic theology that contributed to the Scientific Revolution as well as developments in the Protestant revolution, or the Protestant Reformation.
That period is really, really interesting because we have never had in the whole history of the world, the organized interrogation of nature that came about with the modern Scientific Revolution, and it happened in a Christian milieu. And the early founders of modern science were themselves deeply devout, mostly men of faith, at that time men and now many more women in the field of science as well. These folks were devout. You had people like Sir Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, the great astronomer; Robert Boyle, the fantastic founder of chemistry, and on my screen here I have a title page from one of the early works of biology by John Ray, late 1,600s called “The Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of Creation.” That title is a paraphrase of the way the Romans 1 was expressed in the older translations of the Bible. You can see the Biblical worldview was the inspiration for doing scientists.
In fact, the early scientists had a watchword. They believed that nature was orderly, and that was one of the reasons that they thought for example that they could discover the laws of nature. They thought laws of nature were the define governance over nature. Now scientists look for laws. When science first started people thought that laws were an expression of God’s constant sustaining power of the orderly concourse of nature. They also had this really interesting watchword. It was “intelligibility.” They believed that nature was intelligible and could be understood by our rational minds because our minds were made in the image of the Rational Creator, in the image of God.
Because he was a God of rationality, he put order and purpose and design and rationality into nature which we could understand and discover if we investigated nature because he had given us the same gift of rationality, so there was a principle of correspondence between His rationality and ours, and between the rationality put in the world and our ability to perceive it, and that’s what made science possible. The scientists thought because God had made the world in a rationally ordered way, we could investigate it and discover that hidden rationality underneath it. So this idea reached an almost majestic — conclusion, in the works of Sir Isaac Newton. He wrote a famous book in the late 1600s — 1687, called “the Principia.” It was where he first laid out the theory of universal gravitation.
A few years ago, I had a chance to testify before something called the United States Commission on Civil Rights. The commissioners were investigating something called “viewpoint discrimination” in the teaching of biological origins. When I was summoned for the hearing, I thought, I wouldn’t have thought you needed a hearing to decide that question. All you need to do is open any biology textbook, and you find that there is only one view of biological origins taught, the contemporary Darwinian view, though there are many leading biologists today critiquing, for example, the creative power of the mutation selection mechanism that Dawkins thinks is this blind watchmaker that can create design without being designed, and there is also an alternative theory of biological origins that my colleagues and I at the Discovery Institute have been advancing known as the theory of intelligent design.
That there is real design in nature, not just the illusion or the appearance of design, and so I was called to testify as a representative of that perspective. I gave my testimony, and when I was done, I in the testimony mentioned Newton and some of the early founders of modern science. One of the commissioners in fact asked me, isn’t that view that you hold similar to that view of Newton, Kepler and Boyle? When I heard my hero’s names, I kind of got excited. Absolutely. That’s the same perspective, and I was interrupted by my opposite number at the hearing. She was defending the Darwin-only approach to science education. She said, that’s not true. What Dr. Meyer is saying is true about Newton. He was a very religious man, but he took great pains to keep his religious ideas about intelligent design separate from his science.
When I heard her say that, I thought, I have the opportunity to make a point here. I quickly interjected and said, actually, that’s not true. In the General Scholium to the Principia — that just means introduction, but it sounded really impressive. It happened that I had in my briefcase and essay that I just finished, and on the first page I had this block quote from Newton, and I had it nearly memorized verbatim. I don’t do that very often. I said in the General Scholium to the Principia, Newton said — and then I pretty much delivered this. Let me read it to you. It’s an amazing quote. It is from the introduction to his great work on universal gravitation. What he’s basically arguing is that the solar system must have been exquisitely finely tuned. It was a setup job, is what he’s arguing because the forces of gravitational interaction between all the different the planets and comets and meteorites. They are all beautifully balanced so the solar system maintains these beautiful, stable orbits. It’s quite a trick mathematically. It’s still hard to model in the computer, how this could happen.
So Newton was very sensitive to this, and this is what he said about it, he said though these bodies may indeed continue in their orbits by the mere laws of gravity, yet they could by no means have at first derived the regulation position of the orbits themselves from those laws. Thus, this most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the council and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being. Capital “B.” When I got done quoting, paraphrasing this as best as I could, I noticed that these grim-looking commissioners — a few of them were smiling and nodding. This could be more interesting than we thought. This young upstart might have something to say. Whether or not you agree with intelligent design, it’s indisputable as a matter of historical record that Newton and Boyle and these other scientists brought their ideas about intelligent design right into the warp and weft of their scientific work. It was integral to their perspective.
That leads to a big and obvious question. This is a big difference in perspective, Sir Isaac Newton v. Richard Dawkins. How did we get from Dawkins to Newton? That’s a big shift, right? That’s a worldview shift. There is a big story about this. In the book I’m writing, I’m telling more about this story historically. There are high points or low points depending on your perspective. Newton died in 1727. In 1799, a scientist named Pierre Laplace. He was a French physicist attempted to explain the origin of the solar system in precisely the way Newton said you could not do, by invoking the law of gravity alone in a cluster of nebular gases, and this was called the nebular hypothesis, written in a book called “The Celestial Mechanics.” In 1802 he was summoned to receive commendation from Napoleon in the palace of Versailles, because there was this little tension between the British and the French at this time, and he had shown up the great Isaac Newton, and Napoleon wanted to give him commendation, but he did ask him, he said when I read Newton, he mentioned God in many places in his scientific work, but you don’t mention him at all. Why not?
Laplace is said to have puffed himself up and answered, sire, I have no need of that hypothesis. That was my French accent. I’m really quite sorry about it. Anyway, historians differ about whether this conversation actually happened, whether it’s apocryphal or not, as they say, but it certainly captures the spirit of the age and the coming age because in the 19th century, many scientific theories of origins in particular dispensed with the notion of design, and attempted to explain the big things in the history of the solar system and the planet and life by reference by undirected, unguided, mindless processes without any design, any role for a guiding hand, we could say.
In geology, there were theories explaining the origin of the great features on Earth, the great mountain ranges, the canyons, the river deltas by reference to slow, gradual, undirected and purely natural processes. In biology, even more strikingly, because often it was the biological systems that triggered the awareness for design for scientists, Darwin came along and posited that natural selection and random variation could explain the origin of the appearance of design, as we have said. One college biology textbook puts it this way, by coupling the undirected, purposeless processes of variation and natural selection. Darwin made the theological or spiritual explanations of the life superfluous, unnecessary. Darwin had no need of the design hypothesis. Later, after “The Origins of Species” was published, Darwin published a second book on the “The Descent of Man”, extending his idea of natural selection and random variation as the explanation for the origin of human beings, not just all of the other forms of life on Earth.
Then later, scientists called chemical evolutionary theorists extended his idea in the other direction, to account, they thought, for the origin of the very first cell, the first life on Earth, a primordial soup. You may have heard of that idea in biology classes. So by the end of the 19th century, you had this kind of seamless naturalistic, or materialistic story that you could tell from the origin of the solar system all the way to the canyons and mountains, the first life, other forms of life on the planet, and even the origin of human life, could all be explained by one grand naturalistic, materialistic, story of the unfolding of these undirected processes. So, by the end of the 19th century, we not only had a series of these origin theories– sorry for the rhyme, but we had something like a comprehensive worldview developing.
How many are familiar with the term “worldview?” That’s pretty good. How would you define it? It’s a pretty big auditorium. Maybe you don’t want to shout out, I don’t know. When I was teaching philosophy, I always defined it as a personal philosophy or a lens through which we interpret reality, or instead of answers to basic questions. When I was in college as a student, not as a professor, I was a physic’s major. One of the reasons I ended up majoring in physics was that my dad is a mechanical engineer. Before I went off to college, he said, son, when you go to college, I know you don’t want to be an engineer. I was not mechanically adept. If I helped him fix the car, I was the one dropping the wrench in the inaccessible place and he would go like this. He said, I know you don’t want to be an engineer, but before you decide on what you want to major in, make sure you take two years college math, because if you don’t have the math, you will be really limited in what you can major in.
I said, sure, Dad. Just as long as I don’t have to be an engineer, I’ll do what you say, so I took two years of college math, and when I got done, about the only thing I could major in, in our small college was either math or physics, and I think that’s kind of what my dad wanted because physics was as close to engineering as you could get at a small liberal arts college, so I ended up following in his footsteps after all. One semester — the problem was, I also had — I loved these deep philosophical questions, the worldview questions. I would sign up every semester for one philosophy class. And in my junior year, when I was taking a really heavy load of important physics classes, I had a class on atheistic existentialism. This was the philosophy of Sartre and Nietzsche and it was all about anguish, forlornness and despair. I was doing really well in the despair part. I got an “A” in the class, and my grade slip came home at Christmastime. We have this Germanic work ethic thing in our family, and my dad — he intercepted it. I’m in college, and he’s still intercepting the report card.
At dinner one night he said, I wonder if we can have a little chat. And I thought. So, he pulls this out. I haven’t seen it yet. He says — as he starts reading the grades. One of them is atheistic exi — and he butchers the name on purpose to make it sound like it’s not really a real subject, and what in the blank, he says, is atheistic blah, blah, blah, and then he reads the grade, after a dramatic pause — “A.” Like that’s a bad thing, you know? And then he says, theoretical mechanics, which was my most important physic’s class that term, and he reads the grade, and it’s — “B.” Then he — his glasses slide down his nose, and he gives this look, which in our family means, it’s now time for offspring to give account of offspring’s behavior, and I got really defensive. I said, Dad, Dad, Dad, I know these philosophy classes don’t mean anything, but they are important too because in philosophy classes, that’s where you learn about worldviews. And the thing is, everyone has a worldview. I mean, even you have a worldview, Dad. Worldviews are kind of like a personal philosophy, and if you don’t understand people’s personal philosophies, you don’t understand where they are coming from. You don’t understand why they choose to use the words that they do, and why they vote the way they do, and what they think about.
He cuts me off and he says, son, you don’t need a worldview. You need a job. And I tried to argue that, that was kind of a materialistic worldview, and no, no. That didn’t really — so I was working on the resume before the end of — it was Christmas break, but — anyway, eventually, after grad school got a job teaching worldview, so it all worked out, but the worldview that dominates — it really is important to understand worldview.
The worldview that dominates our elite culture today is the worldview that came out of that late 19th century science. That’s the connection. Sorry for the long story, and the worldview is called materialism. The thing about worldview is they do answer these really basic questions like in the most fundamental question that every worldview or philosophy or personal philosophy answer is, what is the thing or the entity or the process from which everything else came? That’s foundational, right? Where did everything come from? How did Jews and Christians answer that question? People of the Bible? From a personal God, right? In the beginning God said, or in the New Testament, in the beginning was the Word. God is a personal being with a mind and intentions and conscious awareness and a plan, and He executed it by bringing the universe into existence. God’s mind came first, and His action produced matter. Mind first, matter second.
After the 19th century, very different worldview comes to dominate. It’s the idea that not in the beginning — there wasn’t a beginning, because matter and energy were from the beginning, they were from eternity past, and they arranged themselves. So this is the materialist credo that is opposite of the Johannine Prologue in the Gospel. This is how you might say it, it’s from eternity past for the particles. The particles and the energy arranged themselves and they became a complex living cell, the first complex living stuff, and that cell then evolved by undirected Darwinian processes to become more complex forms of life, and one of those evolving forms eventually developed conscious awareness and thought of, or conceived of the idea of God.
So there is God in the materialistic worldview, but only God as a concept or an idea in the mind of human beings. So do you see how these worldviews are diametrically opposite? The one starts with matter and ends with consciousness and the idea of God, but only God as an idea, a fiction. The other starts with God who creates the material universe, shapes it, and brings us and our conscious awareness in His image, into being. They are exactly opposite. Do you understand why some sociologists today say there is a culture clash, a culture war in America? It’s not really a war. It’s an idea contest, okay? The bad news for people of the Judeo-Christian theistic persuasion is that the materialistic worldview dominates the elite culture today. I’m talking about the universities, the public research universities, the science institutes, the law schools, the courts, the media, and oh my could I had tell you stories, and even the seminaries are deeply affected by this materialistic or naturalistic point of view.
Now the good news is, if you are of Judeo Christian persuasion — I’m assuming everyone is here today, let’s just call it the news, then. The science that gave rise to this materialistic view at the end of the 19th century has been and is being supplanted by amazing discoveries that have very different implications, implications that are decidedly nonmaterialistic pointing in a frankly theistic direction so much so that I call this shift in intellectual perspective as a result of these scientific discoveries the return of the God hypothesis. In the time we have left today I want to tell you about three major scientific discoveries, or classes of discovery — this is just a visual of the materialistic worldview. The disk is the material universe. The idea is that you have the laws of nature but nothing beyond the universe, no transcendent reality, no mind, no creator, no intelligence, no purpose of intelligence of any kind.
Now the shift that I’m talking about begins in the field of astronomy in the 19 — roughly 1920s. There was a famous astronomer — you may have heard of him, Edwin Hubble? He has a telescope named after him. Unfortunately for Hubble’s legacy, the telescope is often broken, and people are having to go up there and fix it, but anyway, he was one of the great scientists of the 20th century. He came into astronomy at a propitious time because the astronomers were starting to use these big dome telescopes. This is a picture of the 200-inch Palomar — the telescope at the Palomar Observatory. Hubble used this later in his career. Earlier in his career he was using a slightly smaller, 100-inch one at Mt. Wilson. What Hubble began to discover, and other astronomers at the time, he began to discover that by resolving those little, tiny indistinct points of light in the night sky, he was able to show that these were very distinct — had very distinct structure to them.
And part of it was the resolving power of the new telescope, and part of it was the use of photographic plates to collect light with a long exposure, and as the light collected, these structures would come into focus, and the astronomers were really kind of amazed at what was out there. This is only the 1920s, not even a hundred years ago, and there was a big debate up until that time, in fact in 1921 a big debate between two astronomers, one named Harlow Shapley and another named Heber Curtis, and these two guys were debating whether or not our Milky Way Galaxy was the only galaxy or not, or whether there were other galaxies beyond this galaxy.
As these indistinct points of light were showing up on photographic plates giving the smudges had more and more structure, more and more astronomers were thinking, maybe we are looking at other galaxies beyond. Shapley and others continued to maintain that no, no, this is one galaxy until 1924 Edwin Hubble using new techniques for measuring distances to distant galaxies was able to determine one of the ones near us, the Andromeda Galaxy was 900,000 light years away from us, and yet the whole measured extent of the Milky Way at that time was 300,000 light years, so it was three times further away from us than the size of the Milky Way, therefore it couldn’t be contained in the Milky Way, therefore the smudges were indicating — the nebular smudges were indicating other galaxies, island universes as Curtis called them.
That was pretty mind blowing. The discovery about the size and immensity of the universe have just since Hubble, continued to pace. This is now what’s known as the Hubble deep field. That little tiny quadrant on the screen corresponds to like a dime at arm’s length amount of spatial displacement in the night sky. Now, watch what happens when we amplify or magnify that. It’s galaxies galore. Current estimates for the number of galaxies in the visible universe is 200 billion or as high as 2 trillion — galaxies. Our Milky Way Galaxy has 300 billion stars in it. It’s billions of trillions of stars. It’s the size and scope of the universe is immense beyond our wildest imagination circa 1920. And so this is one of the big discoveries.
But an even more significant discovery had to do with the light coming from those galaxies. What Hubble and another astronomer named Vesto Slipher — I love this guy. They discovered that the light coming from these distant galaxies was redder than it should be. It’s the phenomenon is called “red shift.” You know when you shine light through a prism and the light separates into colors red to violet, red to blue? The red light corresponds to long wave lengths. It’s slower, okay? Long wave lengths, so if you have an object that’s receding from you, it’s moving away, the wavelength of either the light or the sound will stretch out. You probably know of the Doppler shift thing, phenomenon.
If you have a train that moves away, what happens to the pitch of the train whistle? MMMmmmm, right? That’s the wavelength stretching out. Same thing happens optically with light. If you compare the light coming from the different gases in these nebular clusters to the same gases in a laboratory, the light looked redder, which suggested that those galaxies are moving away from us. As they looked at every one of the points of light in the night sky, they found that almost all of them were moving away. This suggested that the universe was expanding, and I have a visual aid. If we are going in the forward direction of time, and each of the galaxies is moving away from us, the only way to explain that is to posit a spherical expansion of the universe like this, like a balloon being blown up.
See, I drew some nice galaxies on there for you. Now, this is where it gets really interesting. That’s in the forward direction of time. As the universe gets bigger and bigger and bigger, the galaxies get further and further away. But what happens if we back extrapolate, as the scientists say, if we think about what the universe was like a hundred years ago, or a thousand years ago, or a million, or a billion, or however far you want to go back, eventually you get to the point where all of the galactic material is going to congeal at the same point marking the beginning of the expansion, and arguably, the beginning of the universe itself. So here we have in this observational astronomy the first hint that the universe is not eternal and self-existent and self-organizing and self-creating as the materialist view would say, but instead that it had a definite beginning.
Now, there was another scientist, a famous scientist that tumbled into the same conclusion, almost in spite of himself. This was a fellow over here with famously bad hair. He is not showing up so well. He was from Princeton. He had come from Germany to escape the Nazis. I’m talking about Albert Einstein. In 1915, he was developing a theory, a new theory of gravity called “general relativity.” Math is really gnarly, but the basic idea is pretty simple, and that is that matter actually bends or curves space. Have you heard of the black hole? A black hole is a place where there is so much matter densely compacted that it’s curving space so tightly around it that nothing can get out, not even light, okay? So Einstein developed this theory, but he realized that if matter is bending space on to itself, or around it, then the universe should be just one big black hole, but that meant since we are not a black hole, there must be something in opposition to gravity that is pushing outward, a force of expansion.
That implied a dynamical change in universe. He thought, that means the universe could very well have a beginning. That troubled him. At that point in his career — later, he shifted, but at that point in his career he was very much a scientific materialist, and so he posited this force of expansion and the force of gravity were of equal but opposite magnitudes. He called this — he gave — the name for this was a cosmological consonant, and he gave it a very precise value to depict the universe as in static balance, so it would not have a beginning. A few years later, some other physicists working with his math are saying, you know, Einstein, almost all of the solutions to your equation allow different outcomes, and one of them — a guy named Georges Lemaître — Belgian spelling, met with Einstein — actually, they had a taxi cab ride. Lemaître said, you know, the physics — without your fudge factor, it really suggests a dynamic universe.
And besides that, have you heard of this stuff that Edwin Hubble is doing out in California? And he told him all about the red-shift evidence. And Einstein gradually began to realize that he was allowing his philosophical predilection to shape his perspective. He eventually went out to California to see for himself. He was invited by Hubble, and he took a peek through the telescope, came out and met the media afterwards, and announced in his heavy German accent, I now see the necessity of a beginning, and he later said that the value he chose for his cosmological constant to get around the implication of a beginning was the greatest mistake of his scientific career.
He realized he was allowing his philosophical assumptions to govern his scientific thinking. He wasn’t the only one, however. There was a famous British astronomer named Sir Arthur Eddington, who reacted vehemently against the idea that the universe had a beginning. This is what he said, “Philosophically, the notion of a beginning of the present order is repugnant to me. I should like to find a genuine loophole. I simply do not believe the present order of things started off with a bang. The expanding universe is preposterous. It leaves me cold.” He said. Very British. In psychology, this is a theory known as” denial.” You see the evidence he cites? He’s not citing evidence for a nonfinite universe. He says philosophically, he doesn’t like it.
