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Jesus is the way,
 the truth, and the life

 

 

 

 

 

WHY GRACE IS REJECTED?

 

 

 

When reading the Bible one can see clearly that God has a good plan for all of us. The Gospel of John states that God loved the world so much that He sent His son, Jesus Christ, so that nobody would perish (John 3:16). Furthermore, the First Epistle of Paul to Timothy describes how God will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim 2:4). It is definite that He wants people to come to Him and wants to give them eternal life.

   Still, many people reject God’s invitation of salvation and redemption. They do not want to turn to God. They use all kinds of excuses to reject God’s invitation – just like those excuses that were used by people who lived alongside the Apostles. Read about them in the verses below. This is why we will study next the most common excuses people use to reject the Christian faith. Let’s start with a person’s claim that their nature is “scientific ”.

 

- (Acts 13:45,46) But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spoke against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming.

46 Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing you put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, see, we turn to the Gentiles.

  

 

 

1. "I am scientific"

 

One’s reliance on scientific examination and worldly wisdom are among the excuses given by people who turn their backs on God and the Christian faith. People want to believe that they are taking a scientific approach to life, that they are rational beings who make sensible decisions, and that their views are impartial, dispassionate and based solely upon facts. Nobody wants to admit that he or she is a religious bigot or, for example, a fundamentalist (a label some news journalists and editors use with pleasure. Many people lump into this group all religiousness and religions including Islam). Almost everyone wants to separate faith from scientific fact, and wants to be free from all prejudices and predilections. The writing below by a free thinker well reflects this attitude held by people who consider themselves to be scientific:

 

I wish briefly that people would think scientifically.

   Generally, it looks like most people try to manage by thinking as little as possible. (…) The most important part of a scientific way of thinking is freedom from prejudices, predilections and devotions. The target of a scientist is always the truth, regardless of how unpleasant it may be or how much confusion it may cause to people whose beliefs it shows wrong. (1)

 

So, what do people consider to be a scientific approach? Most people believe it means following an atheistic philosophy that includes believing that the universe came into being by itself, that life came into being by itself, and that all species evolved from one simple cell that came from the ocean. A person who claims that he or she is scientific usually means that they believe such statements about our origins are true. We will not address the accuracy of those claims in this writing. Instead, we will look at this “scientific approach” from another perspective.

 

Scientific approach or faith? Are there any people whose ideology is based purely upon scientific reasoning? How many people act upon facts alone when they are doing science experiments, or when they are leading their normal lives? How many people never use faith? Is there such a person?

  If we are honest, we must state that nobody acts completely without faith. In science, people trust in the credibility of colleagues and the information provided by them. They consider the opinions of others to be trustworthy because they believe them to be well-educated. The same applies to normal life. We also trust in what others say and consider their words to be true. We personally check only a small percentage of the information that we assume to be true.

  Therefore, everybody believes in something; nobody stands on neutral ground. We all -- including those who say they base everything on facts – believe things to be true for which we have no proof.  There is no such thing as a fully scientific person; getting through life without exercising some faith is impossible.

  The following examples show how important faith is, and ways in which we experience faith every day:

 

- A girl trusts her mother when the mother says she will get a new dress. This is faith.

- People believe that there is such a place as the Antarctica even though very few have actually visited it.

- When we see an advertisement of a store in the newspaper, we believe in the information and shop based on it.

- History is one sector of life in which all our information is based on what others have said. For example, it is no longer possible to completely scientifically and conclusively prove that Napoleon or Caesar actually existed; we must trust words written by others. This is faith, and we are all forced to believe in something.

- Questions about the origins of the universe, life, and humans can only be answered through faith. None of us were there to witness our beginnings. There are only theories about what happened; it is impossible for us to prove our origins in any scientific way.

   So, whenever we deal with the three basic pillars of the scientific ideology – the origins of the universe, the origins of life and the theory of evolution – we end up having to accept the following conclusions:

 

- The idea of how the universe started is based on faith. The two opposing ideas are that the universe came into being by itself, and that the universe was created by God. The problem is that we cannot prove either of these scientifically because we cannot return to the past. Anyone who wants to claim that they are scientifically certain must say that they were present when the universe started, which is naturally impossible. This is why we can prefer one or the other theory while having no definite proof of either. Anyone who claims otherwise is wrong.

 

- The birth of life presents a similar problem: nobody was there to witness it, either. This is why our opinions about the beginnings of life are based on faith. So far, there is no shred of evidence proving that life could have started by itself.

 

- The theory of evolution is based on the belief that complex life developed from simple life forms at some point in the past. Nobody was there to witness whether or not this really happened. Many renowned palaeontologists strictly deny that there should be intermediate forms between basic groups in the fossil data.

