He Walked with God

Enoch walked with God 300 years
and fathered sons and daughters… .
Enoch walked with God.
Genesis 5:22, 24

When all is said and done, God may have His own personal testimony of all who lived by faith. Don’t miss the four-word testimony of one of His saints found in Genesis 5: “Enoch walked with God.”

That’s all we have to do in order to please God. Walk with Him. He wants our company, and the only way we can walk with Him is to walk by faith and not by sight. The law of Moses did not exist in Enoch’s era. He had no rules or regulations. We have no grounds for believing that God appeared to him or spoke aloud from the heavens. In a cold world, Enoch simply had a feverish pursuit of God.

Beth Moore.

Say the Word

The telephone rang. It was a message that my younger son, a singer, was about to get on an aeroplane to go with his choir to the other side of the world. If I was quick, I might just be able to catch him with a call to wish him well. I phoned, caught him, and we had a good chat. There are times when I wonder where fatherhood ends and friendship begins.

Friendship and fatherhood together teach us something about God and prayer. Actually, the learning can be a two-way street. It isn’t just a matter of thinking about earthly friends and fathers and then learning that God is like that. There are times when a father needs to take a long, hard look at what God’s fatherhood is all about, and start changing his own fatherhood behavior to be more like it. And most of our friendships, I suspect, could do with the improvement that some reflection about God as a friend might provide.

It is that picture—of God as a friend, in bed and asleep, with his children around him—which probably strikes us as the more peculiar. (We are used to saying that God is our father, though we may not always ask what exactly that means; but God as our Friend is less obvious.) In the sort of house Jesus has in mind, the family would all sleep side by side on the floor, so that if the father got up at midnight the whole family would be woken up. My children are now past that stage (my wife and I are more likely to be woken up when they come home at midnight or later), but it’s obvious what a nuisance it is when the knock comes on the door.

Yet the friend outside has a real problem, and the sleeping friend can and will help him. The laws of hospitality in the ancient Middle East were strict, and if a traveler arrived needing food and shelter one was under an obligation to provide them. The friend in the street knows that the friend in bed will understand; he would do the same if the roles were reversed.

What counts is persistence. There are all sorts of ways in which God isn’t like a sleepy friend, but Jesus is focusing on one point of comparison only: he is encouraging a kind of holy boldness, a sharp knocking on the door, an insistent asking, a search that refuses to give up. That’s what our prayer should be like. This isn’t just a routine or formal praying, going through the motions as a daily or weekly task. There is a battle on, a fight with the powers of darkness, and those who have glimpsed the light are called to struggle in prayer—for peace, for reconciliation, for wisdom, for a thousand things for the world and the church, perhaps a hundred or two for one’s own family, friends and neighbors, and perhaps a dozen or two for oneself.

There are, of course, too many things to pray about. That’s why it’s important to be disciplined and regular. If you leave it to the whim of the moment you’ll never be a true intercessor, somebody through whose prayers God’s love is poured out into the world. But because these things are urgent, important and complex there has to be more to prayer than simply discipline and regularity. Formal prayers, including official liturgies for services in church, are vital for most people for their spiritual health, but they are like the metal shell of a car. To be effective it needs fuel for its engine, and to be effective prayers need energy, too: in this case, the kind of dogged and even funny determination that you’d use with a sleepy friend who you hoped would help you out of a tight spot.

The larger picture, though, is the more familiar one of God as father. This isn’t just an illustration drawn from family life, though of course it is that at its heart, and Jesus’ illustrations about giving a child real food rather than poisonous snakes make their point. If we are ever tempted to imagine God as a tyrant who would take delight in giving us things that weren’t good for us, we should remember these pictures and think again. But the illustration is bigger than that as well.

The idea of God as father goes right back to the time when Israel was in slavery and needed rescuing. ‘Israel is my son, my firstborn,’ declared God to Pharaoh through Moses and Aaron; ‘so let my people go!’ From then on, to call on God as ‘father’ was to invoke the God of the exodus, the liberating God, the God whose kingdom was coming, bringing bread for the hungry, forgiveness for the sinner, and deliverance from the powers of darkness.