A later physicist, a Princeton guy named Robert Dicke said that — explained what the problem was for so many physicists. He said an infinitely old universe would relieve us of the necessity of understanding the origin of matter at any finite time in the past.” If the material universe comes into existence, we can’t invoke a prior material cause, but that’s what science tries to do, so that puts us up against a limit, and it maybe suggests a transcendent immaterial cause, and that sounds a lot like God, and that’s even scarier, so we really like this infinite universe concept, but unfortunately, the evidence is pointing in the other direction.
Now in 1968, this perspective was extended by Steven Hawking, you know the famous British scientist who died recently? He was a Cambridge guy in the wheelchair with ALS. In 1968 he proved something called the singularity theorem. This was an extension of Einstein’s concept of matter curving space. Hawking realized that if the universe is expanding in the forward direction of time and matter is getting more dispersed, in the reverse direction of time matter would get more and more concentrated. If matter is getting more and more concentrated, what is happening with space? It’s getting more and more tightly curved, and eventually he realized as you went back far enough into the past, the curvature of space would become infinitely, tightly curved. An infinitely, tightly curved space corresponds to — zero spatial volume. How much stuff can you put in no space?
None. Nothing, right? You can see why this new cosmology has profoundly anti-materialistic implications. The physicists general relatively implies matter, space, time and energy all come into existence at a singularity in the past, before which you can’t talk about matter, space, time or energy, so the cause you need to explain the origin of the universe must transcend those four domains. It must be immaterial. It must not be governed or constrained by time. It must be beyond space. It starts sounding awfully theological, doesn’t it? In fact the connection to say a Biblical perspective is not hard to see at all because what are the first words of the Bible? Not from eternity past, but rather, in the beginning. In the New Testament you have the same perspective. In the Epistles — probably of Paul, Titus and Timothy both talk about the plan of God existing before the beginning of time.
Time, the Bible asserts, is a created entity. Very interesting. That’s a convergence with modern physics. It also resuscitates an ancient argument called the cosmological argument where it says whatever begins to exist must have a cause, separate from the cause from the thing that begins, and the philosopher says we call that cause God. We now know the universe has such a beginning, and the kind of cause that would be necessary must transcend again, matter, space, time and energy. Now — so that’s one amazing class of discoveries that I think has challenged this materialistic worldview, and I think has frankly, theistic implications. Another class of discovery is in the area of physics itself. Since the 1950s and ’60s, physicists have been discovering that many parameters, fundamental parameters of physics are what they call “finely tuned” to allow for the possibility of life and even intelligent life.
They sometimes call this anthropic fine-tuning, it’s as if the universe was finely tuned to produce us. The fine-tuning things include things like the expansion rate of the universe. If were expanding a little tiny bit faster, then the universe would go into what’s called a heat death, and life would not be possible. If it were expanding a little tiny bit slower, it would collapse and form a big crunch, and the force of gravity, the force of electro magnetism, the other fundamental forces of physics, the ratios between the forces, the configuration of mass and energy at the beginning of the universe, all look like a setup job, exquisitely finely tuned to really tiny ratios, expressed with big exponential numbers, so physicists have been talking about the Goldilocks universe. We have just the right set of parameters to make life possible.
One of those physicists, Sir Fred Hoyle who discovered one of the really crucial fine-tuning parameters having to do with what’s called the resonance levels of carbon said this, he said, “a common sense interpretation of the data suggests that a super intellect has monkeyed with physics and chemistry to make life possible.” I always like the way the monkeys make it into the origins discussion even if it’s about physics and the universe. That’s another category of discovery the fine-tuning of the laws, constants and initial conditions of physics.
The third area I worked in most of this point which is the evidence of design in biology. I have a colleague Michael Behe. He has written a very famous book called “Darwin’s Black Box.” In that book, he and many other biologists, cell biologists, biochemists have been making famous these discoveries of little tiny nano machines, nano technology in even the simplest cells, even simple, one-cell organisms. This is an animation shot of what is called a bacterial flagellar motor. It has a rotor, stater, O-rings and bushings — it’s a little tiny rotary engine nestled into the cell membrane or cell wall of a one-celled bacterium. I like to say it’s high-tech and low life.
We have been discovering, biochemists have been discovering, all kinds of these little tiny machines, sliding clamps, little turbines, little walking robotic motor proteins, an unbelievable world of nano technology in what we used to think of as a simple cell. What is even more mind blowing is the discovery that to build these little machines — they are all made of proteins, and proteins in turn are made of smaller sub units called amino acids. And the proteins have a 20 letter amino acid alphabet, and to build a protein that folds up into the right structure so it can be the right kind of mechanical part in one of those molecular machines, the amino acids have to be arranged in just the right way so the forces are balanced so they all fold up right.
That raises the question, what tells the cell how to arrange the amino acids in the right way to build the proteins to build the protein machine, and the answer to that question, many of us probably know, if you remember from biology class going back to Watson and Crick in 1953, there was this famous molecule called DNA. They elucidated the structure of the DNA molecule twisting double helix, but along the spine of the molecule, there are these four chemical sub units called bases. In 1957 Crick proposed that the base on the inside of the DNA molecule are functioning like alphabetic characters in a written language, or digital characters, like the zeros and ones in a section of software.
That is to say it’s not the shape of the chemical subunits or their chemical properties, per se, that gives them their function. It’s their precise arrangement in accord with an independent symbol convention that we now have elucidated called the genetic code. In other words, DNA is an information bearing molecule. It has instructions in it for building proteins and protein machines. A very close analogy to this technology is something that we have developed in our manufacturing industry. The Boeing plant in Seattle — I’m from Seattle — they use this, and many other manufacturing industries use this, it’s called CAD cam. Computer assisted design and engineering. An engineer sits at a console, writes some code for designing some mechanical system.
The information he’s written goes down a wire. It’s translated into a machine code that an assembly apparatus can read and utilize. If you are at Boeing, maybe that information is being used to put rivets on the airplane wing in just the right place. Digital information directing the construction of a mechanical system. That’s what’s going on inside every cell of every living organism at incredibly rapid rates as we speak. Fascinating discovery. The information has come to biology. It raises a big question, doesn’t it? We know where the information is stored. It’s in the double helix. We also know what the information does.
I have a cool video of the animation process on my website. You can look at it if you like. There’s a question still. We know what it does and where it’s stored, but since the 1960s scientists have been wondering, where does it come from? It’s code. It’s code, after all. Our local hero in Redmond, Washington, Bill Gates, says that DNA is like a software program only much more complex than any we have ever created. Where does software come from? Programmers, right?
In fact, whenever we see information and trace it back to its source, whether it’s in a hieroglyphic inscription, or paragraphing a book, or embedded in a radio signal — whenever we see information and trace it back to its source, we always find that it’s come from a mind, and not a material process. There may be a material medium of transmission, but the ultimate source of the information is always intellectual. It’s always mind affecting matter. It doesn’t come from an undirected material process. In fact, there is an early pioneer in the field of information theory who applied information theory to molecular biology, and he was quoted as saying that the creation of new information is habitually associated with conscious activity.
Now that habitually associated phrase is really important because it’s saying, that’s our uniform and repeated experience., and philosophers of science say uniform and repeated experience is the basis of all scientific reasoning. In other words, there is a scientific basis for concluding that the information present in living organisms, the foundation of life is the product of intelligent design. What we know from experience is that minds always generate information, and we have information for the foundation of life, and so I have developed this idea in two books, “Signature in the Cell,” and “Darwin’s Doubt,” in a lot more detail, looking into other possible competing explanations, but coming down firmly on the side of what I have just argued, that information is the product of mind, and the information of life is revealing a designing intelligence.
What I’m working on now is extending that argument and addressing the question of “who is the designer? And what can science tell us about it? Many historians of science are starting to catch on that these New Atheists are really out of step with what is really going on in science. One scientist recently said that the idea that God created the universe is a more respectable idea today than any time in the last 100 years. I would go further than that and say that it provides the best explanation for an ensemble of evidences, not just the evidence of biology. If all we had was biology, evidence of design and biology, you might say that the designing intelligence was some imminent intelligence within the cosmos.
Richard Dawkins once even speculated that maybe there was a space alien or something that seeded life to this planet. No being within the cosmos can explain the evidence of design from the very beginning of the universe, the fine-tuning of the laws of physics. No being within the cosmos can explain how the cosmos itself came into existence. When you bring all of the evidence together, the evidence from cosmology and physics as well as the evidence of design and biology, I think you can identify the designer, and I think the designer has exactly the kind of profile that the designer must have the attributes that Jews and Christians have always attributed to God. Transcendent, powerful, intelligent, active from the beginning, and active within the creation since the beginning, not a deistic creator who only acts at the beginning.
You see how I’m reasoning here? I’m thinking what kind of worldview hypothesis could explain this whole ensemble? I think only classical, Judeo-Christian theism can do that. It posits a God who is both transcendent and active in the creation, and so coming back to where we started, I think St. Paul was on to something. From the things that are made, we do see the power and the wisdom of the Creator, and therefore understand that the reality of such a personal God, and I think, alas, our New Atheist colleagues who have made such a big splash in the culture have missed the boat. They are talking about science of 120 years ago, perhaps, but not the science of today that has reestablished the credibility of the God hypothesis. Thank you very much.
Craig: Well, obviously Stephen is scratching the surface on this evidence. If you would like to dig into it a little bit more, he does have a couple of books. We do have some available in the lobby, “Signature in the Cell,” as well as “Darwin’s Doubt.” These are running out pretty quickly, so if you are unable to get a copyright now, there is a card on the info table that can tell you how to get a hold of those as well as some other resources. Also, we have a local chapter of the Discovery Institute that is here in the lobby. They have a great DVD about the information enigma, talking about where does information come from? There are presentations on that. If you would like to get a copy of that, just visit the Discovery Institute’s Chapter over there. They would love to put this into your hand as well. Can we thank Dr. Meyer one more time?
God bless. We’ll see you next week.
“What do we do with Jesus’ claim to be co-equal and co-eternal with God?”
Join us as we delve into the problem of God and Jesus. Jesus claimed to be equal to God. Let’s take a look at how that presents a problem as well as some evidence backing up that claim.
Craig: Welcome to all the locations on this first weekend after Easter. And speaking about Easter, I just need to say a huge thank you to all of you who call Mission Hills your home. We asked you to be on mission with us by coming to Easter Saturday which I realize is not really a thing, but we asked you to come on Saturday, so we’d have room for all of our guests on Sunday. And you guys did that, the 3:30 and the 5:00 on Saturday were packed out, and that meant that there was space. We kind of filled almost every seat in almost every service, and we have actually had…we had record attendance this past year or this past week by almost 2000 people more than we’ve ever had on Easter, which is incredible. It is awesome. Thank you, thank you, thank you. But maybe the best part of it was all those extra guests got seats in the main worship center because you guys were on mission and made room for them by coming on Saturday. So, we’re so grateful for that and I think it was partly because of that that we had a ton of people say yes to Jesus and give their lives to Jesus. So, can we just say thank you to each other for being on mission with Jesus in that way? That’s fantastic.
So, hey, we are launching or really I should say we are relaunching a series today that we began back in January after Christmas called “The Problem of God and [blank]”, where we’re talking about some of the biggest questions that people have, the biggest issues that are really problems that are obstacles that keep people moving forward in faith. And so, we’re gonna be doing that for the next few weeks. Really looking forward to that series. Before we get into the content for the day, let me remind you of a couple thing that we said back at Easter when we did part one of this series. And the first one so, so important is this, we all have questions. Okay. If you have questions, I want you to know you’re not alone and maybe you’re a follower of Jesus, and you’re embarrassed that you have questions, I want you to know that every follower of Jesus has questions. Maybe you’re not a follower of Jesus and you’re like, “Is it okay for me to have these questions? These questions are keeping me from having faith, is it okay?” It’s totally okay. We’re glad you’re here. We all have questions. That you’ll be thinking about it, almost all of us fall somewhere on a spectrum and you can might ask yourself the question, where am I on the spectrum? Zero would be no faith, no questions.
So, you don’t believe in God, you don’t have faith in Jesus, and you don’t have any more questions about it. You’ve answered all the questions, and you’ve answered it in such a way that says, “No. God is a lie, Jesus is a joke, religion is a farce,” and so, no faith, no questions…That would be zero, 10, the other opposite in the spectrum would be all faith no questions. You have all the faith and you have none other questions. You’ve answered all your questions. They’re all gone. They’re all taking care of you. You haven’t had questions in a really long time. You don’t have any questions right now. You probably will never have any questions and honestly you’re little insulted that the preacher is suggesting you could possibly have questions, ‘cuz you have all the faith, but you got none of the questions. Now, where are you on that spectrum? And if you’re zero, if you’re no faith no questions, or if you’re 10, all faith no questions, you’re done. Go, you can leave, we’ll wait. And nobody is moving. Okay. Well, that means that we’re all somewhere in the middle which means we all have questions.
So why don’t you just look at somebody next to you and say, “It’s okay, I have questions too.” All right. We all have questions. And this series is about dealing with answers to those questions. But I also want to remind you of this and it’s so, so, so, important. We are going to be doing with answers to these questions but understand that these answers aren’t weapons. They’re medicine. The answers are not weapons, they’re medicine use them to help don’t hurt with them. Okay? The answers are intended to help you, and to help you be on mission, to help others, take a step closer to faith in Jesus by dealing with the things that are tripping them up. This is not ammunition. So, if you get someone answers in this series and you’re like that’s what I needed. And I know who I’m gonna use that on. Okay. You’ve completely missed the point of this series. Okay? These are not weapons. This is designed to be used in love to help people move forward past things that are tripping them up on their way to faith. And maybe to be used even in your own life to move deeper into faith. Okay? So, they’re not weapons, they’re medicine and we just need to remember that.
Now the content for today that we’re gonna be dealing with is the question of the problem of God and Jesus. And some of you might go, “How is Jesus a problem?” Well, he is. Jesus has always been a problem. He’s always been a problem. Can I share with you my all-time favorite description of Jesus? Comes from a man named Josephus, he was a Jewish historian, and he wrote about, he probably wrote this somewhere around about 94 AD. So just a little while after Jesus lived. And this is what he says about Jesus, he says, “Now there arose at this time a source of further trouble in one Jesus.” Is that not the best description of Jesus you’ve ever heard in your whole life? A source of…I love that. Jesus the troublemaker. I really think we need some new worship Songs. “Jesus maker of trouble. Oh, the overwhelming trouble making…” I don’t know, I’ll let our worship team figure that one out, but I think that would be awesome. Jesus the troublemaker like, how fantastic is that? I want to follow a troublemaker. I really do. I want to follow somebody who’s not okay with the status-quo and who messes, but I love it, Jesus the troublemaker. But the real question is okay, why does Josephus call him a troublemaker? And why have so many people throughout history called Jesus troublemaker. Why have they called him a problem? And Josephus actually identifies two things, he says this. “Now there arose at this time a source of further trouble in one Jesus, a wise man who performed surprising works. And a teacher of men who gladly welcomed strange things.” He’s got two things there.
The first one he says that Jesus performed surprising works. And what he’s talking there are miracles. And I want you to understand, Josephus isn’t a fan of Jesus, he’s not a follower of Jesus, he’s a critic of Jesus. You can catch the edge even to what he says here about Jesus. He’s not a fan’s, not a follower, he’s a critic. But notice that even the critic says, not he claimed to perform. Josephus doesn’t say other people claimed that he performed. Josephus says, he performed surprising works, he did miracles. And this is something we need to understand, it’s a historical fact, everybody in the ancient world, everybody agreed Jesus did miracles. Nobody disagreed with that. Everybody agreed Jesus did miracles. They disagreed about how he did them. They disagreed about how he did them. Jesus said, he did him by the power of God. His Jewish opponent said, he did him by the power of the devil, that he was in league with Satan. The nations surrounding him said, he did it by the power of magic. We have records from as far away as Alexandria, Egypt as early as about 50 AD where people are calling him a great magician. Everybody agreed Jesus did miracles. They disagreed about how he did them.
And this is the first source of trouble in Jesus, that he did miraculous things. And you may go, why is that a problem? Well, because here’s the thing. Here is a good spiritual principle. What we do is an extension of who we are. Okay? What we do is an extension of who we are. We sometimes wish that weren’t true. We do things that we’re not proud of. And we’d like to be able to say, “Well, that’s somehow foreign to me, it’s not anything to do with who I am. That’s not me”. But the reality as it is, there’s still something in us that is being expressed in those things we’re not proud. I mean, just this past Friday, I had a conflict with my oldest daughter, and I realized after the fact, like I did not treat her with respect. I said some things and I said in some ways they were just were not respectful. And I had to go back and say, “I’m sorry. I didn’t treat you respect; would you forgive me?” And then she did. But you know, I felt bad about it afterwards. And I would love to be able to say, “Yeah, yeah, but that’s okay, because it’s not who I am. I’m not someone who’s disrespectful to anybody.” Yeah, I am. I wouldn’t have done it if I weren’t that. There’s part of me that Jesus isn’t finished with yet. There’s part of me the Holy Spirit’s still working on. The good news is it works the other way around too, that sometimes especially as the followers of Jesus, when we do the right thing, and the reality is that’s an extension of who we are too. It’s an extension of what God’s doing in us and what we’re becoming.
And so, it’s not a reality that means that we have to live in constant despair, but we have to be honest with ourselves. What we do is an extension of who we are. And when it comes to Jesus, what he did was miracles, and what that means is that his doing miracles forces us to wrestle with who does that mean about who he is. Who is he to be able to do these things? Who is he that these miracles are an extension of? And so, Jesus doing miracles caused problems and it continues to cause problems. But that’s honestly not the biggest source of the problem. The biggest source of the problem is Josephus identifies it is, that he taught strange things. He taught strange things. And when we ask the question, what is he talking about? What strange things did he teach we need to understand, he’s not talking about his words of wisdom.
Jesus taught a lot of wise things that he’s famous for. A lot of non-believers loved what the wise things that Jesus said. He said things like, you know, the Golden Rule, ” Love your neighbor as yourself,” there’s a lot of wisdom in that. He taught us the parable of the Good Samaritan, there’s a lot of wisdom in that. We even have Good Samaritan laws in this country because of the wisdom that we find that he taught. Wisdom like, you know, “Hey, don’t try to be taking a speck out of your brother’s eye when you got a stinking log, sticking out of yours.” There’s a lot of wisdom in that. And none of his words of wisdom are the source of the problem. That’s not what Josephus is talking about. As we said at Easter, you know, a lot of wise teachers have said similar things. A lot of wise teachers have come along and said, “Yeah. We should love one another. We should honor God. We should take sin seriously. We should look at ourselves first before we look a…”
I mean, a lot of wise teachers have said that there’s been a lot of wisdom that we see in Jesus. That we see in other things. But here’s the problem. Jesus didn’t claim to have some wisdom. Jesus claimed to be the source of all wisdom. That’s the problem. He didn’t claim to have some wisdom like other religious teachers. He claimed to be the source of all wisdom. He claimed to be God Almighty himself. He claimed to be the one who invented everything and invented the wisdom in terms of how to live in the creation that he’s made. The problem is not that he had some wisdom. The problem is that he claimed to be the source of all wisdom. That he claimed to be God. And sometimes, I’ll have people kind of push back ” I’ve actually read the Gospels. I read the four accounts of Jesus’ life that we have in the Bible. And I don’t see anywhere where Jesus said, I am God. I don’t see it.” And then my answer to that is then you’re looking through the wrong lens. And I understand it because Jesus spoke in the context of his day.
