Why I Believe in God –
Sermon 3 of 6 from the What a Christian Believes series
September 2009 – The Bible never argues for the existence of God.
It begins instead with a simple, majestic sentence: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). The Bible begins with a declaration, not with an argument.
There is a God who created all things.
If you do not start there, you will miss the central truth of the universe. That’s what Proverbs 1:7 means when it says that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge." Note the two beginnings here:
“In the beginning God."
"The beginning of knowledge.”
This leads us in a particular direction:
1. All things begin with God.
2. All knowledge begins with God.
It is in precisely this sense that the Bible proclaims that those who deny God are “fools” (Psalms 14:1). This stands as a moral judgment, not a statement about IQ or educational attainment. A very smart person can drive off a cliff and be smashed on the rocks. That’s the sort of folly the psalmist has in mind. If you leave God out of the calculation, you have missed the central fact of the universe. You are wrong at the very core of life, and therefore life itself will remain a mystery to you.
If you leave God out of the calculation, you have missed the central fact of the universe.
Did you know that today (September 30, 2009) is the first-ever International Blasphemy Day? I didn’t either until I read about it on Al Mohler’s weblog. This “celebration” includes an invitation for people to “blaspheme the Holy Spirit” (see Mark 3:29) by making a video renouncing their Christian beliefs and saying, “I deny the Holy Spirit,” thus daring God to punish them. You can find a host of these videos on YouTube where ex-Christians (many of them young people) renounce their faith and invite God to judge them.
There are a number of ways to respond to this, and the least effective would be to get angry. Those of us who believe in God need not be threatened by those who do not believe or by former believers who now are doubters or agnostics or atheists. I do think it is sad to consider young people raised in the church who now find it necessary to publicly renounce a faith that never really took hold.
Consider two simple words. God is. That’s the central fact of the universe. Miss that and you can be right about a lot of other things and still be wrong where it matters most. With that in mind, let’s think together about five facts relating to God’s existence.
1. God has made himself known to every person.
Romans 1:19-20 says it very clearly.
Since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
God has revealed himself so clearly that no one can miss it. Even though men suppress the truth about God (v. 18), they cannot completely obliterate the message. It is “plain” and “clearly seen” both in nature and in conscience. This plainly-seen revelation of God in nature has been available “since the creation of the world.” That means Adam saw it, Cain saw it, Noah saw it, Abraham saw it, Jacob saw it, Moses saw it, David saw it, and every other person who has ever lived since the beginning of time saw it. Don’t miss this point. Everyone knows something about God! No one has ever lived who missed this revelation. It doesn’t matter whether they consciously thought about it or not. The truth was there for all to see, so plainly laid out that no one could miss it. That means it doesn’t matter whether you were a headhunter on some South Pacific island or an upscale yuppie in Miami. No one could miss the truth about God . . . and no one has ever missed it because God made the truth about himself as plain as day.
Everyone knows something about God!
2. Something about God “gets through” to every person.
In the second half of verse 20 Paul comments that the truth of God in nature has been “clearly seen, being understood from what has been made." Those two verbs are exceedingly important. “Clearly seen” means that everyone has seen something of God’s handiwork in the world. “Understood” is even stronger. It means that the revelation of God in nature strikes the heart of every man. Paul is not suggesting that nature contains a revelation about God which every man may see. That’s not strong enough. To the contrary, Paul is saying that every man actually sees the revelation and every man actually understands it to some degree.
No one can ever say, “I didn’t know” or “You didn’t make it clear,” because God made it abundantly and overwhelmingly clear.
“Lord, you have made us for yourself. Our hearts are restless until they find rest in you.”
That explains why every culture on earth has some conception of a Supreme Being-however flawed it might be. Man was made to look for answers outside of himself. He is incurably religious in that sense. The French philosopher Pascal said that inside the heart of every man there is a “God-shaped vacuum.” And Augustine said, “Lord, you have made us for yourself. Our hearts are restless until they find rest in you.” Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that God has put “eternity in the hearts of men,” meaning that the longing for ultimate answers comes from God himself. God put that longing (the “God-shaped vacuum”) inside the human heart to cause men to look to him.
