Episode 21: Why I Believe What I Believe

Peace to Live By Episode 21: Why I Believe What I Believe - Daniel Litton
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[Transcripts may not match broadcasted sermon word for word, and may contain extra material that was cut from the broadcast due to time constraints]

       When people think about life, it is important for them to understand why they believe what they believe. I mean, who wants to go through life just believing what you have come up with inside your mind, through your own thoughts? But this is what many people do. They believe things about life and the unseen world (if they believe in an unseen world) based on what they think—the rules they have developed in their own minds. Even religious people can do this. People who are professing Christians may develop constructs in their thinking about what the Bible means or says about a certain life issue or topic, all the while having never read or really understood what the Bible actually does say about the matter.

       Today, I want to cut through the fat, if you will, and explain to you why I personally believe what I believe about life, the supernatural—who God is. It is true that I spend a great amount of my own personal time telling people the Good News of Jesus Christ, which comes from the Christian religion as the world sees it—the evangelical sect among others. But why would I do this? Why would I spend so much time, effort, and energy preparing and delivering messages about the Christian God? After all, isn't religion just something that is personal to people, and something that is whatever a person wants to make of it? Or is religion based in reality?

       There are many different religions or thought constructs I could choose to believe in, in the world. Whether it be Christianity, or Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism—whatever it be, or I could be an agnostic or atheist. And there are all kinds of philosophies I could lend my mind to—different types of thinking about the world we live in. The world today offers so many options—so many choices. And people have a wide-range of systems they have developed in order to seemingly live freely, at peace of mind. It is important, though, no matter what we believe, that we make sure that it is correct, that it is true. It has to be correct because, if it is wrong, there could be dire consequences. For instance, if I am a Christian and believe in the Christian God, but the god of Islam is the correct god, then I certainly will face punishment after this life if I die without believing in him. Or, if I choose to be an agnostic, but the Christian God really is real, then again I will be in big trouble when die and enter the next realm of life.

       Let's take a moment and consider what Peter, one of Jesus' disciples—his chief follower—said in his epistle in the New Testament. He said to Christians: “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience” (1 Peter 3:15-16ex, ESV). Therefore, we understand that it is important for Christians to be able, and with appropriate tone, give a defense to what they believe. Well, today I want to take the time to explain to you why I believe what I believe, and why I think it is correct, even over all other belief constructs and systems in the world.

       Before I get started though, I would like us to remember that there can really only be one set of beliefs about the world, about what we see around us, that is in fact true. That is, multiple religions cannot be equally true when they contradict each other. You can't have the Christian God stating he is the only God, and have the god of Islam saying the same thing. Only one of them can be correct, unless they both real but liars. I accept the reality that what is true can be known by all mankind. I accept the fact that truth—in its core essence—can really be known and understood. To say otherwise is to allow for the possibility of anything. But even mere nature itself tells you that there are, what we call, natural laws, and these laws demonstrate truth. Gravity, for instance, demonstrates a truth. On the earth, it will always have its full affect, unless you are able to conquer it with a great force—like an airplane does. But in its natural setting, gravity is always true.

       To start, I want to take us back to the far reaches of the universe. If we are actually able to go that far, and then come around back to our own solar system, we would undoubtedly see a wide-range of sites. There would be many stars, constellations, galaxies, etc, that we would pass on our journey here. Much of what we would see has immense beauty, and all of it has elements of design. Solar systems, for instance, are set up with a star or stars, and there is a planet or planets (or even other objects) which revolve around the sun. The setup screams design. Most of the time, the planets move in circles or ovals around the sun, and usually on a single plain, which in and of itself is very interesting. We don't see the chaos that at least I would expect to see if it all came about randomly or naturally.

       Once we reach our own solar system, we realize that the earth is positioned in just the right spot, as many scientists will tell us, that makes it suitable, or habitable, for life. If it were just a little closer to the Sun, or maybe just a little further away, life would be greatly endangered. We would either burn or freeze. Not to mention that the earth is circular, and so are the other planets in our solar system. They all have similar circular shapes, though obviously varying masses. They all have their own, unique beauty. Jupiter is glorious, and very large at the same time. It's positioned at such a point as to provide the earth protection from most hazardous asteroids that may threaten its existence. Neptune is a beautiful blue. But the true outer glory of our solar system is definitely Saturn with it magnificent colors and illustrious rings. There is such splendor and order to these planets.

       One doesn't need to stop there in looking at our solar system, but can learn much more by going down into the earth. Just look at it—how intricately it is designed! It gets its life from the sun, the air, and water. Everything has to be just right. All life flourishes and grows on the earth. And it’s all beautiful. Whether you’re standing in a meadow, covered in high, yellow grass looking toward a mountain, or if you standing on a beach somewhere and looking at the ocean in front of you—whatever it is—it’s all beautiful. But why would it be so scenic if there was no God? Where do these feelings of beauty come from? Why is there so much order and precision, which we recognize as beautiful?

