Recommended approach

Sojourner's paradigm challenges atheists and skeptics to make a shift in the way they examine and approach the claims of the Bible and Christianity. It is best to first watch the gospel message video and read the foundational truth of God. Other blogs speak on a variety of topics.



Sunday, August 6, 2017

Paradigms for Seekers & Skeptics



David Blaine is an illusionist.  Like most illusionists, his job is to convince you that what you might claim is impossible just occurred before your very eyes.  David Blaine does not use a stage.  He is most commonly known as a street magician and often performs his “magic” using a deck of cards where his up close and personal style creates an even greater sense of astonishment among the small crowd of spectators.  If you have ever witnessed his feats, you too would begin to question your previously held beliefs about reality.  But David would readily admit that he uses your commonly held beliefs against you in order to convince you that the impossible just occurred.  If he were to explain how he accomplished his illusion, you would suddenly come to realize that your initial perspective was wrong.  He provided you with another paradigm (pronounced pair-a-dime); a different perspective.  Your eyes were opened to a new truth because you used a different method to examine that truth.
All of us like to think that we perceive our world correctly.  We don’t like being told we are wrong.  But if we are ever going to know the real truth about anything, we must first humble ourselves and admit that we may not hold all the right answers. 
The purpose of this book is to help you gain a new perspective on how you evaluate the existence of God; the One who is the ultimate possessor and authority on truth. 
I want to challenge you with the following claim.

God does not need nor does He even desire to prove His existence to you.

