YOU MAY OR MAY NOT

BELIEVE IN GOD, BUT


Believe in God?



W E HEAR IT ALL THE TIME, PEPPERED THROUGHOUT THE SHOWS WE WATCH, THE MOVIES WE SEE, AND THE BOOKS WE READ. SOMETIMES IT POPS UP IN A NEWS ARTICLE, ESPECIALLY IN THE MIDST OF SOME GREAT NATIONAL DISASTER OR GLOBAL CRISIS


Preachers ask it from their podiums every week. Strangers may even walk up to you on the street and pose the question to your face. It seems that everyone wants to know the same thing: DO YOU BELIEVE IN GOD?


What does that question even mean, anyway?


Do I believe that there is an Intelligent Designer that set the cosmos in motion?


Do I believe that there’s an all—powerful beiiig who is in control of everything? Do I believe that there is someone perfectly divine in the universe who knows me completely?


In many ways, that question is fundamentally flawed because it could mean almost anything to anybody. For one person, believing in God could point to an enduring belief in a loving, personal, almighty, and divine Person. For another, it could just depict a childish, uninformed belief in a galactic Santa Claus who exists simply to grant wishes in the form of prayers. And these diverse opinions are not only propagated on street corners and in philosophical debates~~Sadly, you’re just as likely to find differing views on what it means to “believe in God” in many of the churches across this country.


I’ll tell you right from the start that I do believe in God. I believe He is real, He is active, and He is intimately concerned with my life, with your life, and with the lives of each of the 6.5 billion people in the world


 My faith in God is what has gotten inc through over 70 years of ups and downs, twists and turns, and ins and outs both inside and outside of the church world. And while there is some importance in asking if you believe in God, that’s not what I want to do here. As I said, that could take us off in too many directions. Instead, let’s pose a similar, yet fundamentally more important question: Does God believe in you? In other words, if there is a totally perfect God of the universe, what on earth must He think of’ someone as small, firail, and flawed as you or me?


Here’s the quick answer: God loves you. That’s it. He loves you ... perfectly, completely. He knows absolutely everything about you everything you’ve ever done, every thought that ever crossed your mind amid He is still passionately in love with you.


Most people can’t imagine that kind of love. Their perspective is at the mercy of their own experience -----those who claimed to love them, but didn’t. Those who promised fidelity,----- but proved unfaithful. Those who offered claims of’ love in between bouts of physical violence or emotional abuse. Those who should have loved, yet could not be bothered. Our experiences pile up in our spirits, and the result is often an overwhelming static that prevents us from hearing the call of real true love of perfect love.


The world around us says we have to earn love, doesn’t it’? And for some dumb reason, that big lie sits quite well with our innate attitudes. We humans have a tendency to strive to deserve what we have. Monetary wealth, loving families, real solid careers these are the things we fight to earn. And then we hear a preacher say that God loves us? That’s it? He just loves us ...... no strings attached? Yeah, right,” we answer. “Nobody loves me for free, especially someone who could know everything about me.” But He does.


No matter what your past has dictated or what you feel right now, God’s love has always been freely given to you. God pours His love upon us with no exceptions —no ifs, ands, or buts. He doesn’t begin to love you when you put your faith in Him. He doesn’t begin to love you when you go to church. In truth, God never “begins’ to love you at all; He simply always has. From the creation of the world, God knew you and loved you.


The Bible says God knows you inside and out because He made you! (Psalm 139:13) It also says the only reason any of us know what love is to begin with is because God loved us first. (1 John 4:19)


And what’s more, we can trust that, having made us and loved us from the beginning, God will always love us and accept us whenever we come to Him in faith. Contrary to what you may have experienced with human love, God’s very character cannot and will not change. The Bible says God “never changes or casts shifting shadows” (James 1:17). That means if He loved you from the beginning (which He did), then He always will.


This just may be shocking news for you. Have you ever been so remorseful for something you have done that you honestly believed it made God love you less?


Most of us have had this fear at some point. No matter how we’ve felt before, however, we have the assurance of Scripture that God’s love does not change. He loves us no matter what we do. In fact, He was well aware of our potential for misbehavior from the beginning. If we truly want to understand His enormous love for us, then we need to candidly examine the way He sees us. And I’ll warn you up front: some of this won’t be pretty, but at least it’s honest.


The first thing the Bible says about you and me is that we were made in God’s “image.” (Genesis 1:26) What is this “image?” It is the likeness, countenance, and radiance of God that permeated Adam and Eve. However, when sin entered the world, it marred this divine likeness. So, while people today still are born with the image of God, it is no longer perfect and untarnished. We are born into a world of sin and rebellion--—a world that is actively hostile toward God . (Ephesians 2:1 3) If you don’t believe that, then just take note of how “God” and “Christians” are often portrayed in the media. The truth is, there are a lot of people talking about God who do not know the first thing about Him.


Second, because of the sinfulness of the world, Scripture calls every person born into sin “ungodly.” (Romans 5:6) Our “ungodliness” is evident in the fact that the image of God has been defaced in each of us, so that we no longer look much like Him. As such, we are like a beautiful work of art that has been vandalized beyond all recognition . In this, we are helpless to save ourselves or to reestablish a proper relationship with God.


Third--—and this one is tough to accept---—God sees each of us as sinners. (Romans 3:10-12,23) “Sin” is a word that is used often and in a number of different ways, which can make it difficult to discern its true meaning. The original word for “sin” in Greek (the language of the New Testament) means “to miss the mark.” This means that the sinner has stepped beyond the boundary of what God allows for healthy, successful living. As one “missing the mark,” a sinner is helpless to save, correct, or rescue himself.


