CHALLENGING GOOD NEWS

Figure 1: Galileo Galilei
What is truth?
“All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.”
Galileo Galilei

The discovery of truth: distinguishing between reality and delusion, is a very difficult task. This is gravely apparent in modern society. We observe hundreds of different religions, many asserting themselves the sole custodians of truth, some proclaiming all equally correct. Amongst these are atheist skeptics who denounce all dogma—itself a very dogmatic stance ironically—and agnostics unable or unwilling to declare any fundamental position. So how are we ever to find ‘truth’? What experiences can we profitably draw from? Are we just the product of statistically random physics and chemistry? Or is there a God, and thus potentially meaning to life? And if there is a God, how are we to find out what, if anything, He wants from us?

Laying Claim to an Answer
The Bible asserts it has the truth. It claims an allpowerful and timeless God exists, who is intimately interested and involved with humanity and who wants us to form a relationship with Him.

Figure 2: The Bible
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16–17)

The Bible also claims to be God’s communication to us, perfect in its entirety, which can lead us to ‘salvation’ (a state where one obtains from God immortal life beyond this mortal one). It claims to show us the truth: about God, ourselves, and the world around us. If these claims are true, they clearly affect us very deeply and personally.

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:14–17)

This course aims to provide compelling evidence to justify these claims and enable you to change your life in the light of them. This article considers the consequences on our beliefs if the Bible really is God’s Word and how that affects our lives personally.

If the Bible Is True: 1 God is the Creator
Figure 3: DNA - Divine design
If the Bible is true, then God created the world. Life on Earth is not the result of random chance, but the deliberate product of intelligent design. Common social pressures insist on a theory of macro-evolution of species, itself based on a theory of uniformity, where all forms of life developed from a sea of chemicals, themselves appearing initially out of nowhere, and meeting by chance in exactly correct proportions and thermodynamic conditions to propagate further development. Many adhere to this theory, although the number of people possessing any ability to explain even its fundamental constructs is minute.

Evolution is not the Bible story: the Bible explicitly asserts God created the world. Attempted marriage between the Biblical theory of creation and evolution leads to irreconcilable differences in logic and fact.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)

How many are your works, O Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. (Psalm 104:24)

“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” (Revelation 4:11)

If the Bible Is True: 2 God Sees Everything
If the Bible is true, then God supervises the kingdoms of men. He is aware of the chaos in the world, both politically and morally, and sometimes allows disasters and suffering to befall us. The Bible describes a time limit on this state of affairs, however, after which God will intervene most powerfully. The Bible maintains God is at all times a loving Father who cares about His children and that His love for His creation will never end.

Figure 4:God witnesses our trials and suffering

“The decision is announced by messengers, the holy ones declare the verdict, so that the living may know that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of men.” (Daniel 4:17)

“For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:31)

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:16-18)

If the Bible Is True: 3 Jesus Christ is the Only Access to God
If the Bible is true, then Jesus Christ is the Son of God, sent by God to save mankind through his sacrificial death on the cross. Because Jesus was a man like us, he perfectly understands the temptations and sufferings we experience, and is therefore able to help us when we need help. God knew any man descended only from Adam could never succeed in obedience to Him because he would collapse to his own selfish desires (the devil). God formed His one and only Son Jesus by His Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary. Through his special relationship with his father Jesus was able to overcome his desires to serve his own flesh and fulfill His Father’s plan.

Figure 5: ‘Crucifixion,’Rubens, 1621
But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. (Galatians 4:4-5)

The Bible insists God has only one perfect (sinless) Son: Jesus Christ and it is only through Jesus the pathway to salvation can be established. Thus the Bible declares all religions are not equally valid.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

. . . the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead… Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:10-12)

But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:10-11)

If the Bible Is True: 4 Discipleship Must Be God’s Way not My Way
If the Bible is true then God really has outlined a plan of salvation for mankind: a means by which we can obtain everlasting life. Two things directly follow. First, it becomes vital that we know what the Bible says, and second, that we obey it! Although this sounds obvious, following the Bible has a subtle and unpopular consequence: it deprives us of the notion we can serve God in any way we choose. The Bible’s insistence, for example, on baptism, or on sharing our lives in a community of believers, cannot be waved away or substituted with other forms of worship we may deem more appropriate or convenient to our lifestyle.

