I’m just going to cut and paste Wikipedia on Pascal’s Wager for consideration: “Pascal’s Wager is an argument in apologetic philosophy devised by the seventeenth-century French philosopher, mathematician and physicist Blaise Pascal (1623–62). It posits that humans all bet with their lives either that God exists or not. Given the possibility that God actually does exist and assuming an infinite gain or loss associated with belief or unbelief in said God (as represented by an eternity in heaven or hell), a rational person should live as though God exists and seek to believe in God. If God does not actually exist, such a person will have only a finite loss (some pleasures, luxury, etc.).” This wager serves as an argument, but is it a wager? I think some people in churches, probably most, do treat their Christianity like it is a wager, but more of a losing one than a winning one. They treat the world like it’s winning the wager, if you consider where their true investment lies. I’m asking you to evaluate yourself on this. Our church requires little, and I say, “requires.” God expects more if you really believe this, you love Him, and you are convinced this is true. We base these kind of things on probability. How probable is it that Christianity is true? If you weigh it as 100%, at least you would say it is, by how you judge these things, what would your life look like?
Bethel Baptist Church ~ El Sobrante, CA
I was talking to a man about a week ago, and in presenting him the evidence for the faith, I called the alternative “an accident.” He didn’t like the word, “accident.” He liked chance better, but accident didn’t sound like something he was believing or thinking. What I was saying is that he believed that we got here by accident, because that is the alternative to design. People don’t like to hear that, because it just sounds wrong, but it is what they believe, and that’s your intellectual choice. Do you believe that what you see with your own eyes is an accident or does it look like design to you? Of course, it’s design, and this is general revelation. Everyone knows it. It has to be design, because there are hundreds of details that have to be right for us to even survive. There is no way they all occur by accident. Who would credit an accident for all this? A rebellious person, who wants his life to be his own, to go his own way—that’s who—and it’s the height of unthankfulness, since God did it and continues to do it. These people are surviving only because of Him, drawing more breaths to use in blasphemy against Him. The amount of evidence that God provides is enough to screen out the rebellious from being with God for eternity. If you want to be on your own, the idea, then go ahead and be on your own, but it’s not going to look pretty.
Some like to frame the resurrection of Jesus as though it is a theological belief and not a historical event, but even based on the most conservative historical investigation, we must say that the tomb previously housing a doubtlessly dead Jesus was empty, and that people who before knew Him well saw and met someone they were convinced was this same Jesus, bodily alive. First, the empty tomb and, second, the convincing appearances of Jesus are the two conclusions the historian must draw. Sure, someone might be cautious—Thomas waited a week before believing what he had been told. Were it not for the astounding, and worldview challenging claim that is thereby made, based on the evidence alone everyone would long since have concluded that this was the correct historical result. Christianity exists, buttressed mainly on the resurrection of Jesus. If some other account would explain its rise, the alternative would be chosen, but other explanations are far less convincing as historical than the one the early Christians themselves offer: that Jesus really did rise from the dead on Easter morning, leaving an empty tomb behind him. Several reasons exist why people may not want, and often refuse, to believe this, but in weighing the possible accounts, to date, none of them have anything like the explanatory power of the simple, but utterly challenging, Christian one.
I was thinking this week about Philip and his evangelism of the Ethiopean eunuch in Acts 8. I recognize that the eunuch was an important figure in a number of ways: he was a Gentile, he was African, he was a seeker who responded to the revelation he had and God made sure he got more, and the gospel was moving out from Jerusalem according to the Great Commission. All of those are important, but I was considering two things else, and especially the second, but, first, it was one person. He was alone and God cared about Him. God cares about individual people, whether one of them is saved or not. God knows about all of us, like Jesus emphasized in His parables of the lost coin, lost sheep, and lost son in Luke 15. The second thought was the one that stuck with me, and it is closely related to the first. The Bible is impressed, so it is big to God, with evangelism of, preaching the gospel to, one person. You don’t have to get all caught up in the numbers, but in preaching the gospel to one person. A lot of attention is given to one person hearing the gospel. It’s just a matter of continuing to get it to that next person. You can’t get it to the whole world, but as one person, you can get it to one man or woman, and then more the better. If we’re preaching, going out there and doing that, then people are getting it, and we’re emulating what God does in Acts 8 and in the rest of scripture.
What does everything come down to? Everything. Everything. Everything comes down to whether you believe in Jesus Christ or not. God places almost all importance on believing in Jesus Christ. From our perspective, you could say it is everything. If we were to think through all the possibilities of what could be that important, perhaps other things might come to mind. People today might think it is getting water to needy, drought-ridden countries, not littering or polluting, saving the planet, preserving animals or the fragile ecosystem, or sharing the wealth. Some would say it is to give a man his human or civil rights, tolerating whatever lifestyle he chooses, and getting along with one another. God says it is believing in Jesus Christ, because everything doesn’t revolve around man and what he thinks. Whatever makes sense to him is not necessarily right and not probably right. It is usually wrong. It’s also not a good thing to say or think, “I’ll go ahead and risk it, and go with what I think or feel is important.” It is the greatest and most costly risk by a long ways. When you look at life from God’s perspective, which is a biblical one, it does make sense that believing in Jesus Christ it is. And God explains it, so we can get it. On a root level, we already get it, but we’re rebellious. We won’t get anything out of rebellion except the worst possible end.