Does this statement sound a bit arrogant to you? After-all, who am I to speak for God?  Nevertheless, my assertion is that those trusting in their own innate ability to scrutinize the existence of God may need to embrace that statement before it is even possible to come to the truth concerning God’s existence.
Just as a magician must re-direct your perspective to a different paradigm to reveal his secrets, in the same way the entire subject concerning God’s existence must be approached from an entirely different paradigm or perspective than the one many people use in drawing their conclusions.  In a sense, this is the challenge I am making.
The false assumption is that a person must somehow obtain enough evidence to convince him or herself that God exists.
That is the old paradigm and it must shift before a realization of the truth is even possible. The problem is not for lack of evidence.  The evidence for God is overwhelming.  Much of this evidence could be brought forward but that is not the intent of this article.  The snag comes in our reliance upon a potentially flawed four pound mass of tissue between our ears, our brain, as our final authority in judging the truth of God’s existence.  How much evidence is enough to satisfy you? How much evidence is enough to satisfy someone else?  Maybe you would disagree.  In fact, you may be quite certain that God does not exist and wonder how any intelligent person could conclude otherwise.  Believers in God are delusional you say.  If God were real, then surely He would supply enough evidence to make his existence apparent to everyone (I am not claiming that God has not made his existence clear to all).  Then perhaps intelligent and rational thinking would prevail and settle the issue.  Perhaps you feel that modern science along with centuries of knowledge is enough to disprove the existence of God.   I would suggest to you that all of our greatest tools of discovery and even God’s best undeniable and verifiable evidence are still not enough to overcome the real issue which has nothing to do with determining whether God exists.  Once the subject is approached from a different paradigm, you may come to realize that God planned it that way all along.   Perhaps at this point you are expecting me to say something along the lines of, “therefore we must just have faith that he exists.” Actually, no, that is not going to be my argument. And that is because the matter regarding God’s existence is not resolved by our own inborn ability to resolve it.  Keep tracking with me. 
The difficulty in discovering God stems for our inward nature.
In other words, (and this is an easy one to believe) people everywhere are messed up. Our inborn nature along with the influence of the culture around us has tainted our minds, our choices, our affections, and our emotions.  On top of that, everyone is left with his or her own interpretation of the truth.  Much of the world’s problems are in part, due to this fact.   My assertion is that all of mankind does not have the ability to make a grand, unified truthful and good conclusion about anything. ANYTHING!  
Everyone’s mind is like a computer that has been corrupted by a virus.     It cannot correctly process data. 
The prophet Jeremiah wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick.  Who can understand it?”  (Jeremiah 17:9).  Do you doubt this?  Not only does the Bible make this claim, but an honest appraisal of society substantiates this truth.
In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he says, “Rather, let God be found true, though every man be found a liar…,” (Romans 3:4a)
God alone is righteous and true.  Not us. In a society that promotes relative truth, one man’s right is another man’s wrong. One man’s truth is another man’s error. I would suggest that this wretched state we are in is an obvious fact, but even that would be challenged by someone.  I am hoping that you and I can agree on that.
Who is on the throne?
Picture this. One day you are going about your daily routine when suddenly a massive glowing being standing thousands of feet high, well up into the clouds, appears before you. Maybe He appears before everyone.  His majesty is so great that it knocks you to your knees. You are blinded by the glorious light. You fear for your life but then he suddenly smiles at you and it’s even kind of reassuring. You might be thinking to yourself, “Hey, self, could this be God?” And then he opens his mouth to speak. His voice is so loud that you have to hold your hands over your ears. It’s like thunder.  He says, “I am God!!!” By this point you are thinking that maybe he is who he says he is. But you’re still not totally convinced so you think, “Maybe he should perform a few miracles.” That might just do the trick in convincing you he is God. So you dream up your best set of miracles (one of which is that he must know what you are thinking and tell you so.) And sure enough, he knows what you are thinking and performs the miracles which you were thinking should nail down the coffin in the unbelief department. He even goes well beyond your expectations. He creates another moon right in front of you. Then he explains all of history to you to the extent that you are saying to yourself, “Oh now I get it. He has explained everything, answered all my hard questions and now I finally have all the criteria I need to believe that he exists.” So you tell him so. You let him know that he has finally convinced you as to his existence. You even shout it from the mountain top. “I BELIEVE THAT GOD EXISTS.” Hallelujah and all that stuff. But then he does something totally unexpected.  He suddenly looks at you sternly and announces in his thunderous voice, “I BANISH YOU TO HELL.”  And so…now you’re in hell.  What?!
Who is submitting to whom?