 

Can we trust the brain of an ape? The term “scientific view” usually refers to the theory of evolution, which is based on the idea that life evolved from simple life forms and humans evolved from ape-like creatures. In fact, if we drill deep enough into the evolutionary way of thinking, we find that it leads to the notion that man, too, was one of the life forms that appeared as a consequence of a “big bang” that began from a space the size of a pinpoint. This is the naturalistic way of thinking.

   However, we can find a major problem in this way of thinking. How can you trust the assessments made by people if they originated from apes or even more primitive life forms? If people’s brains (thus their thinking processes) are the result of random development, is it wise to give credence to such information? Is it not true that we can reject the notion of rational thought if we believe that such thought originated in the development of an ape-like being, or even that it appeared randomly as a product of the big bang? The value placed in rational deduction, the belief that “scientific” thought is reliable, or that one’s intelligence is supreme, are all questionable assumptions if we really do come from such beginnings. We might be deceiving ourselves; we might be in danger of making a mistake. We cannot rely on our scientific view of the world, if our origins were random or evolutionary. Anyone claiming otherwise is not thinking scientifically.

 

I remember how a young man said in a seminar, “I cannot believe in creation, I believe in the big bang. We are only a result of chance and random events. There is no God. What do you say to that?”

   I replied, “Well, if we are the result of chance, then also your brain is a result of chance. Therefore, your ways of thinking which determine your logic are also the result of chance. If your logic is the result of an occasional series of events, you cannot be sure that it has developed in the right way. You cannot even be sure that you are asking the right questions because you cannot trust your own logic.”

   He was speechless. Later, he came to me and asked about the best books concerning the subject, saying that he should think seriously about this issue. He had begun to understand that without an absolute (God) he would have nothing. (2)

 

The question of the existence of God. A person who has a “scientific view of the world” may also deny the existence of God. People with such an atheistic approach are confident when saying that there is no God who created everything and with whom people can interact. Faith in God is only considered to be wishful thinking, something to which reasonable and scientific people do not resort.

   Naturally, it is difficult to prove that this atheistic view is right. If somebody says, “There is no God”, that does not prove that God does not exist. It is a question of a religious preconception not of sure knowledge, because nobody has unlimited information about eternity. To be able to conclude that there is no God would demand that we have a perfect and unlimited amount of information about everything, which is impossible for a human. How does someone know that God does not belong to that sector about which they know nothing? This is highly plausible because we are all finite beings. This is why we are left with believing or not believing that God exists. 

   The Bible teaches us, though, that we can know something about God. We can know God in three ways.

 

Nature. Its beauty and complexity are proof of a Creator. Our personalities, physical senses and emotional feelings; and the ways we differ from animals, are accurately described in the Bible. This is not absolute proof of the existence of God but one can consider them and deduce that what the Bible teaches is correct: God created everything in the universe and He made us to be in His image. This evidence we can find in our natural world supports a theistic view; it contradicts the notion that our birth was the product of some random event.    

 

- (Ps 19:1) The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows his handiwork.

 

- (Rom 1:19,20) Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God has showed it to them.

20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse

 

What about the possibility that our natural world was not created by an almighty God? There are major problems with this atheistic way of thinking, and they have not been resolved. The Bible’s premise -- that an almighty and active Creator exists – seems much more logical.

 

- The big bang theory is one of the most implausible theories. The notion that a hundred million galaxies and stars, the Earth and other planets, seas, rocks, giraffes, elephants, humans, flowers, trees, butterflies, birds, mosquitoes, fish and all the rest of creation started from a space the size of a pinhead is completely senseless. People may choose to believe that such an event happened, but little support exists for that theory. Is it wise to believe such a conclusion?

 

- As noted above, the origin of life has not been found. The more information we get, the harder it is to find an explanation.

 

- The fact that no intermediate forms have ever been found suggests that species are separate and unique, and they have been so from the very beginning. This fact supports the description of species we find in the Bible and contradicts the explanation atheists would have us believe.

 

History. Independent research has repeatedly confirmed that the Bible’s descriptions of historical events are accurate. At least thirty of the people mentioned in the New Testament are also found mentioned in sources outside the Bible, so we know that they really existed. Of course, this alone does not prove that the teachings of the Bible are true, but it gives us a good reason to study historical records more closely.

 

God’s revelation. What about more direct evidence supporting the existence of God? Atheists and agnostics often claim that if God exists, why does He not reveal Himself to us? “Show us God and we will believe,” they say.

   However, God has already shown Himself to us. The whole revelation of the New Testament is based on the fact that God became man in Jesus Christ, lived a sinless life as a human, took our sins to the cross and opened us a path to Heaven. God took the initiative and approached us in the form of a man, just like the New Testament indicates. Jesus Himself said that He was not of this world like other people and that He came from Heaven to do what His Father wanted. This revelation is clearly shown in the verses below:

 

- (Hebr 1:1,2) God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets,

2 Has in these last days spoken to us by his Son, whom he has appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;

 

- (John 1:18) No man has seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him.

