As many of you know I work at a Christian bookstore. A couple of weeks ago I was paged to the front to help a customer find a book. I went to the appropriate department, introduced myself, and asked how I could help him. He was a very nice young man (probably in his early twenties) and was interested in a book he could give to a lady friend of his who was not yet a Christian. This is not an uncommon request and several suggestions immediately came to my mind. I took him to C.S. Lewis’ section. The former atheist and esteemed English professor from an earlier generation penned Mere Christianity, perhaps the greatest philosophical defense of the Christian faith ever produced, a book used by God to help bring many people to faith, perhaps most notably Chuck Colson. That wasn’t exactly what he was looking for. I next recommended the Case For Faith by Lee Strobel. Strobel, a former atheist and high profile newspaper columnist in Chicago, finally came to faith after decades of stubborn unbelief. His well-documented books center on making a case for the truthfulness of Christianity from a journalistic point of view. That wasn’t exactly what he was looking for either. Finally, I offered some Josh McDowell books such as More Than A Carpenter and Evidence That Demands A Verdict. McDowell, another former atheist and very intellectual man, set out to prove Christianity false, but instead came to a faith in Christ and authored the previously mentioned works from his research that convinced him Christianity must be true. Still, the young man, though polite and appreciative of my efforts, wasn’t exactly satisfied with my suggestions. He finally said, “what I’m looking for is something that will tell her what Christianity will do for her personally.” His statement struck me in a powerful way. He wasn’t concerned about establishing the truth of Christianity, but about promoting its personal benefits. Put another way, his interest wasn’t in what’s true, but in what “works.” Now, do I believe that there are benefits to following Jesus? Yes! Do I think that Jesus will give you peace that passes understanding, joy unspeakable and full of glory, and countless other blessings? Absolutely! However, there are “things” other than Christianity (possessions, positions, relationships, other belief systems, etc.) that can make a person feel good, joyful, peaceful, fulfilled, successful, and all the rest ad nauseam—at least for a temporary time. I don’t doubt the young man’s sincerity, nor did I then nor do I now desire in any way to come down on him harshly, but here’s some brass tacks. If the only reason to believe in the Christian faith is that it “works” in obtaining benefits (at least the benefits perceived by a carnal mind) one can receive, then our foundation is truly weak and Christianity becomes only one of many other possible paths to worldly success and happiness. However, if we claim that there is only one truth, a truth that instead of merely giving temporal benefits may actually demand earthly sacrifice on the journey of eternal life, then we have a belief system worth shouting from the mountaintops and calling all to adherence. Let us look at three eternal truths found in the Bible, the ultimate source of all truth.
There Is A Creator…Our four year old (closing in on five—my, they grow too fast), loves to go to the park. A couple of weeks ago we decided to try out a new one. About a mile away from the house, right on the banks of the Caloosahatchee, is Riverside Park. We had planned to be there early enough to have plenty of daylight remaining, but the time change had us arriving right at sunset. As our boy slid down (and climbed up) the slides, my love and I held hands and looked with amazement at the bold oranges, deep reds, royal purples, and blissful blues painted on the canvas of the sky. Terry gazed to our left and saw the Oasis Towers and remarked what a view it must be every night from the top floor when the sun goes down. That got me thinking. If someone were to come up to you and say that the Oasis complex had just appeared by accident, by chance over the course of time, that there was no set of plans by which it was built, and no architect had been involved, you would probably smile and nod, walk away and question their sanity. However, our culture at large today looks at the sunset, which is infinitely more massive in size and complex in design than any human edifice, and ridicules anyone who thinks that it must have a design and more importantly a designer, believing that the universe we see has come to be by means of a cosmic accident. I think that takes more faith than to believe what the Bible says and what every human knows who’s ever looked at the sparks of a dazzling sunset, the expanse of a deep ravine, or the heights of a snow capped mountain, there is a Creator!
There Is A Judge…Our society has increasingly become very enthralled by legal drama. Largely unknown people like Drew Peterson, George Zimmerman, Casey Anthony, and the list could go on and on have become household names due to the public courtroom proceedings they have been through. Undoubtedly one reason people pay such close attention to these legal cases is the sinful nature of human beings that desires to know all the seedy details of every sordid event that results from someone else’s depravity. However, another factor is the divinely implanted, innate human desire to see justice served. I well remember being in college during the mid 90’s when the OJ verdict came down. After months of a seemingly endless court proceeding, the jury took just a short time to render the verdict of not guilty—“the glove didn’t fit so they did acquit!” I recall the outcry of the public at large who, after seeing the overwhelming evidence presented by the media, were incensed that the guilty who had committed such a heinous act could go free as if nothing had happened at all. Why such outrage, that still persists in the minds of many until this day, at the verdict? Because there is a sense of justice, of right and wrong that has been hidden in the hearts (granted, some have it hidden deeper in their hearts than others!) of every man by Almighty God. And when that law is violated, we know there must be recompense for righteousness to be upheld. If there is a law, then there is a judge. A judge who is always just, who by no means will declare the guilty innocent or the innocent guilty. We will all stand before God without excuse. There is none righteous, no not one. We have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God. None of us are innocent, all of us are guilty. There is a Judge, and there must be recompense.
There Is A Redeemer…Have you ever been driving down the road, feeling hungry, and pass by a McDonald’s delivery truck? Painted on the side is an enlarged picture of a Big Mac. The meat, perfectly cooked, is hanging off the sides of the gloriously toasted roll. The heavenly sauce is oozing out over the top of the beef and the beautifully melted cheese is only made better by the onions and lettuce that surround and protrude it. All of a sudden you break out in song, joyfully uttering the words of that famous anthem, “two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun!” The crescendo continues rising making you painfully aware that you are in the middle of a “Big Mac Attack!” There’s a McDonald’s just around the corner (as there is on the corner of any road you might be traveling), so you pull in, jump out of the car, scurry into the lobby and bound to the counter. You order the number one (yes, Big Mac is number one!) and wait with great expectations and watering taste buds. Finally, you get your order, go to a table, open the box, and then…well…disappointment sets in. What you have in front of you is not what was on the side of that truck. The hamburger patties (or is that cardboard slices!) have shriveled and hidden themselves under a bun that is cold and tough. The sauce is almost nonexistent, you wander if there’s cheese on there at all or is it just yellow food coloring? The only thing Big about the Big Mac seems to be the half a head of lettuce that you see before your eyes (take it from one who’s worked at McDonald’s, the only thing they tell you to be generous with is the lettuce!)…Still, although you didn’t get the Big Mac that was advertised on the truck, you know it must exist somewhere because somebody took its picture!…So it is with redemption. Just as every human heart feels the sting of guilt that comes from the filth of sin, every human heart also has a vision of being forgiven, standing upright and clean. Every religion tries to get you to the place of redemption “advertised” in the recesses of the human consciousness. Those who focus on human works always leave you short and disillusioned. You either recognize you fail and give up, hope you did enough but never know for sure, or think you did do enough and thus fall into the most heinous sin of all, that of pride. Conversely, Christianity declares that the redemption, the forgiveness, we seek comes not through any work that we have done, but through the work of Jesus, God’s only Son. The only One who was ever perfect in word, thought, and deed, took the penalty justly due to all of us imperfect ones. He offers forgiveness and grace to all who will simply receive. And those who do receive find that there is a Redeemer who more than lives up to the advertisement.