Wow, some loving good God he turned out to be. But in case you haven’t figured it out yet, in this particular scenario, who was on the throne of judgment?  Who was submitting to whom?   I would suggest to you that you, in fact, were trying to take the place of God. You were acting as judge over God, expecting him to meet your particular criteria for belief. So the fact is that you were not submitting to God at all, but were expecting him to have to submit to you. You had your criteria for belief, He met it, and then you decided for yourself that He was worthy of your belief. It might be compared to a two year old requiring the parent to submit to his authority and way of thinking. The parent doesn’t have to “prove” anything to the two year old.  Keep in mind that you are relying upon a four pound mass of tissue between your ears in making this judgment.  If intelligence were the deciding factor, then those with the largest amount of grey matter would be found more worthy of God’s acceptance.   Since God is the one who gave you that brain, then he still gets to make the call.  He knows you better than you know yourself.  He knows what’s going on inside that brain.  He knows just how messed up you really are. Do you?
So again, I ask you, who was submitting to whom?    Oh, and by the way, all those thousands, or perhaps millions or billions of others who saw this giant god/man may have been saying to themselves, “he better meet my criteria for belief or I’m not going to believe.” They too were relying on that four pound mass of tissue between their ears as their final authority for determining the truth.  Even still, the Bible states that God has given us all the evidence and revelation we need so that all of creation is silenced and everyone is without excuse. 
Here’s one such passage from the book of Romans, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.  For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.  (Romans 1:18-20) 
This inborn nature which prevents everyone from acknowledging and submitting to this evidence from God has a name.  
It’s called the “sin nature“. The word “sin“in scripture is defined as “missing the mark” and refers to any transgression of God’s laws.  Actually, “sin” goes way beyond missing a target.  The fact is that we aren’t even trying to hit a target.  Each of us has been born with a soul that is totally engrossed in rejection of God’s righteousness.   Well, then, isn’t God to blame for this? Hold that thought.   We’ll come back to that. 
The Bible describes God as both totally just and totally loving. Many unbelievers would scoff at this characterization. They do so because they look at the world around them with all the pain and suffering and tragedy and can only conclude that it must mean that there is no such thing as a perfect loving God.  How could a loving, perfect God have allowed all the injustice, death and pain in the world?  This too needs to be addressed.  We’ll come back to that too but let’s stay on point for now. 
God said, “It is good.”
The first book of the Bible, Genesis, begins by describing God’s act of creation. (Genesis chapter 1) After he makes the earth, he says it is “good.” After he makes the heavens he says it is “good.”  Each time something else is created it is always followed by the statement, “it is good.”  The account ends by declaring, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” (Gen. 1:31)  So far all of what God created might be compared to a pure glass of water. There are no impurities in it whatsoever.  It is a pure glass of water and it is “good.”   God eventually created the man and woman and clearly stated his requirements governing His creation, which He knows, as long as they are followed, everything he created will continue to remain good, whole and in perfect harmony.  That perfect world we all yearn for today and then blame God for when we see that it isn’t… it once was absolutely totally pure, loving, whole, and… “Good.”  But then there is that whole episode in the Garden of Eden.  Don’t write off this subject without examining closely the implications.  The fact is, God actually gave our distant relatives, Adam and Eve, a choice, not just to obey Him from a sense of duty, but a heart choice to love and trust Him.  But then that fateful hour occurred when they disobeyed.   Couldn’t God have just let it go? Surely it was no big thing.  Think back to the diluted water illustration.  I don’t care how big and pure that glass of water is. If you were to drop even the tiniest drop of sulfuric acid into it… then it is no longer perfect, whole, and “good.” That impurity will always be there. There is nothing anybody can do about it. (Okay, maybe the water department folks know how to do it). Anyway, you get the point. Fact is, that willful choice made by Adam and Eve changed everything and is still playing itself out today.  By the way, look at the reasoning by Eve. “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.” (Genesis 3:6)  The same thing is still going on today, except we might call it “the lust of the eyes (that thing sure looks good to me), the lust of the flesh (that thing sure makes me feel good.), and the pride of life (that position of power and success sure would make me feel significant.) Or maybe pride might come off as “I am going to do things my way because, after-all, I am the captain of my soul.” 
At the heart of each of these desires, is the dissatisfaction with the good which God provides.  Lust and control takes over and pushes God’s provision aside.  The Bible goes on to explain that since God is totally pure, righteous, just, loving, holy and such, he simply cannot allow anything impure or unrighteous to be tolerated.  It would be as if a cancer has invaded the body and must be eliminated or death will occur. The condition of the world and society all throughout history attest to the fact that things are pretty messed up and God’s perfect holiness cannot allow it to remain so forever in His presence.  His laws and his very being are so absolutely holy and perfect that we simply could not stand in his presence. We would be consumed by that holiness and be destroyed just as a fire consumes all impurities.  He is so righteous and just that he can do no wrong.  He is the perfect Creator and Judge.  If he says we are guilty and sinful, then we are. We try and rationalize and come up with some other explanation.  We may want to try and give God some sort of human characteristics to conform to our way of thinking.  We reach up and try and bring God down to our level. 
Man is finite.  God is infinite.

