An Ignored and Forgotten God – Part 2

Stephan Beitze

Some assert that God doesn’t exist because they haven’t seen Him. But when there’s a watch with all of its wonderful mechanisms and moving parts, nobody doubts the existence of a watchmaker. When we see a majestic building, we rightly assume that there is an architect, even though we’ve never seen him. Likewise, nature provides us with proof that there must be a Creator.

Take a moment to consider the very existence of infinite space, which suggests that whatever caused its existence must also be infinite. The fact that there is inexhaustible energy testifies to omnipotence. The initial spark of that infinite complexity is evidence of comprehensive knowledge. The existence of unpredictable time points to an eternal cause. And so, we can see that everything stems from a Creator, who is infinite, omnipotent, omniscient, and eternal. Last but not least, the first cause of life must be life. Nothing can come from nothing. And life is the very essence of God.

What’s most striking about Creation is the particular interest in one specific creature—human beings. We may be physically similar to apes, but there’s something about our nature that makes us infinitely superior. We humans are the only creatures on earth who can think and ask where we came from, where we’re going, and what our purpose is. Most people recognize that there must be a higher being that they should somehow worship. That’s why we have so many religions. The Bible confirms this by saying, “He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end” (Ecc 3:11). The purpose for which God created man is, as our passage says, “that they should seek God” (Acts 17:27a).

As far as God’s existence is concerned, many simply assume that He must exist, but they just haven’t found Him yet. So, they keep looking and trying different approaches. Most people fall into this group, whether theists, agnostics, or religious.

Atheists, on the other hand, deny God’s existence altogether because they haven’t found Him. But their reasoning isn’t very logical. Let me illustrate it this way: I hide a gold bar in a big city and announce it in the media. Many people search for it. Some come back tired, and say they haven’t yet found the gold. But there are others who give up and say that the gold bar can’t exist, since they didn’t find it. That’s essentially the position of the few true atheists in our society. Since they haven’t found God, they think that He doesn’t exist either.

The search for the lost God: The Bible tells us that humanity is lost and unable to find its way to God (Isa 53:6). But God wants all people to seek Him: “that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him” (Acts 17:27a). And although people don’t generally want to draw near to God, according to Paul, “he is actually not far from each one of us” (v. 27b). He is so great that He’s all-encompassing, but at the same time, He desires fellowship with each and every one of us. There is nothing that mankind can substitute for Him, which means that all objects of worship are useless. Such a great God couldn’t be a piece of stone, plaster, or canvas.

For a long time, God was patient with man’s ignorance, “But now he commands all people everywhere to repent” (v. 30). Repentance (or conversion, as we call it) means a 180-degree change in direction. We were going one way, but now it’s time to go the opposite way. Anyone who hasn’t yet experienced this radical change isn’t saved. You can be very wise or very religious, but if you haven’t made that change of direction and accepted Jesus into your life, you don’t really know God.

We might ask why we should repent, or what we should be repenting of. Everyone has (or had) the same problem. God had created mankind in His own image and had perfect fellowship with him. But man considered himself wiser than God, and wanted to manage without Him and go his own way, This led him to sin, which means missing God’s target. Because God is holy, He can’t have fellowship with a creature who has sinned. The Bible says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). And because God is just, He must also judge the sinner through Jesus Christ, His Son (Acts 17:31). This is why God requires people to repent of their sins. There is no other way we can be saved. Mankind is very proud and thinks he can live just fine without God. There are so many who are wise in their own eyes, who don’t want to see this sober truth. Because if we’re being honest, nobody likes being told what to do, let alone that they’re wrong.

King Solomon, the wisest man to ever live, said: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Prov 1:7). The man who is truly wise will perceive this truth and act accordingly. When we realize that God exists, that His words are true and that we must repent and come to Him for salvation, then we’re demonstrating true wisdom.

The way to God: Paul continued his message by showing the only way to salvation. He had taken note of the Athenians’ religiosity, but also their utter ignorance of God. This is still the case today. Many say they believe in God; some even claim to believe in Jesus and to have repented of their sins. But their profession is often just a creed. They believe in God like they believe in love, energy, or their bank account.

The Bible says we can only be saved if we have a surrogate for our sinful condition. And so, Paul told the people of Athens about Jesus, who died and rose again (Acts 17:31). The only way to be absolved of guilt and have our sins forgiven is for that debt to be paid. But no man can pay it, since we’re all guilty. That’s why Jesus Christ had to come into this world to bear our sins. The righteous and innocent One died on the Cross, suffering the punishment we deserved. But Jesus also rose from the dead, demonstrating His power over physical and eternal death. Through Him—and only through Him—man receives full life here and access to eternal life with God in heaven.

In Romans 5:1, the Apostle Paul points out a fundamental truth: “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:1). A person is only declared righteous by God through faith in Jesus Christ. The question is how this faith manifests itself.

