Summary: This sermon provides an introduction to Christian concepts, Christian epistemology, and the distinguishing marks of the Christian.
Despite the obvious differences in theology, philosophy and practice among Christians, there is a discernible common thread that runs through them all. And, conversely, there is more than a little commonality among critiques of Christianity, some of which may be valid critiques, much of which, however, is the product of ignorance, bias, misrepresentation, distortion, exaggeration, and in more than a few cases hatred of Christianity. Christianity does, after all, rock the boat and challenge the status quo.
There is a redemptive wisdom to be found in Christianity if one has an ear to hear. There is an ennobling beauty to be seen, if one has the eye to see it. And yet, not everyone is prepared to hear and to see. Seed can be sown, but not everyone is fertile soil for the seed of divine wisdom which the sower sows. Not everyone is receptive. But to those so blessed, there is wisdom to be gained, and happiness to be experienced. The teachings of Christ are capable of regenerating the hardened heart and bringing new life to those whose path has been darkened by sin and despair.
Test, and then decide. Observe the fruit that has been brought forth from the seed of wisdom found in Christ’s teachings. Good seed planted in fertile soil brings forth the fruit of love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance all springing from that fountainhead of wisdom, the Word of God.
Not all who claim to be Christian in heart, mind and spirit offer their various teachings without cost to the human soul. Some persons who claim to be Christian are not. Some who claim to be Christian are manipulative, some are self-seeking, and some are simply ignorant. You can distinguish the difference between persons who are truly followers of Christ and those who are false by carefully examining the fruit of their teachings, their beliefs and their actions. The one who holds the mirror to the lost image of God within you and who seeks to liberate rather than shackle, this is the true Christian. Christ lives within that person.
How do I know this is true? At the onset, I say to you the reader that my argument is not that something is true simply because it is found in the Bible. That is not the strongest argument to be made. My assertion is that what is found in the Bible has been put in the Bible because it is true. The words written in the Bible bear witness to a truth that transcends the written word. God is the Word behind the written words of the Bible. In Provers 2:6 we read, “For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.”
How do we as human beings recognize a “transcendent” truth? The learned theologian John Calvin offers an explanation: “The many preeminent gifts with which the human mind is endowed proclaim that something divine has been engraved upon it, and all these are testimonies of an immortal essence” (The Institutes of Christian Religion, 1.15.2). To put it another way, quite simply, you ask me how I know it’s true, its truth resonates within my soul. It is said of Jesus, that those whom He calls know His voice—something within us just knows (see John 10:46). Deep within the human soul, dormant until awakened through the power of God’s word, waiting to be reanimated by the Holy Spirit, there is an implanted memory of our Creator. It is written, “You know him; for he dwells with you and shall be in you” (John 14:17b).
Now let us look briefly at the words of the Bible that point beyond mere words to the Word behind the words. The Apostle John refers to the Trinity; i.e., God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, as “the Word” (see John 1:1-14). The Word has power. By it the earth was created, and by it we ourselves will be re-created, reborn, justified, and eventually reflect the very glory of Christ, if we accept God’s plan of salvation, Jesus Christ. The stories, sayings and teachings of the New Testament were selected and included in the Bible because they are the true teachings of Jesus Christ and the true history of events surrounding His life and ministry just as they unfolded.
Who or what is God? I John 4:16 we read, “We have come to know and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” The critic might argue: “Well then, ‘God’ is nothing more than the projection of human love”. Yes, I suppose one could say that, but I counter with the assertion that, on the contrary, it is God who projects His essence into the human soul when that soul is opened to Him.