 

- (2 Cor 5:19,20) To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses to them; and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be you reconciled to God.

 

So, God has already revealed Himself and made His plans for everyone clearly visible.

   There is one thing that prevents people from understanding this: disbelief. The letter to the Hebrew states that without faith it is impossible to please God, and this applies to atheists and agnostics who do not want to believe the revelation of the Bible.

   God has announced Himself, and He exists, just as we are told in the Bible, but lack of faith and refusal to see the truth – many people rule out the possibility that God could announce Himself – prevents people from being sure. Jesus said, He that seeks finds; and to him that knocks it shall be opened” (Matt 7:8) but many people are not even willing to seek, so they cannot find anything. In the Bible verses below we learn about wrong attitudes, disbelief, having faith, and finding God. Is your heart frozen, your mind closed? Do you deny the possibility that God does exist and that He wants you to to let Him draw near?

 

- (Hebr 3:12) Take heed, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.

 

- (Rev 21:8) But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

 

- (Hebr 11:6) But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

 

- (1 John 5:10) He that believes on the Son of God has the witness in himself: he that believes not God has made him a liar; because he believes not the record that God gave of his Son.

 

- (Hebr 4:2) For to us was the gospel preached, as well as to them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.

 

- (2 Cor 5:7) For we walk by faith, not by sight

 

- (Rom 4:3-5) For what said the scripture?

Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness.

4 Now to him that works is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.

5 But to him that works not, but believes on him that justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.

 

- (Mark 4:39,40) And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

40 And he said to them, Why are you so fearful? how is it that you have no faith?

 

2. The faults of the church

 

Disappointment with Christianity and its representatives is one reason why people reject faith and God. This may be caused by disappointment with some person close to them or disappointment with the church and “narrow-minded religion.” Therefore, many cannot stand any talk about faith and God, but reject it sharply and rebel against it.

  As far as imperfection in people is concerned, it is true that it appears. It is true that very few people are good examples, and yet fewer can say like Paul, ”Be you followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” (1 Cor 11:1). In the same way, religion can be the kind that does not include spiritual life, but is hypocrisy. People fought against this kind of religion during the formation of the early church; John the Baptist said to certain people:

 

- (Matt 3:7-9) But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said to them, O generation of vipers, who has warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

8 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:

9 And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say to you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children to Abraham.

 

When the faults of the Church and wrongs done in the name of God through the centuries are pointed out, one should note what Jesus and the first disciples taught. If we take a look at their lessons, we will see that, "the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God," and that Jesus has never known these evildoers. Also, Paul predicted a similar kind of behavior after his departure. He taught that savage wolves will come that will not spare the flock.

  This means that not all people who appear in the name of God and Jesus are his own, despite claiming so (As Paul said in Titus 1:16, They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him”). Jesus said about false prophets: "You shall know them by their fruits." (Matt 7:16), and this is certainly true of every man:

 

- (Acts 20:29-31) For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.

30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.

31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.

 

- (Matt 7:21-23) Not every one that said to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven.

22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out devils? and in your name done many wonderful works?

23 And then will I profess to them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.

 

- (1 Cor 6:9) Know you not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?  Be not deceived

 

It is good to note that even though somebody has turned to God, there can still be a lot of deficiency in his life, too – people are on different levels. The Corinthians were a good example; in his letters Paul described them as being infants in Christ, since jealousy, quarrelling and other impurities were causing problematic behavior. By contrast, Paul said to others, Be you followers of me, even as I also am of Christ (1 Cor 1:11), and "Brothers, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as you have us for an example." (Phil 3:17):

 

- (1 Cor 3:1-3) And I, brothers, could not speak to you as to spiritual, but as to carnal, even as to babes in Christ.

2 I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for till now you were not able to bear it, neither yet now are you able.

3 For you are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are you not carnal, and walk as men?

 

Account of only ourselves. When someone points at the wrongs committed by the Church in the past, it should be noted that everyone is only responsible for his own actions, not for the actions of others. Even though many bad things have been done, it does not mean that we can use the wrongs done by other people as an excuse to justify our own behavior. When we put our own life in order, we are first taking "the beam" out of our own life (Matt 7:5 You hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of your own eye; and then shall you see clearly to cast out the mote out of your brother’s eye.) Doing even this often requires a lot of effort:

 

- (John 21:21,22) Peter seeing him said to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do?

22 Jesus said to him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to you? follow you me.

 

- (Rom 14:12) So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.

 

- (Rom 2:6) Who will render to every man according to his deeds:

 

- (Rev 20:12-15) And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.

13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.

14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

15 And whoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

 

Impact of God on the society. People criticising the so-called Christianity have plenty of justified statements, as noted before. These are not unfounded accusations.