3. Creation testifies to the Creator.
Psalm 19:1 says that “the heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands." Now either you see this or you don’t. Some people, brilliant scientists, can study the stars for a lifetime and come away saying, “There is no God.” But others will see the mighty Milky Way and say, “There must be a God!” Psalm 19:1 means that God has not left us any room to doubt. The heavens preach a sermon about the wonders of our great God. "Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge” (Psalm 19:2). God so arranged the universe that light from heaven streams in on every side. You have to cover your face not to see it.
A week ago I flew to Washington state in the Pacific Northwest, to a little town near the Canadian border called Sumas. To my surprise (because I had never been there before), the whole area is a verdant paradise. Because of the abundant rainfall, it is actually a lush rainforest. For two days I spoke to pastors (most of them from British Columbia) at Cedar Springs Conference Center. On my final day there, John Bargen, the founder of the conference center, picked me up in his ATV and took me for a ride so I could see the massive cedar trees that cover the property. At one point we got out of the ATV, and John took out a tape measure and walked all the way around the most massive cedar tree I had ever seen. It turned out to be 18 feet in circumference and towered 130 feet above us, creating a massive green canopy overhead. John said the tree was probably 200 years old. As we made our way back to the main lodge, he showed me the beautiful gardens they had planted over the last 35 years. Then I saw that someone had planted flowers in a certain pattern on the hillside:
God Bless You
Now suppose that someone came hiking up the mountainside and saw “God Bless You” spelled out in beautiful flowers. They might conclude that this was a fantastic freak of nature, that somehow the flowers had come together entirely by chance to spell those three words. It could happen. If 10,000 monkeys typing for 100 million years could produce Shakespeare, then presumably the flowers could randomly spell out “God Bless You.”
You are free to believe that if you like. And you can also presume that millions of years of wind and rain and erosion produced the faces of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt on Mount Rushmore.
If 10,000 monkeys typing for 100 million years could produce Shakespeare, then presumably the flowers could randomly spell out “God Bless You.”
Opinions are free. Think what you want. But I prefer to believe that just as loving hands planted the flowers at Cedars Springs, and wise hands carved the faces on Mount Rushmore, even so the hands of Almighty God carefully crafted the universe.
You either see that or you don’t. That doesn’t prove God. But just as a watch points to a watchmaker, just as Mt. Rushmore points to a dedicated architect, just as The Old Man and the Sea points to Ernest Hemingway, the beauty and order and complexity of the universe points directly to Almighty God, the Ultimate Designer of all things.
Psalm 8:3 says, "When I consider the heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place.” God has left his fingerprints on the universe. Every rock, every tree, every river, every ocean, every star in the sky-they all bear the Divine DNA that points back to the God who created all things.
This world is God’s house. He’s left clues everywhere about what kind of God he is.
This world is God’s house. He’s left clues everywhere about what kind of God he is. When you stand at the Grand Canyon, you can’t help but be overwhelmed at the power of God to create such magnificence. He must have had a mighty hand to scoop out the Royal Gorge in Colorado. He is as infinite as the dark recesses of the mighty Atlantic Ocean. Each snowflake testifies to his uniqueness. The changing colors of the Great Smoky Mountains proclaim his creativity.
The galaxies shout out, “He is there.” The wildflowers sing together, “He is there.” The rippling brooks join in, “He is there.” The birds sing it, the lions roar it, the fish write it in the oceans-"He is there.” All creation joins to sing his praise. The heavens declare it, the earth repeats it and the wind whispers it-"He is there.” Deep cries out to deep, the mighty sequoia tells it to the eagle who soars overhead, the lamb and the wolf agree on this one thing-"He is there.”
No one can miss the message. God has left his fingerprints all over this world. Truly, “This is my Father’s world,” and every rock, every twig, every river and every mountain bears his signature. He signed his name to everything he made. The earth is marked “Made By God” in letters so big that no one fails to see it.
Some people may deny it, but no one fails to see it.