       Now that we can see that everything has been designed, that means there has to be a designer. But which one is the correct one? Which one has the most likelihood of being the ‘real’ God? Let’s take a look at the major world religions. It only seems plausible that the real God or gods would want to make himself or herself—themselves--known. After all, the humans he or she has created are social beings. So, why wouldn’t he or she be social?

       It seems only plausible to me, that of the major world religions, only the oldest ones should be counted as possibilities. Why would the real Creator wait so long to reveal him or herself to mankind? Doesn’t seem likely. Therefore, we can eliminate right off the bat both Buddhism and Islam, for these religions are particularly new religions. Buddhism didn’t come into play until about the 6th century B.C., whereas Islam wasn’t created, as it is now, until 600 A.D. Wow, that’s a really new religion! While Islam acknowledges the Torah, the first five Jewish books of the Old Testament, they say that they are distorted and incorrect as we read them today. They are saying their god couldn’t handle keeping his word pure. That doesn’t seem very trustworthy, then.

       Now, Hinduism is an older, ancient religion—possibly dating as far back as 2,600 B.C., but definitely alive and well by 1750 B.C. So, now were getting into something that seems more plausible. But perhaps the core essence of the problem with Hinduism is that it allows the individual person to define God—for him or her to see what as he or she wants to. Such a so called ‘freedom’ denies natural laws of order and design. Really, there isn’t much order with Hinduism. I have already explained that absolute truth exists—but Hinduism would deny or ignore this. Consequently, it doesn’t really seem to match the order of things that we see in nature. Its own texts themselves state that it really cannot be known how the universe was created, or who God, or the gods, really are. So, how can we depend on this?

       So, of the major world religions, this leaves us with the Jewish God. The first writings we have are from the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament, which were written approximately 1,500 B.C by Moses (who was the leader of the Israelites at the time). The oldest book in the Old Testament actually isn’t Genesis, which is the first book, but rather it is the Book of Job. The setting of Job is pre-flood. Now, even though nothing apparently was written down, or officially written down until 1,500 B.C., Job’s knowledge, throughout the book bearing his name, seems to indicate a knowledge about God beyond the norm. That is, things about God must have been passed down from the first people—Adam and Eve—to those who would live after them.

       The Torah gives us a good account of the creation of the world and mankind, as well as God’s strict guidelines by which he wanted his people to live by at the time. As a matter of fact, nothing that God said in these books seem mystical, or is blatantly contradictory to what we see around us in the world. In fact, the Torah gives us clues to how the earth was pre-flood, and to how it is today. When reading these books, they make good sense, and they don’t contradict each other. There are no teachings that contradict each other. The book of Job even seems to give us clear pictures of dinosaurs, which is really incredible if one thinks about it.

       But why not just believe in the Old Testament? Where does Jesus Christ come into the picture? Well, God in the Old Testament through his Spirit predicted through different writers that the Messiah was coming to the earth. Jesus himself said, ““Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matthew 5:17-18, ESV). He was saying that he was fulfilling the Old Testament, not saying it was abolished and inaccurate. Jesus, as Messiah, was the answer to everyone’s sin problem, which separates people from God. The Jewish God demands a payment for sins from people. Jesus came to the earth and died on a Roman cross as a substitutionary death for every human of all time. He rose from the dead, and every human who accepts his sacrifice on his or her behalf is forgiven by God for all sins. The person becomes God’s own, and is no longer in danger of his wrath. So the Jewish God predicted Jesus would come—and came he did.

       Why would Jesus, as a human, die on the cross if he were simply a human, or a good man at that? Jesus, on more than one occasion, stated that he is God. Now, if he’s not God, but simply just a man, then he indeed was a lair. And if he’s a lair, then he wasn’t that good of a man, was he? Would Jesus really go all the way to a Roman execution on a cross to keep a lie alive? He told his disciples he had to die. Perhaps he was just crazy then. But reading the words of Jesus, the things he said, doesn’t seem to show a crazy man. What about his Eleven disciples who lived after he went back to heaven? They all died martyrs deaths. They were with Jesus. Did they too die for a lie, or were they all crazy? So, now, we’re saying we had Jesus plus eleven other crazy people, not to mention the Apostle Paul? What gain had they in dying gruesome, hard deaths? Certainly there was no money involved. They weren’t violent people—like many today who do die for lies and often have never seen anything with their own eyes. These people are brainwashed and believe in things that aren’t true. They have been led astray by Satan himself.

