Is There a God?
Psalm 53:1–6 – Explore God
Second Sunday after Epiphany – January 20, 2019 (am)
Questions regarding the existence of God have been asked for millennia. Plato and Aristotle developed proofs for God’s existence. And many others have followed in their footsteps. The history of such argumentation is full and rich, and very interesting to study. But even a summary of it is beyond the scope of our aim this morning. When this question is asked in the way we’re asking it here, it’s more of a personal, experiential question than it is an academic, philosophical question in any case. So, the most satisfying answers are not as likely to come from philosophical proofs as from personal experience, from existential encounters.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. And we’re speaking in terms that are far too general. Let’s get specific and clear with regard to this question, in order to be of most help both to those who are asking it, and to those who would like to help others answer it. Let’s divide our time in thirds.
I. Appreciating the Question It often helps me to break such big issues down into bite-sized pieces. And I think that will really help us understand, appreciate, and respond to this question. Six statements:
1. Many people today believe in God. In fact, eight out of ten say they do. But more than two of those eight acknowledge that it’s not the God of the Bible they believe in, but just a higher power or a spiritual force. Now that does mean that almost six out of every ten people in our country still profess belief in the God of the Bible (2017 Pew Research Center survey). And among the remaining two out of ten who say they don’t believe in God, half of them also believe in a higher power or spiritual force, they just don’t call it God. This means nine out of every ten people believe in some form of higher power. That is really amazing to me, especially in this day and age when people seem divided pretty much fifty/fifty on every important question they’re asked! Even so, this still leads to Statement 2.
2. People’s definition of God is wide and varied. Even when they say they believe in the God of the Bible, people don’t by any means always mean the same thing. For instance, 51% of Evangelical Christians believe that God accepts .the worship of all religions, including Judaism and Islam (2018 Ligonier Survey). So, even though many profess to believe in God, it’s not as though they’re going to get nit-picky about what that actually means. They’re not going to be fighting over the details of what others mean when they say: I believe in God. So, how do we explain the undeniable validity of Statement 3?
3. Opposition to expressions of belief in God is often militant. And that militant opposition is quite often successful in muting those expressions of belief in God. Just think of the string of familiar court cases over the past fifty-or-so years that have systematically removed Christian expressions from public spaces, claiming that was the intent of the First Amendment, even though the very chambers and buildings in which these decisions have been made are inscribed with quotes from the Bible. Yet, over that very same period we’ve also seen Statement 4.
4. There is increasing tolerance of the gods of other religions. This is especially true here in the U.S. melting pot where these gods are seen as manifestations of other cultures that live among us. They’re often viewed as symbols of diversity deserving of our protection, more than as symbols of other religions which should be absent from public spaces similar to Christianity. Please understand, this is just an observation, not a complaint or a protest. And that is best proven by stating that the point I am making here is simply intended to set up Statement 5.
5. The God Who is militantly opposed in our day is most particularly the God of the Bible. And if you think about it, this is to be expected. Let’s just assume for the moment that this God actually does exist, and that the Bible is His communication to us, that He Himself enabled the human authors who wrote it. If that is just assumed for the moment, I believe it becomes quite clear why He is singled out among the other beings called gods in other religions. The reason is because He has revealed more of Himself—His nature and character, His purpose and plan, His intent and motivation, His heart—than any other among the gods. He has taken a more active hand in composing His Holy Book. He has not only written, but spoken. And He has taken on the form of His creatures and come to visit us. And more, He has provided all that is needed for us to be reconciled to Himself. And He’s provided for that reconciliation at His own cost! If you’re going to quarrel with a God, this is the only God you know enough about to fight with. This is the only God Who gives you grounds for very specific expectations, and then raises them high enough for you to feel disappointed if you don’t see how His blessings apply to you, or to feel cheated if you think He’s treating you unjustly. This is a God Who remains a mystery in many ways, but He has still revealed enough of Himself for us to speak of Him in rational and relational terms, for us to feel not only the joys of relationship (as some so clearly do!), but the disappointments of a lack of relationship, which perhaps explains a bit of the violent opposition He encounters so frequently in the public sphere. Thus, Statement 6:
6. Our question today is asking about the God of the Bible. Is there a God is asking, does the God of the Bible exist? Is there really an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving, supreme Being Who has made the world, Who protects and provides for His people, Who listens when they pray, and answers for their good, and guides them toward what is best, and gives wisdom when they ask, and peace, and enables in them the very same love and mercy He shows to them? Is there really such a God as this? Does He really exist?