He spoke in the language of his day and he spoke through the lens of the culture of his day. And sometimes if we don’t understand that context, we might miss the starkness, the clarity with which he claimed to be God. But we need to make sure that we understand that this isn’t something that Christians have said later on, this is the heart of Jesus message itself. Once you…if you’ve got a Bible, why don’t you go ahead and grab it, and make your way to the Gospel of John. The Gospel of John is one of the four accounts of Jesus’ life. You’re gonna find it if you’re…if you’ve got a physical Bible and you’re not familiar with it, it’s about here. Go to that last quarter or so. Find Matthew, Mark, or Luke, just go a little bit further if you use some kind of a digital thing, just type in the word John. Super easy, right?
One of the four accounts of Jesus is life. Now, this is what Jesus said. Here in John 17:1, After Jesus said this, and he’s talking about what he’s been teaching up to this point. He’s been telling his disciples he’s about to go away. “After Jesus said this, he looked towards heaven and he prayed. And listen to his prayer. He said, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.” He said, “Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.” And there’s two things we need to understand here. The first is this. Jesus is calling himself the Son of God. He’s calling himself the Son of God. And then of people go, “Well, is he? ‘Cuz he didn’t say glorify me your Son. He said, glorify your Son. He’s maybe he’s talking about somebody else. Maybe the Son of God is some other person that he’s thinking.” Well, no, if you skim down just really quickly to verse 5, I want you to notice in verse 5. He says almost the same thing, but there he does say me. He says, “Now Father glorify me in your presence.” Verse 1 says, “Glorify your Son.” Verse 5 he says, “Glorify me.” It’s clear in verse 1, he’s still talking about himself. He’s calling himself the Son of God. Now, you might go, why is he talking about himself in the third person? ‘Cuz that’s weird. Right? Yeah. But it’s interesting when, you know, we do that even today
Some people do it and in the right context people do it. Who talks about themselves in third person? People with authority. Moms and dads do it. We do. Especially to young children we’ll say something like, “Okay, you need to listen to Mom,” which is really you need to listen to me. “Hey, Dad is talking now, listen up. I’m talking.” We sometimes as parents we talk about ourselves in the third person, ‘cuz what we’re doing is we’re stepping back from me as just another human being. And when we’re pointing people’s attention to the authority that’s inherent in our position. Right? That’s what’s happening when we do the third person. We have presidents who talk in the third person about themselves occasionally. It’s about authority.
And in the ancient world, the people who talk about themselves in third person were kings. It was a king who could say, “Your King commands you.” Instead of, ” I command you.” It’s pointing out the authoritative position. When Jesus talks about himself as the Son in the third person, there’s a sense in which he’s pointing to his authority as the unique Son of God. This is not just a kind of relationship that everybody has with God, because God’s the Father and he’s, well, all his children, no, no. He’s talking about a unique relationship and the authority inherent in that. So, he’s claiming to be the Son of God. The second thing I want you to notice though, is that he’s claiming the right to be worshipped in the same way as God.
What does he say? He says, “Glorify your Son. Glorify me.” Now, to glorify something means to lift it up, to exalt it, to draw attention to it and ultimately to draw worship to it. And throughout the scripture that command glorify is almost always used with God as the object. Glorify God. Lift God up. Exalt God. Draw worship to God. There’s only one exception actually in the whole Bible and in that particular exception something entirely unrelated is happening with every other instance when somebody says glorify, it’s glorify God. And here Jesus says, “Glorify me. Lift me up. Glorify me as I’ve glorified you. As I’ve drawn worship, do you draw worship to me?” Understand, Jesus is claiming the right to be worshipped in the same way as God. And nobody missed it in those days. There’s no way we should miss it either.
He’s not done. He goes on and he says this, he says, “For you have granted him, you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those that you have given them.” You’ve granted him authority over who? Over all people. Who has authority over all people? God has authority of all. Only God has authority over all people. I mean, even the Roman emperors with authority over so many people, they didn’t have authority over all people, they had authority over their people. People within their borders, people within their nation, but Jesus says, ” I have authority over all people, over all nations, it doesn’t matter what your borders are, it doesn’t matter which king is, I have authority over all people”. And that’s a God claim right there. Jesus claims don’t miss this, Jesus claims to have God’s authority over all people. And what does he do with that authority? He says, “You granted him authority over all people so that he might give eternal life to all those that you have given him.” He’s gonna give eternal life. And look how he defines eternal life; this is so interesting. Verse 3, “Now this is eternal life,” this is what it looks like. This is how you get it. “That they know you, the only true God.” That they know you. Underline that word “Know.” See it’s not about religion, it’s not about do these things, don’t do these things. No, it’s about a relationship. It’s about knowing God, being in a relationship with God. He said, “This is your life that they know you God.” But then notice what he does, he sticks himself right in there. ? This is eternal life that they know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ.”
Me, this is eternal life that they know God, that they know me, whom you’ve sent? Right? He’s right there with God. This is a God claim. And understand, Jesus isn’t saying that he knows the secret. He’s not saying that he, you know, “I can get you there, that if you just followed my advice, if you follow my words, I know the secret to eternal life”. He’s not saying he knows the secret to eternal life. He’s saying, he’s the source of eternal life. Right? He’s not saying he knows the secret to eternal life. He’s saying, he’s the source of it. He says, “Eternal life comes to you because you have a relationship with me, it flows from me. I am the wellspring. I am the source of eternal life. Your relationship with me is where eternal life comes from.” He’s not saying he knows the secret to eternal life. He’s saying, he is the source of eternal life. That’s a God claim. There’s no way to miss that. He says this, he says, “I have brought you glory on earth, I’ve lifted you up, I’ve drawn worship to you Father, by finishing the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me, lift me up draw, worship to me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” Did you catch that?
He’s not asking for new glory. He’s asking for a return of the glory that he already had with God before the world began. In other words, he’s not saying, you know, ” I’ve served you faithfully and now I’ve become worthy of being glorified.” No, no, no. He’s not asking for new glory. He’s asking for a return of the glory that he had before God made anything. And let’s be very clear what Jesus is claiming here is this. Jesus claims to be pre-existent. He claims to be pre-existent. He claims to have existed before anything else except God existed. Before God made the universe, before there was a world to worship Him, Jesus was there, and he was worthy of worship. He was worthy of worship before there was a world to worship him. The glory that I had that was already mine because of who I am, before we made anything. Jesus is claiming to be pre-existent. That’s a God claim. No way to miss that. You boil everything down here and it’s very simple, Jesus is making too profound claims. Jesus claimed to be co-equal and co-eternal with God. To be co-equal with God, to be worthy of worship, to have the same authority. Co-equal with God. And also, co-eternal to have been around for all of eternity with him because he is God. That’s the claim. That’s the claim. And it’s not just here, these two claims which really is the one claim to be God himself, to be God Almighty in the flesh, that claim is the heart of the Bible.
It’s the heart of the Gospel accounts. Everything that Jesus is reported to have said and did ultimately circles around to these claims. Around this claim that he is God. And you might go, “Okay. Well, are we sure that Jesus actually made that claim? I get it, that’s in the Bible. But are we sure that Jesus actually made that claim? Maybe, maybe John invented that claim, maybe Matthew, or Mark, or Luke, or Paul, or Peter, or James, or the other writers of the Bible. Maybe they put those words in Jesus’ mouth after the fact to make him something that he never claimed to be. Maybe that’s what Christians claimed to maybe that’s not what Jesus claimed.”
Interesting theory. It just doesn’t fit the facts. Because it’s not just a claim that came from his fans, it’s a claim that came from his critics. Let’s go back to Josephus, shall we? What did he say? “Now there arose of this time of source of further trouble in one Jesus, a wise man.” Not a problem. He says, I’ll give him credit where credit’s do. “Who performed surprising works and a teacher of men who gladly welcomed strange things.” He’s a teacher of strange things. What strange things? He claimed to be co-equal and co-eternal with God. It’s not just the words of his fans, it’s also the words of his critics. This is why Jesus was executed. Let’s not mistake that. We talked about this last week. This is why Jesus was put to death. When we looked at the trial last week in Luke 22, Luke who looked into all these things, he investigated carefully, and he records the words of this trial that he must have gotten from some of the people who were there. And here’s what they said, they all said to him roughly translated, “So then, you’re saying you’re the Son of God.” Let’s just be clear about this. You’re really making that claim, right? And Jesus answered, “You’ve said it.” You nailed it. You got it. That’s exactly right. And they went…well we’re done here then. They said, “Well, what more do we need? We’ve heard it from his own lips.” This is the claim.
Listen. Both his fans and his critics agree, “Jesus claims to be co-equal and co-eternal with God.” The question is not whether or not he claimed this. The question is whether or not he’s right. That’s the question. And as followers of Jesus, one of the things that we have to help people do is to deal with that claim. There’s no question that he claimed it. The question is whether or not he’s right and we have to help people get to that point of considering Jesus in light of his own claims about himself. ‘Cuz what’s interesting to me is that throughout the centuries, there been a lot of people who have said, “No. He’s not God.” But they continue to want to lift him up and somehow keep him on a pedestal as something that’s worth paying attention to, as someone who’s worth following, as somebody who’s worth admiring and respecting. And this is where the problem comes and I talked to a lot of people who say, “I like Jesus. I admire Jesus. I respect Jesus. I just don’t believe he’s God. “And I don’t know that you can do that. Jesus didn’t really leave us this option. I don’t know how you like, and admire, and respect him, and deny his claim about himself. I just don’t see how they work. I mean, Buddhism says, “No. Jesus isn’t God. He’s an enlightened teacher.” But that’s not what Jesus said about himself. He didn’t say that he was someone who possessed some wisdom. He said that he was the source of all wisdom.
Hinduism says, no. He’s not God. He’s a manifestation of the divine in the same way that all of us are to some extent.” That’s not what Jesus said about himself. Jehovah’s Witnesses say, “Oh, he’s not God, he’s the Archangel Michael.” That’s not what Jesus said about himself. Mormonism says, “You know, he’s not God, he is a man who became God in the same way that all of us have the potential,” but that’s not what Jesus said about himself. It’s not what Jesus said about himself. And so, interesting, the people want to go, “He’s a good teacher, I just don’t believe he’s God.” How does that work? He’s a good teacher, but I deny his claim that he’s God. You know, if C.S. Lewis years ago, who coined what he called “The Trilemma.” he said, “There’s really only three ways to think about Jesus, and his claim to be God. He’s either a liar, or he’s a lunatic, he’s insane, or he’s Lord” He’s a liar, he’s a lunatic, or Lord. And the thing is, he’s a good teacher, but he’s lying about being God. Well, then, he’s not good, is he? Well, he’s a teacher, he’s a great teacher, but he’s a lunatic. He thinks he’s God. Then he’s not a teacher or at least not one we should be listening to.
Here’s the thing. We can accept his claim, or we can reject his claim, but we cannot ignore his claim. We can accept his claim, we can reject his claim, but we can’t ignore it. And that’s what so many people want to do. They don’t want to deal with the claim and that’s why Jesus is a problem. But we can accept it, we can reject it, but there’s no question that he made it, so, we cannot ignore it. Now as for me, I accept it. I do. I have for a very long time. And if you ask why, I’ll tell you because I honestly believe that it is the only theory that fits the facts. What kind of facts?
Well, one of the facts that’s important to me is the rise of the early church. I don’t know how to explain the rise of the early church apart from Jesus’s claim to be God. I don’t know how to do it. Keep in mind as we talked about at Easter, you know, Christianity didn’t come into existence. It wasn’t birthed because Jesus built up such huge momentum that there was no way to stop it, that they just kept going, and going, and going after his death. No. Jesus had his biggest crowds at the beginning of his ministry, but they got smaller and smaller as the people realized he’s not going to be the Savior that we were looking for. He’s not gonna fight against Rome. By the time that Jesus was executed by them, he was arrested in the garden, there was just a handful of people that were there with him. He didn’t have an army behind him. He just didn’t.
And when they buried him in the tomb as we said at Easter, they buried their faith in him with him. They said, he’s not who he said, he was he’s not the Son of God, it’s over. It’s done. ‘Cuz if he was who he said he was, he wouldn’t be in the grave. And as we saw, none of them were expecting an act two. None of them were expecting a resurrection even when they were confronted with the empty tomb. Their immediate and natural reaction was somebody stole his body. Why on earth are we here 2,000 years later? Why on earth did Christianity ever get started given those facts? How on earth did the very people, the very small group of people who were with him in the garden, who scattered when they arrested him. Peter, the leader of that ended up telling people, “I don’t even know who he is. No, I’m not with him.” He denied even knowing who is…How did that guy go from running scared and lying about his association with Jesus. How did he become someone who said, “Yeah, I know Jesus, and you need to know Jesus. And let me tell you what I know about Jesus. And if you don’t like what I’m telling you about what I know about Jesus, you can kill me, but I can’t shut up.” How does that happen?
One of my favorite stories in Acts, they were telling people about Jesus, the apostles were telling everybody that they had met the risen Jesus, they explained that’s the reason for the transformation, ‘cuz we met him after the tomb. We met him after the grave. We met him alive, and well, and risen, and Lord. And they were telling everybody, and the Jewish leadership brought him in and they said, “You need to shut up. Shut up about Jesus.” And they went out and they did not shut up. They kept talking about Jesus. And so, the Jewish leadership brought them back in and they said, “Which word did you not understand? Was it shut or up?” Where did the communication breakdown happen? And what they essentially said was, “We can’t, we can’t stop talking. We can’t stop telling. We can’t stop speaking the truth about what we know about Jesus now. You’re gonna have to kill us.” How do you explain that transformation? How do you explain the birth of the early church in that context? And my answer is the only theory that fits the facts is, those people met Jesus after the tomb. They met the risen Christ.
And I can’t explain the resurrection apart from the power of God. And I cannot explain the power of God moving in the life of a liar or a lunatic. And so, the rise of Christianity made us who he says he is. Or we could talk about the persistence of the early church. Because you understand that the Church, it was birthed in an incredibly hostile context. The Jewish people wanted them to go away. The Roman Empire jumped on board. They wanted the Christians to go away. Everybody was against to the early movement of Christianity. They hunted them down and they killed them in large numbers. And yet, it continued to grow, it continued to flourish. So much so, that over the course of the next couple hundred years, the Roman Empire who had killed Jesus, the Roman Empire became followers. You understand that? The official religion of the Roman Empire became Christianity. A few centuries after that same Empire killed its founder. How on earth does that happen? Because the power of God was at play. And I don’t understand the power of God at play in a liar or in a lunatic. But I do understand the power of God at play in the Son of God, and those who met him.
And that’s probably the third piece of evidence we have to consider, it’s the experience of Christians throughout history. Of people who have put their faith in Jesus, who’ve come to believe, now believe is not faith, but they’ve come to believe, I think he used to he said he is they’ve taken a step of faith, they’ve decided to trust. To move forward in that belief, to put their lives in his hands, to invite him into their hearts and say, “I want you to be my Lord and Savior. I trust you.” And they’ve experienced the power of God in their lives. They’ve been transformed from the inside out in ways that cannot be explained any other way. Those experiences have to be paid some attention to. You know, history is filled with the stories of people who thought they were gonna disprove Christianity. And found themselves becoming Christians when they were conferring with the evidence. People who what I would call, “The Accidental Christian.” All right?
Now, one of the more famous recently as a man named Lee Strobel, you may have seen his book, “The Case for Christ.” He’s an investigative journalist. His wife became a Christian. It bothered him so much, he set out to prove his wife wrong. The dream of so many husbands. Right? Can use my professional skills to prove that I was right. And when he collected the evidence, he became convinced that Jesus was actually God. That the resurrection did actually happen, and he became an accidental Christian. Biggest mistake he made, trying to disprove Christianity. How do we explain that apart from the power of God? And maybe you have your own evidence of the power of God working in your life. The transformations that have been accomplishment, I can certainly speak to those as well.
I said yes to Jesus when I was 12 years old. It wasn’t because of a miracle; it was because I believed. I’d come to the point of believing I’d answered some questions that I had. And I believed Jesus was God. And I took a step of faith. You know, I talk a lot, and I use this analogy, it’s like a frozen lake. You can stand on the edge of the lake and you can really believe that that ice can hold you, and you can really want to step out and see what it’s like out there in the middle. But until you actually step out, you don’t trust the ice. You can believe it with all of your mind, but until you step out you’re not actually. Or we can talk about marriage. There was a moment in my life where I believed that Coletta was the woman I want to spend the rest of my life with. I believed she was God’s gift to me. I believed that. But until we actually stood in front of our pastor and we said ” I do” to each other, we weren’t married. There’s a difference between belief and faith. I made the decision when I was 12 and I’ve experienced the power of God as confirmation of that over, and over, and over again. And honestly, in some fairly miraculous ways.
When I was 18, I was at a retreat and God spoke to me. I don’t have a lot of experiences. I know a lot of pastors say that all the time. “Well, God spoke to me this week.” And I think that happens, but it’s usually fairly subtle ways. This was an unusual one. God spoke to me. I thought it was actually an out loud voice, but I looked around and nobody else is looking. So, I guess it was just me, but he said the weirdest thing, he said,” I want you to go into music ministry.” And that was funny because my mom tried to teach me piano until I was 12 and then she’s like, “Okay. We can stop.” And I had a guitar in high school, but I wasn’t really any good at it.
And I had this moment where I said…I felt God said, “Go into music ministry.” And my response back to him was, “Okay. But have you heard me?” And there was no response, but I went home, and I sat down on the piano and I hadn’t sat there in years, and I wrote a song. It was like, huh, interesting. So, I shared it with the pastor of the church I was going to and he said, “Oh, you wrote a song great. You should sing it on Sunday.” And I was like, “Do you want to hear it first?” I mean, as a pastor that’s not really…that’s not what I would call wisdom. He’s like, “No. I’m sure it’s great.” All right
So, I played it and there was a convention of…I called it a convention of little old ladies. I don’t know exactly why they were, but there were from lots of other churches and they happen to be in that church that morning. And they came up to me and they’re like, “Hey. Love that song. Would you come to our church and do some songs?” I was like, “Well, you know, I just… I have the one song.” They’re like, “You could do like two or three.” I was like, “No. You don’t understand. That’s it. That’s the only song I know.” But I got the opportunity to go and to sing that song and God gave me some other stuff and that evolved into music. And that’s really how God drew me into vocational ministry
I don’t know how to explain what happened apart from the power of God. Or you know, few years ago we started a ministry called “Shepherd Project” to help people deal with intersections of faith and culture. And we realized that a particular year few years ago, that it was a powerful year because it was the 150th anniversary of Darwin’s birth. And it was the hundredth anniversary of his publication of the book, “Origin of Species” that launched the naturalistic evolution that says that everything’s an accident and unguided processes ultimately lead to everything that we see. And we said, “You know what? We want to speak into that.” We want to invite some scientists, not even just all Christian scientists but even some non-Christian scientists who don’t believe that’s true, who and look at the evidence and go, “No the evidence says there’s an intelligent designer.”
We wanted to look at science and have those conversations and we said, “We want to do this conference.” And when we sat down in the middle of the week as a team, when we went, “We think you’re gonna need about $50,000 to pull this off.” We did not have $50,000. Oh, and that’s the number. And so, we had prayer, and so, we started praying. And I think we prayed for two days. And I went to church on Sunday, and a guy came up to me said, “God really laid on my heart this week that Shepherd Project has something that they need to do, and you’re gonna need some money to do it.” And so, he gave me a number in here and I open it up and as a check for $50,000.