       So, if the Jewish God is real, and Jesus is real, then that means everything they say in their Word is true. Or, if not all of it is true, why would we trust in them? Nevertheless, understanding it to be true, that means we, as humans, are accountable to everything the Christian God has made known to us in his Word. Things like murder, sexual morality, stealing, etc, are important to God. That is, God doesn't want people to perform these actions because they offend him. And since he's real, it matters what offends him.

       But when looking at what the Bible calls 'sin,' isn't it apparent that it is correct? I mean, after all, we all know it's wrong to murder someone, or at least most of us here in the United States would agree to this. Fornication doesn't provide the best model for living. The safest and healthiest way to be sexually active is in a single, absolutely committed, married relationship with a person of the opposite sex. Nature itself shows us that two people being a couple should be of the opposite sex. That's what our natural laws show. Besides, this is the way that humans are designed—in such a way that they fit perfectly together as one. Most people, again, here in the States would agree that stealing is wrong and shouldn't be done, though I think it depends on the amount stolen. Many would say that it's okay to steal a little when the item or items being stolen are in small amounts or of small value. But what people think, or what the majority thinks, really doesn't matter. All that really matters is what God thinks.

       So, let's recap why I believe what I believe, and I want you to consider why you believe what you believe. I believe in the Christian God, number one, because the earth and universe clearly show design, so much so that it really isn't even debatable—even though many, many people don't see this. Psalm 92 captures my thought well: “It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night, to the music of the lute and the harp, to the melody of the lyre. For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy. How great are your works, O LORD Your thoughts are very deep!” (Psalm 92:1-5, ESV).

       Number two, I believe in the Christian God because, of the world religions, he is most likely to be real. God tells us, through Isaiah, the following: “Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. Who is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before me, since I appointed an ancient people. Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen. Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.” (Isaiah 44:6-8, ESV)

       Third, I believe in God because he is correct in what he says about morality. He prohibits the right things and permits the right things. What he says makes good, logical sense. Paul told Timothy: “Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.” (1 Timothy 1:8-11, ESV)

       But really, besides of all this, I believe in Jesus Christ as God because when he opened my eyes, some 14 years ago now, I could see what a lot of others couldn't. I saw how he changed me from the moment I believed and was saved from my sins by trusting in his sacrifice on the cross. I now saw many things the way he sees them, even though there was much learning still yet that needed to be done. But I understood he was God, and I understood my need for him. Today, if you've never had the experience of trusting in Jesus, I hope you will seriously consider what has been said, and seriously consider God's nudge on your heart as I am speaking.

       It is true that God wants everyone to come to know him. After all, he is the One and True God, and everyone must come to him to be saved from the offenses they've committed against him. He wants everyone to come to him and be saved. He doesn't want anyone to have to face his wrath upon death. God, though, is a holy and righteous God, and in his holiness cannot let anyone into the peaceful world after this one without having a payment for their sins. God, in his gracious mercy, came down to the earth, some 2,000 years ago, and died an excruciating death on a Roman cross so that everyone can have a payment for their sins. But people have to believe in Jesus, accepting this payment, and surrender their lives to him because he knows what is best.

       People are not gods. You can't control your own destiny. The real God has already determined how long you will live. Surrendering you life to God is a good thing, because you're taking the burden off your shoulders and putting it on his. He desperately wants to be your Father. He is a good Father and gives the world to his children—but this is the real world, Heaven itself. God is not a killjoy. He doesn't just tell his children what they cannot do. His commandments are good, right, and true and are meant to protect people and allow them to live life to its fullest extent. But don't be fooled, a human can't simply have life from following God's commands. Life comes in the transforming process that occurs when you accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior.

       If God has pricked your heart today, and you want to become a Christian—you want to believe in him, then just follow my lead in this prayer:

Today God I am giving my life over to you. I can't live life on my own anymore, nor do I want to you. I accept what Jesus did on the cross for my sins, and I believe he rose from the dead in order to give me, personally, a new life. Please forgive me of my sins and change my life, so that I become one of your children. Help me to make you happy, and live in such a way that pleases you. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.

       Let's pray:

       Heavenly Father, I want to thank you today for the opportunity to share what happened to me, and why I believe in you. I pray, Father, that those listening would make the same decision for Jesus, and that they would choose to believe in you. You tell us, Father, that you love everyone and want everyone to come to know you. Please help those who have made the choice for Jesus today. Help them to be close to you, and grounded in your Word. Continue to prick those who are not accepting you, and draw them to yourself. Please, Father, don't let them alone until they choose you. Continue to make yourself known to them, no matter where they are or what they are doing. In Jesus' name I ask and pray, Amen.

-Daniel Litton