Jeremiah 9:23 – Thus says the Lord, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches;
24 – but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord Who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth;
—for I delight in these things,” declares the Lord.
The words to our “vision theme song” will be on the screen—sing them with me:
It’s a beautiful day in your neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor
Would you be theirs? Could you be theirs?
It’s a neighborly day here in Der-er-wood, a neighborly day in your neighborhood.
Would you be theirs? Could you be theirs?
They have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you
They’ve always needed to live in a neighborhood with you
So let’s make the most of this beautiful day; since we’re together here on the Lord’s Day,
Would you be theirs? Could you be theirs? Won’t you be their neighbor?
Won’t you please? Won’t you please? Please, won’t you be their neighbor?
Thank you! As I told you a couple months back, that’s the question I believe God is putting to us as a church in 2019: “Won’t each of you be—WILL each of you YOU—BE a neighbor to the people in your realm of influence—the people you live near—work near—commute with—go to school with—play on sports teams with—will you be THEIR neighbor?”
Remember—the way we’ve asked you to symbolize your saying “YES!” to this question is by putting pin in the vision bulletin board in the lower foyer—marking the place where you most encounter neighbors—where you live, work, and go to school. If you haven’t done that yet—do it as you leave this morning. And when you do step back and take a look at all the places God has put us to BE neighbors!
By the way, I’ve decided I’m going to put on my Mr. Rogers outfit and lead us in singing this song periodically throughout the year—to keep this emphasis on our minds. So—get used to this red sweater and my blue vans.
Now—the Bible tells us that part of being a neighbor to the lost people God has placed around us will involve being ready to answer questions about our faith—questions that come up in the course of our friendship. As 1st Peter 3:15 puts it, we must, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” To help us with this—we’re going to spend the first sermon series of this new year looking at the kinds of questions we need to be ready to answer—the kinds of questions people who don’t know Jesus may ask us. And—at the onset I want to underscore the fact that, as Peter goes on to say, our answers must be given with “gentleness and respect.” In other words, there is no such thing as a dumb question—or a dumb questioner. Jesus invites us to ASK—and as His followers we are privileged to be the vessels He often uses to give people the answers they seek.
With that in mind, let’s get to the first question. As you can see in the bulletin, it’s this one: “How do you know God exists?” Just curious—how many of you have had a neighbor or co-worker or fellow classmate—or teacher—bring up this particular question? Thanks! Well, here’s some things you might BRING up if this question COMES up—things that point to the fact that YES, God does exist.
(1) First draw their attention to the fact that the UNIVERSE exists.
Begin by telling your friend that the fact that this world of ours is here points to God’s existence. You might also point out that the vast majority of scientists today agree that this world—this universe had a beginning. There was nothing—and then there was something. This belief is known as the Big Bang. And this is relatively new in scientific circles. I mean, in previous centuries—19th century and earlier—the vast majority of scientists did not believe that the universe had a beginning. When people started talking about the big bang—there was a great deal of resistance to this theory. I mean, until then, the general scientific understanding was that matter—the physical universe— had always existed.
Well, scientists don’t think that way anymore. It’s hard for me to wrap my arms around the idea, but NOW they say that in the beginning, all of the matter of the universe was compressed into a point of infinite density.
How many of you have seen a car crusher? Good—they take a huge car—and crush it into a small rectangle—or into a metal pancake. Well, that’s the idea behind this infinite point of density—also known as THE singularity. So—imagine all of us in this room—all the chairs—the carpet—our clothes, wallets, purses, cell phones, the orchestra, their instruments—the building itself being fed into a huge cosmic car crusher. It crushes and pulverizes the entire universe.
Everything that is out there—stars, planets, asteroids—everything that is—is compacted into one tiny point of matter—smaller than an atom. Then BANG—something made it explode outward—the universe had a beginning. It was not, and then it was.
Well, all that points to the existence of God. You see, everything that has a beginning has a cause. The universe had a beginning; therefore, something—or Someone—caused the universe.
Go back a little further. What created that atom of super-condensed matter? Where did IT come from? I mean, can something—even as small as a super-condensed atom—come from nothing? Before you answer I have to point out that even the IDEA of nothing is very hard for us to grasp. Nothing would mean complete, blank emptiness. Try to imagine this for a moment: no space, no time, no matter, no energy, not even a void because a void connotes boundaries.
