Is there a God and what is he like?
We have a
dog named Wentworth Dilly and a cat named Tiger. They tolerate each other. Sometimes
they even rub noses. Both are very religious. Dilly the dog looks at you with
her big brown eyes and will lick you to death when you show her any affection. When
she cocks her head to one side I know what she is thinking. “You love me… you
feed me… you stroke me… you take me for walks… you must be God.” Tiger our cat
is more reserved but still likes a stroke and tickle. As he sits there purring
away I know what he is thinking to himself. “You love me… you feed me… you
stroke me… I must be God.”
Human beings are not that dissimilar. With the same set of experiences, data and information, when you ask the question, “Is there a God?” people can come to very different conclusions. There are basically only three answers. No, not sure and Yes. In religious terms they are the atheists, the agnostics and the theists.
I feel sorry for the atheist. Given the size of the universe, the sum of all knowledge and the finite nature of even the most intelligent human brain, I find atheism a rather arrogant and presumptuous position to take. More a case of won’t believe than can’t believe. More to do with the will than the mind.
What about the agnostic? I feel sympathy for the agnostic – at least for the open agnostic - given the plethora of religions in the world and their claims and counter claims. Without help to interpret the evidence, I am not surprised that some retreat into agnosticism.
So what about theism? Well that is implied in the full title of tonight’s talk. “Is there a God and what is he like?” Let’s start by observing that of the three positions, this is by far the most popular.
Here are some facts and figures.
Islam 1.2 billion
Hindus 786 million
Buddhist 362 million
Tribal religions 225 million
Sikhism 23 million
Judaism 14 million
Christianity is the largest and fastest growing faith in the world. 33% of the world claim to follow Jesus. In the UK 80% of people identify with the Christian faith. Being in a majority doesn’t necessarily make you right but it does help put things in perspective. Tonight I want to give you four reasons why I do believe there is a God and then I want to close by summarising what I believe he is like. And I need to come clean and say I am clearly biased.
But then we all are aren’t we? The questions is whether my bias is based on facts, logic and reason. Now to substantiate my four reasons I am going to quote from the Bible. I’m not assuming you agree with me or accept it as authoritative but at least you will see where my ideas have come from.
1. Creation: The universe reflects God’s glory
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” (Psalm 19:1-4)
God has revealed himself to everyone through creation. Creation is Gods ABC.
When Michael our son was a few years old he would play with those magnetic plastic letters that stick on the fridge. If I found a rather badly spelt ‘Michael’, I knew he had been trying. If the letters are all jumbled up on the floor it was obvious that our dog had been playing with the letters. But if I find them spelling something like "you're late for lunch again, its in the dog"
I knew an intelligent mind had been at work and I was in the dog house. God has revealed his presence in the creativity, the complexity the order and beauty of creation. You don’t need a microscope or a telescope to see that. Stand in front of a glorious sunrise or sunset, or hold a new born baby in your arms, or feel flakes of snow fall on your face and that God shaped vacuum in the heart of each one of us wants to cry out in praise and say ‘thank you’. Creation is sufficient to reveal a creator. But creation won’t necessarily tell us what kind of creator.
Find yourself lost in a desert without a map or water and a sunrise won’t necessarily fill you with wonder. Get caught in a blizzard in sub zero temperatures without protection or warm clothes and a few more snow flakes won’t necessarily fill you with praise. And hold that new born baby who is now sick and dying in a refugee camp without medical support and you won’t necessarily feel like worship. That is why creation alone is sufficient to convict us that there is a creator but not necessarily a creator you would want to get close to. Dig deeper and you will find that this is why some religions resort to human sacrifice or self mutilation in the belief that God or the gods must be bribed, appeased or placated. Creation: The universe reflects God’s glory.
2. Conscience: The Mind Convicts of God’s holiness
“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 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. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Romans 1:18-21)
In this passage we have a court room scene. Mankind is in the dock, God is the judge. What follows reads like the court record.
The Charge 1:18 (read)
We tend to grade people somewhere on a rating from 1-10
10 = saint
9 = holy
8 = devout
7 = good
6 = nice
5 = OK
4 = suspect
3 = naughty
2 = evil
1 = wicked
0 = demonic
In God's courtroom we are either innocent or guilty. The charge is that we have suppressed the truth, that we have known what is right and we have knowingly done what is wrong. Therefore we are guilty. That’s the charge 1:18
The Witnesses 1:19-20 (read)
God has plainly revealed himself. In the conscience we have the internal witness 1:19 and in creation we have the external witness 1:20. There is the sense of the Divine in all civilisations. Why is religion so universal?
