Monday, November 28, 2016

How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?

I am nearly at 160 questions now, and am about to publish the fourth book, each containing 40 questions. Yet, when I considered this question, I thought surely I have answered it already. But, no, I found that I have never answered this question, when I seem at last to be running out of questions. It is such a basic Biblical question that I assumed I had gotten to it. By Biblical, I do mean it is foundational, but also I mean it literally. It is found in the Bible. It is found in Hebrews 2:3, “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?”. It is what we call a rhetorical question—or a question which suggests its own answer. The writer of Hebrews goes on to remind us that the Lord himself validated this salvation by his words, and then witnesses further validated it with signs and wonders brought by the Holy Spirit.

One of the many mistakes modern man makes is to assume the historical man was easier to fool. It is one major excuse I hear for not considering the gospel. They dismiss the gospel as silly superstition, and then, sadly, a great many people never consider it further. But man has always recognized that our world is governed by certain laws, even if they could not enunciate those laws. They knew already that miracles did not happen, voices did not speak out of heaven, and the dead did not rise. That these things did happen resulted in a huge historical reaction, with many people testifying of its truthfulness in the face of much persecution, even sometimes resulting in death.

It is natural for even an infant to know when these normal laws are broken. I was reminded of how quickly even babies know these rules recently when I saw a talking doll speaking to an infant. The infant showed surprise, dismay, and then began crying. She knew that only living things talked. She knew that all sorts of laws or rules were being broken when she heard one speak. It does little good to pretend that prior generations did not have this nearly innate ability to tell fraud from reality. Skeptics like Thomas have always said expressed their disbelief. Why do we believe Thomas’s skepticism when he wants to see the nail holes in the hands and the hole in the side? It is our reaction, one that we recognize we might well have said ourselves. Jesus had already shown the other disciples, and for Thomas, not being present at the time, that should have been enough. Instead, like many of us, he insists that he must see for himself. Imagine his embarrassment when Jesus later tells him here are the holes, thrust your hand into them. Thomas looks, and then replies, My Lord, and My God. It seems to me that too many of us are ready to believe the first initial skepticism of Thomas while not accepting his later testimony.

Behind it all, in the mind of Thomas, he must have been thinking that people are not raised from the dead—therefore the Lord could not have come back. You see, Thomas was just as rational as you or me, and he knew beyond a doubt that coming back to life was an impossibility. Of course, Thomas is wrong, but it is his presumption that I want to talk about here. I think Thomas was exactly like many of us living today. He knew that the miraculous did not happen. He knew that dead was dead, and for him that was the end of the question. He did not have to speculate on whether it happened or not. He already knew that it could not happen.

Thomas was guilty of the same presumption that many of us make. We say: there cannot be miracles because I have never seen a miracle. It is the worst sort of circular logic, and has led to the demise of many a soul. God could not have parted the Red Sea because I do not believe in the supernatural. Lewis had a firm hold on this notion when he has Aslan speaking into existence the creation of Narnia, but all Uncle Andrew hears is fearsome noise, and eventually he is able to shut that out. Our Father spoke from heaven declaring that before his Son went to the cross, that he had glorified his name and will glorify it again. Some heard the voice for what is was; others heard but a thundering; still others paid no attention at all to the voice. If you are determined not to see God, if you are willful and bent against even the possibility of his existence, if you only get angry when confronted with the miraculous, then God will let you have your way. For those who will be willfully blind in the end cannot see—not even the forest for the trees.

The time is drawing close to when a man shall be tested whether his foundation is firm or not. Who has built on sand and who has built on rock? As our pastor said this morning, “You cannot tell the foundation until the storm has passed.”1 The time of the great storm is yet ahead, when the foundation that all men have built upon shall be tried. In that day, and at that time, every man’s choices will become clear, and we will know whether they have built on an enduring foundation or not.

Strange as it may seem to critics, Christianity is strong enough to withstand all inquiry, if the inquirer comes with real questions. There is a plethora of books which do a strong job of defending the particulars of Christianity, and one of the delightful things in coming to Christ is beginning to figure out the arguments and realize that your side is not the side of ignorance. Faith is quite capable of enduring questions, and even becoming stronger when tested. I would invite those who are skeptical, but at least questioning, to begin with taking a look at The Case for Christ, by Lee Strobel. It is a delightful read from the perspective of a questioning skeptic, and includes a lot of further resources to check out if you still find yourselves with questions.

When I came to Christ at 19, I had pretty much already settled my beliefs. Yeah, there could be a God, but it didn’t seem likely to me. Science had nearly explained everything. I had three years of Biology at that time, and did not see much reason why it was not true. But then I made the mistake of taking chemistry. We learned the chart of elements and discussed the three states that matter is found in. It was while contemplating the three states of water, that I first began to get an idea of probable purpose and design. What if water had slightly different properties? Suppose it boiled at 95 degrees instead of 212 degrees? Suppose it froze at 50 degrees? Life could not endure on our planet if its properties differed in the least. And that was only one common molecule in our earth! There were a lot of other molecules, all acting in certain ways to enhance life on earth. Even looking at it from my rather simplistic viewpoint, it became obvious to me that things were highly organized, and that screamed design to me—and thus implied a Designer.

But even when I admitted Design as a possibility, that was a long way from the Christian God who is said to give his very presence to us. How could a God who designed the whole universe possibly care about me? It was a couple of years before I encountered Christians who claimed to have a personal relationship with the God of the universe, and when I investigated that, I found it to be true. It was the most mind-boggling experience of my life! It was not until much later that I would read in Psalm 40: “Many, O Lord my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered” (v. 5). Perhaps it was not until that point that I would absorb the gospel. Nevertheless, it was the first time that I found out that the baby Jesus was more than just a baby.

You see, I had heard, with all Americans I think, that Jesus was a baby sent from God to come into the world, but if I had to explain the gospel to others, I might have stopped there, not at all realizing the sacrifice that Jesus had done—for me. Jesus said, “I have come to do thy will, Oh God.” And he came into the world, to be scourged and despised of men, to die an ignoble death on the cross, and be raised on the third day—for me. My sins were nailed to that cross, with him, that I might have life, and have it abundantly. And he did it for me. Knowing me, my inner sinful self, and still choosing to love me. For me.

I think we can supply all the answer books to questions that one could ask, but at the end of the day, there is no more powerful testimony than this: He changed my life, unalterably and completely. There is no better way of describing it than Jesus did when he proclaimed “ye must be born again”. Millions of people, throughout the previous 2,000 years have all proclaimed his saving power, and have lived changed lives because of it. That should be your most powerful reason to begin questioning whether there might indeed be something more to His story—for you.

1. From sermon delivered on 11/27/16, Sunday, Dave Flaig.

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