   What we should note, however, is that when God touches a person, that person should change. If the person does not change for the better and continues to kill, steal or break the law, then the person is lost – as proven by the verses above.

   The next example is about what can happen when God influences the society to a greater extent, as it sometimes happens. In such a case, He changes the lives of many people. This is not a Big Brother society, of which we can see examples in history; it is an internal change that occurs in a large number of people. This description is from the 19th century:

 

I have told that the moral situation changed greatly through this revival. The city was new, economically prosperous and enterprising but full of sin. The population was especially intelligent and ambitious but as the revival swept through the city by bringing large crowds of its most remarkable people, men and women, to conversion, there happened a very miraculous change concerning the order, peacefulness and morality.

   I had a talk with a lawyer many years later. He had been converted in this revival and was a general prosecutor in criminal cases. Because of this office, the criminal statistics were thoroughly familiar to him. He said about the time of this revival, “I have examined documents of criminal law and noticed a surprising fact: while our city has grown three times larger after the times of the revival, there has not been even a third of the indictments than there were before. So miraculous an effect did the revival have on our society.”(…)

   (...) Both public and personal opposition gradually abated. In Rochester I did not know anything about it. The salvation had its own great visitation, the revivals were so powerful and moved so widely, and people had time to become acquainted both with themselves and the results of them to such an extent that they feared to oppose them as before. The priests also understood them better, and the wicked were convinced that they were acts of God. This idea of them became almost common, so clear was the sane nature of the conversions, so really transformed, “new creations”, were the converts, so thorough a change occurred both in individuals and in the society, and so permanent and undeniable were the fruit. (3)

 

3. Evil in the world

 

When a negative attitude towards spiritual matters is justified, one reason, in addition to the faults of the churches, is evil in the world. It is thought that God cannot possibly exist because there is so much evil and suffering in the world, and because justice does not exist. It is difficult for many people to reconcile these matters with the existence and love of God, as the next quote indicates:

 

But this is actually only a part of a larger problem. It is namely difficult for me to relate to an idea about a God of love. The problem is not only evil in the church, but evil in the whole world. If God created this world and if He cares for it, why is there so much bloody suffering in the world? You answered in your letter that God cannot be regarded as being responsible for that, because He has given man freedom to choose between right and wrong. But I think that this question cannot be pushed aside so easily. When man, in his freedom of choice, decides to do wrong, which results in innocent people having to endure pain and suffering, God is definitely not a loving God, as you claim! (4)

 

However, when we think about this matter, we see it proves that the word of the Bible is true. This is how it really is, and we are told about how it all started in the first chapters of the Bible that teach us about the fall of man and entry of sin into the world. Man originally lived in wonderful harmony with animals, but the situation changed after he chose to disobey God’s will. Then man’s mind got dark, he yielded his will to evil, and he lost peace. Man’s relationship with God was also corrupted, and sin and death came into the world, as it is stated in Romans. It is difficult to deny that we are in that condition as described in the Bible:

 

- (Rom 5:12) Why, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed on all men, for that all have sinned.

 

Our fall is real and it can be seen in the world. It appears in our evil deeds, suffering, selfishness and death – all are consequences of our fall. The mass murders of Auschwitz and Rwanda could certainly not have happened unless the world was under the control of the evil one (1 John 5:19). We need the police and armed forces because we cannot trust in the goodness of our fellow man. These terrible things we do are not the result of our having the wrong upbringing or the wrong home environment; they are a reflection of the evil that lives inside us. The evidence of practice is too great, so that the fall could be denied:

 

- “Professor Joad was an intelligent and quick-witted opponent.” The pastor interrupted him. “I remember, when I was in England, how a vicar preached about the subject, ‘God, the devil and Professor C.E.M. Joad’.”

   Everyone burst into laughter.

   Michael continued his speech:

- Professor Joad was of the opinion that in human nature there is not any fault which higher civilization, better possibilities and better environment would not improve.

   Then came war.  When Joad contemplated misery, pain and destruction, he came to the conclusion that the events of that moment and those in history are a long account of man’s inhumanity towards man.  He came to realize that theologians had one common viewpoint, which philosophers did not emphasize, namely, that in human nature there is some fault, and that fault could be called original sin. From these starting-points Joad progressed from sin to the need of salvation and from Saviour to God, who sent His Son to reconcile the sins of the people. Joad experienced an intellectual conversion to Christianity, and he became a member of the Anglican Church. "Higher civilization, better possibilities and better environment", he finally said, "have not even nowadays brought about a better society, such as the growing crime statistics of the welfare countries indicate." (5)

 

The will of God and man. When Jesus lived on Earth he taught the Lord’s Prayer to His disciples. One of the things Jesus taught his disciples to ask God for was that His will would be done in earth. He advised His disciples to pray for this because it was God’s plan and because for the time being, His will comes true perfectly only in Heaven:

