Just one more step…

“Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’ “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.” (John 15:23-27 ESV)

It is much easier to hide when you’re five than when you’re fifty-five. Not only is it easier to fit in some hiding spots, but you have more choices. My older brother and I were under the front porch, peering out through the gaps in the boards. We could see and hear the car lot owner talking to our mother, but they couldn’t see us. We were hiding because we knew we were in trouble. You can’t take and hide all of the keys from the car lot next door without making the owner mad. At the time, we thought it was fun. But, when we got caught the fun was over and the car lot owner became our sworn enemy. Why? Because he revealed our guilt and told our Mom. We immediately began scheming to get even…

What do you do when God’s Word contradicts your actions or exposes your sin? You basically have two options, declare God wrong, His Word as inaccurate or “out of touch with reality” and keep doing what you’re doing; or declare God right, His Word correct and change your course.

Jesus says, “If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin.” In essence, he said that because of His actions among us we can no longer hide under the porch in the shadows and pretend nobody knows. His actions have exposed our failures and our guilt. Some folks today think that our religious beliefs about God are just psychological hocus-pocus and just one way of suppressing our guilt and making us feel better. In fact, consider this quote: “I have found it an amusing strategy, when asked whether I am an atheist, to point out that the questioner is also an atheist when considering Zeus, Apollo, Amon Ra, Mithras, Baal, Thor, Wotan, the Golden Calf and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I just go one god further.” ― Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion

Dawkins makes no bones about it, he believes God is simply a delusion of our minds. We all want to feel better about life so, he says, we simply invent someone that makes us feel better. We’ve already rejected the foolish, powerless gods of Greece, Egypt, and Rome. Now Dawkins wants us to take that last, logical step and reject the God of the Bible. It is actually easier to do than you might realize. Jesus says that to reject him, his authority, and his teachings is to reject and hate the Father, too. Just one step further…

However, why would anyone invent God to feel better about guilt? It is much easier and more effective to deal with guilt when you deny God’s existence. If God doesn’t exist then I have nothing to feel guilty about and no one to whom I’m accountable. If God doesn’t exist then sin doesn’t exist and I’m not guilty of moral failure. But, be careful because that logic cuts both directions. If sin doesn’t exist then morality or goodness can’t exist, either. Immorality is not simply saying or doing something bad, immorality is also the absence of good.

How is that possible? Two weeks ago I referenced a quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer regarding cheap grace or grace that demanded nothing of the recipient. As you may recall, Bonhoeffer was a pastor in Germany during the dark days of the Nazis. Consider these words from Bonhoeffer: “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” If sin were only the wrong actions or choices we made then the safest thing we could do would be to do nothing. Never act, speak or think.

But, God doesn’t simply hold us accountable for our bad deeds but also for our good and benevolent deeds and even our inaction. When Jesus was asked by the rich, young ruler as to how he could attain eternal life the young man declared his moral goodness by citing his obedience to the commandments. But, notice how Jesus exposed the young man’s sinful failure:

Young rich man: What does it really take to have eternal life (with God)?

Jesus: Keep the commandments.

Young rich man: I have kept them. What am I lacking?

Jesus: Just one thing, sell your possessions and give the money to the poor.

Young rich man: (as he walks away dejected) That’s too much.

He prized his possessions above God. He was only willing to go so far in his pursuit of God, and no further. His commitment to God was sufficient to keep him from breaking the commandments, but not enough to make him sacrifice his comforts. In Bonhoeffer’s world the rich young man might not have been evil in his actions but he would likely have remained silent in the face of evil men.

The reason the religious leaders of Jesus’ day wanted to get rid of Jesus was not because he was a good, moral, and loving individual. They wanted to get rid of him because he exposed their hypocrisy, sin and selfish motives. The reason the world rejects the truth of the gospel and tries to silence it today is for the same reason, it exposes their hypocrisy, sin and selfish motives. They like its message of love, but they don’t like it when it calls them sinners in need of a savior.

For example, consider this statement from the New York Times regarding the tendency towards a different genre of self-help books and gurus: “Cynics, take heart. A new literary genre, which might be called anti-self-help or anti-improvement, is upon us… life is hard and you’re not special, so instead of focusing on shallow quantities like happiness or success [I think he might mean qualities, but it is the New York Times and I would have expected their editors to have caught that] as defined by others in our culture of constant acceleration, you should acknowledge your limitations and learn to love your morning bowl of pebbles.”

It’s not that they don’t admit personal limitations, shortcomings or failures but, really, who cares. Or perhaps, if I make a mistake it’s none of your business. Who are you to define what’s right or wrong for me? Of course, this is all predicated on the rejection of God and a relative, cultural morality. When God no longer exists then I am the one who defines my own morality, purpose and even my own sexuality or gender. If not me, then the collective “we” of culture defines them as noted by the New York Times quote above. Why would our culture reject and even hate Jesus and God the Father? Because he exposes our hypocrisy, sin and selfish motives.

But, I can’t leave you without hope. Notice that Jesus promises a helper, the Holy Spirit, to come and bear witness of the truth. We aren’t in this alone…

“For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.” (1 John 5:7-8 ESV)

John’s testimony as an eyewitness of the life and death of Jesus is that these three agree He is the Christ, the Messiah of God. While many will recognize and understand that the Holy Spirit bears witness to Christ’s deity, so do his holy life (water) and his sacrificial death (blood). Jesus says the Spirit will bear witness and the Apostles will bear witness to these truths. The word witness comes from a word that means to testify in court. But it is also the root word for our term martyr. Many of those who were witnesses of Christ’s glory died because of their testimony.

“When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne.” (Revelation 6:9 ESV)

But, he has also given us the ministry of reconciliation…

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation…” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18 ESV)

So, don’t shrink back in fear when someone questions you or your faith. Remember those who came before us…

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” (Hebrews 12:1-3 ESV)

As the old hymn says,

If you’ll take one step toward the Savior, my friend,

You’ll find His arms open wide;

Receive Him, and all of your darkness will end,

Within your heart He’ll abide.

(The Savior Is Waiting)

Will your last step be towards God or away from Him? Choose wisely… it’s an eternal decision.

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