Because God has given us a conscience and people cannot live with a guilty conscience. They must find some way to appease or atone for this guilt. That’s what all the religious systems of the world try and do. They are mans attempts to get right with God. So we do not really have to prove God to anyone. We only have to point to the sense of guilt, of emptiness, in spite of being overwhelmed by material wealth. Just think of the news headings this week. More than one man convicted of murdering young women and now a case of multiple child abuse on Jersey. Why when we are so more intelligent and higher than the animals do people stoop so much lower than the animals in human behaviour? And before we pretend we are different or better, have you ever been angry enough to kill? Wanted something bad enough to lust or steal? We may not be as bad as we could be but if we are honest and hey, why not, we are not always as good as we should be. And just like creation, so the conscience is not an infallible guide either. Resist your conscience and pretty soon you can override it. The conscience can be seared.
You only have to think of those convicted of war crimes –the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda – or Islamist suicide bombers in Bagdad - to see how easily atrocities can be committed in the name of God. God has revealed enough of himself in creation to convince and in the conscience to convict but to truly know what God is like we need more help. In creation – the universe reflects God’s glory. In the conscience - the mind convicts of God’s holiness.
3. Bible: The Scriptures Reveal God’s Character
The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbour his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD'S love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.” (Psalm 103:8-18)
The Scriptures are about God’s progressive self revelation. “The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love…” God reveals himself as a personal, infinite creator God who is like a compassionate father. Father God. One who can be known.
I said there were four reasons why I believe there is a God.
In creation – the universe reflects God’s glory.
In the conscience - the mind convicts of God’s holiness. In the Bible: The Scriptures Reveal God’s Character.
4. Jesus Christ: God the Son Reconciles us to God the Father.
past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in
various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he
appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is
the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being,
sustaining all things by his powerful word. (Hebrews 1:1-3)
This is why Jesus could say of himself without a shred of arrogance, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me… Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:6, 9)
Ultimately people come to know God not as a result of believing our personal subjective experiences, or by our convincing arguments. They are brought to faith by hearing or reading the historical facts about Jesus Christ and being challenged by the personal implications of his sacrifice on our behalf. John sums it up in that famous verse,
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16).
Ultimately, it is not so much of what are we to make of him, but of what does he make of us? Our problem is not primarily an intellectual one but a moral one. David picks up this implication in the third section of Psalm 19.
“Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from wilful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:12-14)
God's revelation in creation, in the conscience and in the scriptures, reaching us through both our eyes and our ears burns deep into our consciences. It is the combination of God's general witness in creation and the conscience, together with his specific revelation in the scriptures and supremely in Jesus Christ that leads us to want to worship Him, to know Him, to find our way back to the One who created us for this very purpose. To be our friend.
Is there a God and if so what is he like? If you want to know, investigate Jesus Christ. Read the account of his life and have two questions in your mind. Who is he? Why did he come?
God does not force us to believe in him, though he could. Instead, he has provided sufficient proof of his existence for us to willingly respond to him.
This is your decision, no coercion here. But if you want to be forgiven by God and come into a relationship with him, you can do so right now by asking him to forgive you and come into your life. Jesus said,
"Behold, I stand at the door [of your heart] and knock. He who hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him [or her] (Revelation 3:20)
If you want to do this, but aren't sure how to put it into words, this may help:
"Jesus, thank you for dying for my sins. You know my life and that I need to be forgiven. I ask you to forgive me right now and come into my life. I want to know you in a real way. Come into my life now. Thank you that you wanted a relationship with me. Amen."
God views your relationship with him as permanent. Referring to all those who believe in him, Jesus Christ said of us,
"I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:27-29)
About 30 years ago I prayed a simple prayer like that and Jesus came into my life as my saviour and Lord. I know many of you have had the same experience. Every day is an exciting adventure, getting to know him and serve him.
If you prayed that prayer for the first time, tell John and he will give you some literature that you will find helpful. If you still have questions, then sign up for the next Christianity Explored Course…
Thank you and God bless you.
For more information see, “Is There a God?”