We hadn’t shared with anybody that we wanted to do the conference. Let alone what it was gonna cost. How do you explain that? Chance? Well, maybe but then a couple years later we decide to do a conference on the reliability of the historical accounts of the Gospels. And so, we said, “This conference is gonna take about $30,000” and that when God let us pray for literally half a day. And that evening a man from California called and said, “God put it on my heart that, that Shepherd Project has a need and he gave me a number, and so, I’m sending $30,000.” What? And my life’s not littered with these kinds of things, but if you see something you say something. I’ve had these experiences that I can’t explain them apart from the power of God. So, yeah, I believe. I believe that Jesus is who he said he is. You can accept this claim, you can reject this claim, but you cannot ignore it. And as for me. I believe it. It’s the only theory that fits all the evidence. So, what about you?
Let me give you three questions. Question number one, if you’re a follower of Jesus, if you say, “Yes. I believe it.” Then here’s the question for you. Who do I know that needs to know what I know about Jesus? And I know there’s a lot of knows in that. But who do you know that needs to know what you know about Jesus? What are you gonna do about it? Maybe you invite him to come back next week as we continue this series of dealing with the questions. Maybe you go out to lunch with them afterwards and you have a conversation. “So what did you think, and what questions do you still have?” Maybe that’s how you do it. Maybe you share the broadcasts or the podcast of this. Maybe you just invite somebody to coffee, or you sit, and you have a conversation with a neighbor. And you go, “Can I share with you what I believe and why I believe it?”. Maybe that’s what God’s calling you to do.
Second question. If you’re not a follower of Jesus, we’re so glad that you’re tuned in to this. We’re so glad that you’re with us. But if you’re not a follower Jesus, here’s the question. “What questions need answered to help me decide what I believe about Jesus?” If you’re not sure where you stand with Jesus, what questions need to be answered so you can move forward? And what step are you gonna take to get answers to those questions? It’s too important to just leave it for tomorrow, or for next month, or next year, or the next season of life. There may not be a tomorrow. There may not be a next season. You may not have that opportunity. You need to decide here and now what you think about Jesus. So, what questions need to be answered and what are you gonna do? What step are you going to take to get those questions answered?
Maybe, maybe it’s that you take advantage of a great opportunity we offer at Mission Hills it’s called “Discovering God.” It’s a 12-week series where you come together with other people who have questions. You’re all together in that. And there’s some people who guide the conversation and share some of the evidence and the answers to specific questions. It’s not a lecture, it’s a conversation designed to get at truth. It’s a fantastic program. We offer an online version, as well as versions at all of our campuses. Maybe you go to Discovering Mission Hill or you go to missionhills.org and look for “Discovering God,” and you sign up for that. Maybe that’s what you do. Or maybe you buy that book that I mentioned, “The Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel, the Accidental Christian. Maybe you buy that book and you read it. Or maybe you just look to somebody who can give you some answers. We set up a system here at Mission Hills, if you text the word question and your question, that’s really important, don’t just text the word question, Okay? Text the word question, that’s the keyword, and then here’s the question, do that to 888111 and we’ll get you answers, we’ll commit to that. Maybe we’ll do some videos, maybe we’ll deal with them in some messages that are upcoming, but we’ll get answers to your questions. But if you don’t ask the questions, you’re never gonna get the answers.
And then third question maybe is this, “Do I have enough faith to take or do I have enough answers to take my step of faith?” Maybe you’re here today and honestly you came in here, and as you listen to this you realize; I actually do believe Jesus is who he says he is. I believe that he’s the Son of God, but you heard maybe for the first time that belief is not the same thing as faith. And then maybe you’ve never said “Yes” to a relationship, never have you invited him into your life. Or maybe you’re here and you came in and you went, “When I walked in here today, I didn’t believe that Jesus was God, but something happened today.” That’s the work of God in your life, that’s the Holy Spirit working in your life when you realize that I didn’t believe. But honestly, if I’m honest with myself, I do believe now that he’s the Son of God. Maybe you’re not even sure how that happened or maybe you got an answer to a question. I don’t know. But if you’re here today and you’re like, “I didn’t start out believing, but I actually do believe now.” Do you have enough belief to take your next step of faith? To begin that relationship because that’s what he wants. And there’s no reason for you to leave today without that relationship.
So, I wanna give you the opportunity today. But before we do that, can I just ask everybody to just join me in prayer. And as the followers of Jesus, let’s just all say to our Father. Together, “God, thank you for loving us so much, that you gave us your own Son. Jesus, we worship you. We exalt you. We give you glory that you’re due because you are God in the flesh. We worship you as such and we love you.” Now, if your follower of Jesus, would you just begin praying right now for the people that are around you, the people who watching online and I want to speak to those of you who are joining us right now that would say, in all honesty, that you don’t have a relationship with Jesus. Maybe you have a religion, maybe you have belief, but you don’t actually have faith. You’ve never said yes to him personally. And if that’s you, but you do have enough belief to take that next step of faith, and if you’re ready to take that next step of faith. If you’re ready to say yes to Jesus, could you just slip your hand up right now?
It’s awesome. Fantastic. If you’re watching online, just click the button right below, I mean, wherever you are, in your own heart you just had this conversation with God, and you say this. Say, “God, I’ve done wrong and I’m sorry. I’ve sinned. And I know my sin separates me from you. Jesus, thank you for coming and dying for my sin. Thank you for paying the price for my sin on the cross. I believe you rose from the dead. And I believe that right now you’re offering me a relationship. A relationship that brings with it forgiveness, freedom, family, adoption into the very family of God. The right to call God, my Father. Lord, I want that relationship with you. And so, right here, right now, I’m saying yes to you Jesus. Come into my life, be my Lord and my Savior. I’m yours for now and forever. Amen.”
And number of people in all of our locations are here today to make that decision to start that relationship with Jesus. Can we just welcome them to the family of God? So, awesome.
Matthew 11:21-24 & 13:41-42
This week we tackle a deep subject for believers and unbelievers alike. Why would a loving God create an endless hell? Join us for this week’s sermon as we unpack a doctrine that many have wrestled with.
Craig: Well, welcome to Mission Hills at all of our locations including those of you are joining us Church Online. I’m really glad you’re here. I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that some of you came in and you saw the worship card and the title for this message and you thought, “Oh, no,” this would have been a really good day to miss church, right? Because we’re in our “Problem of God” series where we’re taking a look at some of the biggest objections that people have, things that are obstacles to them moving forward in faith. And today we’re gonna take a look at one of those that I think is an obstacle for people whether they’re followers of Jesus or not followers of Jesus, actually, and that is the problem of God and hell. And all of God’s people went, “Yay.” That’s exactly why I came to church, right?
But here’s the thing, I think that the concept, the idea of hell is a huge stumbling block for a lot of people. And that’s true, obviously, I think it’s true for a lot of non-believers, but I think it’s true for a lot of believers as well. It’s…but it’s an obstacle for a lot of people because there’s something in the doctrine of hell that makes us suspicious that you know, maybe God’s not as good as we thought he was.
In fact, we have a text-in question line I told you about it last week where you can text the word “Question” to 888111 and you can ask whatever question you want, we promise we get you answers. Can I share one of the questions, the comments that came in on that text-in line this past week. There’s a guy who said this he said, “Honestly, I believe in God, just not in hell. And as a result, not in Jesus as God’s son.” Catch that – because of the doctrine of hell I don’t believe that Jesus is God’s son.
Now, he says, “I believe He, Jesus, existed,” and he was a… I’m gonna go with the word dang. That’s not the word that he used I actually really like the word he used. I thought it was awesome it’s really kind of grabbed you by the throat, it’s like, yeah, they told me I couldn’t say that in church so we’re gonna edit that. “He said he was a dang cool dude, but – pay attention to this – for him to be the Son of God fits into the narrative of God being evil.”
That’s the kind of problem we’re talking about, the problem that the doctrine of hell presents for a lot of people. And it’s not just non-believers. A few years ago a very influential pastor by the name of Rob Bell became kind of world famous because he wrote a book where he basically said, “Hey, the doctrine of God’s love and the doctrine of hell are fundamentally incompatible, you just cannot have both.” And so he rejects not only the doctrine of hell but a large portion of Scripture that speaks to that issue.
And so it’s not just a problem for non-Christians, it’s a problem for Christians, it’s not just for people who’d say, “I’m not a follower of Jesus.” Even though I think for followers of Jesus this can become a huge obstacle to moving forward in faith. And really whether we’re Christians or non-Christians as we deal with the doctrine of hell we’re all asking kind of the same question which is this, “Why would a loving God create an endless hell, right?”
That’s the big question. Why would a loving God create an endless hell? And a lot of people say he wouldn’t, but people say he couldn’t, it’s just not possible. And so it becomes a big obstacle to faith for all kinds of people. And I get that, I feel that like I feel this idea that the doctrine of hell is not just difficult, it’s disgusting on some levels. And that can present a huge issue when we’re talking about a loving God.
I do find it difficult, I’ve really struggled with it over the years, but I believe it. And what I wanna do today is I kind of wanna explain why I believe it. You might be surprised by a few of the answers, a few of the reasons why I believe in it, because I don’t believe in it just because I was taught it as a kid. I grew up in Southern Baptist churches, you better believe I was taught it as a kid some of you have had that kind of experience. But I don’t believe it just because I was taught it I actually have come to believe that it’s some, not all, but some of what I was taught as a kid isn’t true, it’s not accurate, it’s not biblical, it’s not what Jesus himself taught.
So, I don’t believe it just because it was taught to me and then I don’t need it. I don’t need the doctrine of hell to keep people in line. I mean, some of the people argue that well, the doctrine of hell was developed just so that you know they could force people to come to church or to give or those kinds of things. We don’t operate that way. And, in fact, honestly if you know, the internet has made this possible you can go back, and you can basically find every message I’ve ever taught for the last 25 years. And I don’t think I’ve ever taught a message on the doctrine of hell. So, congratulations, you guys, aren’t you the lucky ones, right?
Yeah because I don’t feel like I need the doctrine of hell to accomplish anything in particular and yeah, I do believe in the doctrine of hell. What I wanna explain to you is why? What I wanna do today is I wanna give you five reasons why I basically believe in the doctrine of hell. And my goal is not to convince you to believe in it and it’s certainly not to scare you into a relationship with Jesus or anything like that. But I think that sometimes the obstacle that hell has become to people and it’s keeping them from moving forward it’s based on misunderstandings. And it’s based on a misperception. Or in some cases a misrepresentation by well-meaning people over the years. But I wanna share five things that I think you need to wrestle with as far as how you deal with the doctrine of hell.
And maybe this will be useful to you, maybe you’re somebody who…maybe you’re a follower of Jesus but you can’t take any steps deeper, you can’t go further in your faith because you’re kind of hung up on this issue. Or maybe you’re not a follower of Jesus and this is the issue that’s really keeping you from faith. Or maybe you just have somebody in your life, somebody you care deeply about, that that is the issue for them and so maybe this is useful for you being on mission with them. But I wanna share five things and the first one is just this, very simple. Jesus didn’t see a contradiction between God’s love and hell. Jesus didn’t see a contradiction between God’s love and hell.
See we often have this idea though, “Yeah, you can’t have a loving God and an endless hell.” But interestingly enough Jesus didn’t see it that way. And here’s the reason I know that. First off I know that because Jesus is the one who taught us the most about God’s love. Anybody surprised by that? No, because, of course, Jesus taught us the most about a lot of God’s love. Jesus is the one who gave us you know, that the basis of that very famous verse “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,” right?
Jesus taught us about God’s love and for a lot of people Jesus isn’t just the expert on God’s love, he’s the embodiment of God’s love, right? He’s the love of God made flesh and come among us to save us. Jesus isn’t just the expert he’s the embodiment. Everybody agrees Jesus taught us so much that we need to know, in fact, he taught us most of what we know about God’s love. Nobody’s surprised by that. But what a lot of people are surprised by, you might be surprised by. The same one who taught us most of what we know about God’s love also taught us most of what we know about hell. Is that surprising?
Depending on how you define some of the words in which category you put some of the verses in, the reality is that Jesus taught us about up to 85% of what we know about hell, 85% of it comes from Jesus. So the same man who taught us most of what we know about God’s love also taught us most of what we know about hell.
So and apparently what he saw when he looked at God’s love and hell it’s not a contradiction, he didn’t see that as a conflict. And, in fact, one of the things that I began to ask myself and it’s probably 15 or so years before I really kind of came to the place of struggling through this and coming out the other side with some answers to these questions I think a lot of people ask is I began to say, “Well, if Jesus didn’t see a contradiction between God’s love and hell is it possible that Jesus saw hell is a consequence of God’s love rather than a contradiction?” Is it possible that there’s something in the love of God that actually requires hell for him to be truly loving and good?
And I realized that sounds shocking, I realized that sounds upside down and backwards because it’s not the way we think about it. But I would encourage you to just sort of sit with the question for a moment because the undeniable fact is this, Jesus didn’t see a contradiction between God’s love and hell. And even the people who reject the notion of hell still wanna say, “But Jesus is a great teacher, Jesus is a wise man, Jesus is a good man.” Well, then if he didn’t see a contradiction and he’s such a great teacher is it possible that he understood something about one or both of those concepts that we’re misunderstanding when we think that they have to be in conflict? In fact, is it possible that Jesus saw hell as a consequence of the love of God rather than a contradiction with it? Let’s just sit with that question for a moment.
Second, big idea is just this and this has the potential to be offensive, let me just acknowledge that. It has the potential to hurt you or to make it sound to you like I am minimizing your suffering. Or I’m minimizing the experience that you have had with evil in this world and that’s not my intention at all. Some of you have had deep wounds that come from facing evil in this world, you’ve experienced a lot of suffering and I acknowledge that, I’m not trying to diminish that in any way.
But I wanna make a historical observation, I’ve done the search, I’ve done the research and what I’ve discovered is this fact. The people that are most opposed to the idea of hell are often, not always but often, those least impacted by evil here on earth. Let me say that again because I think it’s really important. The people who are most opposed to the idea of hell, people who most seem to think that hell is evil and you cannot have a good God and a hell, the people who are most opposed to the idea of hell are often the people who are least impacted by evil here on earth.
And what we need to recognize is that we respond to the doctrine of hell not intellectually, not theologically, not even philosophically, we respond to it primarily emotionally. Which is natural and there’s nothing wrong with that, but we do need to recognize that how we feel about things is deeply conditioned by the experiences that we’ve had. Okay? How we feel about something’s deeply conditioned by the experiences that we’ve had or in some cases the experiences we haven’t had.
I mean, I see this on a regular basis when we sing worship songs like one of my favorite songs is “Good Good Father.” I love singing about God as my Good Good Father, I love that, it resonates deeply with me. But the reason for that is because I had a good father. I had a father who loved me, who sacrificed for me. And so the idea that God is a Heavenly Father that’s an easy connection but that’s not true for all of you. And I know that a lot of you listening on all of our campuses and joining us online some of you had the exact opposite experience with a father than I did. Your father was not good, he was not a good man, he was hard, he was harsh, he might have been abusive to you.
And so when you come to church and you sing “God is a good good Father,” there’s a part of you that goes because I know that’s supposed to be true but I don’t even like the words. But that’s because of your experience, you see, how we feel about something is deeply conditioned by our experiences. And here’s the reality and again I’ve done the research on this and here’s the reality. The people who publish the books arguing against the doctrine of hell. The people who go on speaking circuits and show up on national news saying you can’t have a loving God and hell, almost without exception, there are a couple of exceptions, but the vast majority of the people who do that are white upper-class males.
And the reality is that being a white upper-class male means that we sit in a position of cultural privilege from which we are shielded from a lot of the horrors of this world. I mean, I say that as one of those white upper-class males. And yes, they’re suffering my life, yes, I have experienced pain in my life but it’s nothing compared to what so many people have faced, who are in a position of less cultural privilege.
And then the question that I wanna ask is, is our position of cultural privilege the best position from which to be making pronouncements about what is just and what is unjust? Is my position in culture, my protected position, is it the best place to say that hell is a damnable doctrine?
And that’s a phrase, by the way, that somebody ones called, he said, “Hell is a damnable doctrine.” And you know who said that? His name was Charles Darwin, the advancer if not the kind of inventor of the naturalistic evolution. And you know, what Charles Darwin was he was? He was a white upper-class male.
And what I wanna ask you to do for a moment is try to step out of whatever position of privilege you might be in. And try to put yourself in the position of some other people who haven’t had that same privilege and ask if that might change the way you think about. If you can put yourself and I know you can’t but if you could or maybe if you came just to the tiniest bit. Can you put yourself in the position of the child who saw their parents, their grandparents and their older sister thrown into the crematoriums at Auschwitz? And do you think that that child might have the same or a different reaction to the concept of hell for those that perpetrated that evil against them?
Put yourself in the shoes of the man who saw his wife and his children taken from him at gunpoint and sold into trafficking. Do you think they might have as a hard a trouble, hard a time as we do, believing in hell? Or as we heard from Saji, the girl that had been thrust into that life, into that hell on earth, do you think she struggles as much with the idea of hell as others do? The people who lost their husbands, their wives, and their children, when the twin towers fell, do you think they have the same struggle? You understand what I’m asking.
And I would actually go a step further and again about 15 years ago as I really began to wrestle through this, I found myself asking a surprising question. It had never occurred to me, but as I began to wrestle through this you know, that we think about things through this lens of emotion or emotions or conditioned by what we’ve experienced, I actually found myself asking the question, I’d love for you to wrestle with it. Here’s the question I said, “Can those who have experienced hell on earth can they believe that God is good if there is no justice for the evil that has so scarred them?”
You know, we go, “How could God be good if he does this thing or if he allows this thing?” But if you flip it around and you find yourself having experienced hell on earth can you believe that God is good if there isn’t a final eternal justice for that evil that’s been done to you?
And the reality is that the people who are most opposed to the idea of hell are often, not always, but so often the people who are least impacted by it here on earth. And I think we have to recognize that, we have to wrestle with it. And maybe you go, “Okay, that’s fine, but the real problem for me is I can see a hell for Hitler, right? Like I can see a hell for Osama bin Laden those kinds of people, like yeah, they’ve perpetrated true evil. And I can see that there might be an eternal consequence for that, I can see that. But the problem is I mean, everyone who doesn’t trust in Jesus, everyone who sins aren’t forgiven by the blood of Jesus on the cross, everyone goes. And that just doesn’t seem fair they would all get the same response because there is a difference, right? There is a difference between Hitler and… I mean, let’s put it in real-world terms, shall we?
I studied for my doctorate in Bristol, England. And Bristol has a zoo and Bristol Zoo has a parking lot. And for 25 years the fees for that parking lot were collected by a pretty nice man, everybody liked him a lot, he wore a simple uniform and he always had a smile when he collected their fees. And they went into the zoo, they enjoyed themselves, they came back out, he showed everyone their car and they drove away. 25 years he did that, every day he showed up for 25 years. And then one day he just stopped showing up and eventually that the zoo called the City Council they said, “Hey, what’s the deal? Like we need you to send somebody to collect the fees.” And they went, “Why are you calling us?” He said because the guy works for you,” and they went, “No, he doesn’t we thought he worked for you.” And they went, “Wait a minute he’s being coming for 25…he’s collected millions of dollars’ worth of fees well, what did you do with all the money?” We didn’t get any money, we thought you were using, we didn’t get the money.” And what they realized was that the very nice man was a con man.
Now, can…regardless of what you think it was wrong, okay? Some of you are like, “He’s brilliant,” okay and I get that, but it was wrong, okay? He impersonated a government official, he lied about who he was, he stole money from the zoo in the City Council, he stole money from millions of people over the years and he’s sitting in an Italian villa somewhere laughing about it. He was wrong, it was wrong, we can all agree I think it was wrong, but like really Hitler and the Bristol bandit they get the same punishment, how is that just? And I would agree that’s a really hard question, the idea that that would be just as they both get the same attorney, I would struggle with that.
