Closing the Gap Week 3 Sermon Notes

By January 21, 2018January 23rd, 2018Sermon Notes

Last summer I spoke with a man who was on a governors’ staff and often sat next to him at state events.

The man told me that every time the governor was given a paper pertinent to the meeting…budgets, issues facing the State…whatever.

The governor would write at the top of the page the word “Jesus”

He did this without fanfare and no one would have noticed unless you were sitting right next to him.

Why did he do this?

I assume it was to keep his mind oriented to ultimate reality as he did his work.

Budgets, public health, criminal justice, jobs…are real and important issues.

But at the bottom of all that is real…what is the foundation?

He wrote the word “Jesus”…to maintain perspective as he dealt with these pressing and important issues.

To some this would seem fanatical…to mean it seems very practical.

Everyone begins their thinking about everything somewhere.

They begin with themselves as a reference point.

Or they begin with some philosophy or set of ideas.

This governor was doing what everyone does…starting his thinking and acting somewhere.

But he was going beyond what is normally done…he was taking a step to ensure that his thinking originated from the right starting place.

The Bible begins in the beginning…space/time beginning

Gen 1:1 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

God, of course has no beginning…but space/time does.

This is important because without an understanding that all that exists originated from God…then it will be impossible to understand what follows in the Scriptures.

The beginning point for our thinking shapes the course of our lives…it eventually turns into what we value (love) and what we do.

It becomes the lens through which we see everything else.

A man who made a living going from campus to campus debating Christians (he was a sort of “unevangelist) once said,

“It would be very strange, but if I stood there and watched Jesus Christ coming out of the tomb, coming back to life and walking around, it wouldn’t imply that God existed.”

You might say, “That’s irrational”

Actually it’s not…many believe in multi-verses, it seems that there are some particles that “pop” in and out of our realm of existence, there are apparently things with “negative mass”

There is a lot of strange stuff in our universe…for the person who begins with the universe rather than God…a man raising from the dead is not a stretch at all…”stranger things” he might say, “have happened.”

Jesus said, “Believe in God, believe also in me” John 14:1…there is on order of events.

This is the reason, why I believe; the enemy has gone after “In the beginning God” so strongly.

If you undermine Gen 1:1…you undermine all that follows.

What happened in the history of Israel, the Exodus, the conquest of Canaan, the Kings, the prophets…of all this can be explained with “natural causes” if…in the beginning…no God.

What happened in the life, death, resurrection of Jesus…the spread of the church…all explainable without God…or at least it would seem to them.

The end result is the end of faith.

Not because you have facts that undermine faith…but because of a different faith (God did not create) undermines a biblical faith (God did create)

Perhaps you have been influenced by the weight of doubt regarding “In the beginning”

If “In the beginning…no God was necessary”
Then “in the now, no God is necessary”
You do not need to wonder if science has or can undermine faith…it cannot.

Arthur Koestler wrote a book called the “Sleepwalkers” where he attempts to demonstrate that the “belief in the unique rationality of science is truly irrational.”

The point being that scientists, like all human beings are guided by passions, presuppositions, pride, insecurity, loves and hates…and of course faith.

All live by faith in something.

A professor of the history of science once said

“Darwinism was not the result of science but it was a philosophical movement that took over in the late 19th century and it has been a disaster for science ever since.”

Why…because the facts are forced to fit into a theory…this is not science.

This issue here is not merely theoretical…it is critical…it has implications for how you spend your life, what you value, what you decide is right/wrong.

This year our theme is “Closing the gap on faith and love”

It is a year of seasons (sub themes)…this winter season we are in Hebrews 11 and 12.

Closing the gap on confidence(faith) in God.

Heb. 11:3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

In the spring of 2000, a renowned Chinese paleontologist named J. Y. Chen gave a lecture at the University of Washington.

Chen is the world’s expert on an important new discovery of Cambrian-era fossils in southern China.

The Cambrian era is a period in the fossil record where numerous animal forms appear to have arisen suddenly…its been called the “Cambrian explosion.”

There is a great book…a long book…entitled “Darwin’s Doubt” that deals with the “Cambrian explosion” and its problem for Darwin then, as well as modern day scientists.

At any rate during Chen’s presentation he highlighted the apparent contradiction between the Chinese fossil evidence and Darwinian orthodoxy.

One professor in the audience asked Chen, almost as a warning, if he wasn’t nervous about expressing his doubts about Darwin-ism so freely–especially given China’s reputation for suppressing dissenting opinion.

Chen smiled and answered, “In China, we can criticize Darwin, but not the government. In America, you can criticize the government, but not Darwin.”

This would be very funny, if it were not so very true.
Many professors, and scientists have been censored and some fired…for daring to question current

scientific theories related to origins.

I have a friend who was a chaplain in South Korea last year.

He showed me pictures of the border.