Then at some point with no explanation, no cause, this atom of condensed matter appears and then something—causes it to explode and the universe pops into being. That could not happen all by itself. It doesn’t make sense. You cannot get from nothing to something. My point is, the existence of the universe itself points to the existence of something beyond the universe, something that does not depend on anything else for its existence—something—or SOMEONE—of immense power and infinite intellect. This is exactly what Paul was getting at when he wrote to the Church at Rome and said, “For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities, His eternal power and divine nature [something capable of existing apart from depending on anything else]—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made.” (Romans 1:20). So, as Psalm 19:1-4 says, “The heavens tell of the glory of God. The skies display His marvelous craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make Him known. They speak without a sound or a word. Their voice is silent in the skies; yet their message has gone out to all the earth and their words to all the world.”
I love these words to that old Hymn, “This is my Father’s world…He shines in all that’s fair. In the rustling grass, I hear Him pass…He speaks to me everywhere.” I love these words because it’s OBVIOUS they are true. As Max Lucado puts it, “Our universe is God’s preeminent missionary.” I mean, it’s OBVIOUS that this amazing world of ours didn’t just happen accidentally. It had a cause—which means there was a Cause-er!
Scientist Roger Penrose estimates that the odds of our universe just happening on its own are one in 10 Billion to the 30th power. That’s 1 in—well’ just look at the slide: 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000! So, the fact is we can know God EXISTS just by looking at the world around us. But by looking, we can also know ABOUT Him. In essence the universe is a mirror that reflects God’s character.
- For example, the existence of the universe tells us that GOD loves incredible beauty.
How many times have you looked at a sunset—a sunset so spectacular that tears welled up in your eyes—and before you knew it two words were on your lips: “Oh God!” We get similar responses when we look at the mountains or at an ocean view or pictures of the stars or even when we use a microscope to look at a tiny cell! The Being Who created this universe—has an eye for beauty doesn’t He!?
- The existence of this universe also tells us that our Creator—God—loves variety.
He made all shapes, sizes, colors, intensities. Did you know that God made over 300,000 species of beetles alone? Wouldn’t you call that creative overkill? I mean, couldn’t the world have been happy with just 50,000 species? I’d be happy with none! Why did God create 300,000?
Did you know that in one cubic foot of snow there are 18 million snowflakes and no two of them are alike? Now, nobody else is going to appreciate this but GOD so He obviously loves variety! I could go on and on citing examples but let’s move on. Here’s a second way we know God exists.
(2) PEOPLE exist.
I mean, by looking around we can see that not only does God love beauty and variety—He also loves human beings. I say that because it’s obvious that this world was made with people in mind. Tim Keller refers to this principle as, “The Cosmic Welcome Mat.” Scientists call it the anthropic principle. It’s from the Greek word anthropos, which means man or human being. The point is this universe seems to be finetuned to be the kind of place that can support human life—WELCOMES human life. I say this because there are tons of conditions in biology and physics that would have to be just right for human life to exist.
And it turns out ALL those conditions are just right.
- For example, the proportion of the mass of a neutron of hydrogen that’s converted to energy during nuclear fusion is 0.007.
If it were 0.006, the whole universe would be hydrogen, and there would be no life. If it were 0.008, there would be no hydrogen and therefore no life. The proportions that are, are exactly what is required to produce life.
- Water has a unique property. As water gets colder, it contracts until it freezes, and then it reverses course and expands.
If it did not have this very strange property, oceans and lakes would freeze from the bottom up.
They would freeze solid which would make aquatic life, and therefore life in general, impossible.
I could go on and on citing scientific fact after scientific fact—putting you to sleep even sooner in my sermons than I usually do—so I’ll stop.
But this anthropic welcome mat deal says that there are dozens of variables—the strength of gravity, properties of carbon—the exact rate of the expansion of the Big Bang, and on and on—in the universe, in our planet, in biology that would have to be exactly fine-tuned for human life to exist—and it turns out they all do—the universe is perfectly tuned for you and me to be here. I’m referring to things like:
- The precise orbit of the earth
- Its distance from the sun.
- The existence of a moon that keeps the earth tilted on its axis at 23.5 degrees making a climate that can sustain life.
In fact, physicists say that we live in the Goldilocks Zone. Not too hot, not too cold, just right.
You know, back in the 16th century when Copernicus proved the earth revolves around the sun instead of the other way around, a lot of people said, “Well the human race will just have to recognize that everything doesn’t revolve around us. We’re accidents in a huge universe.” But in recent decades, we have discovered, in ways that previous centuries could not have imagined—that the universe looks strangely like it was designed precisely so that we could exist. In a sense it DOES revolve around us! We know this because science shows the cosmos was made with people in mind.