But what I wanna tell you as a New Testament scholar who knows a lot of other New Testament scholars, I don’t actually know another New Testament scholar who believes that’s what Jesus taught. In fact, Jesus taught in my opinion that there is a difference. In fact, let’s just hear it from Jesus himself you wanna grab a Bible and join me in Matthew or we’ll pop it up on the screens, we are gonna be jumping around a little bit today.
But Matthew 11, Jesus speaking in verse 23 and he says this, he says, “And you Capernaum,” now, Capernaum was a Jewish city. Jesus had preached there he had performed miracles there, but they had rejected him, and they’d gone back to their sin. He said, “And you Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades.” which I think in this context probably is the place of judgment, its hell. So, he says, “For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom,” and if you don’t know that word Sodom. Sodom is the name of an Old Testament city or a city in the Old Testament that was known for its wickedness. He says, “If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”
It will be more bearable which suggests at the moment of judgment and I think after that judgment’s been passed there are some for whom it will be more bearable than for others. Now, don’t misunderstand, nobody’s saying that for anybody it’s gonna be pleasant, nobody’s saying that for anybody it’s gonna be good. But it clearly seems to say there that there will be more bearability for some than for others. Or if we’re gonna flip over to the Book of Luke. In Luke, he said this, 12:47: “The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows.
Now, don’t get hung up on the blows, okay? This is not saying God’s gonna be punching people, okay? It’s not what he’s saying. He’s using just an everyday experience to talk about an eternal reality when it comes to justice. And he says some things deserve many blows and some things deserve few blows. But he’s talking again about eternal judgment here and he seems to say here and in a number of other places we could talk about that hell isn’t the same for everyone. Jesus taught that hell isn’t the same for everyone. In fact, one of the things that makes a big difference is knowledge. Knowing what’s right and refusing it is different than not knowing it, but he does say even here the one deserving of punishment. Okay, sin is sin it requires a consequence, it’s just the way that it works out, but Jesus taught that hell isn’t the same for everyone. It’s an important idea and maybe you’d go, “Okay.”
But the real problem for me is that it’s eternal. The real problem for me is that its eternal consequences, its eternal punishment, whatever we want to call it, it’s eternity for a few short years of sin, right? In fact, that’s how Rob Bell, that pastor I mentioned that’s how he argued it, he said, “If you think that a loving God is gonna punish for eternity the hell…the sins committed in a few short years here on earth then that just doesn’t work, that’s not just, it’s not good there’s no way that that’s a loving God.”
But you know, what’s interesting is that underneath that there’s an assumption underneath that. And I struggled with that idea for years and then one day I read this, and it began to show me that assumption. Here’s what I read, it’s in Matthew, again Jesus speaking here, right to hear from him.
He said this 11:41 he said, “The Son of Man… I’m sorry 13:41 “The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
And two things here I wanna point out, the first is that he says he’s gonna weed out of his kingdom and that would be heaven, weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and everyone who does evil. But it’s that causes sin that really caught my attention because I begin to ask the question, “Well, what exactly is it that causes sin?”
I mean, the Bible is pretty clear about what sin is. Sin is missing the mark of God’s nature and character. So, God is loving and when we’re not loving we’re missing the mark. Sin is also crossing the line. God draws the boundaries and he says, “Don’t cross over this,” and we’re like, “Cross over what right? That’s sin, it’s when we miss the mark, we cross the line, but what causes it? What is it that leads us to miss the mark or to cross the line?
And really what we find when we read the whole of Scripture is that the root cause of all sin is an insistence in self-determination. And I know that sounds a little academic but let me walk you through what it means. The root cause of all sin is the insistence in self-determination.
And if we go all the way back to the beginning of the Bible, to the story of Genesis, we have this amazing story where God made Adam and Eve. He made the first man and woman, He made human beings as his image and he said, “You’re gonna have delegated authority, you’re gonna rule and reign in creation with my authority, you’re gonna be on mission with me.” He said you know, he created everything, and he made a garden and he took the man and he put him in the garden, and he said, “You see what I did here? You’re gonna do that out there, you’re gonna extend my influence on all creation, we’re gonna have a lot of fun together, it’s gonna be fantastic. But there’s one rule. In the middle of the garden, there’s a tree and it’s the tree of the knowledge of?” Does anybody know? It’s the knowledge of good and evil. And the question becomes what exactly does that mean?
And I think the best way to understand it is the way that we see that same phrase used a number of times in the Old Testament and in ancient literature. That the knowledge of good and evil was kind of a stand-in for saying deciding for yourself, deciding right and wrong, making decisions for yourself.
Somebody would do something wrong and if they would come back again, so the parents they’d go, “Did you see what your kid did?” They would go, “Hey, don’t talk, just talk to him, he’s old enough to know good from evil.” That would be the phrase. The point is he’s old enough to make his own decisions and to take the consequence of them, it’s not our choice anymore, he’s deciding for himself. And I think that’s the best way to understand it because that’s how we see it used frequently. And so, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is really the tree of deciding for yourself, deciding what’s right and wrong for you. It’s deciding your own path, it’s choosing your own destiny, it’s being in charge. And God said, “Don’t eat from that.” And he said, “If you eat from that you will surely? You may know? “You’ll surely die,” why? Because God’s a harsh God and he’ll punish anybody…no, no, no because God is life and he’s light and if you walk away from light you end up in the? If you walk away from life, you end up in death. See God is the ultimate determiner of right and wrong, we’re supposed to listen to him. He’s God, we’re not we’re supposed to live in submission to that. But he says, “If you eat from the tree of deciding for yourself, you’re choosing to be your own God, you’re choosing to walk away, you’re choosing to do life without me. And if you walk away from life, you’re gonna end up in death. So, don’t do it.
And then Satan came to Eve and he said, “What’s God’s deal?” It’s a rough translation of the Hebrew. “Did he really…I can’t believe it, did he really tell you that you’re not allowed to eat from any of the trees in the garden? What a jerk.”
That’s what Satan does, he takes a little piece of truth and he takes it and expands it in a way that it’s no longer true because it’s outside of the context for it. And Eve got it right, she said, “No, no, no that’s not what he said, he said we can eat fruit from the trees of all the trees, right? We just can’t eat the fruit from that one tree, the tree of deciding for ourselves and if we eat from it, we’ll die.” And he goes, “No, you won’t, that big old liar. No, no he just knows that if you eat from it you’ll be like him. You’ll be your own god, you’ll call your own shots, you call your own destiny he doesn’t want that.”
And so, Eve ate from it, she decided for herself and Adam ate from it, he decided for himself. They said, “God, thanks, like I appreciate the life and all that, but you know, I think I’ll take it from here.” I think from now on, I’ll call the shots. I think from now on, I’ll decide my own destiny. I think from now on I will plan out my own path. And they walked away, they separated from him and they began to experience that separation.
You see in the ancient world, this is so important, death wasn’t thought about in terms of biology. They didn’t think about death being the stopping of the heartbeat or you know, the stopping of the brain activity. No, death was separation, it was separation for community and from relationship. And once they said, “Thanks, God, but we’ll take it from here, we’ll be our own, little g, gods.” They broke that relationship and they walked from light into dark, they walked from life into death. And they began to experience it and we know how that all worked out, right?
And so now Jesus says, “The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin.” And at its root what is it that causes sin? It’s this insistence in self-determination. And he says this, “And they will throw them into the furnace the angels throw them into the furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
And that gnashing is an interesting word, it’s the second thing I wanna point out here. I grew up hearing a fair amount about gnashing. Southern Baptists like to talk about gnashing. And I remember a Sunday School class where the teacher said, “Hey, gnashing it’s what happens when you…when people are grinding their teeth together, so hard that the teeth begin to break. He said that’s how painful hell is, that’s how painful the fires are. They’re grinding their teeth together so much that the pieces of the enamel are beginning to chip off. And you’re actually cracking those big thick molars, that’s how hard you’re grinding, that’s how painful it is. Now, who wants to say yes to Jesus? We all wanted to say yes to Jesus.
But the thing is I’ve actually come to understand that he wasn’t really right, it’s not what gnashing means. I mean, it is the sound of teeth grinding together, but in the ancient world what’s being described there and the way this word was used it was talking about sort of a physical expression of anger and animosity and resentment. Gnashing equals animosity and rebellion, basically, it’s when you look at somebody that just makes you so mad that you’re clucking your teeth together, you’re grinding your teeth. But it’s used as an expression, it’s used as a figurative way of talking about animosity and rebellion. And so, I think it’s so interesting.
He says, “Those that are thrown outside the kingdom are different than those who are still inside the kingdom. Inside the kingdom, everything that causes sin is taken out, it’s weeded out, this insistence in self-determination is weeded out. But for those outside the kingdom, they still have it, they’re still living in it, they’re still in rebellion against God. And he says the final proof of that is there’s continual gnashing of teeth, this expression of animosity and rebellion.
So it’s so interesting to me you know, this idea that you know, hell is infinite punishment for finite sin it’s built on the assumption, whether we’ve recognized it or not, it’s built on the assumption that we stop sinning the moment we stop breathing. That we stop living in rebellion like the moment that we die, everybody looks at God and goes, “Oh, your God? I had no idea.” That’s not what happens, what Jesus taught is that no one stops rebelling just because they’ve stopped breathing.
That’s what he’s talking about here, no one stops rebelling just because they’ve stopped breathing. In other words, hell is not infinite punishment for finite sin, hell is the ongoing experience of rebellion against God. And you might go, “Well, how you know, if they really see God for who he is, how could they possibly rebel against him?” Because we do it all the time. Because the Bible is filled with stories of people who saw the truth and went, “Yeah, the problem is accepting God as God means that I’m not God and I don’t get to decide and I don’t get to chart the course and I’m not willing to do that.” And so yes, they look at God and they go, “Yeah, you’re God and I’m not but if you think for a moment that I’m gonna bow down to you now, you’re crazy.”
Gnashing of teeth is a demonstration of an attitude that goes on here where people look at God go, “Who do you think you are? What makes you think you’re God? What makes you think you get to decide? No, no, I will be what I’ve always been.” And God says, “Okay.”
No one stops rebelling just because we stopped breathing. We go, “Okay, yeah, but still isn’t it torture?” I mean, and the idea that God’s torturing people, isn’t that the real problem? And I would argue that yeah, I mean, if God is truly torturing people, that’s hard to reconcile with being a loving God but is that what Jesus taught?
I think we get the idea that he’s torturing people from two things. Number one can we just be honest with each other about this. We get it from Hollywood. A lot of people reject the idea of hell based on the pictures they’ve seen in movies or on TV or Far Side cartoons or wherever you got it. And we have this image of you know, like people being roasted over the fires of hell by the devil on a spit and we go, “That’s torture.” And there’s a biblical basis for some of that and I think it’s just the idea that we get this language of fire. And certainly, this idea that if God is putting people in fire then that’s torture, how could it not be? And I see that, and I would struggle with that too if it weren’t for this that Jesus said. It says Matthew 8. “But they will be thrown outside, into the,” what’s that word? Darkness. “But they will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
And notice it’s almost exactly the same phrase, weeping and gnashing of teeth in one verse its fire and in this one it’s darkness. And you know, and careful readers would go, “Well, wait a minute, hang on a second, is it fire or is it darkness? Because you can’t really have both, can you?” I mean, if you got fire then it’s not dark and if it’s dark you don’t have…so what’s going on here, what’s happening?
And honestly, I think the only way to explain how you can get these two different images is either that one or both of them are figurative. One or both of them are trying to come up with some language to convey the horror of hell and the necessity of avoiding it at all costs. And how do we convey this? And there’s what we might…we could talk about it as fire or we could talk about it as darkness but one or both of those has to be figurative. And then which one is it? I mean, if only one of them is figurative than which one is it? And if I had to pick one of those two and say they’re figurative, I would put my money on the fire, for a very simple reason, two reasons, actually.
Number one, the Book of Revelation is very clear that the fire of hell was created for the devil and his demons. And I don’t wanna get overly technical and maybe I’m pushing a little too far, but I don’t think so. Here’s the thing, the devil and his demons are spirits. They don’t have physical bodies; physical flame would mean nothing to them. I know that because Jesus dealt with a boy who was possessed by a demonic spirit and one of the things the demonic spirit kept trying to do was trying to throw him into the fire because he knew that the fire would hurt the boy, but it wouldn’t hurt the demon in the slightest because he’s not physical, he’s a spirit. And so, fires of hell for spiritual beings that’s almost got to be figurative language.
I would also argue that the fire is figurative in part because when Jesus and I don’t know if you realize this. But if you actually look it all up what you’re gonna find is that Jesus talked about darkness more when he was talking about sin and its ultimate consequence than he did about fire. We fixate on the fire language, but he actually talked more about darkness. And the interesting thing about darkness is this, how do you end up in the dark? You walk away from the? Light. And the Bible consistently presents God as the source of all light and love and peace. And if you walk away from light and love and peace where you end up? You end up in the dark, unexperiencing love, disconnected from love and unsettled and hurting because you’ve lost peace.
See the Bible, Jesus I should say, honestly, Jesus taught that hell is complete self-imposed isolation from the God of all light and love, not torture but self-imposed isolation. And I say complete, for a very important reason and that is I don’t believe that in this life anybody is completely isolated from God’s love or his light or his peace. I think even the worst person in this life still experiences something of the calling grace of God. Something of the beckoning love of God that’s trying to draw them back from the inevitable self-imposed consequences of their refusal to say you’re God and I’m not. He’s calling them back to that.
But there’s a day coming where he says, “I’m gonna give them the ultimate dignity of their choices,” you can go on into darkness. And please understand I’m not minimizing the doctrine of hell. I’m not saying that it’s gonna be in any way pleasant. I mean, it’s clear that both of these images both fire and darkness are intended to convey the horribleness and the incredible necessity of avoiding it at all costs. But this idea that it’s torture for endless years, for finite sin and that everybody has sinned. All those are misunderstandings, it’s not what Jesus actually taught. Five things he’s taught us, right? Five things we have to deal with.
Number one, Jesus didn’t see a contradiction between God’s love and hell. Number two, the people most opposed to the idea of hell are often those least impacted by evil here on earth. Least in need of eternal justice for the damage that’s been done to them. Number three, Jesus taught that hell isn’t the same for everyone. Number four, Jesus taught that no one stops rebelling just because they’ve stopped breathing. And then number five hell is complete self-imposed isolation from the God of all light and love. And this would be a terrible place to stop. Amen.
Craig: Romans 6:23. For the wages of sin is death. Pay attention, the wages, not the punishment, not the torture, the wages the self-earned natural consequences. Wages we earned it. And I would argue from Jesus teaching the more of it you do the more of it you earn. The wages of sin is death again not biology but separation from the God of all life, note its self-imposed isolation from the God of all light and love.
The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. The gift of God, the gift. We don’t earn it, we can’t possibly get to the point that we’re receiving from him something that we deserve, no, the gift of God is eternal life. God loves us so much that in spite of the fact that he has allowed us the dignity of our choices to walk away from him, God said, “I can’t bear that.” And so, he came after us, knowing what it would cost him, and the cost was high. His own Son had to pay his own wages, somebody had to pay him. So, his own Son, Jesus himself, lived the perfect life, he had no sin to atone for, no sin to pay for. He went to the cross in your place. He went to the cross in my place.
And now he says, “If you just stop insisting on being little G gods, if you just stop insisting on self-determination. If you just say to me, you’re God and I’m not and what a God you are, a God of love who would do that for me, what a God.” Why would I not trust that God?
See we know what Adam and Eve didn’t. God knew what he was talking about when he said that road of self-determination it’s no good. And we also know this, we know that we have a God who loves us so much that he was willing to bear the cost for what we did. And so, he says, “If you just put your trust in Jesus you will not face an eternity of self-imposed isolation but an eternity of love, of meaning, of significance, of hope, of joy, of peace.”
And so, if you’re here today, please hear me, this is not a “turn or burn” message. This is a turn and be loved message because the road that you’re on it will not lead to love. But there’s a God chasing after you who says, “It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, it doesn’t matter how much of it, how bad it is, it doesn’t matter, I’ve paid it, come home.”
Would you pray with me? I think as followers of Jesus we need to say thank you right now. And so, if you’re a follower of Jesus on all of our campuses at all of our locations, Church Online as well, can we just say from our hearts, “God, thank you.” We sinned, we turned, we fled, we refused to say that you’re God and we made ourselves out to be little gods. And we should have suffered the eternal consequences of that self-imposed isolation, but you loved us so much that you paid the price. You bore our sin and our shame, and our guilt and you paid it off. Thank you so much.
Man: Thank you, Jesus.
Craig: But if you’re listening to this right now and you don’t have a relationship with God through faith in Jesus, please understand, he’s not holding some huge threat over you, he’s simply speaking the truth. Apart from a relationship with Jesus Christ, apart from trusting in what he’s done for you, you are on a path of self-imposed isolation. And God will not force you into a relationship but understand a truly good and loving God can neither deprive his creation of justice nor force us into a relationship.
And if that’s you and if you’re on that path and you’re able to admit that then you are able also to receive forgiveness today, to receive salvation today. To receive new life with Christ, not in isolation ever again, but in relationship with your Creator. And if you don’t have that relationship but you’d like to have it right here right now, you can. And if you want to have that relationship, you’re want to put your faith in Jesus today you just slip your hand up. That’s awesome. Thank you. If you’re watching online just click the button right below me.
And wherever you are you just have this conversation with God in your heart say, “Jesus, I’ve done wrong, I’ve sinned and I’m sorry. I understand that I made the decision, I walked away from you, started down this path of isolation from you. I did it but I’m done with it. Jesus, thank you for dying in my place to pay the wages of my sin. I believe you rose from the dead and so you’re able to offer me forgiveness, a new life and love, and peace, and light. So, Jesus, right here right now I’m saying yes to you. I’m putting my faith in you. Jesus, come into my life, I’m yours for now and forever. Amen.
We had a number of people in our locations and around the world right now watching that made that decision to come into the family of God. Can we welcome them into the family of God today? It’s awesome, it’s so great.
Hey, if you made that decision today for the first time wherever you are, would you just do this for me, text the word “Jesus” to 888111. You’re gonna get back a link it’s gonna tell you five things that are true about you now that weren’t true before you made that decision just a few moments ago. We wanna put those into your hands, we also wanna give you access to some free resources to begin walking this life this road of life and love and peace and hope with the God who loves you so deeply. So, we wanna give that to you. So, text “Jesus” to 888111. We have a God who loves us. Amen.
John 14:6 + Acts 4:12
We look at an issue that’s tricky for Christ’s believers as well as unbelievers of Christianity. Is the exclusivity that people perceive about Christianity actually part of Christianity? Here’s the problem: Christians say that only those who trust in Jesus will go to heaven. Let’s dig in.
Craig: Well, welcome to Mission Hills at all of our locations. So glad you’re with us. Obviously, this has been a very difficult week. If you’re joining us online, there’s a good chance that you’ve heard about it. Everybody who was at our South Denver campus is well aware that we had yet another school shooting this week. And I don’t know how many of you feel the way I do, but like my only response, I can actually see the STEM school from my office. And as I watched the lights converge around there on Tuesday, my main thought was just not again. Anybody else feel like that? Like how can this be happening again? And the reality is I think that there’s a spirit of despair. There is a spirit of hopelessness. There’s a spirit of life taking in the South Denver area. And, you know, I’m not necessarily one who immediately goes to spiritual forces to explain things, but I have had enough experience in my life to know that that’s a reality of the world that we dwell in. And I do think there’s a spiritual opposition here in the South Denver area and then the only weapon that we have against that is prayer.
