Summary: There are so many ideas about "God," How can we know what to believe. This is a teaching sermon that attempts to answer the quest.
WITH ALL THE IDEAS ABOUT "GOD,"
HOW CAN WE KNOW WHAT TO BELIEVE?
Dr. David L. Haun
Of all the things God desires in our lives, the thing He wants from us more than anything else is that we know him. In the Old Testament book of Hosea, The prophet writes: "For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings." (Hosea 6:6 NRSV)
Jesus echoed this same theme near the end of His ministry. One of the final recorded prayers which He offered makes this clear. In that prayer just before His trial, we hear Him say, "And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent."
(Jn. 17.3 NRSV)
If God has this primary desire for us to have knowledge of Him, what are we supposed to know? The answer might be found in the writings of an Old Testament prophet named Jeremiah. This prophet for God stated:
"Thus says the Lord, ’Do not let the wise boast in their wisdom, do not let the mighty boast in their might, do not let the wealthy boast in their wealth; but let those who boast, boast in this, that they understand and know me, that I am the Lord; I act with steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth, for in these things I delight, says the Lord’." (Jeremiah 9:23-24 NRSV)
How can we understand God’s reality in a way meaningful for our lives? How can we fulfill this requirement for a knowledge of God which He has intended for our lives?
THERE ARE TWO BASIC CONCEPTS REGARDING "GOD"
ACCEPTED BY INDIVIDUALS AROUND THE WORLD
First, there are those individuals who insist there is no supernatural power behind the universe in which we live. The world is simply the result of evolution or chance. There is no force with personality behind it. Perhaps the best examples of this position today would be the philosophy of Communism, or in the "free" world, those who believe in "Secular Humanism."
This concept stresses that the world and life on it is the result of a series of fortunate or unfortunate evolutionary actions. It is based upon the concept that there is nothing beyond the physical existence which we experience around us.
The contrasting belief is held by individuals, who believe there is some kind of God, force, or power that is responsible for, and in control of the universe and more specifically, our world. This force deals with everything we are and everything we have.1 These individuals, whether they call themselves Buddhist, Moslem, Jewish, Christian, or an Animist who worships a sacred tree in a jungle, believe there is an ultimate being and power behind creation and the world.
So, humanity is generally in one of two camps: those who believe there is a God or Force beyond man, and those who believe no such ultimate power exists. A third camp would say we simply cannot know one way or the other.
Adherents to each of these positions tend to deny the validity of the other position. Although there are instances of efforts through history to merge the positions, they are incompatible. There is an intelligent force behind creation and existence, or there is not. It cannot be both ways.
THOSE WHO BELIEVE IN THE EXISTENCE OF A PERSONAL FORCE BEHIND CREATION FALL INTO TWO DISTINCT GROUPS.
First, there are those who believe that while God does exist, and that He is the creator, He is transcendent and separate from the world. This concept sees God above and beyond the evaluations of right and wrong. He is so ultimate and powerful that He transcends our human judgments of good and evil. Those with this belief would assert that we call things on earth good or bad on the basis of our human perspective, and not from some innate "godly" judgment. In this belief, the evaluation of right and wrong depends on the situation.
To illustrate: across much of the state of Florida, there is a small insect known as the "love bug." While similar in appearance to the mosquito, the love bug was born without a stinger. At first glance they appear a harmless part of the Florida landscape. Love bugs have little function or interest beyond the fulfillment of their name. They know how to make love. Every spring, all across Florida, uncounted millions of the tiny creatures fly through the sunlight connected together in what appears to be an eternal bliss of love.
They seem to have no natural enemy. The acid content of their blood makes them distasteful to birds. Other insects seem to leave them alone. The only interruption to their constant joy of love seems to be the front end of fast moving vehicles. And so, each spring, a drive across Florida results in the windshield and grill of every car being liberally spattered with little black bugs.