Let’s imagine that we all live on a two dimensional plane. Three dimensions do not exist in our world. We are like line drawings on a piece of paper. That is all our brains and our world will allow us to conceive. But now what if a finger were to come down on that two dimensional field. Keep in mind we cannot see that it is anything other than a big flat blob on our two dimensional world. This illustrates what we try and do with God. We try and use the limited resources he has given us in our physical world to try and explain something our minds cannot conceive of.  And it drives us crazy. Where did time begin?  How can it possibly end?  Where does the universe begin?  How can it possibly end?  Yea, go ahead and chew on those for awhile. So when it comes to the eternal God, why do we still continue to think that we can figure Him out?  If he doesn’t stand up to our own criteria for rational thinking, then we figure this four pound mass of tissue between our ears (which He put there by the way and gave it the limitations as he determined best) must be a higher authority than Him.  Dwell on that end of time and universe thing a little while longer and then continue to tell me you can figure things out… much less God.  Do you really think science is the end all?  God is the One who established the scientific laws of nature.  God is eternal and beyond time and matter.  After all, he created time and matter.  He is the dimension we cannot fathom.  God laughs at our futile attempts to deny his power and authority. “He who sits in the heavens laughs, The Lord scoffs at them.”(Psalm 2:4)  Oh, the arrogance of men!!!  God, not mankind, is the One who holds all truth.  Our ideas of “relative truth” just won’t stand up alongside God’s authority and ultimate truth.
God is both just and merciful… but how can He be both at the same time?
Since there is no higher authority than God, He gets to decide what is right and wrong and determines the penalty for sin. And that whole penalty for sin thing simply comes, once again, with the fact that nothing unholy and impure can remain in his presence. It’s just a sad fact. That whole drop of acid in the glass of water thing or the cancer in the body thing.  Look at what this "cancer" (sin) has done to our society and world.  Now try and imagine if it were to remain so for all eternity.  But this cancer, this sin filled world has been a reality from day one (in a manner of speaking).  Why is God continuing to allow all this injustice to remain in the world?  When should final judgment begin?  Where should He begin to right all wrongs?  Should He begin with me... or how about you?  Will you stand up against God’s rightful verdict against sin?  The verdict is in.    
“We all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). 
 How am I ever to be found good enough to stand before this Holy God?  How am I to justify my defiance of his authority?  Do I stand on the grounds of my own goodness?   If goodness and self effort were the determining factor for acceptance by God, then pride would immediately rear its ugly head and proclaim, “Look at me and how worthy I am to stand before this holy righteous God.”  The arrogance of this position immediately negates its claim.
God has plans for eternity and they do not include prideful, self-centered humans who are only concerned with their self interests and unable to “see” God because of their inward tainted sin nature.  
Governing this bleak picture is a God who is suppose to encompass love.  Well, let’s see. He is totally just so it only reasons that a perfect judge will judge sin perfectly. You can argue all day long that “God made me this way”, but that isn’t going to change the fact that you fall tremendously short of a totally righteous God and his decrees.  Can you admit that?   But if he is also perfectly loving which means he loves you more than you can ever imagine, then what is the remedy for this dichotomy?
The answer is Jesus Christ.
If Jesus is the solution to this dilemma, then it is absolutely necessary that we understand who He is and why He came into the world. 
Many passages make his identity known.  Here is one such passage.  Please consider carefully your response to its claim.  Colossians 1:15-20 says this, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.  For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.”
The first words written by the Apostle John in his account of the life and ministry of Jesus reveal much about this man.  He writes, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” (John 1:1a)  By using the title “the Word”, John is indicating that this Jesus was the entire Word of God summed up and revealed in flesh.  “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” (John 1:14a)   Quite a claim, wouldn’t you agree?
Through these accounts and many more, we are presented with the deity of Jesus.  This is why he is called the “Christ”.  Jesus didn’t come down from heaven as a cosmic celestial being, but was born as a man into time and space by the Spirit of God.  God placed his seed, His Spirit, into Mary’s womb. She conceived a man, just like you and me, except that He was not born from Adam’s seed, which was carried down through the generations to Joseph, Mary’s husband.  If he had been born from Joseph’s seed then he would have that same sin nature that you and I have. But Jesus still had to live the same life as you and I, making the same kinds of choices, facing the same temptations.  This is a crucial point.  He had to be both fully human and fully divine.  Where his humanity is concerned, those desires to satisfy the eyes, the flesh, and the pride of life came against Him just as they do for you and me.  Side note:  if you read the narrative about Satan’s temptations while Jesus was on his 40 day fast in the desert before beginning his earthly ministry… the three temptations fall under those same old tried and true temptations that faced Eve as well as you and me:  lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, and pride of life. Yet, Jesus never sinned. “(Jesus Christ) who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth;” (1 Peter 2:22) 
He remained in constant connection with His Father.  All of the “laws” of God he followed and carried out perfectly. They were wrapped up in Him. Recall that the Apostle John called Him the Word”. (John 1:1) 
Christians gain a great deal of joy seeing this portrayed throughout scripture in both the Old and New Testaments. In fact, some smarter people than me have said that there are over 300 prophecies concerning the coming of Christ, this Messiah, and all of them are fulfilled in this one man. That’s right. His mission, his life, his very being and nature are shown all throughout Scripture.  Jesus wasn’t a man who began a new religion.  He wasn’t just some prophet or inspirational teacher.  Even the date of his arrival was predicted through the prophet Daniel. And yes, actually, that can be “proved”.  Or rather, the reference can be shown and then either accepted or rejected.  Daniel was given a revelation regarding the determination of when this “messiah”, this “Christ” would arrive in Jerusalem, but the religious leaders of that day (as well as many today) purposely rejected it.  Why?  The sin nature rejects the truth because it knows it must give an account to that truth.  The sin nature wants to define its own set of values and truth.  The Bible states that since all of mankind is sinful, deserving of hell, then a penalty for this sin must be paid. Perfect justice demands it!  Someone did indeed pay that debt which you and I owe.
The great exchange.
Jesus, the sinless “Man”, took our place on a cross and paid that penalty of sin.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)  His death satisfied the debt we owe for our guilt.  And make no mistake about it.  You and I and everyone born into this world are guilty before a holy righteous God.  You can NEVER be good enough through your own efforts to be reconciled to God and have him actually reveal his full presence to you.  You might even at this point throw yourself into a great gulf of sorrow and tell yourself that you are going to live for God.  But even that won’t gain you access to God because you would still be depending upon your own effort.