Tom Wright

Believe It

(Heb. 6:13–20)

I like the familiar saying. I’ve even seen it on bumper stickers. “God Said It. I Believe It. That Settles It.”

Of course, for some people, that doesn’t settle it. That was the problem with some of the folks the Letter of Hebrews is addressed to. And so the writer invented his own bumper sticker.

God promised.
God swore He’d keep His promise.
And that settles it for sure.

It’s not just that God, who doesn’t lie, has promised to bless us. God sealed His promise with an oath, executed in the blood of His one and only Son. God wouldn’t lie in the first place. But God would never, ever, consider violating an oath that He made at such unimaginable cost.

Why did God take such pains to confirm His promise? Because He knew how vulnerable we are to fear and doubt. He knew how weak our faith becomes at times. And so, not because He needed to, but as an anchor for the hope we have in Christ, God promised, and He swore His oath—to reassure us.

What a gracious God we have. And how little cause we have to doubt Him. What God has promised us in Christ is ours. In Jesus we have “an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”

Personal Application
Don’t rely on your ability to keep on believing. Rely on God’s ability to keep His promises.

Quotable
“Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace. It is so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times.”—Martin Luther

Larry Richards

Understanding the Text

Hebrews 4:14–6:20

“Every high priest is selected from among men and is appointed to represent them in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins” (Heb. 5:1).

With Jesus as our High Priest, we can approach God’s throne with confidence.

Overview
Having Jesus as High Priest guarantees our welcome by God (4:14–16), for Jesus, who God appointed to represent us (5:1–6), is also the source of our salvation (vv. 7–10). To reach maturity we must build on this foundation (v. 11–6:3), which cannot be laid again (vv. 4–6). Rooted in faith, we will produce the fruit that accompanies salvation (vv. 7–12), resting on the unbreakable promises God has made to us in Jesus Christ (vv. 13–20).

Understanding the Text
“Tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin” Heb. 4:14–16. “But you don’t understand,” are perhaps the most common words a pastor or Christian counselor is likely to hear. Each of us has a tendency to think that our troubles, our temptations, are unique. They’re not. Each human being is tempted through the same avenues—through relationships with others, through vulnerability to pain, through pressures beyond his or her control, etc. It’s true that not everyone knows the pain of rejection by a spouse bent on divorce. But even our nine-year-old knows the pain of rejection by a best friend, who over a misunderstanding takes off her half of their “best friend’s necklace,” covers her ears with her hands, and says, “I’ll never talk to you again.”

That’s what the writer tells us about Jesus. In His humanity Christ experienced every kind of temptation—every vulnerability of mankind. He felt the pain of rejection, the pangs of hunger, the hostility of the crowds, the fear of His coming death. And because He knows exactly how painful it is to be a human being, He is able to “sympathize with our weaknesses.”

Think about this next time you’re hurting. Think about Jesus the Man; remember how completely He understands. Then, without hesitation, come confidently to the throne, where God dispenses grace, and receive the mercy and help He is so eager to pour out on you.

“Every high priest” Heb. 5:1–10. The writer continued to develop the theme of Jesus’ humanity, to show how it relates to His priesthood.

No angel could serve as high priest, for no angel could understand our weaknesses and “deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray” (v. 2). It takes a human being, aware of human weaknesses, to be sensitive to humanity’s needs and so represent us before God.

What a wonder this is. Jesus came to know the anguish of vulnerability. Jesus, approaching the cross, “offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears.” One of the Gospel writers tells us that His agony was so great He sweat drops of blood. Oh, yes. Jesus understands us, far better than we understand our own weakness. He resisted every temptation, and so experienced man’s weakness to the full.

The thought here is important. Suppose two friends go on a diet. The first day each becomes hungry, and one says, “I’ve got to have a candy bar!” And he eats. The other says, “I’ve got to have some candy too—but I won’t.” Instead he stays faithful to the diet for six weeks. Which one, do you suppose, really understands hunger and a yearning for food? The one who surrendered to his hunger the first day, or the one who lived with his hunger for six weeks?