4. Some choose not to believe because they are spiritually blind.
Unbelief is a moral choice not to believe the evidence God has placed all around us. Recently the Wall Street Journal asked Karen Armstrong and Richard Dawkins to independently answer the question, “Where does evolution leave God?” Titled Man vs. God, the discussion starts with the assumption that evolution as an explanation for the universe must in fact be true. If so, where does God fit in? Karen Armstrong says we still need the idea of God even though evolution has demolished any need for the reality of a personal God:
Human beings were not the pinnacle of a purposeful creation; like everything else, they evolved by trial and error and God had no direct hand in their making. No wonder so many fundamentalist Christians find their faith shaken to the core.
The earth is marked “Made By God” in letters so big that no one fails to see it.
But if that is true, why retain even the idea of God? Dawkins follows this to its logical conclusion:
Where does that leave God? The kindest thing to say is that it leaves him with nothing to do, and no achievements that might attract our praise, our worship or our fear. Evolution is God’s redundancy notice, his pink slip. But we have to go further. A complex creative intelligence with nothing to do is not just redundant. A divine designer is all but ruled out by the consideration that he must at least as complex as the entities he was wheeled out to explain. God is not dead. He was never alive in the first place.
For the record, I think Dawkins is right. If naturalistic evolution is true, then there really is no room for God, and no need for him either. If science can answer all things, then we hardly even need the idea of God.
But what we really have here are two atheists arguing with each other. I would simply point out that the conclusions here are not driven as much by evidence as by presuppositions. Richard Dawkins has chosen not to believe in God, therefore he has done exactly what Romans 1:18 said he would do. He has suppressed the truth in his own heart. Atheism is not just a philosophical position. It’s also a moral choice of the heart. Over the whole exchange one could write the words of Romans 1:22, “Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools.” This is a terrible, damning judgment on those who turn away from the truth.
My point here is not to target Karen Armstrong or Richard Dawkins in any particular way. They merely represent a very popular worldview. One tries to embrace naturalism and leave room for a vague concept of “God” that in reality represents nothing at all. The other rightly says, “That’s nonsense!”
Atheism is not just a philosophical position. It’s also a moral choice of the heart.
To choose not to believe has enormous moral implications. Because we do not live in true moral neutrality, someone is truly and absolutely and utterly wrong. And they are wrong at the starting point.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
"God is not dead. He was never alive in the first place.”
Someone is really, really, really wrong here. And whoever it is has missed the fundamental truth of the universe.
So why does a man like Richard Dawkins not “see” the truth about God? We may say it many ways but finally it comes down to this. He is morally and spiritually blind. 2 Corinthians 4:4 describes the whole human race apart from God’s grace. “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
If you can’t see, you can’t see.
Here is a vast paradox regarding the human race. Light from heaven streams in on every side. God has made himself plainly known so that the truth about himself is “clearly seen” by every person. Yet Satan has blinded the minds of unbelievers so that they cannot see the gospel and believe in Jesus. All of us know the truth about God because it is stamped on our spiritual DNA and yet we are blind to the truth of who God really is. Thus most of the human race instinctively believes in God without knowing who he is. But a tiny minority suppresses even the limited knowledge of God they have so that they end up like Richard Dawkins, denying the God who made them.
All of us know the truth about God because it is stamped on our spiritual DNA and yet we are blind to the truth of who God really is.
That is the very definition of what it means to be a fool.
5. God has revealed himself to us in Jesus.
When all is said and done, I believe the best argument for the Christian view of God is found in the person of Jesus Christ. God has revealed himself to us in the Person of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Father sent the Son to the earth in the form of a little baby, conceived through a miracle of the Holy Spirit, born in Bethlehem, born to Mary and Joseph, born in an out-of-the-way corner of the Roman Empire, raised in a carpenter’s home, misunderstood by his own family, rejected by his own people, convicted by the religious leaders, put to death for blasphemy (!), and on the third day God’s Son rose from the dead.
Now we know what God is like.
Jesus has made him known to us.
The debate no longer centers around arid scholastic arguments. It’s all about Jesus now.
Ever since the “Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14), Jesus has been the great issue between believers and unbelievers. The debate no longer centers around arid scholastic arguments. It’s all about Jesus now.