On the South, armed guards point their weapons north.

On the North, armed guards point their weapons south and north.

They are ready to shoot anyone who tries to escape from the north to the south.

There is no need for the south to worry about anyone escaping from the south to the north.

It says a lot about a country, when you have to point guns “in” to keep citizens from leaving…a culture of repression and fear.

In a similar way, our culture has its guns trained back into its own ideological “country”

Ready to shoot anyone who would dare escape into another country…in this case…a country where God actually has designed and rules over his creation.

A world where by faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

Confidence in God can be undermined in any number of ways

1. Pastors and Priests who do wicked things.
-When those who claim to represent God fail, then confidence in God fails.

2. Christians who live two-story lives.
-When those who claim to follow God, live lives that are identical in every practical way as those who do not claim to follow him…confidence in God fails.

-Different beliefs…but identical values and behaviors
3. When the weight of cultural pressures is heavily against a biblical view of the world AND dissenting views

are mocked or suppressed (seen as naive, not cool or current)…confidence in God may fail. This is all able to happen, when people have a low experiential confidence in God.

That is, they have been taught a set of beliefs, but not encouraged to put those beliefs into practice and test them in real life.

Whatever the cause of faith failure…the end game in all this for Satan is a loss of confidence in God.

2 Cor. 4:4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

The “god” of this age (little “g”) is Satan.
This “age” is the time we are currently in, between the first and second advent of Christ.

This age has made Satan its god, so all across the globe in nations, cities, homes and hearts; “his” kingdom has come.

Satan was, is…about self-will.

He does not pray “They kingdom come” But he demands “My kingdom come.”

His followers…who don’t know they are following him…live…”My kingdom come”

He uses various means to cast doubt on the validity of God and God’s word.

When we doubt God and his word…it is unlikely we will continue to live lives consistent with him and what he has said.

That is why is important to continually close the gap in personal, and experiential (not mere intellectual ways) between where you are and where you could be in trusting God.

Many years ago some Mormon missionaries came to my house to convert me to their faith.

I invited them in and told them I would not be interested in debating ideas with them. I said the ground rules would be like this.
I would share my experience with Christ, what he has done and is doing in my life. Then they could do the same.

Our discussion would follow from there.
I shared some things Christ had done in my life, ways I had experienced his power and presence in my life. I then asked them to do the same.

One had no answer, the other simply said, “I had an experience one time where I believed God might be real.”

This was an extraordinary confession for a Mormon missionary and it shocked his partner that he would admit it my presence.

I tried to follow up with the young man, but he was moved to another city later that week.
We need to know the facts and have confidence in them.
But we especially need to continually engage the facts in personal ways…the facts of God are about God. God is a person.
Our relationship with him is factually true, but it is a relationship with a person, not a set of facts.
Its good to have a ready reply and a solid set of ideas to back up what you believe.
But it is essential that you have a life that aligns with what you say you believe and value.
Part of 1 Pet 3:15 is frequently quoted outside of its overall context.
“Always be prepared to answer to whoever asks you to give the reason for your hope”
So the common application is…memorize some important data about your faith.
Here’s the fuller context:

1 Peter 3:15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

1. Set apart Christ as Lord. Crown him King of your life.
2. Then the challenge to have a ready answer…involves knowing some truth.

3. Do this with gentleness and respect. Or, I would assume…please don’t do it at all…be like Christ in how you present facts of Christ.

4. V.16…your good behavior in Christ is obvious to those who have opposing views.

So close the gap on your understanding of the facts of your faith, but only so that your life will be your strongest argument for the truth of the gospel.

Don’t misunderstand me, people need to hear words from us.

They need to hear the gospel articulated, but the articulation of the gospel has more weight when the gospel is practiced in our lives.

So we are to have confidence in what God has revealed…but it is important that we keep in mind that he has revealed himself so that we would know him.

He has not revealed “Here are the 10,000 facts you need to know.”

He has revealed truth (facts) so that we would know him.

John 5:39 You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

So let’s go back to Hebrews 11:3, a foundational verse for our faith.

Heb. 11:3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

And let’s pair it with Romans 1:20

Rom 1:20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

Paul says that some of God’s qualities are seen from what has been made and that this is evident to all. The physical universe has God as its cause…this is obvious, or should be so.
Every event has a cause.
I prayed, studied, typed, then I spoke and you heard this sentence.

That point at which you heard that sentence was a finished series of causes.
There are a number of causes going back behind me and the speaking of that sentence.

But there are not an infinite number of causes behind me…or we would have never gotten to the point where I spoke that sentence.

We would be forever wading through infinite causes past, never arriving at that sentence.
If you are a domino with an infinite number of dominoes behind you, when will it be your turn to fall?

You never will fall, there is infinite number of dominoes behind you, it will never reach you…you will wait forever.