What will reconcile you to God?  Here it is:  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. (Romans 5:8-10).
Believe that what Jesus Christ did was the price that had to be paid.  Jesus, as a man, represents us.  Jesus, as God represents God.  He is our mediator.   He purchased you with His blood.  Receive that sacrifice and allow him to de-throne you and take his rightful seat on the throne of your life.
 You see, it is as if you are standing before God, the perfect Judge, and He were to slam down his gavel and declare you guilty of breaking all of his perfect ways and rebelling against his Kingship, and therefore are banished from his presence forever in a place designated for demons.  But He then steps down from behind his bench, comes down to where you are and says that he himself will take the place for your punishment and banishment. The one who made the law is also the One who disseminates justice.  Not only that, but as the God/Man, He is the ONLY ONE who can do that.  No one else is worthy.
 Since Jesus was born of God being fully divine, but also born from man being fully human, then that is precisely what took place. Adam, the first man whose defiled nature still resides in all of us, results in our guilt. Jesus, the new Adam has taken that place within believers, but only if we will receive Him into our life, which is not really our life at all, but His.
How then am I, this messed up person, ever going to be found worthy to stand before Holy God?  It’s all about God’s grace. God’s grace does not mean he turns a sort of kindly old grandfatherly blind eye to what we have done as an offense to Him. No. It means that through God’s loving kindness, he has graciously provided the solution to dealing with those offenses.  In so doing He is able to reconcile His justice with His love.  We can then be justified before our God who is both perfect love and perfect justice.