Fourth, Romans 5:10 describes all people as “enemies” of God. You may object, “Well, I may not know much about God, but I certainly wouldn’t consider myself to be His enemy.” This is a misconception. If you declare by your actions that you don’t need the redemption (rescue) that God provides, then you have set yourself against Him, even if you are a “nice” person. God does not judge men the way we judge each other; a person can evaluate only outward actions, but God judges the iniiermost being. (Hebrews 4:12) He knows us as we truly are---—with our thoughts, drives, feelings, and emotions laid completely bare.


Finally, the Bible paints a heartbreaking picture of man’s true nature. It states, ‘There is none righteous , not even one” (Romans 3:10). This is an indictment against the notion that someone’s good works can make him into a good person. That same book of the Bible goes on to present an unsettling description of mankind, showing that we are prone to idolatry, violence, unnatural passions and lusts, unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, gossip, slander, and evil. (Romans 1:24-32)


As horrible as the portrayal is, this describes exactly who it is that God loves. And, although we do not often realize it, these characteristics fit each and every one of us

.

You may review this passage and then argue, “Well now, wait a minute! I’m nothing like that! I’m not perfect, but I’m a pretty good person.’ I’m sure that’s true, but you need to consider a couple of things.


First, the potential for each of these corrupt, disturbing behaviors resides within every man, woman, and child on earth. We cannot escape it; this is our destiny as part of a sinful world.


Second, the “good person” defense falls far short of God’s perfect holiness. The standard of comparison is not how we look compared to other people, but how we look compared to God. And in that comparison, we’d all agree that we fall far, far short. Scripture describes even our best attempts at goodness as merely “filthy rags.” (Isaiah 64:6)


In short, there is nothing we can do to “work our way up ” to God’s favor ! Bad news, indeed. However, there is a genuine joy that conies in finally stripping away all of the lies we so often tell our selves. Many people don’t even realize how their minds have been lulled into a false sense of security. Some simply try to do more good deeds than bad ones, hoping the cosmic scorecard will end up in their favor.


Friend, that’s no way to live . I don’t want to live a life in which I’m just hoping that one more good deed will tip the scales my way.


So, if I pull back the curtain and really see myself the way God sees me, then I discover what the problem is: it’s me . A person who doesn’t know he’s in danger never calls for help, does he? Likewise, if you never face the fact that you’re iii trouble, you’ll never he ready to embrace the rescue. But if you accept that you need help, then you’re ready for the good news.


THE GOOD NEWS!


We just said we cannot work our way up to God’s level, and the truth is, we don’t have to---—He doesn’t even expect us to.


Instead, He reached down and expressed His love to each of us, riot because of what He saw within us, hut because it is in His nature to love with no limits, boundaries, or conditions. (Romans 5:8; John 3:16)


Many people hold off on making a commitment to the Lord because they want to wait until they “clean themselves up” a bit. You may hear them say things like, “I want to follow Jesus, but I need to quit doing this first.


” Friend. I want you to know that God loves every single one of us just the way we are, without waiting for us to “clean ourselves up .” Instead, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, emphasis added).


Knowing that we could never improve our own situation, God reached into our pit of despair and pulled us up into His presence through His Son Jesus Christ.


You do not have to improve yourself; in fact, it is not even possible to improve the old self---—that’s why Almighty God sent His only Son. The real message of the Cross is that we need deliverance, no t improvement. This deliverance means that even God is not interested in attempting to improve us; instead, He completely removes the old, sinful self from us and replaces it with Himself In this, we truly are a “new creation” in Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:17) Spiritually speaking, what we were is immediately replaced with what He is.


Because God is love (1 John 4:16), you may think that providing this loving deliverance was effortless for Him. However, this saving work came at a very high price. It required God the Father to send His only Son to die on a cross. He was betrayed, broken, beaten. humiliated, and murdered. However, the physical pain was only part of the torture; we can best see the price paid for our salvation in Jesus’ cry from the cross: ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34). At that moment, Almighty God separated Himself from His Son, with whom He had lived in perfect union for all eternity . There.

apart from the Father, Jesus Christ experienced hell for every single person who had ever been or ever would be born.


That is the most profound demonstration of God’s love for us---—not that He allowed Jesus to die, but that He turned His back on His Son so that Jesus could taste eternal death in place of all men. If we resist this love even by striving to earn God’s favor for ourselves, then we are in effect telling Him that His sacrifice was not enough. Friend, I assure you it was indeed enough.


Does God believe in you? I can tell you for certain that He does. He believes in you so much that He paid the highest price imaginable for your freedom. Why? Because He loves you. I told you from the beginning that the quick answei’ “God loves you”--—would be the right answer. But that often-repeated phrase is empty and hollow until you understand what that love required.


He loves you not because of what you have done, or what you could do, or what you believe, or say , o r profess. He just loves you. He sees right through you. He sees the vulgarity spray-painted across His masterpiece, and He wants to redeem it. He sees the sin that has stained your spirit, and He wants to cleanse it. He sees you teetering on the edge of oblivion, and He wants to rescue you.


God believes in you. And now, maybe we’ve come far enough to turn the question back around and ask, “Do you believe in Him?”

    (THEN SAY SO NOW — RIGHT NOW!



Believe in God?


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