This is what the text is saying about Jesus. He understands our weaknesses, because He never gave in to them! Jesus lived, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, with all our vulnerabilities, and never once surrendered to them. And in this process He was “made perfect” as our Savior. Not that there was any change in His essential nature as God. He was “made perfect” in the sense of being fully equipped by suffering to sympathize with us, for by suffering He learned what it means to be human. Because our High Priest became a man and lived as a man among us, He is able to “deal gently” with us who are so ignorant and so prone to go astray.

Jesus understands our weakness. He does not condemn. He saves. And Jesus cares.

“By constant use have trained themselves to distinguish” Heb. 5:11–14. The writer seemed more than a little upset that his readers had not realized what a wonderful High Priest we have in Jesus, and gone on to maturity. He expressed his annoyance. But he also shared the key to maturity. We become mature by constantly using the truth God has revealed to distinguish good from evil.

Don’t mistake possessing information for maturity. The ability to quote long passages of Scripture or to argue theology is meaningless. What brings a believer to maturity is the conscious effort to distinguish between good and evil on criterion established by God’s Word. The difference between “milk” and “meat” is not a difference between a superficial and comprehensive knowledge of Christian doctrine. It is not a difference between a little knowledge and a lot. The difference is found in the way we process Scripture. To those who hear but do not apply Scripture, the truths they know are milk. But to those who hear and do apply the Word of God, the same truths become solid, sustaining meat.

“Let us go on to maturity” Heb. 6:1–6. It’s important to notice that this famous warning passage in Hebrews is concerned with maturity rather than salvation. Some have become deeply concerned that they might “fall away” from salvation, and be unable to be “brought back to repentance.”

However, as the whole section from 5:11–6:12 deals with maturity, it’s best not to assume the writer suddenly shifted in mid-thought to a different topic.

What then is the passage saying? First, that the foundation on which we build our lives has already been laid in Christ. When we trust Him, our great High Priest, we are already on the foundation. Now we need to build on it—not lay it again.

The image that I keep seeing is that of a terrified person stretched out on a solid cement slab laid on solid rock. He’s digging in his fingernails and holding on for dear life, terrified that he’ll fall off the foundation. The problem is, since he’s just laying there holding on, the rest of the house isn’t going up! The wood for the frame and the trusses for the roof are sitting there on the ground, but nothing can be done as long as the man lies there, clutching the foundation as if his life depended on it.

Our relationship with God through Jesus is not like that! In Christ God has laid a foundation on which we are secure. Rather than devoting all our energy to holding on, we’re to devote our energy to building on the foundation God has laid. Once we realize how safe we are, we can step out in joyous faith and go on to maturity.

“Crucifying the Son of God all over again” Heb. 6:4–6. The issues of death, faith, and resurrection have all been resolved in the death of Christ. The problem with the panicky people the author addressed here was that they hadn’t thought through what uncertainty about their relationship with God implied. So the writer, with more than a hint of sarcasm, asked a hypothetical question. We can see it clearly in this paraphrase of these critical verses.

What would you want to do? View your failure as a falling away of God, so access is lost? How then would you ever be restored—you who have been enlightened, tasted the heavenly gift, shared in the Holy Spirit, and known the flow of resurrection power? Do you want to crucify Jesus all over again, and through a new sacrifice be brought back to repentance? How impossible! What a disgrace, this hint that Jesus’ work for you was not enough.

Thank God, Jesus’ work as our High Priest was enough. And we are secure in Him.

“We are confident of better things in your case” Heb. 6:7–12. The writer shifted images from construction to agriculture. God wants us to produce a useful crop. And, because of our relationship with Jesus, we will! Good things do accompany salvation: things like work and love shown toward God, and help offered to His people.
These are the things we should concentrate on. We need not be anxious about our salvation. We can put all our energy into serving God and others.

Larry Richards

Who Is Augustine?