Death could not hold Jesus in the grave because Jesus did not sin.  He arose which means that the verdict had been dealt with and that life was and is now available to all who would place their trust in Christ and HIS perfect holiness.
Controlled by the Spirit.   
The Bible promises that the same Spirit and life which is in Christ will come to live in us when we place our trust in Christ.  Check out these passages.
“But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” (Romans 8:11)
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?”               (1 Corinthians 6:19)
In the 15th chapter of John’s gospel, Jesus is making the analogy that he is the vine which supplies nourishment and growth to the branches, indicating the absolute necessity to remain connected to Him and his life producing strength.  So you see, Jesus, the new Adam can now occupy our souls.  Something marvelous then takes place. You will have a different nature than the one you had previously.  Does that mean that you won’t continue to mess up and sin? No, it means that there is now a Spirit living inside of you which enables you to overcome sin. Your relationship with God will take on a whole new dimension.  His love enables you to love Him and desire his presence in your life.  The nature you had before simply decided for itself what choices were right or wrong. The sin nature would not, nor could not submit to God.  It was impossible.
“But a natural man does accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” (1 Cor. 2:14)   Another passage says this, “The god of this age (Satan) has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God.” (2 Cor. 4:40) 
Without God’s perfect Spirit living on the inside of us we are totally destitute and simply relying on our brain, that four pound mass of tissue between our ears to guide us through life… to be our savior so to speak.  But when we allow Jesus to be our Guide, our Shepherd, our Savior, we have him on the inside of us giving us the desire and the ability to live for God.
Maybe this illustration will drive home the point.  Perhaps after a night of partying you ended up drinking too much. Once intoxicated, who or what was making your choices? You might say you are still making your choices and must suffer the consequences for those choices. You would be right. Or you might say that it was the alcohol that influenced those choices and therefore shares some blame in the matter. You would be right about that too.   Now, in a similar manner, if the Spirit of God is residing within you, then He will have an effect on your desires, your ability to accomplish those desires, and the choices you make.  So what I am saying is that we are living either with the old sin nature governing our choices, or our new “born again” Spirit filled nature governing our choices. The choices are still ours to make and we might not make good ones, but with God’s Spirit we now have the ability to make good ones. God’s grace continues to work in our lives until He brings us home. If we were suddenly made perfect after receiving Christ then perhaps pride would once again raise its ugly head or perhaps we would become a bunch of robots of sorts.  God’s work in our lives is a process.  This process involves suffering and testing.  The difference is that these life experiences can be a means of drawing us closer toward God rather than creating further division.  If we have sinned, we recognize it and are able to repent.  This can ONLY be true for one who has God’s Spirit residing within.  God’s work in us does not end by receiving Christ. It is true that you have been “born from above” (John 3:3) and that means you have passed from eternal death to eternal life.
The new nature will give you the desire to know more and more about God as long as you do not “quench the Spirit of God” (1 Thess. 5:19) who is performing His work on your heart.  We’ll have more to say about this later on.  It is probably time to point out one important and absolutely crucial truth.
If we are to know God, He must reveal himself to us.
We have already seen that God reveals his eternal power and authority through nature; through His creation.  But there are limitations to knowing God solely through His creation.  God further extends the revelation of Himself through His Word.  He does not give us the option to decide for ourselves who He is.  If this were the case, we would be creating a God to our liking.  He is God.  He gets to decide the means and method and medium by which He reveals himself. 
Our need isn’t to try and figure Him out.  God declared this through the prophet Isaiah:  “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)
We will never completely understand what he is up to while we are on this earth.  He says “the secret things belong to God”.  (Deuteronomy 29:29)

