Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sunday Study: How Can Anyone Know for Certain God Exists?

Week Seven: How can anyone know for certain God exists?

We’ve spent six weeks talking about the Word of God, but how can we accept that the Bible is God’s word unless we first accept that God exists? Can we know for sure that God exists, or does belief in God require that we have faith in what cannot be known or proven beyond the shadow of a doubt?

Many well-meaning people will tell you that God is something (or someone) you simply have to take “on faith” because his existence can’t be proven. “I know there is a God because I feel him in my heart,” they may say. Or “I know there’s a God because he changed my life.”

Those are wonderful comments, and God can certainly change lives and make his presence felt. But people who don’t believe in God aren’t going to accept those proofs of God’s existence because they’re subjective. After all, sincerity of belief doesn’t prove anything. I could sincerely believe in the Easter Bunny, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to hop up to my door and leave me a chocolate egg this year. I could sincerely believe in Buddha or Confucius or reincarnation, but the sincerity of my faith isn’t going to make those things true.

Remember this: your faith is only as strong as the thing you believe in.

Have you ever sat in a chair that broke under your weight? You may have had an automatic trust in the chair . . . but it wasn’t worthy of your faith.

Two men always cross a frozen lake when they go hunting in January. The ice under their feet is always strong in the middle of winter. Let’s suppose they wanted to cross that lake, however, in April, during the spring thaw . . . how strong would their faith in the ice be then?

Be careful what you believe in.

So . . . how do we know God is worthy of our trust? First, as we’ve already learned, the Bible says God created the world and everything in it. The heavens, the skies, the stars, everything that was created had to have a creator. Science has proven that our universe could not spring into existence by itself. Someone had to create it, and that someone is God.

Not only did the universe have to have a cause, but it had to have an intelligent cause—a super brainiac cause—who created the world in such a way that it was exactly right for human life. If the sun had been closer, the earth would be too hot. If the sun had been farther away, the earth would be too cold. If the atmosphere did not have exactly the right blend of oxygen and carbon dioxide, neither humans nor plants would be able to survive.

Look at the incredible, intricate design of a human cell—our bodies are amazing wonders of creation, and doctors are still unable to understand exactly how some of our biological processes work. But God knew how to put all the pieces together in such a way that our bodies grow and develop and fight disease and take in nourishment and learn and communicate. Amazing, isn’t it? Could the smartest man alive ever have designed a single human body? No!

God created the universe, our planet, and he placed people on it. Using several different men over several generations, he gave us a book of His words. And from that book mankind has been able to learn things before scientists did.

Before scientists figured out the order of creation, God’s word gave it to us: first came the universe, then the earth, then the land and the sea. After this came life in the sea, then land animals, and finally, human beings.[1] Though Bible-believers and scientists often disagree about how long this creation process took, they agree upon the order in which creation occurred—but the Bible gave us the order thousands of years before humans figured it out!

The Bible also tells us that every living thing produces “after its kind”—in other words, a pregnant cat cannot have puppies. One species cannot give birth to another.

The Bible tells us that humans came from the earth—not from other animals, not from air, not from monkeys. Science confirms that the body is made of water and the very same elements found in . . . you guess it, earth.

The Bible tells us that water is involved in a continual cycle. Solomon, who had wisdom given by God, wrote, “Rivers run into the sea, but the sea is never full. Then the water returns again to the rivers and flows out again to the sea” (Ecc. 1:7). Long before scientists figured it out, the Bible described the process of condensation and evaporation.

It’s true that some people used to believe the earth was flat, but the Bible has always said the earth is spherical, like a ball. The prophet Isaiah wrote, “God sits above the circle of the earth. The people below seem like grasshoppers to him!” (40:22). Who better than the God who created the earth to give us this view from outer space long before astronauts existed?

As recently as 1840, Vienna, Austria, was a famous medical center. But one doctor, Ignaz Semmelweis, noticed that one out of every six of his female patients died after delivering their babies. Why should perfectly healthy women die after having a child?

He studied the situation and realized that many of his medical students were working with the women right after the students had performed autopsies of dead patients. Dr. Semmelweis instituted a new rule: every doctor and medical student had to wash his hands before examining a living patient.

After that, only one woman out of every eight-four died in the maternity ward. Unfortunately, doctors could not believe that the answer to infection lay in something as simple as the washing of hands. Dr. Semmelweis was fired. Yet in the book of Leviticus, God gave Moses explicit and detailed instructions about how people who come into contact with dead or sick people must wash their hands and their clothes before coming into contact with the living. God, you see, understood something Dr. Semmelweis’s co-workers did not: God knew about germs.

We can know that God exists and that the Bible is his word because the Bible is filled with prophecies that either have come true or will come true. The Bible contains over three hundred predictions about Jesus Christ, most of which were written hundreds of years before his birth. Every one of those prophecies has come to pass! Human “psychics” and “fortune-tellers” are often, if not usually, wrong, but God cannot lie, so his word is truth.

Finally, we can know God exists because his word has changed people’s lives. The people who followed Jesus after his death and resurrection often paid for their faith with their lives—would you die for a cause you doubted? Many of them had seen Jesus, they had watched him work miracles, and they knew he was more than a man. He was who He said He was—the Son of God.

Memory verse: “Your throne, O Lord, has stood from time immemorial. You yourself are from the everlasting past” (Psalm 93:3).

Discussion questions:

1. Look up the following verses and let’s see what the Bible says about some things science has confirmed:

· Leviticus 17:11: “for the life of the body is in its blood.” (Can you live without blood?)

· Proverbs 8:29: “I was there when he set the limits of the seas, so they would not spread beyond their boundaries.” (Do the seas have limits? Do we have to worry about the icebergs melting and the seas flooding our countries?)

· Deuteronomy 23:12-13: “You must have a designated area outside the camp where you can go to relieve yourself. Each of you must have a spade as part of your equipment. Whenever you relieve yourself, dig a hole with the spade and cover the excrement.” In this age of modern plumbing, we don’t realize how much healthier we are because we don’t have to deal with human waste. But in disaster areas, illness is always one of the first results. Why? Because when people are not sanitary in the way they dispose of human waste, germs multiply and people get sick. Yet God told Moses to teach the Israelites how to avoid this problem six thousand years ago!

2. Compare the two verses. What does the first predict about Jesus? What does the second verse tell us about the prediction and its author?

· Genesis 3:15 and Galatians 4:4

· Isaiah 7:14 Matthew 1:21

· Genesis 49:10 and Luke 3:23, 34

· Micah 5:2 and Matthew 2:1, Luke 2:4-7

· Isaiah 35:5-6 and Matthew 9:35

· Psalm 118:22 and 1 Peter 2:7

· Isaiah 53:7 and Matthew 7:12-19

· Psalm 22:16 and Luke 23:33

· Zechariah 12:10 and John 19:34

· Isaiah 53:9 and Matthew 27:57-60

· Psalm 68:18 and Acts 1:9

Now that we know there are objective ways to know there is a God, how can we ever hope to know him? If he’s so powerful and so intelligent and so far above us, how can we puny humans know him? Is it even possible?

We’ll talk about that subject next week.

[1] Dr. Norman Geisler, Systematic Theology: Volume One, p. 545.

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