“Mankind is divided into two sorts: such as live according to man, and such as live according to God. These we call the two cities.… The Heavenly City outshines Rome. There, instead of victory, is truth”

Barbarians surged into the empire, threatening the Roman way of life as never before. The Christian church also faced attack from internal heretics. The potential destruction of culture, civilization, and the church was more than an occasional nightmare—it was perceived as an immediate threat. And Augustine answered with such wisdom, his responses are still considered by some to be the church’s most important writings after the Bible.

From his birth in a small North African town, Augustine knew the religious differences overwhelming the Roman Empire: his father was a pagan who honored the old Punic gods; his mother was a zealous Christian. But the adolescent Augustine was less interested in religion and learning than in sex and high living—like joining with friends to steal pears from a neighbor’s vineyard “not to eat them ourselves but simply to throw them to the pigs.”

At age 17, Augustine set off to school in Carthage—the country boy in the jewel of North Africa. There the underachiever became enraptured with his studies and started to make a name for himself. He immersed himself in the writings of Cicero and Manichaean philosophers and cast off the vestiges of his mother’s religion.
His studies completed, Augustine returned to his home town of Thagaste to teach rhetoric—and some Manichaeism on the side. (The philosophy, based on the teachings of a Persian named Mani, was a dualist corruption of Christianity. It taught that the world of light and the world of darkness constantly war with each other, catching most of humanity in the struggle.) Augustine tried to hide his views from his mother, Monica, but when she found out, she threw him out of the house.
But Monica, who had dreamt her son would become a Christian, continued to pray and plead for his conversion and followed him to Carthage when he moved there to teach. When Augustine was offered a professorship in Rome, Monica begged him not to go. Augustine told her to go home and sleep comfortably in the knowledge that he would stay in Carthage. When she left, he boarded a ship for Rome.

Darkness vanquished
After a year in Rome, Augustine moved again, to become the professor of rhetoric for the city of Milan. There he began attending the cathedral to hear the impressive oratory of Ambrose the bishop; he kept attending because of Ambrose’s preaching. He soon dropped his Manichaeism in favor of Neoplatonism, the philosophy of both Roman pagans and Milanese Christians.

His mother finally caught up with him and set herself to find her son a proper wife. Augustine had a concubine he deeply loved and who had given him a son, but he would not marry her because it would have ruined him socially and politically.
Added to the emotional strain of forsaking his lover and the shift in philosophies, Augustine was struggling with himself. For years he had sought to overcome his fleshly passions and nothing seemed to help. It seemed to him that even his smallest transgressions were weighted with meaning. Later, writing about the pear stealing of his youth, he reflected, “Our real pleasure consisted in doing something that was forbidden. The evil in me was foul, but I loved it.”

One afternoon, he wrestled anxiously about such matters while walking in his garden. Suddenly he heard a child’s sing-song voice repeating, “Take up and read.” On a table lay a collection of Paul’s epistles he’d been reading; he picked it up and read the first thing he saw: “Not in reveling and drunkenness, not in lust and wantonness, not in quarrels and rivalries. Rather, arm yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, spend no more thought on nature and nature’s appetites” (Romans 13:13–14).

He later wrote, “No further would I read; nor needed I: for instantly at the end of this sentence, by a light as it were of serenity infused into my heart, all the darkness of doubt vanished away.”

From monk to bishop
Augustine’s conversion sent shockwaves through his life. He resigned his professorship, dashed off a note to Ambrose telling of his conversion, and retreated with his friends and mother to a country villa in Cassiciacum. There he continued discussing philosophy and churning out books in a Neoplatonist vein. After half a year, he returned to Milan to be baptized by Ambrose, then headed back to Thagaste to live as a writer and thinker.

By the time he reached his home town (a journey lengthened by political turmoil), he had lost his mother, his son, and one of his closest friends. These losses propelled Augustine into a deeper, more vigorous commitment: he and friends established a lay ascetic community in Thagaste to spend time in prayer and the study of the Scriptures.