He has built into our brains and into our world certain limitations. We simply cannot depend upon our own flawed brains to figure things out and to “save” us.  Once again, The problem is sin.  The solution for overcoming this malady and restoring our relationship with God is through the sacrifice made on our behalf through our sinless Messiah.

Where does the rubber meet the road? It comes through faith. It comes through trust that what God has revealed and accomplished we can believe and stand on it…. No matter what!  No matter what trials and pain life throws at us. No matter who tries to intimidate or harm us. “They will hate you because they first hated me,” Jesus said.  (John 15:18) Those who hated Jesus did so because he claimed to contain the ultimate authority of truth.  Christians are often hated for the same reasons.  Despite all the problems we face we still rely on God and his truth.  Even the pain, trials, and mess ups are part of His means of growing us and making us “more like Christ” which is the ultimate goal of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
God has given us His resources.

Once we receive the offer of salvation from Christ, God’s Spirit directs us to the resources he has lovingly given to us.
One of these is the Bible.  You can argue all day long using the limitations of human reasoning that it is merely the compiled writings of mere men so how can it have come from God.   Paul, in a letter written to Timothy, made this claim:  All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16-17)
 In another passage, Paul writes, “… you didn’t think of our words as mere human ideas.  You accepted what we said as the very word of God-which, of course, it is.  And this word continues to work in you who believe.”               (NLT -  1 Thess. 2:13b)
Jesus, in one of his prayers to the Father said this, “Your Word is Truth.”  There are over three thousand instances throughout the whole of Scripture where we read, "The Lord said…” or “The Lord spoke…”, and other such phrases.   I ask you.   Are you willing to rely on that brain of yours with all its limitations and faults to refute all three thousand of these claims?
God used a certain man, Abraham, and his descendents as his vehicle for bringing revelation of Himself to all people.  He chose them.  They did not initially choose Him.  God set in motion the history (His Story) of this nation of Abraham’s decedents with the declaration that through them he would bring about the One who would bring about salvation from sin and reconciliation with God. That nation is of course Israel.  From the first words found in Genesis through the last words of Malachi, God began to reveal his words and plan for redeeming mankind, using those individuals he chose to use, utilizing the very bents, gifts, talents, and status within their individual times, but then through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (authored by God), to pen the words God knew we needed to hear.  
Here is an illustration.  Suppose you were walking along a path and noticed a line of ants spread out in the field along your path.  Upon further inspection you noticed that the line formed by those ants spelled out the words, “Give glory to God.”  You reason to yourself that this cannot be possible, for ants are incapable of doing such a thing.  You would be partially right.  The ants would not have the capability of doing such a thing on their own.  But there it is before you.  They did, indeed, spell out an intelligible sentence.  The sentence gives you a clue to its origin.  A vastly superior being must have made this possible and wants all who read it to know its origin.  This silly illustration makes the point that while Scripture was written by men, it had its origin with God. 

God chose to make His special revelation through humanity.  The entire Bible has the same thread. It has the same unity of message even though it was written by 40 different men from vastly different time periods, cultures and status over a 1500 year period to bring about this unified message of a coming redeemer to restore our broken relationship with God.

The writer of the book of Hebrews opens up his letter with these words, God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, but in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.  And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,” (Hebrews 1:1-3)
In the New Testament, those who now had the Spirit of God living within them began to make that message plain.  He then used faithful spirit filled men of God creating the “Canon” of scripture which we now call the Bible.  Using human logic and reasoning, this could not possibly happen.  But just as Jesus said, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  (Matthew 19:26)
The mystery is explained. The message was made clear. But you must go to Him on His terms to hear it. Once you do, the understanding; the revelation from God continues to develop within your heart and mind throughout your lifetime. Your rebellious heart of stone softens and changes.  “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. “ (more pliable).  Ezekiel 36:26.
We who place our trust in Jesus Christ have an awesome privilege of reading those words and having the Spirit reveal the truth to us.  Once again, the Bible says that the “natural man” or “those who are perishing” as scripture puts it, cannot understand the Words of God.  They are foolishness to him.
Natural man decides for himself which parts are worthy to be read and then tries to interpret them to line up with his own notions of truth.  In most cases, natural man simply ignores God’s revelation.  He creates his own ideas of religion or truth or morality which seem good to him.
Another resource is His Church.  The church is not a building or a religious organization.  It is not a gathering of people who rely on rituals and traditions to somehow make them presume to do good things for God, thinking perhaps that God is impressed by the sound of bells and chants interspersed with chords from a glorious organ.  Paul warns believers “Don't 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.” (NLT -Col. 2:8)   Later he adds, “These rules (religious rituals and rules) may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline.  But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires.” (they don’t bring about a heart change).”  (NLT -Col. 2:23)   This is man-made religion. 
Sadly many groups who call themselves a church are doing just that.  In these churches, the Word of God is rarely scratched below the surface.  In contrast, the authentic Christian church is made up of those individuals who have placed their hope and trust in Christ (the “Word” of God).  They dig deep into the treasure of God’s Word and desire to accurately apply it to their lives. 
Scripture refers to the Church in many different ways.  For instance, the Church is referred to as the “Body of Christ”.  Christ is the head and we are His body.  And just as our own bodies have many different parts which function in unison, we too are to be functioning in a variety of ways within the Church.   Christian literally means “follower of Christ”.  Christ himself formed the Church.   The “Church” is a resource he lovingly provided.  He never intended for us to be “Lone Ranger” Christians.  It is through the Church that God gives feet to His mission and message of salvation.
God uses His Word, His Church, and His Holy Spirit, accompanied by prayer, to accomplish not only his work in the world, but his work in each believer’s life.  We must remain connected to Christ, “the Word”, in order to fulfill God’s plan for our lives.  We can quench this work when we fail to acknowledge the instruction and teaching from the Word of God.  The Holy Spirit works in tandem with the Words of scripture.  This is why much of the New Testament admonishes the Christ follower to study and apply the truths found within the whole of Scripture. 
This is why we must remain connected to one another; to love, build up, encourage, and admonish one another.  We all know those individuals who call themselves Christians but who demonstrate no real change in their lives.   Unbelievers are quick to point out the hypocrisy of believers.  Believers are to exhibit the love and grace of God in all they do.  If and when we drift away from Christ and His resources, God’s love for us will bring about corrective measures in the life of His children.  
It’s time to make a choice.
Let me tell you what I believe may happen with you right now. Actually one of two different things may occur.   On one hand you may find yourself somewhere between indifferent, annoyed or even infuriated.  Perhaps you are fed up with all this nonsense and continue to believe that Christians have bought into an irrational set of beliefs which defy logic and reasoning. How could we actually believe all of those fairy tales in the Bible? I mean, come on, people. Use the brains that God gave you…er, I mean that evolution gave you.