Scientist Francis Collins down at NIH writes, “When [we scientists] look at the universe, it looks as if it knew we were coming.” In 2009, even Stephen Hawking reluctantly admitted, “The odds against a universe like ours emerging out of something like the Big Bang are enormous. I think there are clearly religious implications. It would be very difficult to explain why the universe would have begun in just this way except as the act of a God Who intended to create beings like us.
Here’s a third thing to point out in your discussion as to whether or not God exists.
(3) Human worth exists.
Think about it. Why do we believe that all people have rights?
- Where did the METOO movement get the idea that it is wrong to abuse women?
- When children are separated from their immigrant parents, why does something inside of us—no matter which political party we affiliate with—think, “Hey—that’s not right.”
- Why did nations rise up against Hitler’s extermination of the Jews?
I mean, we all have this sense that people—whatever their IQ, whatever their capacities—have worth and rights. Well, where does this come from? It must come from a Creator Who made us and loves us. This is what Thomas Jefferson was getting at when he wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights….”
Those are not just pretty words. They’re not just political rhetoric that has carried on. They are an idea instilled in us by our Creator—the Being Who valued us enough to create this universe so that we could exist and thrive. THAT’S where this belief came from. Here’s something else that points to God’s existence.
(4) Morality exists.
John Ortberg refers to this as, “the argument for arguing.” I mean, we argue because we believe our viewpoint is right—and the other is wrong. Let me ask, how many people here have ever been in an argument? Yes—we all have. How many of you were in an argument today? How many of you argued about whether or not to come here this morning?
You know, C.S. Lewis once wrote about arguing in his book Mere Christianity. He said, “When people are arguing, you almost never hear them say, ‘Do what I want because I’m stronger and I can make you do it.’ No—when we argue we actually say things like, ‘But it’s not fair. But it’s not right. But it’s not just.’” Lewis’ point is that when we argue we betray the truth that we believe there is a moral standard. And he’s right. All people are wired with a sense of right and wrong—a code of ethics. Think of it—even as a child you knew it was WRONG to HURT people and RIGHT to HELP them. Your parents only reinforced this moral code. Well Who gave it to you in the first place? What is this magnetic pole that pulls the needles on the compass of your conscience—if not God?
Lucado writes,“You aren’t alone with your principles. Common virtues connect us. Every culture has frowned upon selfishness and celebrated courage, punished dishonesty and rewarded nobility. A universal standard exists. Just as a code writer connects computers with common software bundles, a common code connects people. We may violate or ignore the code, but we can’t deny it. Even people who have never heard God’s name sense His law within them.”
All people believe in a right and a wrong. Where did that concept come from? Well—once again—it had to come from God. In Romans Paul writes about this. He said, “The requirements of the law…” that is, the right or wrong that God has woven into existence, “…are written on our hearts…their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.” (Romans 2:15). I like how The Message paraphrases it: “There is something deep within humanity that echoes God’s ‘YES’ and ‘NO,’ right and wrong.” Think of it—when atheists decry injustice, they can thank God for the ability to discern it. Our conscience is God’s fingerprint—further proof of His existence and character. The fact that our knowing right and wrong is baked into our universe is a very powerful reason for believing in God.
So, we can know God exists—Because the UNIVERSE exists—because WE exist—because a belief in human worth exists—because morality exists—
(5) And finally, you can say, we know God exists because we know God.
Listen. The best proof of God’s existence is not an argument; it’s a Person—the Person of Jesus Who is God become flesh. Because of our faith in Jesus we KNOW God personally. Tell your neighbor that Jesus—God’s ONLY SON—Jesus came for the express purpose of making it possible for us to know God.
First, He came so we could know better what God is like. As it says in Hebrews 1:1-3, “In the 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. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being.” Challenge your neighbor to read the Gospel accounts—study the record of the life and ministry of Jesus and they’ll learn all about God—more that they could learn in any other way. They’ll see His limitless power and love. They’ll see that God cares about our hurts and is moved with compassion by our sorrows. They’ll see that He sent His Son to seek and to save lost people like you and me. I could go on and on but suffice it to say that we can know ABOUT God BEST by looking at His Son.
Have you ever heard of Kirk Douglas and Michael Douglas? What about Clint and Scott Eastwood? John Faison and his son Rocco? It’s been said, “like Father like son” and “the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.” Well, this is true in most cases. To know about the Father—you can look at the son. And the TRUEST example of this principle is Jesus. As it says in John 1:18, “No one has ever seen God, but the Son has made Him known.” Jesus Himself said, “Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father…I and the Father are one.” (John 14:9; 10:10)
But as I inferred, Jesus came for a higher purpose than simply telling us more ABOUT God. Jesus came to make it possible for us to KNOW God—to walk with Him through life in the same intimate and personal relational way that Adam and Eve walked with Him through Eden. The problem is that since the day they sinned—and were separated from our Holy God—all people have followed suit. “All of us sin and fall short of God’s glory.” (Romans 3:23) Jesus came to take the penalty of our sin on Himself. He came to shed His blood—the only thing that could wash our sins away so that we could come into God’s holy presence once again.
