The Faith part 7
Do We Go From Here?
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
February 22, 2009
This morning we’re
completing our seven-week journey through this message series called
“The Faith.” Over the course of this series, here on Sundays and
through the week in our LIFE Groups, we’ve explored several of the
foundational beliefs that have been held by all Christ-followers in all
places at all times. Through the centuries our culture have changed,
our styles of worship have changed, our context has changed… there are
lots of things that have changed and that’s fine. But these
foundational beliefs have been consistent since the beginning. These
are the non-negotiables for orthodox Christianity.
out by discovering how Christianity is not just a set of beliefs or a
code of conduct… and it’s not even just a relationship with Jesus
Christ. It’s a complete worldview that affects everything you say,
think and do. We talked about the basic understanding that “God is”…
that He exists regardless of how we may feel at any particular point of
time. I watched an episode of Grey’s Anatomy recently where one
character asked another character if they believed in God. And the
response was, “Sometimes.” Well, God’s existence is not dependent on
our feelings at any given time. He’s the transcendent God who exists
whether I think He exists or not.
We also talked about the
nature of this God – how He’s one God with one nature, but has three
centers of personhood. We know these three persons as the Father, the
Son and the Holy Spirit. And we saw how this is not a contradiction at
all, but is a perfectly valid and reasonable explanation of God as
revealed to us.
And we talked about how God has spoken… He has
spoken through Creation, through our conscience, and through His Word,
the Bible. We’ve talked about the reliability of the Bible… that
despite all the people who attack it and try to disprove it, time and
time again the Bible proves itself to be accurate historically and
sound theologically. It speaks to the human experience, it inspires us,
and it shows us the way to find forgiveness and hope and life and God
I am personally amazed at how it has been passed down
through the centuries with such care and consistency. We’ve talked
before about how there is simply no other book of antiquity that even
comes close to the textual integrity of the Bible.
the Bible is not just one book; it’s a collecting of 66 books written
over the span of 1400 years by 40 different authors in three different
languages. And yet it conveys a consistent message of redemption from
the first page to the last without contradiction. Really, it’s
We’ve also talked about the reality of absolute
truth. We live in a time when everything seems to be subjective and
relative… whatever you want to believe is right for you. But if there
is absolute truth, then it is true regardless of what you might
believe. Absolute truth is truth for everyone at all times, even if a
person may choose to deny it or it doesn’t fit their preferences.
I was in high school, I had a teacher who was a member of the “Flat
Earth Society.” That’s a group of people who still maintain that the
earth is not round; it’s flat. That’s what this teacher believed was
true. But was he right? I mean, that’s what he believed – couldn’t the
earth be round for me and flat for him? Or is one belief true and the
other belief false? That’s the nature of absolute truth.
Nate was born, what if I came in here that Sunday, told you we had a
baby, and you asked what we had. What if I responded, “Well, I say it’s
a boy, but Shera says it’s a girl. And who am I to argue? What she
thinks is right is right for her.” How ridiculous is that? (And poor
Nate!) There are some things that are true even if nobody believes
them, and there are things that are false even if everyone believes
In the Bible you find all kinds of claims to absolute truth. Such as…
1 John 5:11-12 (NLT)
this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this
life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have
God’s Son does not have life.
Acts 4:11-12 (NLT)
is the one referred to in the Scriptures… There is salvation in no one
else! There is no other name in all of heaven for people to call on to
Those kinds of statements cannot be true for some
people and false for others. Either it’s completely true for all people
everywhere at all times, or it’s a complete fraud and we’re just
wasting our time here this morning. But don’t believe the garbage that
Jesus is the way to salvation for some people, and others find a
different way. That option is simply not left available for us.
if it is true that Jesus really is the one and only way to God the
Father and eternal life, then no other way will do no matter how much
you believe in it. I mean, you can be completely sincere in your
beliefs, and that’s great. But understand this…
be sincere, and be sincerely wrong.