In 391, Augustine traveled to Hippo to see about setting up a monastery in the area. His reputation went before him. The story goes that, seeing the renowned layman in church one Sunday, Bishop Valerius put aside his prepared sermon and preached on the urgent need for priests in Hippo. The crowd stared at Augustine and then pushed him forward for ordination. Against his will, Augustine was made a priest. The laity, thinking his tears of frustration were due to his wanting to be a bishop rather than priest, tried to assure him that good things come to those who wait.

Valerius, who spoke no Punic (the local language), quickly handed over teaching and preaching duties to his new priest, who did speak the local language. Within five years, after Valerius died, Augustine became bishop of Hippo.

Orthodox champion for a millennium
Guarding the church from internal and external challenges topped the new bishop’s agenda. The church in North Africa was in turmoil. Though Manichaeism was already on its way out, it still had a sizable following. Augustine, who knew its strengths and weaknesses, dealt it a death blow. At the public baths, Augustine debated Fortunatus, a former schoolmate from Carthage and a leading Manichaean. The bishop made quick work of the heretic, and Fortunatus left town in shame.

Less easily handled was Donatism, a schismatic and separatist North African church. They believed the Catholic church had been compromised and that Catholic leaders had betrayed the church during earlier persecutions. Augustine argued that Catholicism was the valid continuation of the apostolic church. He wrote scathingly, “The clouds roll with thunder, that the house of the Lord shall be built throughout the earth; and these frogs sit in their marsh and croak ‘We are the only Christians!’ ”
In 411 the controversy came to a head as the imperial commissioner convened a debate in Carthage to decide the dispute once and for all. Augustine’s rhetoric destroyed the Donatist appeal, and the commissioner pronounced against the group, beginning a campaign against them.

It was not, however, a time of rejoicing for the church. The year before the Carthage conference, the barbarian general Alaric and his troops sacked Rome. Many upper-class Romans fled for their lives to North Africa, one of the few safe havens left in the empire. And now Augustine was left with a new challenge—defending Christianity against claims that it had caused the empire’s downfall by turning eyes away from Roman gods.

Augustine’s response to the widespread criticism came in 22 volumes over 12 years, in The City of God. He argued that Rome was punished for past sins, not new faith. His lifelong obsession with original sin was fleshed out, and his work formed the basis of the medieval mind. “Mankind is divided into two sorts,” he wrote. “Such as live according to man, and such as live according to God. These we call the two cities.… The Heavenly City outshines Rome. There, instead of victory, is truth.”

One other front Augustine had to fight to defend Christianity was Pelagianism. Pelagius, a British monk, gained popularity just as the Donatist controversy ended. Pelagius rejected the idea of original sin, insisting instead that the tendency to sin is humankind’s own free choice. Following this reasoning, there is no need for divine grace; individuals must simply make up their minds to do the will of God. The church excommunicated Pelagius in 417, but his banner was carried on by young Julian of Eclanum. Julian took potshots at Augustine’s character as well as his theology. With Roman snobbery, he argued that Augustine and his other low-class African friends had taken over Roman Christianity. Augustine argued with the former bishop for the last ten years of his life.

In the summer of 429, the Vandals invaded North Africa, meeting almost no resistance along the way. Hippo, one of the few fortified cities, was overwhelmed with refugees. In the third month of the siege, the 76-year-old Augustine died, not from an arrow but from a fever. Miraculously, his writings survived the Vandal takeover, and his theology became one of the main pillars on which the church of the next 1,000 years was built.

Mark Galli and Ted Olsen

The Bible and Holiness

Each of the four living creatures had six wings; they were covered with eyes around and inside. Day and night they never stop, saying: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God, the Almighty, who was, who is, and who is coming.”   Revelation 4:8
 
DEFINITION: Holiness is the quality of being set apart. God is holy because He is like no other, and He exists eternally as the Holy Spirit. God’s holiness includes His moral perfection and righteousness. Persons, places, and things set apart for God are holy rather than common.
 
