Monday, 17 January 2011

God, why don't you just prove you exist?

Dealing with peoples questions is a little bit like building a house. When you get the plot of land if there is something else built there what do you have to do? You have to demolish it. Once you have done that you build the foundations on which you will build the finished house.

Some of the questions in this series are design to deconstruct or demolish people’s wrong thinking about faith, Christianity, life and God. So in a few weeks time we will look at ‘Being good is good enough, right?’ and ‘A God of love would never send anybody to hell, would he?’ The idea being that these will help us to challenge our friend’s preconceptions and ideas.

Others are constructing, the first two in particular are foundational; ‘God why don’t you just prove you exist?’ And ‘Isn’t the bible just a bunch of made up stories?’ People need to understand how reliable the bible is or they will not accept or listen when we try to teach it to them, and they need to believe in God or much of what Jesus says will be irrelevant.

Some of these topics perform a dual role, and tonight sis just such a topic, there are those who do not believe in God and tonight we want to think about how we help them see God is real. But at the last census 82% of the population said they believed in God. I guess things may have changed slightly in the last 10 years, but not too much when Lucy recently texted some of her non-church friends to ask them if they believed in God or not and why, all bar one replied that they did.

In one sense I think that is encouraging, but probe a bit deeper and you find that the god they believe in isn’t God.

A primary teacher was once walking around her class during art; most of the children were painting animals or their family or something recognisable. And then she noticed Scott’s rather shapeless yet extremely colourful creation, she stopped and asked; ‘That’s lovely Scott, what is it?’
“That’s God,” Scott replied.
“But no-one has ever seen God,” his teacher said.
“They have now.” Said Scott looking up at her.

That’s exactly what most people in society do in terms of God, not with a paint brush but in terms of their thinking. What would a popular view of God include?

Actually our friends, who believe in a god, need to understand how we can know about the God who really exists as much as the person who adamantly states “If God exists why doesn’t he prove it?” We can only know about God if he reveals himself to us, and he has but where in the bible do we go?

Turn to John 10:22-42. (Read)

Jesus is proof that God existsAs we read it did you notice the extraordinary claims Jesus makes? What are they?
“I give them eternal life”(28), “I and the Father are one.” (30), (38)“the Father is in me and I in the Father.”

Jesus astonishingly claims twice that he and God are one and the same, that he is God the Son, as well as claiming he can give eternal life. Look at (33)What are the Jews about to do and why? They are about to stone him to death because “you, a mere man, claim to be God.” Jesus opponents the Jews clearly understand what Jesus is saying, they pick up stones ready to enact the biblical penalty for blasphemy.

Do you see what Jesus is saying, I am God, and there is no doubt about what he is claiming. It is the greatest declaration of the existence of God ever made – I am God. If you want to hear God speak listen to me, if you want to touch God I am him, if you want to understand what God has to say to you and about you listen to my words.

And it isn’t just in this chapter of John, in chapter 14:8-9 (read). Thomas asks Jesus to show them the Father and Jesus is a bit surprised by the question. Thomas if you have seen me you have seen the Father.

Elsewhere Jesus makes various “I am...” statements, now to the Jews “I am” was the way God revealed himself to Moses, it’s how Yahweh, God was identified. In John 8:58 Jesus makes another amazing claim to the Pharisees “Before Abraham was born, I am!”

Jesus consistently declares that he is God.

But I guess anyone can make a claim can’t they, the issue is always is there evidence to back up what they claim.

Evidence to back up Jesus claims
Exhibit A
Come back to chapter 10. When the Pharisees are about to stone him notice what Jesus says, he doesn’t issue a retraction or talk about being misquoted, or misunderstood. What does he say(34-39)? He says look at the evidence, if the evidence backs up my claim believe in me.

What evidence is he talking about? He is talking about his work; if he is doing the work that God does they ought to believe.

Just turn over one chapter to 11:17-37, Jesus goes to his friend Lazarus’ house because Lazarus has died, it looks like a normal graveside scene as Jesus stands there and weep(35). But Jesus is not ordinary (36)”Then the Jews said: see how he loved him! But some said “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

There is an amazing expectation – if Jesus had been there he could have healed Lazarus – Jesus could work miracles. But it’s a statement based on the evidence – already John has recorded Jesus turning water into wine, healing a sick boy, an invalid, and a blind man, feeding 5,000, and walking on water. Later on at the end of his book John writes “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book...” These miracles are a sampling, it’s no wonder the mourners say if he’d been here he could have kept this man from dying, and Jesus does what God can do.

But here is chapter 11 Jesus is about to astound the crowd, because even death is no obstacle to God. (38-44)There is a resounding tone of realism isn’t there, no-one is expecting a resurrection. Lord he’ll stink says his sister, and you can imagine the dramatic pause after (43)as the crowd wait.
Jesus doesn’t resuscitate Lazarus he speaks the word of life to him conquering death. Jesus does the work of God with God’s power because he is God. The evidence backs up his claims, (11:25)”I am the resurrection and the life...”

Exhibit B
And it isn’t just what Jesus did, hundreds of years before prophets had written down that God would come to his people, across the centuries different prophecies built up the detail of how and where he would be born, how he would live and how he would die. Some of those you could decide to fulfil but others were beyond Jesus control, for example he could not determine or influence where he’d be born, his parents taking him to Egypt when he was a toddler, where he lived on his return, or how he would die. Yet every one is fulfilled in Jesus.

John’s gospel starts with just such a prophet, John the Baptist who described himself as “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, “Make straight the way for the Lord.” Later when John baptises Jesus he says “I have seen and testify that this is God’s Chosen One.” This is the one I was telling you to get ready for, this is the Lord!

God why don’t you just prove you exist? It strikes me that God has done just that in exactly the way we would want him to. Physically, tangibly, with evidence to back up his claims. God made man revealing God to us.

Break up into groups:
1. What are the implications of this for:
a. Our friends and family who say they believe in God?
b. Our friends and family who do not believe in God?
2. What objections might people raise to this? And how can we answer them?
3. Prayer.

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