And so what I’d like to do is just take a moment and invite you to pray. And I’d love for you to take this moment, not of silence, you don’t have to pray out loud, but into the silence, put your prayers to God. And pray for healing for those who’ve been physically harmed, pray for healing in spirit for those who are living in anxiety and fear right now. And I know that’s probably many of those of you who are listening even at this moment and pray for a breaking of the power of this spirit of despair and hopelessness because we have truth. We have hope. We have light. And pray that God would use us to break this darkness. And so, let’s just take a few moments of silence and then I’ll close this in a moment.
God, we come to you as your children and we are angry, and we are frustrated. We are sad and we are hurting, and we are afraid and there’s a whole, just a spectrum of emotions. But we come to you because we know that you are the only one who has hope. You’re the only one that has the words of life. Lord, would you give us words of life? Would you make us agents of life and of light and would you use us, given courage through the power of your Holy Spirit, to push back the darkness in this place? And on behalf of those who are watching from around the world, we asked that you’d give each of us the strength to be your hands and feet and to make a difference. Lord, we don’t want to be in this place again. We don’t wanna be having this conversation again. We don’t wanna be dealing with this kind of thing again. And so, though we asked that you’d move, move us and use us to make a difference. We do love those who are harmed. We ask for physical healing. For those who are harmed in spirit, Lord, we ask for a coming of your presence that would bring peace, that would bring hope. Lord, for those who don’t know you and are in this dark place without the light of Christ, we ask that you would break in and you bring them to a saving relationship with you to give them the hope that the world cannot offer. Lord, I believe that we’re facing an epidemic of hopelessness. And yet we as your people come because we know that we have hope. And so, Lord, make us agents have that hope in Jesus’ name. Amen.
On a much more positive side, of course, it is Mother’s Day. And so, I wanna say thank you to all of the mothers out there are, you know, how many of us have mothers? I love it when I get 100% participation. That’s awesome. I’ll tell you what, let’s just do this. You know, we’ve got people watching all over the world right now and we’re recording this broadcast and so maybe your mom isn’t here, but let’s give a shout out to your mom wherever she is. I’m gonna do a three, two, one and you’re just going to yell, “I love you,” and I don’t know what you call your mom. I used to call my mom Mother because she’s kind of a proper southern belle type and she’s like mother. And now I’m kind of like Mom and I don’t think she likes it, but I feel better about it now. And so, I’m gonna honor her with Mother this morning, but maybe it’s Mama for you. Maybe it’s Mamacita. I don’t know what it is. Right. Okay, we’ll do three, two, one. You just yell out whatever you call your mom. Okay. Yell it out really loud. So, three, two, one, I love you.
Okay, here’s what you’re gonna do now. That’s on Facebook. So, you’re gonna go to Facebook, you’re gonna find that moment in the broadcast and you’re gonna send a link to your mom and go, “I did that for you, Mom.” And in she’ll listen, and she’ll be like, “I could totally hear you,” because that’s what moms do, right? I thought, you know, we’re in the middle of our Problem of God series and so I thought since it is Mother’s Day, we would just deal with the Problem of God and mothers today and yeah, how stupid would I have to be, right? No, we’re not gonna do that. We are gonna deal with a problem today though that it is an issue for people, and I think there’s two different ways this particular issue is problematic. For some people it’s the issue that keeps them from coming to faith. But honestly, I think for a lot of Christians this particular issue, for a lot of followers of Jesus, this issue is a problem and it’s what keeps them from sharing the love of Jesus, it’s what keeps them from sharing the truth that we have in Christ. And what I’m talking about here is the problem of God and exclusivity, the problem of God and exclusivity, and here’s what I mean by exclusivity.
Exclusivity just means excluding people from a group because they don’t share some of the characteristics of the rest of the group, some of the characteristics that the rest of the group has in common, right? And our immediate reaction in the modern world today when we go, oh, people are being excluded from a group is to go, “How terrible that is. That’s just awful. How could you possibly do that?” Well, it happens to all of us all the time. It happens to me and I’m constantly dealing with the hurt of this and trying to get over it. But I keep coming back to it. In Mission Hills, we had this amazing group. We’ve been invested in this group for a long, long time. It’s called MOPS. MOPS is Mothers of Preschoolers. And I love what MOPs is doing, but they will not let me be part of it. And I get it. I’m not a mom. I’m not a mother. Okay. So, I feel like the men’s ministry should get busy and they should launch POPs, which be Papas of Preschoolers.
But honestly, you know what, I wouldn’t get to belong to that one either because I don’t have preschoolers. So maybe at some point in the future we’ll have GAPS, like a Grandparents of Preschoolers, and I could belong. But you understand what I’m saying? Like I’m excluded from a couple of these groups because I don’t share certain key characteristics, and nobody gets too upset about that. Sometimes people are excluded from groups because they don’t share beliefs that unify the group. That’s the characteristic that brings a group together. They have a certain set of beliefs and other people don’t have those beliefs, so they don’t belong to that group. So, for instance, if you happen to believe that crazy thing, the earth is round, you know, you cannot belong to the Flat Earth Society, which is a real thing with a growing membership list. But if you don’t believe that the world is flat, you don’t get to belong to that group, you don’t share that belief and so you’re kind of excluded from that, right?
Or I mean, let’s just get really practical, nitty-gritty, deep spiritual stuff here. If you belong to the group that believes that DC’s “Justice League” is better than Marvel’s “Avengers Endgames,” you don’t belong to the group that is rational, reasonable, and sane. And so, it’s just the way that it works. Okay. But you understand what I’m saying? We exclude people from groups because they don’t share all the characters of the group and nobody gets too upset about that when we’re dealing with the kinds of things that I’ve already described. But here I think is where the real problem comes in then for a lot of people, both Christians and non-Christians, it’s this. Christians say that only those who trust in Jesus will go to heaven, right? Christians say that only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that he died for our sins and rose from the dead and put their trust in him, they’re the only ones that go to heaven. And that’s where people begin to go, okay, well that’s exclusive in a way that I really, really struggle with.
Well, one of the first things I wanna do is make sure that that’s actually the truth. That’s actually a reasonable way to think about Christianity because sometimes people reject Christianity, or they reject Jesus or faith in God because of misunderstandings. So, we need to make sure that that’s actually something that Jesus taught. So why don’t you go ahead and grab your Bible and start making your way to the Gospel of John, John 14:6. I think we need to hear directly from Jesus himself. And so, here’s something that Jesus said, John 14:6, “And Jesus answered and said, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'” Is that an exclusive claim? Kinda, right? Kind of hard to read it any other way. I mean, he says he is not a way. He is the way. He says he’s the way, the truth, and the life. He is the only way rooted in the only truth that gives rise to the only worth life that’s worth living for now and for all of eternity. He says no one, no exceptions, no one comes to the Father except, that’s exclusive language, right? Except through me. So is Jesus making exclusive claims about himself, yeah, he is. There’s really no way around that. That’s baked into Christianity because it’s part of the teaching of Jesus himself.
The early Church repeated it, but they didn’t invent it. They’re just repeating what Jesus says. So, for instance, in Acts 4:12, Peter is speaking, and he says this, he says, “Salvation is found in no one else for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” That’s exclusive language. But understand the early Church isn’t inventing that, they’re just repeating what Jesus said. So, Peter says that there is no one else. Salvation is found in no one else. There’s no other name, but he’s just going back to what Jesus said. He says, “No one comes to the Father except through me.” So, is Christianity exclusive? Absolutely it is. And let’s just be very, very clear. Jesus claimed to be our exclusive source of eternal life.
Not of the sources, not the source for people in, you know, in Christian communities or who grew up in Christian nations or grew up in Christian homes, not for people who grew up in the western world. No, no. Our, meaning all of humanities. Jesus says he is all of humanity’s exclusive source for eternal life. That’s absolutely an exclusive claim. There’s no way to spin that. There’s no way to twist that. There’s no way to get out from under. That’s absolutely what Jesus claimed. And that’s precisely where a number of people will go, “Well, that’s where I have a problem,” right? And so, I think non-Christians are, they’re offended by that. And honestly, a lot of believers are embarrassed by that. Like, yeah, that, boy, that…I’m not comfortable with that. But here’s something I think we need to all understand, it’s just a fact.
Exclusivity is the inescapable conclusion of every claim to know any kind of truth. Let me say that again because it’s really important. Exclusivity, what we’re talking about here, exclusivity, it’s the inescapable, inescapable concept. There’s no other way it’s going to happen. It’s always gonna turn out this way. It’s the inescapable consequence of every claim, not some of them, every claim to know any kind of truth, not just religious truth, not just certain kinds of truth, but every kind of truth. In other words, what I’m saying is that anytime somebody claims that it’s this way, that this is the truth, that this is the way reality is, what’s happening is we’re drawing a line. And we’re saying, those of us who believe it are on this side and those who don’t are on that side. There’s an exclusion. It happens with every kind of truth. If you were to say, you know, Craig is wearing jeans right now, you’ve drawn a line and everybody who agrees that Craig is wearing jeans belongs on that side of the line with you. Everybody who thinks that he’s wearing a kimono or a kilt, like, what’s wrong with you, right? But you’re on the other side of the line, okay? It’s just the way it works. It’s not spiritual reality. It’s not philosophical. It’s just truth. Truth draws lines. Anybody who says, you know, men are inherently better drivers than women, that’s a line. I don’t know why you draw that line, but you’re drawing a line. You’re separating yourself. Everybody who’s on that side of the line is saying one thing. Everybody that’s the other side of the line, they’re gonna live long and prosper unlike the rest of you on that other side of the line, right? But every time we draw a line is because we’re drawing a claim to truth. It’s just the way that it works, okay?
And so, I think it’s important that we understand that when we realize this fact, well, what happens is we begin to understand that Christianity is no more or any less exclusive than any other religion because every religion makes claims. Every religion says this is the truth. This is what is true. This is what’s real. And so, every religion is constantly drawing lines. It’s no more or less true of Christianity. It’s true of all religions and all claims to truth. And so, Genesis 1, right, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” They didn’t just happen. It wasn’t random chance. That’s not the claim of Christianity. Christianity says God did it. It draws a line. Buddhism says, no, no, no. That’s not the way. They draw a different line, but they draw a line, nonetheless. Buddhism says the universe has always existed and no God was required for its creation. It’s just always been around. Well, that’s a different line, but it’s clearly a line, right? And so, we all draw these lines.
Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God the Lord is one. There is one God. There are no other Gods.” Every other claim to something being a God is either wrong or it’s a counterfeit. It’s an imitation. It’s a lie. It’s a pretender, but there’s only one God. Hinduism says, no, no, no, that’s the wrong place to draw the line. There’s millions of gods, but you understand that they’re drawing a line too. Christianity says one God. Hinduism says, no, millions of God. We’re putting ourselves on opposite sides of lines all the time. It’s no more or less true of Christianity. Jesus himself drew lines constantly.
John, Chapter 11, “I and the Father,” he said, “I and the Father are one. And again, his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, ‘I have shown you many good works, many miracles from the Father. For which one of these are you stoning me?’ ‘We’re not stoning you for any good work,’ they replied, ‘but for blasphemy because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” See, they understood when he said I am the Father are one. He wasn’t saying God and are simpatico, right? He’s not saying God and I are on the same wavelength. We’re thinking kind of in the same… No, no, no. He’s saying that I and the Father, we’re equal in some essential sense. And his opponents, when you’re claiming to be God, that’s a problem. You understand Jesus drew a line, right? Yes. It’s an exclusive line, but every other religious claim is an exclusive line as well. Islam says, no, no, no, no Jesus is just a man. That’s where our line is. He’s not God. He’s not the Son of God. He’s just a man. He’s a prophet, but he’s just a human being. But that’s a line just as strong, just as exclusive.
Every religion makes claims to truth. And for that reason, every religion draws exclusive lines. Christianity’s no more or no less exclusive than any other religion. However, and this is an interesting thing, in the modern world, there has been a movement towards treating religious claims in a different way than we treat every other kind of claim. We’re saying that, you know, religion draws exclusive lines, but every claim to truth draws exclusive lines, right? Every kind. And yet somehow there’s been this temptation in the modern world, this sort of, this trend in the modern world to go, yeah, but religious claims are different. And so, there’s an increasing temptation for people to say, well, religious claims, all religious claims, all religions, all their claims through…they’re all equally valid. And to say they’re equally valid means they’re all equally true even though they’re contradictory, even though they make radically different and mutually exclusive statements. The modern world will say yeah, but all religious claims are equally valid.
Can you imagine if we did that in any other area of life? I mean, imagine, imagine you had been feeling bad for a while and so you go to the hospital and they do a battery of tests and you go into the room with the doctors afterwards to interpret the tests, and there’s a number of people there. And one of the guys says, “Okay, well I’ve looked at everything and you know what? You’re fine. You just need to drink more water. That’s all you really need. Just a little dehydrated.” All right. I like, that. Sounds really good. The other guy goes, “No, no, no. You’ve got a really bad infection in your right arm and we need to amputate.” Whoa. The other guy goes, “No, no, no, no, you got pancreatic cancer and we need to operate, and you need to start chemotherapy immediately, or you’re gonna die.” Okay. And then there’s a fourth guy, he’s the hospital administrator. He speaks up and he says, “I can tell you’re really disturbed by this. I can tell all these different claims coming at you, they’ve really got you kinda, you’re worried, you’re upset, you’re confused. Don’t worry about it. All these diagnoses are equally valid.”
Now, I don’t know how you’re gonna respond. I’ll tell you what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna be like, how about you leave because you’re kind of stupid. I don’t think you understand how ideas work. I don’t think you understand what truth is. How about you leave and I wanna talk to these doctors and what I want from the doctors is tell me why you believe what you believe. Tell me what the evidence has convinced me that you’re right beause I need to know the truth on this. This matter, right? We would never accept this idea that all ideas are equally valid in any other area of life and yet we have a temptation to want to do it in the one area of life that has the longest-term consequences. If what the Muslims are saying is right and Christianity is wrong, I need to know that because it’s not gonna impact me for 20, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 100 years. It’s gonna impact me for eternity.
If Jesus is right, I need to know that because it’s gonna impact me for eternity. We wouldn’t accept this idea that all ideas are equally valid anywhere else in life, and yet the modern world says, but when it comes to religion, that’s how we need to approach it. And I get it. Let’s be realistic. And I think especially as followers of Jesus, we need to understand why that happens, why there’s that push towards that. And there’s a couple reasons for it, I think. The first one is just this, religious claims are hard to verify. It’s hard to know who’s right. It takes a lot of work to sift through the evidence and come to a rational, reasonable conclusion about which religious claim is right. Religion is hard to verify. We can’t put God under a microscope. We can’t tune heaven in with a telescope, right? And so, you know, how do we subject the claims of the religions to tests so that we can actually determine what one is true and what one’s valid and what one is right. That’s a hard thing to do but understand this. Just because the claim is hard to verify doesn’t mean that we stop trying. Just because a claim is hard to verify doesn’t mean that we can stop trying to figure out which one is right.
I mean, let’s just do a quick little experiment, shall we? I’m gonna hold this and I’m gonna let it go. What do you think’s going to happen? Make a quick scientific prediction. Okay. You can never test anything just one time. Let’s try it again. Two out of three. Okay. It falls every time because we have a little thing called gravity. Who knows how gravity works? Good job. No one, I hope nobody online is putting their hands up because we have no idea how gravity… We know that it works. We know what it does, but we have no idea why. In fact, I kid you not, there are more than 50, 5-0, distinct theories to explain why gravity works, 50. And do you think in the physics community they’re going, “Well, you know every idea is equally valid. Isn’t it great that we have this diversity?” No. They’re working hard at it. It’s hard.
The reason there’s 50-plus theories is because it’s really difficult to decide which one’s right. It’s really hard to verify. It takes a lot of hard work and a lot of thought. It’s difficult and yet they’re still doing it. They’re still trying to verify which one is right. And here’s the interesting thing to me, and you know, I just, I apologize in advance to all physicists out there. I’m not sure it matters. If it turns out that the bi-scalar-tensor-vector theory of gravity… Got it right. It took me a while to memorize the bi-scalar-vector-tensor…now I got it backwards. I can’t even pronounce the theory properly. If it turns out that one’s right versus the quantum loop theory, you know what’s gonna happen? Stuff’s still going to keep falling, and yet they’re still working hard to come to the conclusion about which one’s right. They’re still working hard to verify it. And when we’re talking about religious claims, we’re talking about eternally significant things where your eternity is gonna look very different if you’re on the right side of the right line or not.
Yeah, it’s hard to verify religious claims. It’s not impossible, but it’s hard work. But just because it’s hard work doesn’t mean that we stop trying. And so, if you’ve given up, if you’ve gone, you know, I just don’t know what I think and there’s all these religions, just listen, it’s too important. It’s too important for you to go, “I just don’t know.” You can’t give up on this one. But that’s one of the reasons I think that we are tempted to say that all religious claims are equally valid. I think the second reason is this, it’s that the world has gotten smaller and we wanna be kind. The world’s gotten smaller and we wanna be kind. Here’s what I mean. Fifty years ago, a hundred years ago, very few people in the United States of America, which is not an entirely Christian nation even 50 years ago, but it still shares a very largely Christian worldview. It’s very much shaped by Christian worldview. And so, we didn’t necessarily have a lot of interaction with people who didn’t have a Christian worldview. I mean, we knew that over in the Middle East, you know, over in different parts of the world, there were people who had different beliefs, but they were kind of abstract people and their beliefs sort of we kind of dealt with on a purely philosophical level. There wasn’t a lot of like heart stuff involved in it, but that’s not true anymore.
See, now, because of travel and because of the internet and even increasing diversity in our own communities, we know people who believe these things. These things that used to just be foreign ideas, now it’s not just like I know there are people who believe in Islam, but now it’s my neighbor Feran. It’s Omar that I work with. These are people that I actually know, they have faces, they have names, I know their kids, I know their life, I know their story, and we want to be kind. And our perception is what could be less kind, what could be more unkind than questioning somebody’s sincerely held religious beliefs, suggesting to somebody that I actually like and I know that their beliefs about eternity, their beliefs about God are wrong. What could be more unkind than questioning somebody sincerely held religious beliefs? And so, we want to be kind and so we’re very reluctant to do that and I get that. But I also wanna say that depends on a very narrow and honestly, I would say insufficient definition of kindness.
This idea that we’re being kind as long as we don’t question people’s beliefs and challenge them, that’s not real kind. I mean imagine somebody came to you and they said, “Hey, it’s been a rough day because I’ve just been diagnosed with a pretty significant illness. It’s called scurvy.” Remember scurvy? Scurvy, it’s a vitamin C deficiency. People used to get it when they were on the boats crossing the Atlantic for long, long periods of time. It’s pretty bad. I mean, your skin cracks and bleeds. You get a high fever, your joints swell, and they ache, your teeth fall out of the sockets, your hair falls out. It’s pretty nasty. So, your friend comes and says, “Yeah, I just been diagnosed with scurvy, but it’s okay. All I need to do with smell an orange once a day.” And you were like, “That’s all you…” “Yeah, I’ve got to smell an orange, just smell orange once a day and I’ll be cured.” “You believe that?” “I do, sincerely and deeply.” Okay.