The incomparable holiness of God is celebrated throughout the Bible, such as in the Song of Moses and the Prayer of Hannah (Ex 15:11; 1 Sm 2:2). The psalms ring with His holiness. His name or character is to be recognized by all others as holy: “For the High and Exalted One who lives forever, whose name is Holy says this: ‘I live in a high and holy place, and with the oppressed and lowly of spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and revive the heart of the oppressed’” (Is 57:15). Because God is holy, His promises must certainly be fulfilled and His judgment against everything unholy is sure (Ps 89:35; Am 4:2).

God is unsearchable and past finding out, inspiring awe and fear. When humans are confronted with God’s holiness, their own unholiness is the more clearly realized, as in the case of Isaiah (Is 6:1-7). All this stands in tension with the personal dimension of God as one seeking to relate to His creatures. God’s holiness (which separates Creator from creation) and His personhood (which makes fellowship possible between the Creator and His creatures) are equally true.

The Book of Leviticus in particular focuses on holiness. God ordered the Israelites to set themselves apart from everything ritually or morally profane: “I am the LORD your God, so you must consecrate yourselves and be holy because I am holy” (Lv 11:44). The Apostle Peter applied this text to God’s new people (1 Pt 1:15-16). See the article on sanctification for more about the holiness of persons.

Because Jesus is fully divine, He has the same holiness that is attributed to God (Lk 1:35; Jn 6:69). Although God’s Spirit worked throughout the Old Testament, He was rarely called the “Holy” Spirit until the birth of Jesus. In Acts and the Epistles, the Spirit gives spiritual life to those who once were unholy and hostile to God. The Holy Spirit lives in all believers, to enable both holy living and good works (Rm 8:9). Christians are frequently called holy ones or saints.

Because God is holy, He will not tolerate ungodliness forever. Divine holiness means that judgment of sin is necessary. God will render a final verdict for all humanity. Everything unholy will be condemned and there will be a new and perfectly holy creation. Peter wrote that “based on His promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness will dwell” (2 Pt 3:13).
 
REFLECTION: In what circumstances have you learned the most about God’s holiness? What are the personal implications in your life for God’s command, “Be holy because I am holy”?
 
PRAYER: Lord God, You are holy and awesome. Thank You that You exist forever in the Person of the Holy Spirit. Let me become so engulfed by this truth that I am compelled to become more holy. I long for the unfolding of the new creation in which holiness will dwell eternally. Amen.

Kendell Easley

Better Than You See Yourself

The LORD says,
“Come, let us talk about these things.
Though your sins are like scarlet,
they can be as white as snow.
Though your sins are deep red,
they can be white like wool.”

ISAIAH 1:18

Happy is the person
whose sins are forgiven,
whose wrongs are pardoned.
Happy is the person
whom the LORD does not consider guilty
and in whom there is nothing false.

PSALM 32:1–2

If we confess our sins, he will forgive our sins,
because we can trust God to do what is right.
He will cleanse us from all the wrongs we have done.

1 JOHN 1:9

When Jesus told us to pray for forgiveness of our debts as we forgive our own debtors, he knew who would be the one to pay the debt. As he would hang on the cross he would say, “It is finished” … the debt is paid!

There are some facts that will never change. One fact is that you are forgiven. If you are in Christ, when he sees you, your sins are covered—he doesn’t see them. He sees you better than you see yourself. And that is a glorious fact of your life.

Max Lucado

You Need Not Be Ashamed

Charles M. Alexander (1867–1920) exhibited incredible ability to make people sing. He teamed up with evangelist Reuben A. Torrey, and the two became the first men to completely circle the globe in a quest for souls. He and his wife Helen Cadbury (of chocolate fame) helped organize the Pocket Testament League, and everywhere they went they pointed people to this verse.

2 Timothy 2:15 became Alexander’s text in this way. He once had a friend, French Oliver, who had drifted away from Christ. Alexander, who led him back to the Lord and into Christian service, later wrote: Oliver and I agreed to spend our next Christmas together. Those were two of the most profitable weeks I have ever spent. We sang and composed music, read the Bible, and talked over Christian work. On New Year’s Eve we decided we would take a year-text, and the year-text was 2 Timothy 2:15. Instead of saying “Good night” to each other, one would call out “2 Timothy 2:15, ” and the other would answer, “2 Timothy 2:15.”