So what if what I am telling you is true? That changes everything. It even changes my motivation for writing this article and suggesting you need a “paradigm shift” in the way you approach the existence of God and His purpose for your life.
If not, then once again, you are left to that brain., that four pound mass of tissue with neurons making electro-chemical transmissions which simply evolved without a creator over several million years as your final authority. Good luck with that.

Another thing which might happen is that you give God a chance to enter your heart. He may cause you to humble yourself and admit that you have “missed the mark”, and see the foolishness of requiring God to “prove” himself to you.  Perhaps the Spirit of God is bringing you to a point of recognizing your own sinful state.  You may come to realize that without a Savior, you are destitute and guilty before our holy, righteous God.
In which case you might simply talk to God and say something along these lines, “Okay God. I get it. I admit my own arrogance and rejection of you.  I am messed up and totally deserving of whatever consequences you have declared.  I have not submitted to you and have ignored your authority over my life.  I’ve been blind to the obvious evidence of your power and wisdom and love.  I have to admit; my life’s a wreck. I am miserable much of the time. And I keep making other’s lives miserable as well.  If you have said that you can replace my anxiety with peace then I will just believe it even if it doesn’t make any sense to me right now.
Having realized this and the fact that my sin was what caused your own Son to have to pay an agonizing price for my sinful condition, I give myself to you.
I know you see right through me.  I cannot hide anything from you. I stand totally naked before you. Like I said, God, I am guilty. No excuses God. You’ve got me.
Almighty God, I am at your mercy.
Now I am making the choice to place my trust in what Jesus Christ did for me. I am thankful that his act of obedience now makes it possible for me to stand in your presence totally forgiven. Oh my Lord how I need to hear those words. I am forgiven. Thank you. I am yours. Show me the next step, Lord.  I still have troubling questions which don’t make much sense to me right now.  I know I need a group of believers surrounding me, loving me, and helping me on my journey. I know they too are on a journey and might mess up at times but give me your spirit of love and forgiveness. Show me that place Lord.”

God willing and by his grace and mercy that will happen to you.
If God begins to burden your heart, believe that it is coming from Him. It means that He desires to reveal himself to you and bring you into His family. Even if those nagging questions keep popping up which don’t appear to have an answer, don’t ignore what God has providentially revealed to you at this time.  There’s more to come.  Surround yourself with others who have experienced this revelation.   
If, however, you are not burdened as I described then perhaps you can at least stop the condescending remarks towards those people who only want to wish you well, and who, perhaps, have been praying for you. Besides, they really can’t help who they are… God changed their very nature and gave them the ability and privilege to not only know of Him, but to intimately know Him.
Richlon Merrill                                                                                               Fellow Sojourner