Know What You Believe

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If you look around at our world and observe the Universe it quickly becomes clear that the things we see…that we ourselves…our very DNA have been designed by something or rather by someone. I believe that someone is God. Not Buddha, not an impersonal consciousness or some other false god but THE God. The God of the Bible and of reality.  I believe that he has always existed and that everything we see including our own life is held together by his hand. When you look at someone’s piece of art you can often times tell something about who they are by what they create. I believe it’s the same way with God and his creation. The Bible says that we can look around at nature and see evidence of our creator. But you can only know so much about someone by their art or in God’s case–by his creation. I could know all about a famous rock star and have read every single lyric from every single song they had written but not KNOW the person at all. It’s the same way with God. We can see that he exists, that he is creative, that he is powerful but without him being intentional there is only so much we can know. Thankfully he has been very intentional and has been walking on a personal level with mankind since he created them. Not only that but he has specifically chosen to reveal himself through his son Jesus and through the Bible.

Have you ever noticed that things in our Universe are very exact? That there are laws to nature? Even if someone is convinced they can fly…if the jump off of a roof (no matter how hard they believe) they will fall. Why? Because of the law of gravity. God did not design our world to function in such a way that people can jump off buildings and float around. Have you ever looked at our planet and how particularly it has been placed in our solar system? It is amazing how small changes in the earth’s tilt and rotation, in our distance from the sun, in our atmosphere etc would result in our extermination. Yet for some reason these exact specifications stay exact and life continues on. I believe that reason is God. Just as he created our world to function a certain way he has also created mankind to function a certain way. Just like there are consequences when we try to live as if those parameters aren’t there (i.e. falling instead of flying off roofs) there are also consequences when we live apart from how God designed us to live (i.e. rape, murder, lying, cheating etc). It doesn’t take a hard or long look at our world to see that mankind has busted through those parameters. Adam and Eve were the first to rebel against God and do things outside of his design and men and women everywhere have been doing it since. So what is his design? God created us in his image. We are personable beings. We have awareness. We have a soul (aka we are eternal beings). He created us to know him on a personal level. He created us to know other humans on a personal level. He created us to enjoy him and to enjoy his creation. And he created us to glorify him in so doing those things. So what went wrong?

When God created our world he told Adam that he and Eve could eat from whatever plant they wanted except for one tree. He told them that this particular tree (which he called the “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil”) would bring about death. And that it did. Eventually they disobeyed God and ate from the tree. Because of their disobedience they now not only had a knowledge of what good is but also had a knowledge of evil. Their rebellion…their disobedience was evil/sin. Up to that point they had no concept of sin because they had never deviated from God’s design in their lives and actions but because they disobeyed God their very act of disobedience gave them a framework for what sin is.

Adam and Even didn’t immediately die like they probably thought they would. The type of death their rebellion brought forth was a spiritual death…a death that spread to all mankind. The Bible says, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12)

God is very exact. Deviate from his design and there will be consequences. If the earth were too close to the sun it would burn up…too far and we would all freeze to death. You split an atom and you get the atom bomb…massive destruction and desolation. You live apart from God and apart from the manner he intended and there will also be massive destruction and desolation. To your soul. At our very core we were created to know God—to know him personally. And in being what he made us to be we were created to glorify him. But we, who bear his image, at our core are not who he made us to be. We are sinful beings. Sin. There’s that word again. What is the big deal with sin? A lot of people think along these lines…” So I sin a little bit here and there. I spread a white lie, I envy my sister’s job, I hate that noisy neighbor across the street…no big deal.” I’m sure the first scientist to split an atom thought that wouldn’t be a big deal either. The difference between sin (rebellion against God) and no sin is boundless. It is the difference between “0” and “1.” It is infinity. And in order to be in a right standing with God we have to have zero sin committed. Zero. Nada. I am pretty sure that everyone has sinned at some point. Even if they were to fill the rest of their lives up with good and only good the gap between 0 and 1 has been made and it is as wide or rather wider than one could imagine.

Let me put it this way. If I created a toaster to make toast and all it did was burn toast and I knew that it would eventually burn down my house…wouldn’t I have the right to destroy that toaster? After all, it is not functioning as I made it to function and how it is functioning is bringing destruction down upon its environment. And it reflects badly upon me. That’s how it is with God. He could have totally scrapped humanity and either let us destroy ourselves or destroy us himself but because he is merciful and gracious he chose instead to redeem us. To restore us to what we were made to be.

There’s  a problem though. The problem of sin. God is not just loving, merciful, and gracious. He is also holy and just. He can’t just overlook sin as if it is no big deal. We’ve already established that even the tiniest of sins is a big deal and enough to separate us from God. How would you feel if a judge ruled that a rapist could get off scot free? I’d be livid. There needs to be retribution for his crime. The wrath of our justice system needs to pour down on that man and pour down hard. Anything less than justice would be unacceptable. It is the same way with God and how he deals with our sin. I mentioned rape as the example because our sin is that big of a deal. Even tiny ones we nominalize. The Bible actually says that apart from Jesus, on our best day, the good works we have to offer are as filthy rags. If you read this passage in the original language, filthy rags literally means menstrual rags! Graphic I know. But God is trying to clearly get across where we stand apart from Jesus. We stand guilty and are outside of his design.

Other religions say that you have to pull yourself up by your boot straps. That you have to be good enough, do good enough, look good enough but REALITY is: there is NOTHING we can do to bridge that gap between us and God. No matter how much “good” we do, even our smallest acts of rebellion are enough to eternally separate us from God and incite his judgment and wrath upon us (and rightly so…as we earlier established even what appears to be small acts of rebellion against God have colossal “atomic“ effects on our souls and on those around us. Sin ALWAYS leads to death and destruction).

So what now? Is there hope for mankind? Is there hope for me? Is there hope for you? Can we ever hope to be right with God? YES. Our hope is Jesus. We can’t bridge the gap but God sent someone perfect that could. He sent his own son Jesus to take care of things. Jesus was fully God and fully man and the only being that could fully satisfy God’s justice. God is a good judge and is not going to let the guilty go unpunished but instead of punishing those who deserve it, namely mankind, he poured out his wrath on his own son.

Jesus was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, and in the end chose to give his life up as a sacrifice.  Remember that verse I quoted earlier about Adam bringing sin and death to all of mankind? If you read a little further there is this:

Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.
(Romans 5:18-19)

I could use more of my own words to tell you how Jesus is our hope but the writers of the New Testament put it better than I can!

“For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 4:2-10)

The word “grace” means receiving something we don’t deserve. The word “mercy” means not receiving something we do deserve. We don’t deserve eternal life and we do deserve God’s wrath but Jesus stepped in between God and mankind and took on the full force of his judgment. One day we will stand before our maker and will have to give an account for our life. If we try to offer God anything other than the work that Jesus did on the cross we will die an eternal death and spend eternity apart from God. But here’s the thing…we don’t get to decide what we will be offering to God when we see him face to face…we have to decide now…in this life. So many think that their works are enough but they are as filthy rags in comparison to God and in comparison to the work that Jesus did on the cross. Don’t be deceived by the world and go about doing things their way. Our only hope is Jesus.

“There is a way that seems right to a man,
but its end is the way to death.” (Proverbs 14:12)

“Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:5-6)

“Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.  For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.  For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:9-13)

The Bible is very cohesive and full of documented historical events and places. It is also full of prophecy. I wanted to leave you with one last passage of scripture. It was written hundreds of years before Jesus’ death and resurrection, yet it describes what happened with incredible accuracy.

“Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.

 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.”
(Isaiah 53:4-11)

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