It's always interesting to me when I hear people share what they believe about the existence of God and which God they believe in. Some people believe in Allah, others in nothingness (ala "The Buddha"), some in an accommodating God who accepts everyone and others in no God at all. Hindus believe there are something like three hundred million gods!
It's even more interesting to me when I hear why people believe what they believe about God. Ask most people from most religions why they believe what they believe and they'll give an answer that swirls around their holy book. But which holy book is right? Is it the Bible? The Koran? The Book of Mormon? Tom Cruise's handy guide to all things Scientology?
Some say they believe what they believe about God because of the difference he, she or it has made in their lives. But just because something has made a difference doesn't make that something God. And if a Muslim, Christian, Mormon and Jew all claim that their God has made a difference in their lives then which god is the real God?
There's a hymn (a old timey church worship song) that makes reference to Christ's resurrection. It goes, "you ask me how I know he lives, he lives within my heart." But if you ask a Mormon why they believe the Book of Mormon is true and they'll respond that they get a burning in their bosom when they read it. And you ask a Muslim and they'll tell you the difference Allah has made in their lives.
So how do you know? How can you know?
Let me tell you how I know. Le me take you on my personal journey of embracing Jesus as the only way of salvation and the God of the Bible being the true and only God.
As a young child I always found myself staring up into the sky looking at the stars, especially when we went camping in the mountains. I remember thinking that al this stuff had to come from Someone way bigger than me. That Someone had to be big, strong, smart and totally in control. That Someone had to be God. Little did I know that I was engaging in what some call The Teleological Argument. It simply goes like this: design requires a designer.
You don't look at a beautiful painting and think "Wow, what an accident!" You think, "Wow, what an artist!" The same is true of the ultimate masterpiece, the universe itself. There had to be a big brain behind the intricate design of it all. There had to be a big power behind it all to make the concept a reality. From the amazing human body to the vastness of the universe to the surprisingly complex world of the micro universe (protons, neutrons, quarks, etc) there has to be a God.
I knew it as a child and so did you. Romans 1:19-20 reminds us that we all knew it, "since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse."
Down deep inside we all know there is a God. The universe makes that clear. Atheistic evolution is just a smokescreen to keep us from seeing His Presence. But, inevitably, the fog lifts for all of us and in our heart of hearts we know He is there.
On June 23rd, 1974 I trusted in Jesus as my Savior. Through His Spirit He came to live inside my soul. It may not prove Christianity to anyone else but the changes I saw Him make in my life proved it to me. He gave me hope, purpose and forgiveness. My story was not enough to prove his existence to anyone else but it was more than enough for me.
Then I started really studying his Word and began to sense that this was truth. And it claimed again and again to be the truth, the God inspired truth (Proverbs 30:5; John 17:17: 2 Timothy 3:16.)
As I grew older and began to share my faith in my early teens I would point my friends to the sky, tell them about the difference Jesus made in my life and then take them to the Scriptures. Some of them believed. But some of them did not.
They started asking me questions like,
"How do you know your experiences are any less valid than someone from a different religion?"
"So what if the Bible claims to be the truth, so does The Book of Mormon and The Koran. What makes the Bible true?"
"How do you know that your God is the right God?"
As I wrestled with these excellent questions over the years I began to put myself in the shoes of God. If I were God, I wondered, how would I prove my way was the only way to the world? Here's what I have deduced over the last four decades of my life on this earth:
1. I would make people look up.
I would create an amazing earth and a breathtaking sky to get everyone's attention. That would be my bullhorn that would scream, "I am here and I am not silent! This is not an accident! All of this was made by me for you! You can see that I am powerful by the creation itself! You can see that I am good because I'm giving you so many good things to enjoy! You can see that I am because I AM!"
2. I would send people a holy book.
I wouldn't send it all at once. I would send it over the course of 1,500 years from forty different men from all sorts of cultural backgrounds. Why would I do that? Because the only way such a wide-ranging book from such wide-ranging authors would completely agree on everything they touched on would be if I was the real Author behind it all. My Spirit would prove that this book was from God through the sheer fact that every word on every page is totally non contradictory with everything else on every other page!
Anyone could claim to have written a holy book (Joseph Smith, Mohammed, etc) but this book was not the brain child of one person with a vivid imagination. It was a project that took 15 decades to complete and even longer to compile. The miracle of the Bible is its absence of errors. Those who claim that it is full of errors usually haven't read it through once. I have studied it again and again over the last forty two years of my life and I have yet to find one legitimate error. The only way that could happen is that it was completely inspired by God Himself.
3. I would give proofs in that book that were indisputable.
As I studied the Word of God over the years I began to see that there was an indisputable pile of proof that showed the Bible was divine in origin. I began to realize that if I were God I wouldn't just give them a holy book and tell them "just believe it." I would give them reasons to believe that were powerful.
Did you know that the Old Testament contains over three hundred prophecies about Jesus that were literally and fully fulfilled in him? These aren't wussy prophecies that are relatively unclear and written in a way that could be taken in several ways. These are specific prophecies like:
The place where Jesus would be born (Mich 5:2)
That he would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14)
How Jesus would die (Psalm 22)
That Jesus would rise again (Psalm 16:8-11)
And on and on and on the list goes. And not just about Jesus. The Old Testament is jammed full of fulfilled prophecies. Daniel, written about five centuries before Jesus hit the earth crawling, is packed full of amazing prophecies.
Did you know that the book of Daniel predicts the coming of Medo Persian kingdom, the Greek Kingdom, the coming of Alexander the Great, the four generals that would take over after his death, the Roman kingdom and the date of Christ's death with extreme accuracy?The only way that could happen if there was a divine being, who was above the realm of time and space, who could predict the future because He saw it more clearly than you or I see the past or present.
There's a lot more proof than what I have listed here. Check out some of the books written by my buddies Josh McDowell, Lee Strobel and Alex MacFarland to get more good stuff. Search their books on Amazon and bust out ye olde' credit card. You won't be disappointed.
4. I would send my Son and have Him die and then raise Him from the dead.
Check out this passage in 1 Corinthians 15:3-6,
"For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep."
Jesus appeared to over 500 people after he arose from the dead. Many of them were willing to die for what they had seen. As someone has said, many will die for what they think to be the truth. But nobody will die for what they know to be a lie. The early martyrs who had seen Jesus after his resurrection from the dead were willing to die for what they knew to be the truth…He is alive!
So why do I believe in the God of the Bible?
I see His handywork in the sky. I sense His presence in my soul. I've seen the difference in my life. I read His book that is perfect and amazing and a miracle in and of itself. I read the fulfilled prophecies that could never be predicted without God providing the insight into the future. I embrace the resurrected Jesus, the same Jesus that the early Christians were willing to die for because they were eyewitnesses of His presence. And that resurrected Jesus has transformed my life.
My reasons for believing are part relational, part rational and part experiential. The relational and experiential were enough for me to believe in Jesus on June 23rd, 1974. But the rational reasons to believe gave me more confidence over the years that my faith was more than just a personal belief. It was the truth. God gave proof of this faith as the true faith by raising Jesus from the dead.
I don't care why you believe in Jesus. Whether it is a relational, experiential or rational reason I'm just thrilled that you believe. But know this. You have full bodied, multi dimensional reasons to believe in God. These reasons encompass your heart, soul and mind. They range from the beauty in the sky to fulfilled prophecies to personal transformation to the warm fuzzies in your heart when you think about Him. Isn't it just like God to give us every reason to believe in Him with every level of our humanity?
Your mission is to share these reasons to believe with every person that you know.
Go for it.