For the world we live in to exist, it must have had a beginning.

That beginning, the initial cause, must not be caused or it would not be the beginning.

“In the beginning…God.”

Heb. 11:3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

There was no pre-existing “stuff”…God is the first, he alone is eternal.
There is no cause behind him.
We are so accustomed to cause and effect that is virtually impossible to get our minds around this. But something has always existed and that something must be uncaused.
Some believe the physical universe has always existed.
Scripture teaches God has always existed.
In Exodus 3:14 when Moses asks God for his name, God responded “I am that I am”
He is saying that he has always been and always will be.
The physical world rests on an uncreated first cause.
Some believe “Science has proven that the universe came from nothing, they call it the ‘Big Bang” But actual cosmologists do not believe the “big bang” is the origin of the universe.
That don’t believe that everything literally came from nothing.
They believe there was a highly compressed point of matter and energy that exploded.
They don’t speak of “nothing exploding”
They have no real idea as to how this happened…they have a number of theories but no facts.
We believe that all that exists has the eternal God for its cause or reason for existence.
We believe it by faith; just as any other human believes what they believe about origins by faith.

No one was there…so we must all come to faith conclusions based on what we believe to be factually true.

Actually, there was someone there…Jesus, God the Son was there.

He was an eyewitness to creation…he caused creation.

Ultimately, I believe we base our conclusions about life’s origin, meaning and end on Jesus.

Just like that governor wrote Jesus on every document to keep him focused on where his thinking and “governing” should originate.

So too, our thinking and “governing” of our own lives should originate there at the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

How so?

Run through a line of reasoning (evidence)

Jesus was born in the first century and his life, death, resurrection remarkably fit with predictions (prophecy) made about him many years prior to his birth.

During his life, he reportedly did many miraculous things. Things for which we have good reason to believe to be factually true.

During his life he had a reputation for wisdom, grace, love, power, and overall good character…he was neither crazy, nor a liar.

He predicted his death and his resurrection.

He was killed as predicted and then came back from the dead.

Regarding his resurrection there is good solid evidence that it was a historically accurate event.

Now, all of this points to Jesus being who he said he was…not a kook, not a liar…but a reliable source of truth.

What did he say about himself?

John 8:58 “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” 59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.

He is claiming pre-existence, oneness with God.
This is why they tried to kill him, he was claiming to be God.

Furthermore, Jesus, God became man…also testified to the validity of the OT Scriptures.

He quoted them, he assumed their truth…he confirmed their truth.

Including Gen. 1:1…”In the beginning God created the heaven’s and the earth.”

There are a number of reasons that we can confirm factually Heb. 11:3

A key reason is Jesus himself…God became man, confirmed his own word…the Bible.

So you can ultimately, trace your confidence in scripture and in the beginning…to Jesus.

But how exactly does the fact of the universe owing its existence to God impact our lives?

Many have had their faith in God undermined because they have been told by current science that their faith is untenable (not factually true, not able to withstand scrutiny).

So they either set out to live a two-story life

A life of doubt regarding what God has said when it comes into conflict with what is being said in contemporary culture.

There are times when people have and do get the Bible wrong.
But my point is about authority…who or what has the final word of authority regarding your life? You may or may not be aware but evolution as a theory has been in constant evolution.
It is currently in a state of a crisis.

“Some leading evolutionary biologists, particularly those associated with a group of scientists known as the “Altenberg 16,” are openly calling for a new theory of evolution because they doubt the creative power of the mutation and natural selection mechanism.” Darwin’s Doubt, Myer

It has been said that Darwin described the survival of the fittest but no one has a good theory as to how and why there is an arrival of the fittest.

I mentioned the changing science on “eggs” last week.

Once again, back to Jesus.
You have reason to have confidence in Jesus…there is no reason that need undermine that confidence. He was a singularity in human history.

If you conclude that he is who he says he is.

Then you can conclude he is the ultimate authority on everything.

Then you can conclude that if he had confidence in Gen 1, you can.

You can…By faith understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

This means you live in your Father’s world and it is his kingdom that you want to come on earth as it is in heaven.

In your life, heart, mind as it is in heaven.

The implications for Heb 11:3 are enormous and practical.

You have a King, you have an ultimate authority in your life.

This King has made you and everyone and everything else.

You can take him at his word…he knows what he is talking about.

1. You do not have to have your way, you don’t always have to “win” -In fact, if you give away your life, you will have real life.

2. You don’t have to live with jealousy, envy, greed…these are empty things. -Your father feeds the birds, he knows about you, he will give you what you need.

3. You don’t have to live in anxiety about the future…who by worrying can add a single hour to his life. -You can trust tomorrow and eternity to your father.

On and on it goes.

Heb. 11:3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

What follows from there…is you can trust him and take him at his word.

In the Beginning “God”…in the end “God”…in the right now “God.”

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