Summary: Is believing in the existence of God enough to make you a Christian?
WSG and TSJ 05-05-2011
Sermon: I was once sent this story by e-mail:
A man went to a barbershop to have his hair cut and his beard trimmed.
As the barber began to work, they began to have a good conversation.
They talked about so many things and various subjects.
When they eventually touched on the subject of God, the barber said: "I don't believe that God exists."
"Why do you say that?" asked the customer.
"Well, you just have to go out in the street to see that God doesn't exist.
Tell me, if God exists, why are there sick people?
If God exists why are there abandoned children?
If God exists, there would be neither suffering nor pain.
I can't imagine a loving a God who would allow all of these things."
The customer thought for a moment, but didn't respond - because he didn't want to start an argument.
The barber finished his job and the
customer paid left the shop.
Just after he left the barbershop, he saw a man in the street with long, greasy, dirty hair and an untrimmed beard.
The customer turned back and entered the barber shop again and he said to the barber:
"You know what? I don’t believe barbers exist."
"How can you say that?" asked the surprised barber. "I am here, and I am a barber. And I just worked on you!"
"No!" the customer exclaimed. "Barbers don't exist because if they did, there would be no people with long greasy dirty hair and untrimmed beards, like that man outside."
"Ah, but barbers DO exist! What the problem is - is that people with dirty long hair and untrimmed beards don’t come to me."
"Exactly" affirmed the customer. "That's the point! God DOES exist!
The reason why there is so much pain and suffering is not that He doesn’t exist.
Rather it is because people don't come to Him nor do they look for Him.”
But is believing in the existence of God enough to make you a Christian?
And James in his epistle sums up the weakness of simply giving intellectual assent to the proposition that God exists.
He says this:
19You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. (Jas 2:19)
In our Gospel reading this morning, I think Jesus also clearly says it isn’t.
There were many Jews in Jerusalem who clearly believed in God but rejected Jesus – as would be proved just a few days later – when they called for his crucifixion
In Jewish thought, believing in a teacher didn’t just mean giving intellectual assent to his ideas. Rather it meant more.
If you believed in a Rabbi or a teacher, it meant putting his teachings into effect in your life
Being a follower of Jesus didn’t just mean believing in God (as we use the term belief) it meant much more
That belief must affect your life.
Our Gospel reading today is a part of the famous High Priestly Prayer of Jesus - one of the mountain peaks of revelation in John’s Gospel.
William Temple, the former Archbishop of Canterbury has described it as “perhaps the most sacred passage on the four Gospels”
The prayer reveals many things.
In it, Jesus shows us that the rationale for his ministry here on earth - which is to give eternal life to all those who are his true disciples – those whom God the Father had given to Him.
I have just picked up a few ideas from the passage this morning
The first idea that came to me was the importance of prayer in Jesus’ life - and as Christians we need to follow his example.
Jesus doesn’t speak of some sort of distant deity – but he uses the word Abba – which we might more colloquially translate as “Daddy” when speaking with God
And as his followers, Jesus encourages us to get to know his heavenly Father more.
As Christians, we can easily get sidetracked into “doing things for God ” rather than “spending time with God”.
You may recall the story of the two sisters Martha and Mary .
Martha was the busy sister doing things FOR Jesus and Mary was the sister who spent time WITH Jesus.
Who was commended by Jesus - Mary
2. Eternal Life
The second idea that came to me as I was preparing was that, in this prayer, Jesus reveals the whole rationale for his ministry here on earth.
And that was to give his disciples eternal life.
Jesus put it like this
"Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.