we moved on from that and we talked about how everything God created
was good, including the Free Will that He gave to humanity. But we used
that Free Will to rebel against Him. Ultimately, that’s what sin is:
it’s rebellion against God and the ways of God. We sinned, and that sin
has corrupted all of Creation. And the end result of that sinfulness
for us is hopelessness, suffering, distress, and death.
then we talked about God’s solution to the corruption of sin… the
Incarnation, the crucifixion and the resurrection. We explained how God
looked at our hopeless condition, saw that we couldn’t do anything
about it, so He decided to do something about it. So He entered into
His own creation as the baby Jesus, the event we still celebrate today
as Christmas. He grew up among us, He taught us, performed miracles,
proclaimed the Kingdom of God… But then there was a conspiracy and He
was falsely accused and sentenced to death. And He died a very painful
death on a cross. And He allowed all that to happen so that He could
pay the penalty that we deserved for our rebellion. He sacrificed
Himself so we could be forgiven. That was the only way that God’s
standards of Justice and Mercy could both be met. Justice and Mercy met
on the Cross.
But that wasn’t the end of the story, because on
the third day after the crucifixion, Jesus rose from the dead. And that
might sound like a story from ancient mythology, but at various times
here at Sunrise we’ve seen that there is evidence that it really
- You have the testimony of the witnesses…
just a few fishermen, but hundreds of people who saw Jesus – many at
the same time – and they talked with Him and even touched Him after the
- You have the 27 individually written
which have since been compiled into our New Testament. These books were
all written in the first century by some of these witnesses to the
resurrected Jesus and based on eyewitness accounts, with some of the
passages dating back to within a decade of the actual events, and some
of the quotes traced back to within 18 months of the resurrection… far
too early for any legends to arise.
- Then you have the empty
tomb, and the inability of the Jewish and Roman authorities to produce
a body and disprove the resurrection, although they desperately wanted
to. Modern science and historical thought has no valid alternative for
explaining the empty tomb other that the resurrection.
then there was the incredible transformation of the disciples
themselves, from a scared collection of people who scattered in fear at
the crucifixion, to the courageous group who emerged to change the
world and who went to their deaths proclaiming that the resurrection
- And there’s the personal experience that
billions of people, including many of us here, have had with the
resurrected Jesus. We know that He has risen because we’ve experienced
Him for ourselves.
So that’s the resurrection. And then we
talk about the ascension… how Jesus after the resurrection spent time
with His followers but then returned to Heaven. And someday He will
come back again. We don’t know when that will be, but He will return.
In the meantime, He has established His Church as a peaceful occupying
force to expand His Kingdom on earth. The Church is not a building or
an organization; it’s the people of God. It’s the Body of Christ. It’s
the community of Christ-followers around the world. And we need to be
about the business of carrying on His work, serving God by serving
others, and spreading His message of love and forgiveness and salvation
to those around us and around the globe.
We also talked about
the salvation that is available to us and to every person on the
planet. And we talked about how there absolutely nothing we can do to
earn it. We can do all kinds of good deeds and be a good neighbour and
care for the poor, but it will never be enough. Because when God judges
us, He doesn’t measure us by comparing us to each other. He measures us
by His own perfect standard of holiness. And by that measure, we all
So salvation is not offered to us as something
to earn; it is a free gift of God’s grace that we receive by faith. We
are made right with God not because of who we are or anything we ca do;
we’re made right with God because of who Jesus is and what He has done
for us on the cross.
So that’s whirlwind tour of the past six weeks. We’ve talked about all
of that and more.
what I want to talk about for the rest of our time this morning is,
where do we go from here? How do we know what is true and what is
false? How do we tell the difference between truth and error? How do we
make sure that what we believe is right really is right? I mean, none
of us wants to be deceived by lies, do we? We all want to know the
truth. How can we make that happen?
Because let me tell you,
there are lots of people who will make conflicting claims. And unless
you know what you believe, and more importantly why you believe it, you
won’t be able to tell the difference whether what they are telling you
is right or wrong.