This is the question we’re asking today. And now that we know that, let’s see what kind of answer we find. And since we’re assuming that the God of the Bible exists, and that He has spoken to us there—He’s told us about Himself in the Bible—what do we learn about Him there? What can we learn about how best to address that question, how best to answer it?
II. Addressing the Question Let’s list three more statements.
1. The testimony about God in creation is irrepressible. Psa.19:1-4b says: 1 The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. 2 Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. 3 There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. 4 Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. … Creation shouts out God’s existence! It celebrates His glory, day and night, in every language around the globe. It never shuts up or quiets down!
Greater than the question of whether God exist is: why do we exist? We’re so small in comparison to what the heavens reveal about God that it’s hard to imagine why He even made us! David adds in Psa.8:3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 4 what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? 1 O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! That’s what we should hear when we listen to the testimony of this universe! It can’t be hidden!
2. The authority of this testimony about God is irrefutable. It speaks with authority! Rom.1:19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. There is God’s assessment!
My dad used to say: I believe I’ve made myself clear! And he was right! There was no arguing at that point. It was time just to come in line with what he said. Not to do so would’ve been foolish! The same is true here.
3. The implication of this authoritative testimony is inescapable. According to Scripture, God’s Word, it’s just foolish to fight with Him on this point once we’ve heard the authoritative testimony of creation. That’s what David tells us in Psa.53:1 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” This lacks sound judgment. It doesn’t make sense to deny the existence of this God! It’s foolish!
We’ve been studying Pro. Wisdom means living along the grain of reality. Foolishness is living against that grain and picking up splinters. That’s just what we see in Psa.53. Those who deny the reality of what God has made plain pick up splinters. They end up fighting against Him, opposing what He favors, His standards (1-3), His people (4-5) (cf. Kidner 95). They earn His opposition! They don’t want to do what He wants. They want to do what they want. And they hate anyone who does want to do what He wants because that’s just one more proof that He’s real and right and God!
This is just the problem we identified earlier. It’s the God of the Bible against Whom the violent opposition arises because, even though He’s a personal, relational, loving God Who blesses His children mightily, He’s also a holy and upright God Who sets a standard for them that they can’t meet on their own. And He’s a judging God Who will hold eternally accountable all who reject His authority, resist His rule, and refuse His salvation. You come to this God only on His terms, not on your own, and that is just too much for many. They’d rather die than hand over the reins of their lives to a God Who can steer them wherever He wills. And they ask: What gives Him the right? Answer: He made you. You belong to Him. That gives Him the right. But this is unacceptable. So, they don’t just resist this God, they hate Him! They deny Him! They look up to heaven and say: there is no God (1), even while He looks down and says: there is none who does good, not even one (2). They’re in a stalemate with God. But one must wonder why they can hate so passionately and resist so forcefully Someone that they claim is not even real?
III. Embracing the Answer – Let’s list one last brief statement, #10!
This is a losing battle, and a sad one you don’t really want to lose. The torments of hell literally await those who reject this God, and all the blessings of heaven are the inheritance of those who receive Him. So: Receive Him! There’s Statement 10, a brief charge: Receive Him; embrace this God by faith, even in your doubts.
Listen for His voice today and respond to His call. The prophet Jeremiah captured God’s assurance to His people: 29:13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. But it was the Apostle Paul who summarized so richly the inheritance of those who believe, those who receive this God by embracing in faith the saving work that His Son accomplished on the cross, where He died for the sins of all who believe and rose again from the dead in promise of our future resurrection. Just listen to this: Eph.1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.
These are just the beginning of the list of blessings this God [lavishes] on all who believe—this God Who has proven not only His existence but His power and presence through all He has made, and now all He has done to bring about the salvation of His people, their rescue from sin and selfishness and their restoration to right relationship with Him. It is foolish to fight against this God!
On that old game show, Let’s Make a Deal, contestants would often have to choose between Door #1, Door #2, and Door #3. If they chose well, they received a rich package of gifts. If they chose poorly, they’d get something like a goat and a milk pail. They had a one-in-three chance. Not so here. There are many more doors, optional gods. But this One is clearly marked. And all you receive is spelled out for you in advance, along with a certificate of authenticity that is literally written in the stars!
Receive this God. That is our final word in answer to today’s question!