I love the old story of a young soldier who served in the Union Army during the Civil War.
Do you remember it? This soldier had lost both his older brother and his father in the battle of Gettysburg—so he decided to go to Washington, D.C. to speak to President Lincoln. He wanted to ask him for an exemption from military service so he could go back and help his sister and mother with the spring planting on the family farm. Well, he applied for and received a furlough and when he arrived in Washington, to plead his case, he went to the White House, approached the front gate and asked to see the president. The guard on duty told him, “You can’t see the president, young man! Don’t you know there’s a war going on! The president is a very busy man! Now go away! Get back out there on the battle lines where you belong.”
So, the young soldier left, very discouraged, and was sitting on a little park bench not far from the White House when a little boy came up to him. The lad said, “Soldier, you look unhappy. What’s wrong?” The soldier looked at the little boy and began to spill his heart out to him. He told of his father and his brother being killed in the war and of the desperate situation at home.
He explained that his mother and sister had no one to help them on the farm. The little boy listened and said, “I can help you soldier.” He took the soldier by the hand and led him back to the front gate of the White House. Apparently, the guard didn’t notice them, because they weren’t stopped. They walked straight to the front door of the White House and walked right in.
After they got inside, they walked right past generals and high-ranking officials, and no one said a word. The soldier couldn’t understand this. Why didn’t anyone try to stop them? Finally, they reached the Oval Office—where the president was working—and the little boy didn’t even knock on the door. He just walked right in and led the soldier in with him. There behind the desk was Abraham Lincoln and his Secretary of State, looking over battle plans that were laid out on his desk. The president looked at the boy and then at the soldier and said, “Good afternoon, Todd. Can you introduce me to your friend?” And Todd Lincoln, the SON of the president said, “Daddy, this soldier needs to talk to you.” The soldier pled his case before Mr. Lincoln and right then and there he received the exemption that he desired.
Well, friends, we have been given access to the Father through HIS Son! We can come into His presence whenever we want—wherever we are. We can KNOW God personally—because of what Jesus did on the cross. Ephesians 2:13, 18 says, “You, who where once far away, have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, Who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility…for through Him we have access to the Father.”
And—understand—this is the ONLY way for us to KNOW God. As Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
Okay—that’s my answer to this first question in our series—but as we close I have a couple questions for YOU to answer. First—do you KNOW GOD? I’m not asking if you know ABOUT God—I’m asking do you KNOW Him? If you don’t—I know you do WANT to know Him. I also know that God WANTS you to know Him. Acts 17:26-28 says, “From one man God made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth—and He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him—though He is not far from each one of us. ‘For in Him we live and move and have our being. We are His offspring.’”
One of the clearest ways we see God revealing Himself to us is in the fact that He placed within every human being this HUNGER to know Him. In Jeremiah 24:7 God says, “I will give them—people like you and me—I will give them a heart to know Me [a longing to know Me]—that I am the Lord.” J. I. Packer refers to this and says, “What were we made for? To know God. What aim should we set ourselves in life? To know God. What is the best thing in life, bringing more joy, delight, and contentment, than anything else? Knowledge of God.” Well, Packer is right—we are made to KNOW GOD—created this way by our Creator—Who for some unfathomable reason loves us—and wants to be known by us. So, this morning, why not decide to stop resisting that heart longing and decide to become a Christ-follower—why not let Jesus lead You into the presence of God TODAY? Pray—and admit that you are a sinner—confess your belief that Jesus is God’s Son—and that He died for your sin. Ask Him to forgive you and then commit to let Him be the Lord of your life.
Here’s my second question—if you do KNOW GOD are you acting—living like you do?
Remember—your purpose for being here instead of in Heaven is to make God known! And sadly many of us fail in this task. Many of us are like the people in Titus 1:16, who, “…claim to know God but by their actions they deny Him.” Well, are YOU acting as if you Know God? If YOUR answer is NO—then I think today would be a great time to commit to making a change. Pray and confess your failings to God—if you do—He’ll be faithful and just to cleanse you from all unrighteousness—and then He’ll help you live a Godly life a life that makes God known to others.