A few months later they’re in the hospital. I mean, they’re in a life-threatening place and you go to visit him, you, “How you are doing?” They’re like, “Much better. Turns out, I need to eat an orange a day, not smell it. I need to eat it. So really easy solutions, so from now on, I need to eat an orange, like who knew, right? Like, did you know?” And you’re like, “Oh, huh.” Like, “Oh whoa, whoa, you knew, you knew that smelling an orange wasn’t gonna… You knew that I needed to eat an orange. That’s all? You knew?” “Well, yeah, kind of.” “Well, why didn’t you say anything?” “Well, I wanted to be kind.” And he looks around the hospital and he goes, “This is your idea of kindness? You could’ve saved me all this. You really think you’re being kind?” Here’s the thing. The world has gotten smaller and we have this temptation to want to be kind. But listen, when being kind means withholding truth, we’ve stopped actually being kind. You hear me, Church? I understand the impulse to be kind and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be kind. But kindness also means actually caring about long-term consequences of what people believe.
Listen to the words of Jesus. John 8:32, “And then you will know the truth. You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” See, truth sets people free. And it’s interesting to me. That quote has been picked up and repeated millions of times over the last few centuries, millions of times by people from every walk of life, millions of times by people from every religious background. There’s something in what Jesus says here that just resonates deep in the soul of every human being who’s ever lived. Yes, the truth will set you free. We just know instinctively that’s right. Truth makes a difference. And it doesn’t matter if it’s easy truth or hard truth. In fact, I would argue that the harder the truths, the more powerful they are to set us loose from the chains that bind us. Some of the most powerful things that have been done in my life had been done because somebody had the courage to say a hard truth into my life, but hard truths have the ability to break chains.
Do you understand what that means? It means that failing to offer truth is failing to offer freedom, it is to leave people bound, it is leave people enslaved, is to leave people chained to the past, to their sins, to their brokenness, to their shame. And all of those things that we’re all aware of and that we’re all intimately thinking through. To fail, to offer truth is to fail to offer freedom. Jesus says this, John 6:37, “All those the Father gives me will come to me. And whoever comes to me, I will never drive away.” It’s so interesting to me. You know, we have this idea sometimes well Christianity is so exclusive, but we’ve already seen it’s no more exclusive than any other religion. Yes, Jesus says he’s the only way and that’s exclusive. It is. But notice here he says all those, everyone, everyone who the Father gives me comes to me and whoever comes to me, whoever. Not the people that grew up in Christian homes, not the people that grew up in Christian nations, not the people that grew up in the western world, not the people who you grew up in certain socioeconomic settings, he says whoever. I don’t care where you come from, I don’t care what your background is. I don’t care what you’ve done or haven’t done or any of it. Whoever, whatever, whatever, whatever, whoever comes I will never, never drive away.
Matthew 11:28, he says, “Come to me. Just come. Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” All, all of you. Just come here. Here’s what I love. Yes, Christianity is exclusive. Jesus’ claim is exclusive but, do not miss this, his invitation is inclusive. Jesus’ claim is exclusive, but his invitation is all-inclusive. Everyone who comes, everyone who comes will be set free because God so loved the…what’s the word? It’s the world. For God so loved the world that he sent his one and only Son, and whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. Yeah. Jesus’ claim is exclusive. He is the only way to salvation, he says. But his invitation is inclusive. And so if you’re a follower of Jesus, let me ask you a question. Here’s a question I’d love for you to wrestle with. Am I so worried about being seen as kind that I’ve actually stopped caring about truth, because it’s happened in the Christian world. We have truth, we have light, we have the ability to drive back darkness. We have the ability to change things, to extend the influence of God in a way that transforms the world. But more importantly, it transforms the lives of people in our influence for all of eternity. And we have often failed to share that truth because we’re so worried about being kind that we’ve stopped caring about truth. And as we’ve already seen, what that really means is we’ve actually stopped being kind.
So wrestle with this. Am I so worried about being seen as kind that I’ve stopped caring about the truth? Or maybe, let’s be perfectly fair, sometimes people fall on the other side of the spectrum. So here’s a question for you. If you’re a follower of Jesus, I also want you to ask this question. Am I so concerned about the truth that I’m not being kind? Because the reality is that sometimes people reject the claims of Jesus because they don’t like us. Sometimes they reject Jesus because they don’t like his followers because we’re not always kind and loving in the way that God calls us to be. You know, we say in this series over and over again, we’ve said it, right? The answers that we’re giving here are intended to be not weapons, but what? But medicine. We have truth, we’re going through answers here so that we can make a difference in people’s lives, so we can remove obstacles, so we can help them take steps further in their relationship with Jesus because we believe that that is the truth and it will change them for all of eternity.
But sometimes people take these kinds of things and they use them as weapons. You know, in my office I have a library and part of my library is devoted to apologetics books. And apologetics books, if you’re not familiar that term, basically, they’re books that are arguing from historical, scientific, philosophical evidence for the truth of the Christian faith that it is the most rational religion. It’s the one that lines up with reality over and over and over again. So I have books that are filled with those evidences. But it’s an interesting thing to me that when I look at those books, some of my books that are there are really old. I love old books and so I have old apologetics books and I have new apologetics books. And what’s interesting to me is the old apologetics books, when you compare them to the newer ones, you know what’s true about the newer ones? They’re kinder, they’re just nicer. Whereas some of the old ones, they come across kind of harsh and honestly, I don’t see a lot of love in them. And I think the big difference is the world’s gotten smaller and more and more people are going, “Hey, these are real people we’re dealing with. They’re not abstract ideas.” They’re still speaking the truth, but they’re doing it in a more kind way. They’re doing it in a compassionate way. They they’re doing in a way that honestly to me seems to be driven by love for those people.
And sometimes we haven’t picked up on that. And so am I so concerned about the truth that I’m not being kind? In other words, do the people who don’t agree with me know how much I love them? So maybe you find that the Holy Spirit needs to do something in your work there, but for everyone, for every follower of Jesus, here’s maybe the key question. Who do I know that needs to know what I know? I’ve asked this before, but I’m not going to stop asking. It’s so important. We’re all called to be on mission with Jesus. And part of that means asking this question right here. Who do I know that needs to know what I know? Who needs to know the truth about Jesus? And maybe your answer is I don’t know anybody who needs to know what I know. Okay, then you need to know more people.
You need to extend your…because to be on mission with Jesus means to be extending the influence of God. That’s what it means to be a mission, extending God’s influence. And if you don’t know anybody who needs to know what you know, then you need to know some more people who need to know what you know. Go be on mission with Jesus. Go be kind with truth. But maybe you’re not a follower of Jesus. And I know on all of our campuses and for a lot of you watching online, you’re not necessarily followers of Jesus. So let me ask you this question. Where else in life do we refuse to accept a claim to truth, do except to claim something to something we actually believe to be true? Where else in life do we refuse to accept something we believe to be true just because it means that the alternate claims are false?
And a lot of times I found that people are like, I’m struggling to say yes to Jesus because I kind of believe it. I do believe that it’s the best explanation for the empty grave. I do believe that Christianity explains the rise of the Church. I do believe that Jesus, being the Son of God, it explains the facts of history and of science. I actually do, but I can’t say yes to Jesus because if Jesus is the way and the truth and the life, that means all the other religious claims are wrong. Yeah. Like everywhere else in life. And what I’m asking you to consider is the possibility that that obstacle is a silly obstacle. Where else in life do we refuse to trust a claim that we believe is true just because it means the ultimate claims are false? Look, we all have questions and we need to answer those questions. Yeah, that’s what this series is about. But we have other alternative ways to help you get answers, to help you move forward in faith. And so one of the things that we’ve set up, if you haven’t used it yet, really encourage you to do it, you can text the word questions to 888111 and you’ll get back a link and you can ask an anonymous question. We’re gonna get answers to those. So if you have a question that’s keeping you from moving forward, let’s get the question answered. Maybe you attend our Discovering God series. Find out more about that missionhills.org. It’s a multi-week conversation with people who have questions. We want to get you answers to your questions, okay?
But if you’re here, if you’re listening to this and you’re going, well, the big problem I have is just that if Jesus is the way and the truth and the life, that means that he’s the only way and yeah. What’s keeping you from moving forward? Listen, if you’re not a follower of Jesus, this is what you need to understand. The question isn’t whether or not Christianity is exclusive. It is, just like every other religion. The question isn’t whether or not Christianity is exclusive. The question is whether or not it’s right. And my guess is some of you are listening to this and there’s something in your heart that says, “I know that it is.” Okay. Then it’s time to trust. It’s time to trust.
Would y’all pray with me? On behalf of the followers of Jesus, let’s just say this, our good, good Father, thank you for loving us so much that in spite of our sin, you sent your own Son to die for us and we just acknowledge that we are sinners, that we have committed wrong. We’ve walked away from you. And we deserve death, we earned it. The wages of sin is death and yet you pursued us. You came after us. You’ve woken our hearts to your love and we said yes, and we have experienced forgiveness. We have experienced new life. We’ve experienced a relationship with you that begins now and because we’ve experienced it all, Lord, we have tasted freedom. And so we say thank you. Thank you for setting us free with the truth.
If you’re a follower of Jesus, would you do something? Would you begin praying for the people sitting around you and all of our campuses in South Denver, those of you watching online? I wanna speak to you. If you’re not a follower of Jesus, maybe you’re here today and something clicked. Maybe there’s something in you that, if you’re honest, you go, I actually do believe Jesus rose from the dead. I believe the grave is empty. I believe that that’s the best explanation for Christianity. And if he can rise from the dead, then he is who he says he is. He is the Son of God. And if he is who he says he is, then yeah, I think he can do what he says he can do. He can forgive me. He can set me free from my guilt and my shame. He can offer me a new life. If you’re honest with yourself and you believe that, then today is the day that it’s time to trust. And if you’d like to put your faith in Jesus to receive that forgiveness and that new life and all those things that are true and they’re just waiting for you to receive them, if you’d like to do that, here’s how you do it.
Just in your own hearts, you have this conversation with God. I’ll give you the words, but you say them to your Creator. Say, God, thank you for loving me. I’ve done wrong. I’ve sinned and I’m sorry. I know I can’t fix it. But Jesus, I believe that you came to fix it for me. Jesus, I believe that you died on the cross for my sins. I believe you rose from the dead. I believe you’re offering me forgiveness, freedom, and a relationship with God and I’m ready to say yes. Jesus, I’m ready to trust what you did for me. So right here, right now I’m saying yes to you, Jesus. I’m putting my faith in you. Come into my life. Take your place because I’m yours for now and forever. Amen.
All of our campuses and online, we had a number of people who’ve made that decision to trust in Jesus today, to be set free. Can we just welcome them to the family of God? It’s awesome. It’s been happening all throughout this weekend. So here’s what I asked you to do. If you made the decision for the first time, wherever you are, if you just text the word Jesus to 888111, you’re gonna get back a link that’s gonna tell you five things that are true about you now that were not true about you a few moments ago. Five things that are true about you because you said yes to Jesus and you put your faith in him. Also gonna give you access and free resources to help you begin walking in that relationship, living out the freedom we have and becoming part of the solution to the darkness and the hopelessness that we see around us so much. We have the truth that can drive back the darkness. Let’s live in it. God bless.
THE PROBLEM OF GOD AND HYPOCRISY
1 Peter 5:5-9
This is our final installment in our “The Problem of God and ____” series. We have guest speaker, Pastor Chad Moore, who addressed the issue of why the church is filled with hypocrites and how that can keep us from God and even from being in deeper relationship with our fellow humans. Join us as we look at ways we can each work to change that.
Craig: Hi, Mission Hills, welcome to all of our locations. So glad that you’re with us today. Coletta and I are actually coming to you live or almost live from Peru, where we’re visiting with some of our Compassion partners and seeing the incredible, incredible work that they’re doing here. Looking at some possibilities for further partnership for the Kingdom and we’re really excited about that. But I’m super excited to be able to introduce to you, Chad Moore. Chad is the lead pastor down at Sun Valley Community Church, he’s a great friend has been a great mentor to me. And I’m actually a little bit jealous that I won’t get to be there. But you are in great hands, hands of a man of God and a man who’s gonna bring the Word to you powerfully today. So, would you welcome Chad to the stage?
Chad: Well, hey, welcome, everybody. Good to see you, guys, such a privilege to be with you today. Craig and I have become friends over the past couple of years and known Mission Hills for a long time. I’m kind of down in the Phoenix area. But I’m so honored and humbled to be with you. I was telling Craig earlier you know, when you’re the lead pastor, you don’t let very many people like stand in this spot in your church. And so I’m just honored and humbled that he would trust me with this moment. And I’m just happy to be with you guys.
We’re wrapping up the series today called “The Problem of God.” And you guys have talked about all kinds of things over the past few weeks. Today, we’re gonna talk about the problem of God and hypocrisy. How many of you have ever heard somebody say, “You know, I don’t go to church, because the church is full of hypocrites?” How many of you have heard that before?
Okay, yeah, if you didn’t raise your hand, you need to get out more, right? Because that’s like a really common thing. “I don’t go to church because the church is full of hypocrites.” It could be that you’re here today and you’ve said that “I don’t go to church because the church is full of hypocrites.” So let’s just start with this. That’s true.
Maybe we should all just pray and go home, right? I mean, the church is full of hypocrites. In fact, I’ll just start with this, I’m a hypocrite. I’ll give you an example. This past week I was in Montana fly fishing. I saw a slide earlier about some of you guys fly fishing. But I was on the Bighorn River. Help a brother out, how many of you have been on the Bighorn River, anybody? Yeah. So I did that this past week and then on the way back, you know, I went to Billings and then flew from Billings to here on Friday night. But midway through the week, last week, fishing on the Bighorn River, I was talking to a guy in my boat, and he’s doing this low carb diet. Okay. And I’m familiar with what he’s doing because I did it two years ago. I hiked the Grand Canyon from the North Rim to the South Rim. And I was doing this low carb diet and I lost some weight and I felt great, my joints just felt better you know, it just was good.
And so midway through the week, you know, he’s selling me on doing the low carb diet again. So like on Wednesday, last week, I’m like “I’m in. I’m all in. I’m gonna do the low carb diet.” And I just want you to know I was steadfast for two days. Because Friday morning, on the way to the airport, we stopped by this restaurant in Billings called Stella’s. Any of you ever heard of Stella’s? It’s 11 o’clock service, we’ll just talk to each other. You ever heard of Stella’s?
Okay, Stella’s has this sign out front that says they’re world famous. You’ve never heard of them. But they’re world famous for their cinnamon rolls. Okay, now I heard about the cinnamon rolls on the drive from the Bighorn River to Billings. But me being steadfast and being a leader, which means I make advance decisions, you know, the best way to predict the future is to create it. And I’m thinking to myself, cinnamon rolls, shminnamon rolls, I’m eating eggs and having coffee black because that’s the way I have my coffee, black because I’m a man. And I’m cheap, right?
So I get there I’m like, I’m just gonna have eggs, I’m doing the low carb thing, I’m all in, I’m steadfast. And so I sit down and all the guys are there you know, that I was fishing with all week. And suddenly somebody, right? Had ordered cinnamon rolls for the table. And they lay a cinnamon roll, like right there. And I can smell it. And I can see it. And all the dudes around me are eating them. And I thought to myself, “Don’t eat the cinnamon roll. Don’t eat the cinnamon roll. Don’t eat that cinnamon roll. Don’t you eat that cinnamon roll.” I ate the cinnamon roll. Right? Don’t look at me, I’m hideous. And I thought to myself, “You were so committed to this, you know, where are you? And then I’m like Doc Holliday from the movie “Tombstone” right? “My hypocrisy knows no bounds.”
See here’s the truth about me, I can’t live up to my own standard, much less God’s. And the truth is, hypocrisy is not a Christianity problem, hypocrisy is a humanity problem. Anywhere you ever go is full of hypocrites and yet you’re still there. Any restaurant you’ve ever been to let me help you out, right? It’s full of hypocrites. People who are eating cinnamon rolls. Okay, I’ll just…I didn’t say this in any other service. Here’s how hypocritical I am. I’m eating a cinnamon roll and I’m praying, “God bless this food to the nourishment of my body.” Do a miracle, right? I believe in miracles. Make this cinnamon roll healthy. Anywhere you ever go there’s hypocrites there. If you’ve ever made a New Year’s resolution, and you didn’t keep it, guess what you are? Can we just all keep it real this morning? All right, if you’re like “The church is full of hypocrites,” I would say, “Yes it is, you’ll fit right in.” Because all of us like we can’t even live up to our own standard, right?
Let me just tell you this about biblical Christianity. I’m not talking about whatever you think it is, I’m talking what the Bible teaches Christianity is. Biblical Christianity God gives us the antidote to hypocrisy. In fact, I don’t know if you know this, if you’re like, you know, “Church is full of hypocrites.” Jesus would fully agree with you, you guys would be on the same page. Did you know, in fact, that Jesus was the first person in history to use the word hypocrite the way that we use it? Did you know that? He came up with it.
In Jesus’ day and time, when he was here on the earth, hypocrites were actors, hypokrites, they were actors. You would have two guys on a stage, especially amongst the Greeks and they would put these performances on, ladies weren’t allowed to be on the stage. But they would have all these masks and two men would play all the characters in the play. And so they would reach back and they would put on the mask of the damsel in distress “Help me, help me, save me,” right? They were hypokrites, mask wearers. Take off that mask, put on the mask of the villain you know, hoo-ha, right? Take off that mask and then put on the mask of the hero, “Here I come to save the day.” There it is. And they would just change these masks. They were hypokrites.
And Jesus was the first to look at religious leaders and go “You guys are hypocrites.” You’re mask-wearers, you’re just playing a game here because there’s the outside that you project and then Jesus would say, “And then there’s the inside that I really know.” Jesus was the first person to use this word.
But in biblical Christianity, we have the antidote to hypocrisy. And actually, the antidote to hypocrisy is the chief virtue of the Christian life. What we’re gonna talk about today, this medicine for hypocrisy is the chief virtue of the Christian life, all other godly virtues flow out of it. I wanna talk to you today about humility. Humility is the number one virtue of Christian living because all godly virtues flow out of it.
If you brought your Bible turn, if you would to 1 Peter 5, if you don’t have your Bible, this passage of Scripture will be on the screen. If you’re new to the Bible, and you brought it 1 Peter 5 is towards the end of your Bible. But Peter writes about the chief virtue of the Christian life. He writes about and gives us instructions concerning the antidote for hypocrisy, concerning humility.
Follow along with me in your Scriptures, in your own Bible or the Scriptures here on the screen. Here’s what the Bible says, 1 Peter 5 beginning in verse 5, second part of the verse, that’s why there’s a little letter B there. Second part of verse 5. Here’s what Peter writes, “Clothe yourselves, all of you,” which would mean all of us. “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility, toward,” what are the next two words?
Together: One another.
Chad: One another. Okay, so as he starts this, he says, “Clothe yourselves, with humility toward one another.” And then he’s going to talk about clothing ourselves with humility towards God. So humility towards one another, and humility towards God. With humility toward one another for and then he starts talking about God, God, look at this, opposes the proud but, gives amazing grace to the who? The humble. The reason that humility is the chief virtue of the Christian life, is because all other godly virtues flow from it. Just to be straight, I got nothing apart from the grace of God. And everything that God wants to do in and through my life begins with humility. It’s the chief of all the Christian virtues.
Verse 6, Peter continues, so right? “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that at the proper time, he may exalt you. Casting all your anxieties.” Why? Because humility requires courage. Casting all of your fears when it comes to humility, casting all of your anxieties on him. Because next four words, read them with me beginning with he read it with me. “He cares for you.” Let’s read it again. He cares for you. One more time, he cares for you, and he does. Everybody look at me for a second. God loves you as you are, not as you should be. Because none of us are as we should be. He cares for you. He cares for you.