Throughout this series, we’ve mentioned some
of the leading atheists (or anti-theists) that are prominent in the
world today. And they’ve written some best-sellers like…
Christopher Hitchen’s “God Is Not Great”
Sam Harris’ “Letter to a Christian Nation”
Richard Dawkins’ “The God Delusion”
Bart Ehrman’s “Misquoting Jesus”
these books are relentless in their attack on the belief in God and on
believers themselves. And even though you may never read one of these
books, I would guarantee you that most of us here this morning know
people who are reading books like these.
Take “The God Delusion”
for example. It came out in 2006 and was on the New York Times’
Best-sellers list for 51 weeks. When it first came out, I decided I
would read it for myself. So I put my name down to reserve it at the
library because, well, I wasn’t going to actually pay good money for it
and send Dawkins a royalty.
If I remember correctly, there were
about 70 people on the waiting list ahead of me and it took months
before I got hold of it. And when I finally read it, I was able to
recognize that his arguments just don’t hold water. But I was only able
to recognize that because I know what I believe and why I believe it.
while back, I made a purchase from Amazon.ca. And if you’ve ever
ordered anything there, then you know that as soon as you add something
to your shopping cart they suggest a few other books that they think
you might be interested in. Well, this is the screen I saw…
[PowerPoint – “Top Sellers” – The God Delusion, God Is Not Great,
& The Secret]
you may not be reading books like these, but people you know are. And
they are going to be deceived by the lies presented in these books and
they may even convince you of them unless you know what you believe and
why you believe it.
So that brings us to your notes this morning. Here’s what I would
suggest you do to prepare…
Know What Is True and Avoid What Is False…
Desire to Discover the Truth
Don’t be satisfied with just kind of unconsciously going through life.
Desire to discover the Truth.
[VIDEO – A Few Good Men – “You Can’t Handle the Truth” scene]
me tell you, you can handle the Truth and you need to handle the Truth.
You’ve got to desire it. Otherwise, you’re setting yourself up for
Proverbs 15:14 (NLT)
A wise person is hungry for truth, while the fool feeds on trash.
what do I mean when I talk about Truth? I’m talking about the Truth of
who we are, where we come from, and why we’re here, Truth of who God is
and how He relates to humanity, Truth about how to receive forgiveness
and salvation, Truth about what it means to have a Christian worldview…
that kind of thing. But you know, it’s amazing to me how many people
are completely oblivious and apathetic about truth in general, and this
kind of Truth in particular. Truth that, if it really is true, has
tremendous repercussions for them right now and throughout eternity.
Some people act as if they really don’t care, and maybe they don’t. But
if what I believe is true really is true, then there will be dire
consequences for their apathy.
And I don’t say that to scare
people or force them to agree with me; I say it to urge them to seek
the Truth for themselves. They don’t have to take my word for it, but
seek to discover the Truth. Nurture a desire to know the Truth. Jesus
Matthew 7:7-8 (NLT)
“Keep on asking, and you will
receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on
knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks,
receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the
door will be opened.”
Ask, seek and knock. Desire to discover the Truth.
one of the things you will discover when you begin to seek Truth is
that there are many different and conflicting claims to Truth. Everyone
claims that what they believe to be true really is true, and everyone
else is wrong. So how do you handle all the differing opinions and
conflicting beliefs? Well, you…
Investigate and Evaluate
gave you the ability to think. And He gave it to you for a reason. He
doesn’t expect you to turn off your brains when it comes to matters of
faith and belief. He wants you to use your brain. He wants you to
engage your intellect. He wants you to exercise your reasoning
abilities. Jesus Himself said…
Mark 4:24 (NIV)
“Consider carefully what you hear…”
the word, “consider.” That means, “Think about it. Test it. Is it
really true?” Jesus is saying, “You’ve heard me; now think about what
I’ve said. Does it sound reasonable to you? Does it resonate with you?
Does it sound true? Then what are you going to do about it?”
how about the apostle Paul? Paul was an educated man. He was a scholar.