 

- (Matt 6:10) Your kingdom come, Your will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

 

This suggests one of the biggest reasons behind the existence of suffering in the world. Here on the Earth it is not the will of God that comes true, but the will of man. There is no evil and suffering in Heaven -- they appear in the world because of the evil of man. Here, people choose to serve evil and do wrong instead of eliminating evil from the world. If we just loved our enemies (as Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount), and repented (as John the Baptist, Jesus and the Apostles taught), then the world would be a much better place. However, we choose to hate our enemies and stubbornly refuse to repent, so the world cannot become better than it is now. We do not serve the will of God, and we do not allow him to enter our lives, and we do not always want to become better people:

 

- (Matt 3:1,2) In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,

2 And saying, Repent you: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

 

- (Acts 26:19,20) Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision:

20 But showed first to them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.

 

- (Matt 25:42-45) For I was an hungered, and you gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink:

43 I was a stranger, and you took me not in: naked, and you clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and you visited me not.

44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we you an hungered, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to you?
45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.

 

Only a temporary state. Even though there is evil in the world and the will of God does not come true very often, the good thing is that the present state in the world is only temporary. Wars, suffering and diseases – the reasons why so many people have difficulty believing in a loving God – are temporary troubles that we must face before entering into perfection. We learn from the Bible that all the consequences of our fall from grace in the Garden of Eden will be removed and a new Heaven and a new Earth will be created. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things will have passed away. Death – our last enemy -- will be destroyed and will not disturb anyone anymore. Jesus told us that he is the way into this kingdom:

 

- (John 10:9) I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved

 

- (John 14:6) Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me.

 

- (1 Cor 15:26) The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.

 

- (Rev 21:1-6) And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.

2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.

4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

5 And he that sat on the throne said, Behold, I make all things new.  And he said to me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.

6 And he said to me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to him that is thirsty of the fountain of the water of life freely.

 

4. What is God like?

 

One stumbling block for many people, and an issue that should be pointed out, are the wars mentioned in the Old Testament and the understanding of what God is like. The next paragraph written by a former agnostic provides a good example of the opinions held by many people:

 

And then another problem. You have spoken very much about the love of God, etc. But I remember that the God of the Old Testament is quite different! Didn’t He destroy the whole planet by sending the Flood? Quite an angry guy! And didn’t He order that the Canaanites must be destroyed – including the women and children? And didn’t he burn Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes? It does not sound that your loving God has done this. (6)

 

When responding to the honest criticism above, it is good to take into consideration at least the next observations. They can provide new perspective on the issue:

 

Historical writings. Firstly, it is good to note that the Bible’s description of wars and other events is like those in any other book of history, even though the Bible is the word of God. It describes these events and early phases in the history of mankind, as do other history books, except events in the Bible happened over many centuries.

  Wars and other events and people are mentioned in the Old Testament because history books usually do this. Very seldom do they describe peaceful times and normal people: very often times of crises are focused upon.

  The Second World War is a good example of this. It is remarkable that many more stories have been written about WWII than about the decades preceding it, even though it lasted for only some years. This demonstrates that exceptional events (including the miracles that are described in the) are more likely to be recorded than events that occurred during peaceful and normal times. The Bible is no exception in this regard.

 

The debt of sin. Secondly, it is good to note that when the Bible describes events involving Sodom and the Canaanites, God’s judgment of these nations followed their own evil behavior. When it is known that the Canaanites burnt their children in fire sacrifices (Deut 12:31, 2 Chron 28:3) and they were in other ways bad people, it is easy to see that God’s judgment was no accident, but happened when the evil of these people had achieved its peak and their debt of sin had become full. Similarly, the Israelites later angered God and had to suffer because of it. This same full debt of sin is weighing down the present society, because people have done many evil deeds.

 

- (Gen 15:16) But in the fourth generation they shall come here again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.

 

The view of God. When in the quotation above a former agnostic criticized honestly the view of what God is like, so it is good to first study this issue in the light of the New Testament.

  For if we look at the New Testament, Jesus is – according to it – the express image of God (Hebr 1:3) and in whom God made Himself known perfectly. Jesus said, he that has seen me has seen the Father and there is all the reason to believe it. The Bible also says, that “God is love” (1 John 4:8).

  Therefore, if we want to know what God is like, the best verses are, first of all, such passages that speak about Jesus, His character and what He said. Let’s study this issue in the light of the next verses:

 

- (John 14:8,9) Philip said to him, Lord, show us the Father, and it suffices us.
9 Jesus said to him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet have you not known me, Philip? he that has seen me has seen the Father; and how say you then, Show us the Father?

 

- (Matt 11:28-30) Come to me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

29 Take my yoke on you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest to your souls.

30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

 

- (Matt 22:15,16) Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk.

16 And they sent out to him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that you are true, and teach the way of God in truth, neither care you for any man: for you regard not the person of men.