Talking about humility, verse 8. “Be sober-minded.” Sober-minded means don’t be in denial, be realistic about who you are, who you’re not, be sober-minded. Be watchful. Again, all in the context of humility, “Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.”
The problem of God and hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is not a Christianity issue, it’s a humanity issue. All of us are hypocrites on some level, welcome to the human race. But Christianity teaches this chief virtue of humility, which is the antidote to hypocrisy. If you’re taking notes, I wanna give you three things today that Peter just taught us about humility, let’s break it down.
Number one, if you’re taking notes, humility is a choice. Humility is a choice. If it’s the chief virtue of the Christian life and God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble, what does it mean to practice humility? And what does it mean to be humble? Well, first of all, he says, “Clothe yourselves.” Look at the verse here, 1 Peter 5:5 “Clothe yourselves,” which means humility is a choice, you choose to put it on. How many of you chose to put on clothes today? Yep, thank you for that. You choose to put on humility. It’s something you choose to practice, “Clothe yourselves with humility toward who?” One another. And then, of course, he begins to talk about, about God. So what does it mean to be humble? And how do you know if you’re humble? And what does it mean to put on humility?
I mean, we’re talking…people talk about being humble, it’s kind of weird, right? if somebody were to come to me and say, “Chad, you really humble?” And I said, “Yes, I know, I’m really proud of my humility,” right? I mean they’re giving away the humble award but if you actually go up and get it, they take it away from you. Does this make sense? So what is it? If I’m to clothe myself with it, if I’m to practice it with you and with God, what is it?
This passage of Scripture in the context that Peter is using this, humility is a trust word. It’s a trust word. If you’re taking notes, write this down. Biblical humility is trusting God and others with the real me. Humility is simply honesty. It means I don’t wear a mask. It means I trust God and I trust you with the real me. Now, why is that such a big deal?
Here’s why. Think with me humility is how love is received. My wife and I, I was struggling with some things. And the more I struggled…I actually wasn’t honest with her because I didn’t want her to worry. And I was trying to protect her at least in my mind. But I found myself getting lonelier and lonelier and lonelier in my marriage, but I wasn’t honest with her because I was protecting her. And I didn’t want her to worry, lonelier and lonelier and lonelier in my marriage. And then one day, I realized the reason I feel lonely is because she’s trying to love me and I won’t let her. And so when she loves me, she’s not loving me, she’s loving the mask I’m giving her. And when she’s hugging me, she’s not hugging me she’s hugging the mask. The reason I’m not feeling love for her is because she’s trying to love somebody who does not exist.
I think the only way, the only way, to experience the real love of God and the real love of people is to be courageous enough to be the real you. People nor God can love who you’re pretending to be because that person does not exist. Humility is the pathway that love travels down. It’s how love is exchanged. Humility is the chief virtue of the Christian life because humility is where we receive help from God. Humility is where we receive God’s love, mercy, grace, truth, his power, to help us in our time of need. See, pride is about pretending, humility is about reality. Pride closes the door on love, humility allows it in.
So I know what you’re doing right now, you’re thinking to yourself, right? Are you humble? Like about yourself? Are you humble? Let’s think about it. The word humor and the word humility come from the same root. So, first question, can you laugh at yourself? Because you’re hilarious like you got all kinds of issues, you with me? If you’re like “I’m not a hypocrite,” you’re in deep denial and you would have ate the cinnamon roll and you know it. Can you laugh at yourself? Is anyone in your life allowed to experience the real you?
Do you know what intimacy is, by the way? It’s “into me see.” Here’s the real me for better or worse, right? That’s why you have to take marriage vows, by the way, because the real me ain’t that great. But in the context of grace and marriage. Grace is not just some foreign doctrine that we throw around for salvation for all of you church people. Grace for the Christian is a way of life. This is marriage, it’s one messed up person marrying another messed up person. And that does not create perfection, that creates a mess. The day you got married, right? You had to go from me, me, me to we, we, we all the way home. And it takes a lifetime to learn that mystery. Can I get a witness? Yeah, just keeping it real.
And the more that we allow our spouse, our close friends, our kids into our weird little worlds, the more we’re allowing love to be exchanged. The more prideful you are the lonelier you will be. If you’re like a Christian, and you’re like, “I don’t love people,” okay, your problem is that you haven’t learned how to receive love. Because you cannot give what you do not have.
Do you know who gets humility? It’s little kids like before we mess them up, you know what I’m saying? Little kids aren’t worried about being cool. Little kids are like, “Here’s me, love me. Let’s play. Love me,” right? They are not worried about any of that.
I remember Jackson, I have two boys. I’m married, my wife is from Scotland and I’m from Texas, right? So you got like this clash of all kinds of things. In fact, when I moved to Arizona, I live in Arizona now on the east valley of Phoenix. I used to talk like this I mean, I really did “I’m from Mesquite, Texas. But here’s what I learned. When you talk like this, people automatically deduct about 50 points from your IQ. And my wife always sounds really smart, so I had to change it up a little bit.
But it was about five years ago and at that time, my oldest son was 11, my youngest son was five, now they’re 16 and 10. But we went out to dinner as a family, it was in August in Arizona. And in August, if you live in the Phoenix area, monsoons come through, so it’s hot, but then all of a sudden, there can be like a rainstorm seemingly out of nowhere and the wind is really strong. It’ll go for like 15-20 minutes sometimes there’s a dust storm, and it’ll go away again.
So, we’re out having dinner and a monsoon came through and we get home and we look out in the backyard, there’s a swimming pool in our backyard. And we look out there and because of the monsoon and the strong winds all of our lawn chairs were in the pool and I thought to myself, “This is a leadership moment.” I look at my family as we looked at all the lawn chairs in the pool and I said, “Don’t worry family, we will rebuild.” So, I said, “Right, go get your swimsuits on and then we’ll go out take the lawn chairs out and then we’ll swim,” we were having a family night, right?
So my wife goes upstairs to get her swimsuit. My oldest son goes upstairs to get his swimsuit. My youngest son, who’s five at the time, does not go to put on a swimsuit, he just stripped down to his birthday suit because he’s five. Right? And he goes and jumps in the pool, there’s no houses behind us. And so I go put my swimsuit on and we’re all swimming in the pool. And Jackson, my five-year-old who’s in his birthday suit swims up to me and says, “Dad, will you throw me in a cannonball?” And I said, “No.” Because you know, I pick him up throw him a cannonball usually. H’s like, “Why?” I said, “Because you don’t have any clothes on.” And I said, “I don’t want you like sitting in my hand, then I like slip or something because that’s weird.” He says “Don’t worry, “Dad, I’ll just clench my butt cheeks.” He’s not worried about being cool. He’s just worried about having fun, you know, we would call this free in Jesus, right? No wonder Jesus told us to be more childlike, not childish, we got that down but more childlike this sense of wonder. So humility is a decision, it’s a choice to trust God and others with the real you.
I’m just gonna talk to all the guys for a second. Men, what is a real man? I’m gonna help you. A real man is a man who is real. Do you know any? I cannot tell you how many times in my church, I’m 5′9″ on a good day. When I’ve stood there in front of you know, guys who are 6′4″ professional athletes, I mean, people…and I’m like, “Would you please have the courage to tell your wife the truth?” A real man is a man who is real. A real woman is a woman who is real. And the more that we pretend, the more we’re saying no to the love of God, and the love of people because no one can love who we’re pretending to be. It’s a choice.
Number two, humility is a choice. Humility invites God’s love to work in my life. Let me say about this for a second. What are you pretending is not a problem? How many of you ever heard this time heals all wounds? You ever heard that? Let me help you, that’s not true. If time healed all wounds when you get sick, you’d get better in the waiting room at the doctor’s office. You’re in there for a long time, right? But here’s the truth, right? To heal from it you got to deal with it. What are you pretending is not a problem, to heal from it, you got to deal with it. I know people who are in their 50s and they’re struggling with something that happened in childhood. Time doesn’t heal all wounds. And it could be right now you got something in your life, but you’re hiding it.
Let me just tell you, you’re as sick as your secrets. But when we drag that thing out of the darkness and into the light, whatever it is, that those things are like vampires, they shrink in the light. When the Bible says, “Walk in the light, walk in the truth,” when Jesus says, “People don’t like me because I’m the light of the world.” That’s what he’s talking about. God wants to save you and rescue you, not just in the hereafter, but in the here and now. He wants to do some amazing, wonderful miracles in your life. But you’ve got to get real and allow him to do that.
This is how Peter wrote it. Verse 6, “Humble yourselves under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up.” You can’t play poker with God, why? He knows what’s in your hand. Think about this with me. Christianity, in its very essence, is not a religion. Religion fuels hypocrisy, Christianity fuels humility, that’s two very different things. See religion fuels hypocrisy because religion is all about how we perform. Religion is all about us, trying to save ourselves. You take any religion in the history of mankind here’s how it breaks down. Here’s God and here’s us and religion is advice. This is what you gotta do to work your way to God. This is what you gotta do to save yourself. It fuels hypocrisy. Why? Because religious people in their heart know they’re not good, they know it. Which is why they remind you that they’re not good, but at least they’re better than you are. Right? That’s why religious people are jerks. Can I just help you? There are no jerks for Jesus, there is no such thing. Religion fuels hypocrisy because it’s about our own effort. It’s about us trying to save ourselves. Even if God is not in the religion, it’s still the same thing. This is what you gotta do to have better karma. This is what you got to do to be reincarnated into something else. Religion is advice this is what you got to do to save yourself.
Christianity fuels humility, it’s different. Biblical Christianity is not a religion. In fact, it’s something called the Gospel. If you’ve ever heard that word, the Gospel means good news. What is news? Well, news is not something you can achieve. News is something you choose whether or not you will believe and receive. The angel at Christmas to the shepherds says, “Behold, I bring you Good.
Chad: “Good News of great joy for all people.” What’s the Good News of great joy for all people? “Today in the City of David, a Savior has been born to you.” And by the way, he’s God made flesh. He’s Christ the Lord. See, here’s the difference with biblical Christianity, we have a Savior. Shockingly, Christianity is about Christ. It’s not called Chadianity. It’s not me saving myself. It’s not me relying on my own effort. It’s this truth when I couldn’t work my way to God, God in love and mercy and grace and truth, worked his way to me and into the person of Jesus.
I got nothing. I can’t earn anything. There’s no room for arrogance in my life. But God who loved me gave himself for me on the cross, paying for all of my sins for all time. And then three days later, he rose again. Christianity fuels humility because it’s not based on our effort, it’s based on the effort of God. It’s not based on our goodness, it’s based on the goodness of God. It’s not based on our righteousness, it’s based on the righteousness of God. When I couldn’t earn it, God loved me, made a way for me and into the person of Jesus.
News is not something you can achieve, it’s something you choose whether or not you will believe and receive. Here’s the truth today, God loves you, no matter where you’ve been, no matter what you’ve done, no matter what’s been done to you, he loves you as you are, not as you should be. He said yes to you 2,000 years ago, knowing every sin you would ever commit, and he gave his life for you to pay for it all. He’s already said yes to the real you. So allow him to love the real you, allow him to empower the real you, allow him to change the real you. This is biblical Christianity. It’s not faking it. It’s receiving it and getting help in our time of need. Humility invites God’s love to work in our lives.
To stay prideful is to say no to the salvation of God, is to say, “I’ll save myself, thank you, I’m good on my own.” And a loving God, who cares for you who is all powerful, is waiting in the wings for you to open the door of humility in the reality of your life and allow him in. That’s the Good News of great joy for who? All people, no matter where you’ve been, no matter what you’ve done, no matter what’s been to you. If you’re here today, and you’re like, “I’m a hypocrite?” I don’t know,” trust me, you will fit right in. God loves you and he cares for you. What are you pretending is not a problem. To heal from it, you got to deal with it. Humility is a choice, it invites God’s love to work in my life.
And number three, it protects me from being eaten. What? I’ll explain it in a second. It protects me from being eaten. See, humility helps us in our time of need to get help, you know, when we’ve done wrong when we’ve messed up, when we’re pretending something is not a problem. But humility protects us from having problems in the first place. If you’re taking notes, write this to the side “Pride comes before a fall, but humility will protect us all.” “Pride comes before a fall, but humility will protect us all.”
Humility is trusting God and others with the real me. When you have real friends and you’re talking about the reality of your real life, what you’re thinking, what’s going on in the inside of you, it protects you. If you’re taking notes, write this down. “Confession is most powerful when you confess the sin, you’re thinking about doing.”
I mean, I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced this. If somebody else is messing up, right? And they’re trying to get advice from me, I can look at their life and I know right what the problem is. But when it comes to my life, I can’t see squat. You know why that is? Here’s why, watch me, the eye cannot see the eye. E-Y-E cannot see the real me. And so I need to bounce things off with people of what’s going on in my heart, what’s going on in my mind, it protects me. It protects me.
Do you know how Christianity is supposed to work? Here’s how it works. We receive the love, the mercy, the grace, the truth of God and then we give that away to other people. And we’re in real relationship with one another. Church is not supposed to be a place where we come and pretend. Church is supposed to be a place where we come we admit that we’re all sinners, and we all get help in our time of need. Church is not where you fake it, Church is where you get real so you can make it.
That’s what God intended. Don’t let Mission Hills be a place where you come and pretend. Let it be a place, man, God’s grace it’d be a place where you come and get help in your time of need. And we receive the love, the mercy, the grace, the truth of God and then we give that away to each other. And in a real friendship, when I’m talking about what I’m thinking, and I’m confessing this sin I’m thinking about doing, it protects me.
Peter writes this and, by the way, and you’re gonna see it in a second. This is so brilliant, I mean, the Holy Spirit wrote it through Peter’s pen. Peter had no idea the brilliance that he’s writing here. But here’s what he said right, verse 8. “Be sober-minded.” Remember, we’re talking about humility here. “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion.” By the way, it doesn’t say he’s a lion. We got the Lion of Judah on our side he wins every time, makes sense? But the devil masquerades. The devil is the father of lies. That’s what Jesus called him. He’s really good at it I mean, let’s give the devil his due, he’s a great liar. And he masquerades sometimes in religious tone like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour, to eat. Do you know how lions hunt? It’s, I’m telling you, the Holy Spirit is so brilliant. Do you know how lions hunt? Let me break it down.
If you’re a male lion, you got a really good deal in life. Do you know what male lions do? Nothing. And all the ladies said I can relate to that, right? Here’s what male lions do, they eat, they sleep, and they help make little lions, that’s it. The female lions do all the work. Right? So the female lions do the hunting. And so they’ll go out in a group and they’ll see some gazelle right? And they’ll find one, and they’ll begin to go after it. Now, the bad news is lions are going after the gazelle. That’s the bad news for the gazelle. The good news is the gazelle is faster and smaller than the lions. So if the gazelle is smart the gazelle will go into thick brush. The thick brush is like a covering. The gazelle is small, it can go into the thick brush. The lions are big, they can’t get to it.
Now, think about this passage of Scripture. Humility is the protective covering. So the female lions can’t get to it. That’s where the male lion comes in. The female lions will go back and get the male lion. And the male lion will walk up to that brush, that protective covering where the gazelle is safe, and the male lion will roar. Have you ever heard the roar of an adult male lion? I tell you right now, it’s scary.
A couple of years ago, I was in South Africa. And our church, we do some work in South Africa. And I was at a lion farm where they breed lions. And I’m looking at this full-grown adult male, albino lion. And it was white with blue eyes, it was beautiful. It was like from me to you, it was like 15 feet from me. And there’s a chain link fence separating me and the full-grown adult male lion. And the guy in charge of the lion farm is standing next to me. And I said, “Hey, can this chain link fence like, keep the lion away from me?” He said, “No, not really. He just ripped that open with one ball, right? He goes, but don’t worry, he doesn’t know that.” And so I start being stupid like I’m with a group of people and I’m like leaning down the lion’s 15 feet away and I’m like, “Here kitty, kitty, kitty.” And I don’t know this but the guy in charge of the lion farm goes behind me and he starts provoking the male lion. And so the lion’s 15 feet away, there’s a chain link fence between us and I’m like, “Here kitty, kitty, kitty.” And all the sudden, the facial expression of that lion changed, his mane laid back, he roared at me. I can just tell you right now if you have digestive problems, the roar of a male lion will help you with that, right?
But think with me, so the gazelle is in the protective covering and the male lion comes and roars. And in that moment, the gazelle is so terrified that it jumps out from the protective covering. And what happens? It’s devoured.
Peter writes, “The devil is like a roaring lion.” He’s not all powerful, but he will roar at you and tell you do not practice humility. But humility protects us from being eaten. Humility covers us, it protects us, trusting God and others with the real me.
Now, here’s the brilliance of the Holy Spirit, Peter had no idea. What do you call a group of lions? If you don’t believe the Bible, that should have done it for you right there, you call a group of lions a pride? How are you doing with this? In the Old Testament you know, Micah says, “God, what is it that you require of me?” Micah 6:8. The response is, “Act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.”
Humility is a choice, it allows God’s love to work in our lives. And it protects us from making horrible mistakes. Trust God and others and in that experience the real love of God and others. It’s what the Christian life is all about. Let’s take a moment and pray together. Would you pray with me?
Let me pray for us. Father give us wisdom of these things. May we know your love for us so that we might trust you. The reality of our lives is scary. The depth of our sin is scary. But may we cast all of our anxiety on you because you care for us. Jesus to walk with you is to walk in the light. There is no separation. We cannot follow you in darkness. So may we step into the light, may we be exposed. Save us, help us, guide us, teach us, change us. And may we receive the real love of God, the real love of people and then give that away to others. Jesus, we pray, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Chad: It could be you are here today and you’ve never said yes to the love of God in your life. The Bible teaches that to say yes to the love of God is to say yes to Jesus, to receive him. And the truth is I think I said this a moment ago, God’s already said yes to you, knowing everything about you, past, present, and future. He’s just waiting on you to say yes to Him.
To say yes to the love of God means that you’re saying yes, and you’re trusting him in two ways. First, you’re gonna trust him with your sin, that you need a Savior, you can’t work your way to God. But he loved you and gave himself for you on the cross to cover all sin for all time and rose again three days later. It’s to trust him as your Savior and it’s to say yes to him as the leader of your life from this day forward.
If you’d like to receive the love of God in your life by saying yes to Jesus, I can help you do that right now. What I’m gonna ask is all of you who are followers of Jesus, would you just pray for those in the room who are not, for those watching online who are not? And if you want to say yes to Jesus, I can help you do that right now. Let’s bow our head and close our eyes again. And you can pray with me, silently in your own heart and mind he will hear you.
Will you say, “Jesus, I need you. Will you be my Savior.” Just tell him, “I’m a sinner. I need you. I need your grace. And so I say yes to it, I receive it right now in my life. And Jesus, would you lead me from this day forward. Teach me how to trust you, how to learn from you, and the reality of my life. Save me and lead me. Thank you, Jesus. I receive you. Thank you for receiving me. Amen.”
If that was you, then you just began a brand-new journey. Welcome to the family of God, where no one has it all together, you fit right in. But we’re all learning together how to trust Jesus and be changed by him. You guys are in a clapping mood can we just celebrate those who just said yes to Jesus.
If that’s you, you said yes to Jesus would you let us know. Send us a text at 888111 and just text us the word, “Jesus.” You’ll get a quick response. We have some free resources for you that will help you get started on the journey.
Great privilege to be with you guys today. Love your pastor, love you, humbly walk with God and keep being the church God’s called us to be. All right? God bless you guys.