I had the privilege last weekend to share the gospel together with Christians from four different local churches. I love the unity of believers who worship the same God but in a different building than I do.
Over the years of walking with Jesus I have had countless conversations with non-believers about the gospel. Last weekend I had a conversation with a young man that I feel like I’ve had a thousand times all by itself.
This particular young man was kind, candid, gracious, and polite. As is the case with many non-believers, he had never personally read the whole Bible for himself. His understanding of Christianity was based primarily on his experience living in America.
Hearing Christian cliches. Reading bumper stickers. Talking with people who identify themselves as Christians. Seeing stereotypical Christians portrayed in the media.
During our conversation this young man said to me something along these lines (I’m paraphrasing): “I just find it hard, personally, to believe in a god that doesn’t care about all the suffering in the world. A god who is supposedly all good and loving and powerful, yet who seems to maybe even enjoy allowing so much bad stuff to happen. If some people want to believe in god because it gives them hope, I get that. But I don’t.”
If we simply open our eyes and look around it is difficult to deny that this world stinks. It’s rotten. Sure, good things happen. Pleasant things. But so do awful, terrible, unspeakable things. All the time.
Religious cliches are often empty. Platitudes often lack substance. Bumper stickers are clever but usually not much more.
What is sad is that this young man has believed a lie about the God of the Bible. He has been told, over and over, a version of “Christianity” that is a caricature of the truth.
I told him something I have told more people than I can count: You’re right. If the true and living God is only concerned with making people happy then He is doing a terrible job. Suffering is real. Tragedies abound.
Something is rotten.
I don’t want to believe that either. In fact, I don’t believe it.
The truth is that the Bible does not teach that God is only concerned with the happiness and comfort of people. That’s a lie being propagated in His name. It’s blasphemy.
I had the blessed opportunity to share the genuine gospel with this young man. It was different than anything he had heard before. He didn’t accept it but he heard it. I pray the Lord will bring forth fruit from the seed that was planted.
I don’t believe in Jesus simply because it gives me hope. Quite frankly, there are many things in the Bible that I wish (in my flesh) were not true.
“Enter through the narrow gate, because the gate is wide and the way is spacious that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. But the gate is narrow and the way is difficult that leads to life, and there are few who find it. Watch out for false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are voracious wolves.” (Matthew 7:13-15 NET)
I wish that weren’t true. I wish the way that leads to life was the broad path not the narrow one. I wish the many referred to those who enter life not destruction. I wish the path leading to life was easy not difficult. I wish that there weren’t liars who deliberately come to mislead many people into traveling the road to destruction.
That stinks. It’s heavy.
But the truth doesn’t care about our feelings. It doesn’t care about our comfort.
The truth is that there is great reason for hope in Jesus Christ. In Him we can be reconciled to a holy and just God even though we have rebelled against Him and deserve death. Because of His grace and mercy He is willing to redeem all who repent and trust in Jesus with the precious blood of the Savior.
The flip-side is that the many who refuse to turn to Jesus will endure the wrath of God for eternity. The Bible teaches that we currently live in a world that has been cursed by its Creator because we have rebelled against Him. This world is hostile toward us. It has been handed over to Satan who is the god of this age and who holds the whole world in his power. We have all been cursed with death and sold into bondage to sin. This is not because God is weak or is losing. It is His holy judgment against a rebellious creation.
When I read the Bible and try and walk with the Holy Spirit in the grace of God I find that Jesus is right. The path to life is often difficult. Don’t get me wrong. It is a blessed path. But it is hard.
It is easy to believe I am forgiven. It’s harder to forgive others.
It is easy to believe that I am blessed. It’s harder to bless those who curse me.
It’s hard because it’s true. The struggle is real. Jesus is not a liar. Why trust in Jesus? Why follow Him and believe in Him? Because it’s easy?
Because Jesus is worthy.
He has demonstrated His worth and ability to save by living, dying, and rising again in fulfillment of the Scriptures. This truth should give tremendous hope to all who have taken refuge in Him. It should also instill a holy fear in those who refuse His amazing grace available only in and through Christ.
The struggle is real. Don’t believe what makes you comfortable. Believe the truth of the gospel. Live in the light of that truth.