Figure 6: Good News for the World
Nevertheless following God’s way is not a constricting lifestyle comprising a burden of laws to observe. The Bible assures us the reverse is true! If God really did design every facet of the human, it follows logically that His plan for human life is idealized for us! By following what He wants us to do we will realize our highest level of function as humans: both in intellectual understanding and emotional enjoyment of the life we lead. In other words the disciple is not called to a life of travail, but rather a life of service, which as he grows into becomes ever more fulfilling and enjoyable, far surpassing the enjoyments any other lifestyle has to offer.

Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever with me. I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes. I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts. I have kept my feet from every evil path so that I might obey your word. I have not departed from your laws, for you yourself have taught me. How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path. (Psalm 119:97-104)

This is fantastic news! We are offered a new life in which the fear, the uncertainty and the futility of mortal life are done away! And when the Bible speaks of this good news, it uses the word: ‘Gospel.’

What is the ‘Gospel’?
Though frequently heard in religious discussions, the meaning of the word ‘gospel’ is not well known. ‘Gospel’ stems from a Greek word ‘euaggelion’ and simply means ‘good news.’

Good news of what? When Jesus used the word gospel, he spoke principally about the coming Kingdom of God (Matthew 24:1-14).

Where and when will this Kingdom be? The Kingdom of God will be established on Earth (Micah4-5) when Jesus Christ returns:

So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:6-11, see also Zechariah 14:1-9)

At Jesus’ return he will grant everlasting life to the faithful to populate God’s Kingdom (Matthew 25:31-46), which will culminate in everlasting, world-wide peace (Revelation 21:1-4).

Where do I fit in?
Figure 7: Baptism - accessing God’s promises
How does one qualify for this Kingdom? One of the important things the Bible teaches is that one cannot ‘qualify’ for the Kingdom of God. Entry to it, with the accompanying gift of everlasting life, can only come through God’s grace and not our efforts.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith_and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God_not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:8-10)

Nevertheless, as this passage makes clear, God chooses to bestow His grace only on those who show faith in His promises. That means we need to believe that God exists and that what He has promised us – everlasting life – is a faithful promise and really can happen.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see… And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:1,6)

The Ephesians passage above also makes clear that our faith is evidenced in the works God has given us to do, primarily the work of expressing that faith in baptism:

“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off_for all whom the Lord our God will call.” With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” (Acts 2:38-40)

Is baptism the end of the matter? By no means! We must learn to reflect God’s character and, since God is love (1 John 4:16-18), we must love God, and reflect that love to others.

Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

The realization of that love is to follow the commands of Jesus Christ, and obtain the joy that this love brings.

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. (John 15:9-11)

The commands of Jesus to his baptized disciples are these:

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

And so you became a model to all the believers… you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead_Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath. (1 Thessalonians 1:7-10)

Those who are baptized into the family of God follow Jesus’ commands in communion and loving service to each other while awaiting the Lord’s return. These are those who “remain in his love” and are recognized as Jesus’ disciples.

Why would I want to do that?
The rewards of discipleship are also made clear in the Bible: not only do we fulfill our correct function for which we were designed, which is to be sons of God; but also as sons of God we receive two wonderful rewards. We are released from the futility of mortal existence and given a meaningful life now, and, far better, will receive everlasting life at the last day. What better future could one possibly have?

Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)


SOME RESPONSES YOU MAY HAVE TO THE ABOVE ARTICLE

What exactly is meant by the statement: “Jesus was a man like us.” Was he not also Divine?

I’m not very familiar with the contents of the Bible, where can I find out more?

Can’t the Bible and the theory of evolution both be true?
 

What is this “Kingdom of God” that the Bible talks about?
 

What is meant by the phrase: “the last Day” - what does the Bible say will happen at the end of the world?

If God will stop suffering in the future why does He allow people to suffer so much now?

I know I want to serve God – what does the Bible say my life should look like?