And he was able to show people the validity of who Jesus is. You can
see examples of that all through the Book of Acts and throughout his
letters. To the Thessalonian Church he wrote…
1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 (NIV)
Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.
And he wrote to the Church in Corinth, from the Message paraphrase of
1 Corinthians 14:20 (MSG)
be perfectly frank, I'm getting exasperated with your infantile
thinking. How long before you grow up and use your head—your adult
head? … Only mature and well-exercised intelligence can save you from
falling into gullibility.
You know, there’s an idea going around
these days that in order to believe in God you have to just accept what
you’re told, you can’t think critically, and you just have to have a
blind faith. Basically, this idea says that in order to believe in God
you just have to believe, regardless of the facts.
But as a
believer, I do not have a blind faith. The truth is, faith has its
reasons. And there is plenty of evidence that supports my faith in God…
in creation, in the resurrection, in the Bible, in philosophy, in
personal experience. There’s the ontological argument, the cosmological
argument, there’s the moral argument… Oh, there will be things I’ll
never fully understand. But my faith does not go against logic; it goes
beyond logic. It sees where the evidence points and goes in that
So you’ve got to investigate what claims are out
there, and you’ve got to evaluate whether those claims are true or not
(and if they even matter). You’ve got to reason it out. You’ve got to
ask questions and see what makes sense of the facts.
remember we did this with The DaVinci Code. We did it again when we
talked about Oprah’s Internet classes on spirituality. We’ll do it
again when the movie Angels & Demons comes out this May. We
do that here at Sunrise… we evaluate which claims to Truth are actually
true and which are false. And we learn to recognize the difference.
really, this is where a lot of people fail. They hear some kind of a
claim to truth… maybe from a friend, or in a book, or from one of those
talking heads on TV, or even from a pastor. And then they accept those
claims without really checking them out. Without considering the
credibility of the source. Without seeing what kind of historical or
archaeological or scientific or logical support there is for them.
I should say that your faith should not be based solely on the evidence
from science, history, philosophy or archaeology. Because there are
always new discoveries that change our understandings in those areas.
Your first and greatest basis for your faith should be the witness of
the Holy Spirit to your spirit. Ultimately, it’s the Holy Spirit who
leads you to salvation and gives you the assurance of that salvation.
And He provides you with a consistent, non-changing witness so that
your faith can be secure.
But you need to understand also that
God also gave you the ability to think and reason things out. He
doesn’t expect you to abandon that ability when you place your faith in
Him; He expects you to use it to the full. As a Christ-follower, you
don’t have to be afraid of facts. You don’t have to be afraid of
questions. You don’t have to be afraid of scientific discovery. Because
really, all of those ultimately support faith in God.
Immerse yourself in the Truth
In the New Testament, the apostle Paul put it this way…
Philippians 4:8 (CEV)
my friends, keep your minds on whatever is true, pure, right, holy,
friendly, and proper. Don't ever stop thinking about what is truly
worthwhile and worthy of praise.
So basically, he’s saying
“Immerse yourself in the truth.” Why? Because the best way to discern
what is false is to know what is true.
If I were to argue that
2 plus 2 equals 5, what would you say? Well, first you might say I’m an
idiot, but I’m not here to argue that this morning. But next you might
tell me that I’m wrong… that it’s not true. But how do you know it’s
not true? Because you know what really is true.
It’s not so much
that you doubt that 2 plus 2 equal 5; it’s more that you’re confident
that 2 plus 2 equals 4. And you’re confident of that because years ago
you studied it and you learned it and it’s been proven to be true time
and time again.
Your best protection against lies is the truth.
And the more you know and understand the truth, the more prepared you
will be. And what is the truth? Well, Jesus claimed to be “The way, the
TRUTH and the life.” And He also said this…
John 8:31-32 (NIV)
said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then
you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
immerse yourself in the Truth. Learn all you can about Jesus. Get to
know Him. Study His Word. Because when you do that… when you become
very familiar with what is True… it becomes easy for you to identify
what is not so true.