I don’t have a lot of dreams any more, and when I do, I assure you that I don’t think I’m receiving divine revelation. I believe dreams relate mainly to what we’re thinking about during the day, so there isn’t new material. God has stopped giving revelation, according to His own Words. I don’t take anything new from this dream, except that it gave me thoughts about God’s judgment. I was shown eternal torment, the lake of fire, someone entering into it, the entrance being shut forever, and the knowledge that it was over. Then I woke up. I know that once someone goes to hell, he’s there forever, but it is hard to imagine it. I don’t think it is real to most of us most of the time. That doesn’t mean that we don’t believe in it. The dream didn’t tell me anything new, but it brought to mind the reality of the finality of eternal punishment from God. We have to, in a sense, project ourselves forward to that point, when we consider it by faith. We experience lost opportunity in this lifetime, but nothing like that. A person at that moment will be in the greatest pain of his existence. I believe at that beginning of eternity for him, he will think it won’t last. He will try to escape. He will know that isn’t possible. And then the thought will settle in that he’s there forever, like those drowning and the door to the ark was closed. His experience there will never end.
The psalmist writes in Psalm 139:14, the well-known words, “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Our person created by God – body, soul, and spirit – inspires awe from us. As you tick off the various systems of your body alone, you acknowledge the wonder. That doesn’t mean you comprehend your brain, your circulatory, nervous, digestive, muscular, excretory, and reproductive systems. And that’s before you start with the spiritual aspect of you. God made you and He has a plan for you. You’ve come a long ways if you understand that you were formed by God, and if you can accept that, then you can go further and believe that you’ve been ruined by sin. That’s why this world and you are breaking down. That explains the problems we see all around us. But it doesn’t stop there. God has a means of redemption. As much as this is a complex universe with all of its moving parts, God in His sovereignty works it all together like clockwork. We learn about it from His Word. God is not the Author of sin, but He still will be glorified by redeeming men from sin’s bondage through the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son. As amazing as is His creation, we should expect further amazement in the story as it progresses. We should not expect it to become less amazing. God is still at work and He wants us to spread these truths to others.
Salvation is by grace through faith alone, but grace is not to sin or for sin, but from sin. God by His grace saves us from sin. Paul talked about this in Romans 6:1-2, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” Did you know that “God forbid” translates the strongest negative in the Greek language? The Greek term for “God” doesn’t appear, but since there was no English equivalent, the translators gave it the most negative expression they could, so “God forbid.” Grace is not license to sin. As much as church members might answer “no” to that as a question, I believe they might live like “yes.” “If salvation is by grace through faith, do you have license to sin, since it’s all forgiven anyway?” Are you living like you are taking advantage of God’s grace? Since we’re not saved by works, then you don’t have to do works, or at least little to no works. Is that true? Of course not. A corollary to that thought relates to the clarity of scripture. If scripture is not 100% knowable, then men explain how that they don’t need to keep it all. They would keep it all if they could understand it all, is the excuse. Yet, God says we can understand it all. A child can(1 Timothy 3:15). God’s grace is a powerful agent to change into obedience to God. Is that what you see happening?
This week I was asked about an eyewitness evidence of the Gospels. I referred to Luke 1:1, 1 John 1:1,3, and 2 Peter 1:16, which all speak of eyewitness testimony. Then the Gospels read like it too—the accounts corroborate with one another, but are not copying one another, so they read eyewitness, which wouldn’t be identical, but wouldn’t contradict either. People often want something extra-scriptural and first century figure, Papias, wrote, “For unlike most people I took no pleasure in those who told many different stories, but only in those who taught the truth. Nor did I take pleasure in those who reported their memory of someone else’s commandments, but only in those who reported their memory of the commandments given by the Lord to the faith and proceeding from the Truth itself.” John in his Gospel expressly claims to have written as an eyewitness (1:35-40, 13:23, 21:24). Regarding Paul, the flow of 1 Corinthians 15, argues for the bodily resurrection and he says that he saw Jesus like Peter and James, etc.—vv. 5-8, and in v. 8, “last of all he was seen of me also.” “Also” translates kago, which means, “in like manner” —in a passage on bodily resurrection he says that he saw Jesus in like manner as the other apostles. 1 Corinthians 9:1, “Am I not an apostle? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?” He saw Jesus as they.
When we say there is one truth, we mean in part there is one story. There are not two versions of the story of this world. Someone may perceive something different to have happened, but only one thing happened. People may have a different version, but the facts are the facts. When it comes to the basics of this, we have the Bible. God gave it to us to understand, but we have to want to understand it. We can know it, but we have to humble ourselves under it. It is not a play thing or a hobby. The Bible, however, does present the truth about life, answering those most basic questions. It tells the beginning, the middle, and the end of the story like we are supposed to know it, because it is the truth. Someone may choose something different, but it is not the truth. We can know it, and we actually do know it. Romans 1 says we know it, but we suppress it. We may invent a different ending to rejecting it, but that’s a lie. Sometimes I say we have to project ourselves forward into eternity. We do. This is living by faith, but it is also something God designed us to do. We do it all the time. We see an end and then we function to reach the most desired. A child sees a test at school. Time draws near. He prepares, foreseeing how he will be tested. We have a project at work and we do what it takes to get ready for it. We should apply that same tack to our life.