 

- (Luke 15:1,2) Then drew near to him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him.

2 And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receives sinners, and eats with them.

 

- (John 10:10,11) The thief comes not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep.

 

- (1 John 4:8,16) He that loves not knows not God; for God is love.

16 And we have known and believed the love that God has to us. God is love; and he that dwells in love dwells in God, and God in him.

 

 5. What is love?

 

One reason why people reject the message of the Gospel is their idea of what love is and what it is not. Many are offended by attitudes of some people or if certain behaviours are described as sinful. They say straight away: “Do not judge,” and “We must not be narrow-minded.” Because of these attitudes they reject the whole message of the Gospel.

   One behaviour is homosexuality – an act often justified by those who favour a position of tolerance and love. It has been said that there cannot be anything wrong if two adult men are in a relationship with each other. The next passage reflects this kind of attitude:

 

However, we made mistakes. We noted, for example, that preaching against homosexuality caused a fully negative reaction. In the city that had been famous for a protective attitude towards minorities of the society through the ages, our preaching, in which we judged homosexuality, offended the desire of Amsterdam’s inhabitants to protect weaker. We offended the sense of justice of an ordinary man. A part of that sexual liberation is a monument for homosexuality in one of the market places of the city. Sexual freedom has been taken to glaring extremities in Amsterdam, which is regarded as the capital city of homosexuality in Europe. It is estimated that every weekend ten- to fifty thousand homosexual men or women come to Amsterdam because of its famous night life and events. Also heterosexuals, including grandmothers, react powerfully, if we spoke against practising homosexuality and when we emphasized that it indicates how far the city of Amsterdam has gone away from the norms given by God. (7)

 

The love of God. As we start to study the matter, it is good to begin from love because it is true that everyone needs it -- homosexuals and heterosexuals -- and that cannot be denied. Who would not like to be accepted and loved? This basic need is in every man and it is good that the need is filled. It is good to experience it from the womb. In the background of many homosexuals are often traumatic human relations (men have usually had a bad relationship with their father, been rejected by peers, or suffered sexual abuse by someone of the same sex; women have usually had problems with their relationship with their mother).

   However, we are taught in the entirety of the New Testament that we are loved unconditionally. Several verses teach that when we are far away from God, when we are His enemies and sinners, we are still loved by Him. His love covers homosexuals; it covers the greatest and smallest sinners. Everybody receives the same love:  

 

- (Rom 5:8) But God commends his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

 

- (Rom 5:10) For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.

 

- (John 3:16) For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

 

What is the truth? Even though every man – including homosexuals – receives God’s love, it is still good to point out the truth and consider whether or not our actions are significant. This is hardly ever mentioned in the worldly mass media.

   However, this question is essential. If the message of the Bible, especially of the New Testament, is true, it teaches us that fornicators, adulterers, murders, homosexuals – whose way of life is often justified by love in our society – will not inherit the kingdom of God. Thus, good questions to ask are how true the next verses are and how many of us take them seriously. If we reject them even though they are true, aren’t we then acting stupidly? In any case, our fault is that we think too short-sightedly, only from the point of view of pleasure, and do not think about eternity.

 

- (1 Cor 6:9,10) Know you not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?  Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,

10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortionists, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

 

What the previous passage then means in practice, so it is clear, is that an unrepentant man cannot get the connection with God and to heaven. Jesus and the apostles taught repentance and advised people to give up sins (Matt 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.) It is important to take these words seriously and not to revoke them. The problem had by many is that they never think the whole matter through or admit that they have sinned. They do not admit, for example, that the homosexual way of life, or relations outside marriage, are sinful. That prevents them from being forgiven. Even though Jesus is the Savour of sinners and grace comes through Him, His nature does not in any way benefit people who claim to be sinless and do not admit doing wrong. In the Lord’s Prayer, which is familiar to many, we pray for the forgiveness of our sins but it benefits only us since we must first admit that we have sinned. This is the starting point for real forgiveness:

 

- (Luke 11:4) And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.

 

- (1 John 1:8-10) If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

 

Furthermore, the same love and grace of God that appeared to us through Jesus Christ can change our whole life. His love cleanses us of homosexuality and addictions and lusts; it breaks the hold of alcohol, tobacco, bitterness, pornography. If people claim that such healing is not possible then they also declare that the next words of Jesus are not true. The practice at least indicates that many have been freed from these illnesses. Are we ourselves then ready to change and to join in this process?

 

- (John 8:36) If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.

 

 6. Why is there damnation?

 

Damnation is an issue over which many may stumble. It is difficult for people to comprehend the existence of such a place and they cannot understand why God will send some people there to suffer an eternal sentence.

  We should think this through and consider the following important points.

 

The goodness of God. Damnation is, perhaps, a difficult idea for many people to accept. They may deem it unjust and wonder how it fits together with God's goodness. They may struggle a lot with this issue.