My wife and I once met a young woman who was very religious. She testified that she believed in God and Jesus, and that she had repented of her sins. But something didn’t sit quite right, so we invited her over for a conversation about faith. I used the chair she was sitting on to illustrate. It was her first visit with us, and she wasn’t familiar with the chair, but she trusted that it would bear her weight. What would it be like if I didn’t have full confidence in the chair? I’d lean heavily on the table, to make sure the chair didn’t collapse beneath me. The table is an illustration of religious institutions, whether Catholic, Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness, or evangelical. People whose belief rests on Jesus plus a church don’t have faith in Jesus alone.

But I could also lean on someone in a chair next to me. This is an example of a faith shared with a person, such as a priest, the pope, a minister, or even people who have passed away, such as the so-called saints or the Virgin Mary. Such belief is also common, but it isn’t faith in Jesus Christ.

Here an example: I have a specific deadly heart problem, and there is only one surgeon in the entire world who can successfully resolve it. When the day of the operation arrives and I’m on the operating table, an assistant appears and says, “The surgeon has another appointment, but don’t worry, his mother will be operating on you.” So I ask, “Is she a surgeon too?” “No, but she’s a very nice woman who loves her son very much.” Of course I wouldn’t let her operate on me. The same is true of salvation, when you’re inclined to lean on someone else. No matter how good a person is or has been, only One saves.

Returning to the illustration of the chair, there can be a third case: I could also sit with my knees bent, barely touching the chair. That would mean I’m trusting more in myself and my own strength than in Jesus. This is a typical example of many who consider themselves good people and do many good deeds. But the Bible is clear: “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 2:5). “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Salvation is only possible through Jesus.

Faced with an infinite number of supposed paths offered by this world (invented by man, and all ending in a dead end), and with a society in which truth is relative to everyone, Jesus expressly affirms, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). In his Gospel, the Apostle John shows how incapable man is of finding true peace and lasting security, despite all his knowledge and efforts. But he also points out that we can find real life by believing in Jesus. As He Himself says, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10b).

Acts 17:28 confronts us with the fact that God lives. He is the only One who can give life—not just biological, but also spiritual and eternal life. No one can find the true meaning of life unless they are in a relationship with God.

Man has a number of choices, but they all boil down to two: either a life of ignorance of God, or a life of full identification with God through Christ’s work on the Cross. Elsewhere, Jesus points to the reality of every human being in this world. There are only two paths, and each of us is on one of the two. Let’s look at their respective ends. Jesus says: “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matt 7:13-14).

There are two paths. And as often is the case, where there is a path, there is also a destination, a place you want to get to. Jesus warned very clearly about the danger of walking the path without Him, because that destination is eternal damnation—hell. As Paul said in Athens, “because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed” (Acts 17:31a), the Lord Jesus Christ. But there is also the way to heaven and eternal life, if we believe in Jesus and accept Him. The decision is personal: Which path do you choose? What decision will you make? On what, or even better, on whom is your faith based? Is it Jesus alone?

In Athens, there were two reactions to the Apostle’s message.

The rejected God: To most of the “wise” Athenians, Paul’s message was simply ridiculous. For one thing, they were convinced that the gods cannot die; apart from that, the concept of resurrection seemed ridiculous to them. The philosophers of the time saw Paul simply as a windbag—literally, a “seed-collector.” In other words, someone who exploits what other people have discarded.

The Apostle Paul, once a leading figure in Judaism who had received superlative religious training, knew and professed the simple message of the One who gave His life for him. This message was too simplistic for those who thought themselves too wise.

Many still consider free salvation—offered to us without any special works or merit, and which we can simply accept by faith—to be too simple to be true. Others don’t want to change their lives, and choose to continue ignoring God. This is the path of the rejected God.

The accepted God: Despite the grand group who thought themselves wiser and chose to continue in their philosophies and idolatry, there were also the “devout persons.” We don’t know exactly who the author of Acts is referring to, but we can assume that they were honestly and humbly seeking the truth about God and their lives, because Scripture records, “some … believed” (Acts 17:34a). They believed that the Lord Jesus came into this world to die for them, save them from their guilt, forgive their sins, and give them eternal life.

Everyone is faced with this decision today. We may go our own way, following our own philosophies of life, but we should remember: God exists, heaven and hell are a reality, and the choices we make now will affect our lives and determine where we will spend eternity. The Bible warns with great seriousness:

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed … Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:17-20, 36).

In a world full of deceptive offerings—with no security, no real peace but only dead ends—the Lord Jesus wants to lead us to truth, life in abundance, and eternal salvation. He invites us again and again, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’” (John 7:37-38).

When we come to Jesus, He’ll quench our thirst! When we come to Christ, He’ll save us! The gift of salvation will be granted to us when we believe in Him. But faith is much more than just an intellectual exercise. Believing in Jesus involves repenting of our sins and accepting that Jesus died on the Cross for those sins, making Him our personal Savior. The ones who make this decision to believe are doing much more than just participating in religion. They’re beginning a personal relationship with God Himself! Every person can become one of God’s beloved children in a very special way (John 1:12). The Bible promises those who want to enter into this relationship, that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom 10:13).

Have you done this? If not, won’t you do it now?

Midnight Call - 05/2024

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