Why?

I read of a question recently raised by someone in India; “Why would God do this to us?”  This is often asked in difficult times, and we are certainly in the midst, or rather at the beginning, of what may become extremely difficult times.

Here in the West, belief in God is widely considered unnecessary and even harmful, a frail crutch for the weak minded, an excuse for pride and bigotry or simply the childish dreams of the dull who are unwilling or unable to face reality. It wasn’t always so – in just a generation the cultural landscape has been radically transformed. The result has, in part, been the sifting out of those who had no more than a cultural faith from those who continue to hold to a solid, eyes wide open, confidence in the God who created the heavens and the earth.

Is such a bold faith both reasonable and possible in the present day? It is, but only if it has substance and is anchored in unshakable truth. When times are tough, mere sentiment, mere wishful thinking, will be blown away like dead leaves in a puff of wind and evaporate like dew in the hot sun.

The substance of a strong faith, and the unshakable truth in which it is anchored, is the cross of Jesus Christ. Why? Because in that one extraordinary historical event, man is seen as he is, and God is seen as He is.

Humanity is not deserving of God’s unending favour and blessing. The cross of Jesus shows us what we are and what we deserve. He who did unprecedented good, who spoke only truth, who wanted only our deliverance from sin, was betrayed and cruelly murdered. Few believed Him, most deserted Him and the ordinary people cried out for His blood. The common human experience, throughout the world and throughout history, has been sin. We suffer so much because of sin in others, and we afflict others because of the sin in our own hearts.

But the cross is not just a story of human sin, it is also the story of God’s great love. Jesus died willingly to suffer the judgement of God on sin due to us. He died our death. He did not need to die. It was not nails but love that held Him to the cross. What should have been unforgivable found forgiveness in the love that was seen on the day that Jesus died.

Why would God do this to us?” you ask. To warn us. To awaken us to our need. To lead us, each one of us, to seek His forgiveness for our rebellion and corruption. It is His mercy, not His wrath, we are experiencing.

Whoever is wise will observe these things,
And they will understand the lovingkindness of the Lord.
” (Psalm 107:43)

How do you know its true?

It is a common question.  How do you know that the gospel is true?  How do you know that Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead? The truth of the gospel depends on the physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead.  If He did not rise, there is no salvation and therefore no gospel.  If He did, then He is the Son of God, the saviour of the world and its judge.

But how do you know He rose again?

“Because we are speaking about Him.”

But we speak of Buddha and Mohammad as well...”

“True, but Jesus claimed to be the Messiah, the One promised by the prophets in the Scriptures to the Jewish nation.  Prophets die, philosophers die, wise men die, but the Messiah must live.  So when Jesus was crucified His disciples, both men and women, lost all hope that He was the Messiah, despite everything that He had said and done.”

“Then, suddenly, everything changed.  In the same place where He had died, right under the noses of the people responsible for killing Him, these same disciples declared that He was alive, and began to work the same miracles that He had worked!  The number of those who believed in Him exploded, many paying with their lives for the faith they now held.  How do you explain this?

“When you examine the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection, you have to explain the empty tomb, the bold declaration by His disciples of His victory over death after crushing disappointment, the rapid growth and spread of the church, and even our conversation today.”

If Jesus had died like other men, He would have been forgotten entirely.  He was not.  He has changed the course of human history.

Foundations for Courage

With fear and anxiety at every turn, Christians are being encouraged to trust in the Lord and not to yield to the stress that distracts and confuses our walk with Him.  It is good advice of course, but I suspect that for some people it appears rather like an encouragement to exercise more will power and to try to think more positively.

What’s missing?  Perhaps the answer lies in the familiar words of the Psalmist, “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3)  If our confidence in God has no solid foundation, but rests on little more than vague sentiment, then it is no wonder that a constant faith seems so difficult and elusive.

It need not be so.  I can trust in the Lord because He has committed Himself to me.  How has He committed Himself?  Through the sacrificial death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Once I see the magnitude and the wonder of that great event and its power to save sinners, and once I realise why it was necessary and how unworthy and lost I am apart from it, then the grace of God has real substance, being anchored even in our own history.  It is no mere sentiment – it is an almost tangible reality.

When we understand something of the power of God to save in the gospel, to trust Him during a crisis seems like a very natural and reasonable thing.  “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)

And so doctrine (that much despised word) proves to be essential if I am to stand strong and walk worthy of Him “who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).