Finally the time came to part. I went to the depot to see him off. Many people were on the platform. My friend was standing at the back of the train, and instead of saying “Good-bye,” I called out “2 Timothy 2:15!”

“2 Timothy 2:15!” he replied.

A year later, Alexander, teaching a class of young men, referred to this verse. One of them spoke up. “Twelve months ago,” he said, “I was down at the depot when I heard a fellow shouting for all he was worth, ‘2 Timothy 2:15!’ to a man on the end of the outgoing train, who was shouting back, ‘2 Timothy 2:15!’ I thought, what is this? I made a beeline home and looked it up in my Bible. I wasn’t a Christian then, but the words of that text hit me fairly between the eyes. I asked God to forgive my sins and help me to show myself approved, and thank God He has done it.”

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15

Robert J. Morgan

His Unrelenting Hand

God is not to be found in the laboratory. He cannot be proved. But then, love is not to be found in the laboratory. Neither is courage, nor longing, nor hope. God is to be found in the courtroom. While data cannot be garnered to prove His existence, evidence can be amassed to demonstrate the probability of His existence. There is a gap between the probable and the proved. But then, few things can be proved to the unbelieving mind. Unbelief never has enough proof.

C. S. Lewis, the brilliant Christian scholar who taught at both Cambridge and Oxford, readily admitted his reluctance to accept the existence of God. Yet he kept an open mind in the investigation of the evidence and found himself being convinced in spite of himself. He wrote in his book Surprised by Joy that he was teaching at Magdalen College at the University of Oxford when he had an encounter with an atheist intellectual:

Early in 1926 the hardest boiled of all the atheists I ever knew sat in my room on the other side of the fire and remarked that the evidence for the historicity of the Gospels was really surprisingly good. “Rum thing,” he went on. “Rum thing. It almost looks as if it had really happened once.” To understand the shattering impact of it, you would need to know the man (who has certainly never since shown any interest in Christianity). If he, the cynic of cynics, the toughest of the toughs, were not—as I would still have put it—“safe,” where could I turn? Was there then no escape?
You must picture me alone in that room at Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting hand of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet.

That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England. I did not then see what is now the most shining and obvious thing: the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms. The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore the Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape?

If you look for God in the laboratory, you will not find Him. If you look for Him in the courtroom, the amount of evidence can be very satisfying—enough to give a reasonable doubt about a universe without Him and make it reasonable to believe in Him.

Max E. Anders

We Are One

2 Kings 20:1–21:26; Ephesians 4:1–32; Proverbs 8:27–36

It’s easy to sort believers in a community based on the quantity of their service. Most of us could roll out the masking tape and divide those who contribute their time and efforts from those who don’t. If we’re honest, the topic itself easily divides us—it makes us feel used, overtasked, and resentful. But that’s not the picture of unity of purpose that Paul presents in Ephesians. He describes the church as a body—one in which “each single part” is needed for the growth of the whole.

“But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow into him with reference to all things, who is the head, Christ, from whom the whole body, joined together and held together by every supporting ligament, according to the working by measure of each single part, the growth of the body makes for the building up of itself in love” (Eph 4:15–16).
We are each given unique abilities for the growth of the body, and “each single part” is necessary to grow the body of Christ. God gives gifts to each supporting ligament—each person—in order to build up the community. But it is Christ who joins and holds the church together.

Because of Christ’s unifying role, a key aspect of growth as a community and as individuals includes speaking the truth in love—helping others grow to spiritual maturity in the truth of the gospel. Instead of chiding, we can remind others of God’s goodness to them through Christ. Instead of further ostracizing them, we can invite them in by speaking the truth with love, realizing that God has blessed them with special abilities that will soon be realized.

How can you use your gifts to serve your community? How can you lovingly help others recognize theirs?

REBECCA VAN NOORD

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