As part of our joining Hope Chapel, we are taking the “Hope 101” course taught by Pastor Zac Nazarian. He says that he loves teaching this course and it shows. He’s very enthusiastic about “Beginnings” and takes his cue from the Bible and starts the teaching material with Genesis 1. Not very many folks anymore believe in a “Young Earth” or even the story of Creation in the Bible. They think it a fairy tale, or just something too silly and trite to be believable. I felt that way for 34 years, before becoming a Born Again believer. What changed my opinion was two things, and Pastor Zac articulated pretty much the same two reasons: First, that the Bible says it’s so, and we have found the Bible to be both valid and verifiable; and, second because Jesus believed it also.
What Jesus said should bear the most witness to any Christian, not just because He said it, but because of who He is. Jesus is God, and that’s all that needs saying. We talked last night about Mormons and what they believe. For the first time ever, in the past few years the Mormons have been saying they’re “Christians.” They didn’t used to say that, in fact quite the opposite was true. They used to claim to be something completely different, something “New,” different and better. Today, they call themselves Christians because they desire “Acceptance” by the larger audience, instead of opposition as a cult. But the heart of Mormonism is still the same, and it’s the same as most other “Religions” out there, it is man’s attempt to get to God on “Man’s terms.”
Jesus, on the other hand, and what the Bible really presents, is the story of God’s redemptive work – throughout history – to set apart a people who would love Him and worship Him, and desire nothing more than to be with Him, doing His work for eternity. That’s what Christianity is really about – people who love God as Jesus, and Jesus as God. In fact, they are one and the same. Jesus was not simply a “Man who did good works” and neither was He a “Great teacher” or “Prophet.” Jesus is God, and He’s alive and well today, and living in the hearts of believers all over, and His message has never changed: “I came to seek and to save the lost” He says, that’s you and me friend, sinners, saved by His mercy and grace.
Beginnings is so appropriate in the fact that it starts with foundational truth, the hard stuff, but the right stuff as believers to challenge ourselves. How big is your God? Could He have created everything in 6 days? Could He really have spoke and “Bang!” it happened? Is He really powerful enough to have created all energy and matter in the physical universe we deal with (space and time) and still be powerful enough to know all there is in it and to have numbered the hairs on my head (even though there are few of those left now!)? My answer to that question is “100% absolutely, certainly and without a doubt – YES!”
The day I became a believer, I realized I believed every word in the Bible – without doubt. The difficult part is that I don’t understand parts of it, and those are the parts I must work on for the rest of my life. I am committed to that, to becoming more like Jesus every day, in what I do, how I act towards others and myself, and how I seek to plan my future and so on and so forth. Jesus is not God of the past, or of the present, or of the future, He’s a God of all three! He cares about all parts of our lives. He tenderly and gently washes us clean with His blood, and sets us free from the pain and guilt of our past, and then He helps us with our daily struggles, and helps us learn how to plan and build and molds us into useful parts of His Body (the Church).
I’ve been a Christian now for over 15 years, probably over 16 actually. I’m trying to think, I believe it was May 21, 1995 when I decided to join my first church, Northshore Baptist Church, in Bothell, WA. Those folks listened to me after I came there to be in a Divorce Recovery group. At the time I was not a Christian, I was just angry. She did it all to me! She hurt me! I was destroyed by Divorce. Today, I thank God for using what He did to bring me to my knees and repentance and to help me turn from sin, from the world and its ways, to a life with meaning and purpose and goals (Heaven!). I am fortunate, not all of us are to be blessed like that. But, the Bible tells us that “In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.” (Matthew 18:14).
Paul says that if he should boast, indeed if any of us should boast, we should boast in Christ who gave us eternal life. That’s my boast today. At some point in my life I had to make a choice to believe in Him and to believe that He had the power to set me free from sin and death. It’s up to all of us to determine whether or not we are sinners. Sin, in its most basic definition means “Missing the mark.” A more useful working definition for me is “Rebellion against God.” That, in essence was the nature of the “First sin” in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve rebelled against God and chose “Independence” as opposed to “Dependence” from God. Later, God gave us the 10 Commandments to make it rather simple to determine when you had sinned.