  Damnation can also be seen differently: God would not be a good God were He to forgive unrepentant evildoers. If evildoers, dictators, torturers, and tyrants who enjoy their wickedness and do not want to change, were forgiven, would it not be the same as accepting their wrong actions? Would not God then be giving his acceptance to these evildoers who have deliberately done bad things to other people? How could that God be good who accepts bad and lets bad gain victory over good? This cannot be expected from a perfect and good God.

  (The same issue also appears in the Old Testament. When the Canaanites who burnt their children are mentioned [Deut 12:31, 2 Chronicles 28:3], it is said that the judgment did not face this nation by accident, but arose from the fact that the evil of these people had achieved its peak and the debt of sin had become full [But in the fourth generation they shall come here again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full. – Gen 15:16]. Similarly, the Israelites later on angered God and had to suffer because of it.)

  Just the fact that there will be a day of reckoning and damnation to evildoers leads us to believe in the victory of good and in the goodness of God. Because if there is no final day of reckoning when the unjust will receive their judgment, when those who have suffered unfairly get their compensation, God is not a good God – He accepts evil and consents to it. That there will be a day of reckoning proves that goodness will win and that evil will be conquered. This proves that God is good and defeats the bad.

 

Nobody needs to be damned. It is good to understand that nobody needs to go to hell, because God is love (1 John 4:8) and does not want anyone to go there. Actually, the main lesson of the Gospel is that Jesus came into the world to save sinners (Luke 19:10 For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.) and that all sins were laid on him (Isa 53:6 …and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.) Each of us can be saved from damnation through the atonement work of Jesus if we turn to Him and repent our sins. At the same time we get eternal life as a gift:

 

 - (1 Tim 2:3,4) For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior;

4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

 

- (John 3:16) For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

 

- (Luke 15:3-7) And he spoke this parable to them, saying,

4 What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, does not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?

5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.

6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.

7 I say to you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repents, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.

 

- (Eze 18:23,32) Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? said the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?

32 For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dies, said the Lord GOD: why turn yourselves, and live you.

 

The only reason why many are not be saved is that they turn their back on God's grace and ignore His call. Luke 14:15-18 indicates this: And when one of them that sat at meat with him heard these things, he said to him, Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God. Then said he to him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many:  And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready.  And they all with one consent began to make excuse

  A very popular Finnish preacher, Niilo Yli-Vainio, was used by God as an instrument for awakening. He wrote about this topic. He described the nonchalant attitude taken towards God by people, and tried to get people to understand the grave consequences from such behavior:

 

"Confusion gnaws me day and night. There is enough of it.

  But I am gnawed more by those people who are going to Hell. I see a line of people, a crowd that only walks. Shout to them, explain to them, teach them, try to gesticulate and to describe, that they are walking towards devastation! So what happens then? They just go! They just walk! They just slide! They laugh and walk toward the gates of hell!

  You think about 'old Niilo' now, I can see by your face. You think, So you spoke and preached, and what of that.

  I am compassionate by nature. I have always been like that. I would so love people to Heaven, if it helped. But when I was younger, I tried to frighten people to faith.

  My intentions were good.

  People say that my preaching was hard and harsh, and indeed it was. My intentions were good. I thought that if the frightfulness of the Judgment and the heat of Hell are described to people in the correct way, they will come to their senses.

  Then, I still tried to prolong the moment of resolution. I asked and asked, persuaded, and tried to win time in order to give them a possibility until the very last moment. (…)

  Yes, some were also saved by frightening. It worked on many. They understood that I wasn't scaring them for the sake of money, but that I was serious. Being hard, if you are blunt, has its bright sides. I was hard, because I worried about them. I thought that it is now up to me whether these people go to Heaven or to Hell.

  It was honest work in the sense that people were honestly told where they were going. Being honest was hard on me. It cost me my strength and health already as a young man." (8)

 

Charles G. Finney wrote about the same topic in the 1800s. He proved in a good way what sort of treatment God received from people, even though He had sent His only Son and loved them. Many people have reacted in the same way as these people in the example, in other words they have rejected time and time again the love of God:

 

I had my pocket Bible in my hand and I read this text from it, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." I don't remember much of what I said, but I know that I couldn't stop thinking about the kind of treatment God receives from people as gratitude for His love. This thought filled my heart with pain; that's why I poured my whole heart onto them, with tears flowing out of my eyes.

  I saw several men there, from whom I had heard awful mockery on the previous day. In the meeting I referred to them and told what they had said and how they had shouted condemnation of God to each other. I poured my whole heart onto them. I said that they "barked blasphemy along roads like dogs of hell", and that I had come here as "to the edge of hell". Everyone knew that my words were true, and it made them shiver. But they didn't look like they were hurt, they only cried like me. There was hardly a dry eye in the whole room.