Be ready to give a reasonable response
Read this verse from the New Testament book of 1st Peter aloud with me…
1 Peter 3:15 (NIV)
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give
the reason for the hope that you have.
let me say this: the response “Because I said so” is not a valid
response. When someone questions why you believe what you believe and
you answer, “You just have to have faith”, that is not really a good
answer. There are real answers you can give that make a whole lot more
sense. Including saying, “I don’t know. Let me check it out and get
back to you.”
And do you know who really benefits if you know
how to respond to questions people may have? You do. You’ll find that
you’re a whole lot more confident that what you believe to be true
really is true, and you’ll become much more secure in your faith.
I’ve already talked about some of the books that are popular right now
that attack Christ-followers and the Christian faith. At the end of
your notes you see a selection of books that you can look at to see
that there are reasonable responses to the criticisms. I’ve also
included a list of websites, which is the same list I gave you when we
started this series. And you can find lots of articles and videos and
podcasts to check out there.
[PowerPoint – Upcoming LIFE Groups]
that, in just a couple weeks, we’re going to be starting two LIFE
Groups that will deal with issues like these… discovering truth and
learning to defend it. One of them will be hosted by Harvey and Sandra
on Monday nights, entitled The Truth Project. They took some training
for this series last year, and from what I’ve seen it’s some excellent
And then on Wednesdays, we’re going to start a series at
our place that I’m calling “God On the iPod (Series 1): Faith Has Its
Reasons”. I’m going to compile some of the audio and video files that
I’ve been listening to online, you’ll be able to listen to one of them
that week, and then we’ll get together to discuss it. And we’ll aim to
take a reasonable look at our faith and learn to defend it.
and Sandra’s Group will start March the 9th, and mine will start March
the 11th. And you’ll be hearing more about these LIFE Groups over the
next couple of weeks.
And just one more things that I want to mention quickly.
Stay true to what is True
other words, guard what you accept as Truth. Watch that you don’t be
led astray by lies. Paul told his young apprentice Timothy…
1 Timothy 4:16 (NIV)
Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you
do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
Watch your life and doctrine closely. Don’t allow for any lies to enter
into your beliefs. Be alert and ready at all times.
Colossians 2:8 (NLT)
let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding
nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of
this world, rather than from Christ.
Now, as we finish up
this series, let me just say this. A lot of you here this morning have
young children. And I’m right there with you. And it would seem wise to
me that as our children grow, we should be sitting down with them and
discussing these sorts of things. Because they’re going to be facing
opposition. There are going to be people who tell them that faith in
God is a crutch for those who can’t handle life, that it’s intellectual
suicide, that it’s intolerant, that it’s all a big scam… they’re going
to hear those kinds of things that are blatantly false but are popular
today. And unless our kids have some kind of foundation before then,
those kinds of attacks can be devastating.
And I’m not talking
about brainwashing your kids. I’m talking about teaching them to think.
Teaching them to look for real answers. Letting them understand that
most attacks on the Christian faith have no basis other than ignorance.
And even the attacks with some substance have a reasonable response.
kids cannot inherit your faith. They need to decide for themselves. And
what they’re going to hear in schools and from friends and when they
get to university is a lot of confusion about the Christian faith and
who Jesus is. And they’re going to be faced with what the apostle Paul
called “high sounding nonsense” that sounds convincing but really is
meaningless. So help them with that. Sit down with them and talk about
these kinds of things.
Now let’s pray.
“The End of Reason” by Ravi Zacharias, a response to Sam Harris’
“Letter to a Christian Nation”
“The Dawkins Delusion?” by Alister and Joanna McGrath, a response to
Richard Dawkins’ “The God Delusion”
“Misquoting Truth” by Timothy Paul Jones, a response to Bart Ehrman’s
“What’s So Great About Christianity?” by Dinesh D’Souza, a response to
Christopher Hitchens’ “God Is Not Great”
(with articles, videos and/or podcasts):