What you need to realize is that the “Law” is God given in order that we may understand we are sinners, and thus our need for God. It’s really that simple. Some folks try to make it much more complex, and insist you have to do so many other things. A relationship with the living God, Jesus Christ starts with our admission that we have sinned and that we need His grace and mercy to save us from the penalty for sin: death. God is a righteous and just God, that’s why we would be sentenced to death (eternal pain and suffering in hell), not because He is a mean God or something silly like that. It’s just amazing to me that people think they can live however they want and think God will “Pardon” them or something when they get to Heaven because they were a “Nice person.” If you break one law, any law, anytime in your life, you are guilty of breaking the entire law the Bible tells us and therefore you are guilty! Could a righteous and just God let you into Heaven because you were a “Nice person?” No! You’re guilty and need Jesus atoning blood and His sacrifice on the cross to cover your sins.
I tell people today that when God looks at me He sees Jesus, because I have accepted Jesus blood and sacrifice for my sins. It’s as if He sees me through “Jesus colored spectacles.” That’s kind of weird, but it’s how I think of it. He no longer sees me or my sin, I’ve been bought and paid for by Jesus finished work on the Cross at Calvary. The whole process of atonement is foreign to me, and I don’t understand it very well, having grown up in the city in the mid-20th Century, but what the Bible tells us about it is that sin requires sacrifice – blood – to pay for the penalty, otherwise, there would be consequences (hell and damnation). The whole process in the Old Testament with the Hebrews and God’s “Chosen People” is to teach us all about sin, the consequences, the price of “Atonement” and that in reality, none of us can make it alone – we need Jesus.
The law, in all its perfection, was incapable of saving anyone as Paul tells us in Romans. All it did was point out our sin and our need of a Savior. Which brings us back to the beginning. Adam and Eve blew it in the Garden. They sent mankind on a spiraling downward course of sin and destruction that continues to this day. We have seen that in all man’s glory, the greatest technological achievements are used for destroying one another and always seem to wind up in the wrong hands and get used for wrong purposes. In man’s view of the world, the strong always rule over the weak. This was why when Darwin came along, the Imperialists grabbed on to his theories and used them to exploit their advantage!
Pastor Zac said the other night that all Dictators are inherently Darwinist’s and that they use the maxim: “Strength is power!” as their rallying cry. I have studied history most of my life, and I believe this is true. There’s almost no way of escaping that reality when you study history and the tales of men going to war to fight one another in the perpetual struggle to determine who’s strongest. At the turn of the 20th Century, there were many who thought war was a thing of the past, and that men had finally “evolved” into some state where they would no longer use violence to carry out national policy. Boy oh boy were they ever wrong!
The 20th Century wound up being more violent with more killed and with more far-reaching consequences than at any other point in history! Contrary to popular belief however, most of the wars fought in the 20th Century were not “Religious” in nature, although many suffered as a result of their religion, e.g., the Jews in the Holocaust. There were genocides, and atrocities of a violent and evil nature never seen before. It makes my belief in the Bible stronger as a result, because all this was predicted thousands of years ago by those who followed the true God.
So, can you believe the Bible? Is it trustworthy? Is it a good “Beginning?” At some point, each of us must make our own decision about it. If you want to take my word for it, you will find that I give the Bible two thumbs up, and two big toes up, and a 10/10 score and whatever else I can say to let you know it’s the most unique, the most fascinating and the most readable book ever written. I read it every day, and I frequently read passages again and again and again just to try to get more meaning out of it. There is no other book around with which you can do that!
I pray today the Holy Spirit gives you a glimpse of something more in this life and you find a hunger to find out what that is. I pray that the casual reader will be challenged to find out what “Truth” is, what real truth is! God is real, his book is real. He really did come down to be with us in human form, and He really did change the world – by impacting people, you and me, one heart at a time. I pray your heart is opened to Jesus this day. May God bless you richly. He’s inviting you right now into His kingdom. Forever.