  The restaurant owner had refused to open the meeting room in the morning. But after this first meeting, he rose and announced that he will open it in the afternoon.

  The people scattered all around the area and spread the information everywhere, and in the evening the meeting room was almost as full as a school in the morning. Everyone who could come was in the meeting, and the Lord allowed me to attack them in quite a miraculous way. My sermon seemed to be quite new to them. I also felt as if I had let hail and love fall on them at the same time, hailstones accompanied with a great deal of love. The mockery and profanation, which they heaped and heaped on the name of God, seemed to expand my love toward Him to extreme pain. I rebuked and disciplined them with all my heart, but in spite of it all I felt so much sympathy for them, that they could not have mistaken it. I have never heard them blame me for excessive severity, even though I have probably never before in my life spoken so severely.

  That day's work caused large amounts of people to be converted. Since then, whenever I informed that I was having a meeting anywhere, at any time, people came to hear me. The work started immediately and progressed with great speed. Twice I preached in the village church, sometimes I held a prayer meeting, and usually I preached in a school in the neighborhood at five o'clock in the afternoon. (9)

 

Call to the new life

 

We have addressed the objections that people sometimes raise when someone tries to teach them about the Gospel and eternal life. They are very common objections and seem to be reasonable, and are often used to reject all spiritual matters and the act of turning to God. They may be used by people to thwart a good idea and the message of the Gospel that God wants to save us and lead us to His eternal kingdom.

 God makes everything ready. We can receive eternal life as a gift. We can also reject His call and His love by turning our back on His gift of eternal life:

 

- (Luke 14:15-18) And when one of them that sat at meat with him heard these things, he said to him, Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.

16 Then said he to him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many:

17 And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready.
18 And they all with one consent began to make excuse...

 

- (Rev 21:6) And he said to me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to him that is thirsty of the fountain of the water of life freely.

 

- (Rev 22:17) And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that hears say, Come. And let him that is thirsty come. And whoever will, let him take the water of life freely.

 

Next, we teach how you can be saved and answer God’s call.

 

1. Turn to Jesus Christ and give your life to Him

 

Turn to Jesus Christ. Tell Him that you are a sinner who needs salvation and that you want the plan of God to come true in your life. At first, there is no need to try to become better. Just go to Him as you are with all of your faults. According to the Bible, there is eternal life only in Jesus and therefore we must turn to Him so that we can get it:

 

- (John 5:40) And you will not come to me, that you might have life.

 

- (John 6:68,69) Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? you have the words of eternal life.

69 And we believe and are sure that you are that Christ, the Son of the living God.

 

- (John 10:9) I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved...

 

2. Receiving

 

Receive. Eternal life is received as a gift through Jesus, the Son of God. Receive Him into your life. You can simply say, "Lord Jesus, come into my life.” According to the Bible, He already stands behind the door of our heart and waits to step into our lives: 

 

- (Rev 3:20) Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.

 

If you ask Jesus to come into your heart then, according to Scriptures, you are a child adopted by God and you receive eternal life. You have this regardless of how you feel at this moment. Do not base your assurance of salvation on your emotions. Feelings change. Anchor your knowledge of salvation in the word of God and on Jesus Christ, just as a ship’s anchor is never thrown inside the ship but always set outside.

 

- (John 1:12)  But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name

 

 - (1 John 5:11-13) And this is the record, that God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.

12 He that has the Son has life; and he that has not the Son of God has not life.

13 These things have I written to you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may believe on the name of the Son of God.

 

THE PRAYER OF SALVATION: Lord, Jesus, I turn to You. I confess that I have sinned against You and have not lived according to Your will. However, I want to turn away from my sins and follow You with all my heart. I also believe that my sins have been forgiven through Your atonement and I have received eternal life through You. I thank You for the salvation that You have given me. Amen.

 

 

 

REFERENCES:

 

1. V.T. Aaltonen: Miksi en ole kristitty, p. 199, 200

2. Ken Ham: Valhe, evoluutio, The Lie: Evolution, p. 44

3. Charles G. Finney: Ihmeellisiä herätyksiä, p. 245,246, 249

4. Gregory A. Boyd and Edward K. Boyd: Epäilijän kirjeet, (Letters from a skeptic), p. 26,27

5. J. Edwin Orr: 100 kysymystä Jumalasta (100 Questions about God), p. 59 - 60

6. Gregory A. Boyd and Edward K. Boyd: Epäilijän kirjeet, (Letters from a skeptic), p. 169

7. Floyd Mcclung: Elämää helvetin esikartanoissa (Living On The Devil’s Doorstep), p. 186,187

8. Mauno Saari: Saarnaaja, p. 268,269

9. Charles G. Finney: Ihmeellisiä herätyksiä, p. 81,82

 

 

 

 

 

Jari Iivanainen




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