Breakfast with an Atheist
A few years ago I had breakfast with an atheist. It turned out to be a most enlightening experience. Although we were meeting for the first time, I immediately came to appreciate his many positive qualities. He was charming, friendly, positive, talkative, and obviously very well-educated. He was raised Catholic and attended a Catholic high school and two excellent Catholic universities. Sometime during his college years, he abandoned not only the Christian faith but his belief in God. He actually converted from Christianity to atheism. He truly believes there is no God. As we talked, he kept emphasizing that only this life has meaning. Since there is no life after death, what we do now becomes vitally important. Heaven for him is just a myth that religious people use to comfort themselves in times of trouble. We had a long talk and I learned a great deal from him. It’s always useful to see yourself as others see you.
I came away from our time together with three fundamental observations:
1. How difficult it is to be an atheist.
2. How hard you must work to keep your faith.
3. How careful you must be lest you start believing in God.
“We’d Have a Problem, Wouldn’t We?”
Toward the end of our time together, I asked him what he thought about Jesus Christ. He seemed a bit surprised by that question, as if it had no relevance to the question of God’s existence. It was my turn to be surprised when he told me that he hadn’t thought about Jesus very much one way or the other. He then ventured to say that Jesus was probably a great man and a learned teacher. But he probably never meant to start a religion. That happened after he died and his followers wanted to honor his memory.
Upon hearing that, I decided to press the point. What about his resurrection? What if he really did rise from the dead? My friend stopped for a moment, thought a bit, and then a smile crossed his face. “Well, we’d have a problem then, wouldn’t we?” Exactly! If Jesus really did rise from the dead, then He really is the Son of God and God really does exist.
“Well, we’d have a problem then, wouldn’t we?”
That’s what I mean when I say that Jesus is the best proof of God’s existence. In our witnessing we should bring people back again and again to Jesus Christ. He is the ultimate argument for God because he was in fact God in human flesh. "In the beginning was the Word, and Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us" (John 1:1, 14). In one of his sermons John Piper puts the matter this way:
If someone says, “Why do you believe in God?” you can say, “I believe in God because Jesus believed in God, and all that I know of Jesus makes me trust him more than I trust any philosopher or any scientist or any theologian or any friend I have ever known or read about.” Then you can ask them, “Do you know anyone more trustworthy or better qualified to teach us about the existence of God than Jesus?”
Piper is right. No one is more qualified than Jesus to teach us who God is.
I believe in God because nothing in the universe makes sense without him.
I believe in God because he has left his fingerprints everywhere.
I believe in God because he revealed himself in Jesus.
I believe in God because Jesus died and rose again.
And I believe in God because he revealed himself to me, gave me eyes to see and faith to believe, and drew me by his Spirit to embrace his Son as my Savior. It is not that I “found” God on my own. He drew me to himself, and I gladly came to him.
I close with this simple statement: Not only does it make sense to believe in God, it makes no sense not to!
-No fact is so obvious as the fact of God’s existence.
-You must deny reality itself in order to deny God’s existence.
-The atheist must stand on ground God created in order to deny God.
Not only does it make sense to believe in God, it makes no sense not to!
I submit to you that the evidence for God’s existence is overwhelming for those who have eyes to see. But it still demands a choice! In one of his books Anthony Campolo tells how he shares the gospel with secular-minded university students who ask him why he believes the Bible. “Because I decided to,” he replies. Then he asks the student, “Why is it that you don’t believe the Bible?” The answer is almost always the same: “I guess because I decided not to.”
After all the arguments on both sides are finished, you still have to decide for yourself. You still have to choose. What choice have you made?
I believe in God because nothing in the universe makes sense without him. God exists-he is real and Jesus Christ is his Son. He knows you and he loves you and he gave his only begotten Son that you might be saved. I believe in God! What about you?
Questions to Consider
1. Some people say that belief in God is nothing but superstition. If you disagree, how would you explain your own belief in God?
2. In what sense are people who deny God’s existence fools?
3. What truths about God can be discovered by studying the universe around us? How do unbelievers explain the complexity and evidence of intelligent design in nature?
4. Where have you seen God’s “fingerprints” in your own life?
5. Why is Jesus “the best proof for God’s existence"?
6. “It makes no sense not to believe in God.” Do you agree?
Scriptures to Ponder
The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel
The Dawkins Delusion by Alister McGrath
Why I Am a Christian, ed. by Norm Geisler
Reasons to Believe by R. C. Sproul
Does God Exist? ed. by J. P. Moreland
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