Sermon: Are You Sure You Believe in God? (Part Two)


Given 26-Jul-08; 73 minutes

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Those who say in their hearts, "There is no God," have confirmed themselves as fools. Evolution is a defective theory attempting to explain the existence of creation without a Creator. Psychology, comparative religion, and environmentalist pagan earth worship are all looking for excuses not to fear God. When ancient Israel turned her back on the covenant relationship, she became a harlot, an object of shame and ridicule, anticipating the current shameful behavior of modern Israel, again denying the Creator God and snubbing the Covenant and pursuing economic and political treaties with her "lovers," not realizing that God alone determines the rise and fall of political powers. God's intervention determines the outcomes of military conflicts, including the Norman Conquest, and the ultimate solution for the seeming perpetual conflict between Isaac and Ishmael's offspring. Gambling, such as through lottery, raffle, or casino games, glorifies the way of get while denigrating the laws of labor and productivity. In contrast, the way of give as exemplified by God's way of life produces lasting happiness and blessings, and abundant spiritual fruit. Belief in God involves more than believing He exists, but in faithfully obeying what He asks us to do. Genuine faith gives us access to genuine power.

In my last sermon, I began to explain that when a person says in his heart, "There is no God," that he is no less than a fool!

But more importantly for us, we have to be very careful that we do not, in effect, by our attitudes and actions say in our hearts, "There is no God." In reality, that is what unbelief or a lack of faith is saying. This is why the apostle Paul was concerned about the Galatian members.

Some had exposed their weak faith by rejecting some of the doctrine of the apostles, which promotes the same message as the teaching of Jesus Christ. They also allowed themselves to be enticed by the errors of the interpretation of scripture by the false teachers. This is why Paul told the members:

Galatians 3:1, 3-4 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth ... Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? Have you suffered so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain?

Gullible women were especially susceptible to this weakness in faith. Sadly, this is still happening today in the church.

The doctrines of the church are not mere matters of speculation, but are integral to God's way of life, and are designed to promote love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

We have a divinely ordained responsibility to devote ourselves to doing what is good because these things are excellent and profitable for everyone—they are beneficial to our fellow saints first and foremost, and even to the whole world.

The fools of the world need purpose and direction; we have a responsibility to unashamedly provide a witness which points to God's way of life, giving purpose and hope.

Let us continue today by picking up where we left off in the last sermon.

Look at the other "evidence" that is used to justify the belief that there is no God, the evidence from the so-called "proofs" of psychology. People say, "Psychology has taught us..." or "Psychology proves and demonstrates...." I am making this point because there are always some who say, "The only people who believe in God are ignorant—they do not know anything."

I am simply trying to show you that we who believe in God do know something about these things, and psychology has proved and can prove nothing. Psychology is pure theory, based on human reasoning. All psychology does is put up theories and suppositions, but you cannot call that proof. To base your position on that is to behave in a foolish manner.

And then, there is the silliest of all arguments—evolution. The evolutionists say, "Ignorant people used to think that God had created the world, and that He created man, but we know, now, that is not true." Even the scientists show us pictures from the Hubble telescope that proves that there is a designer of the universe. But, they smugly tell us that, "Everything has come out of primitive slime, which came from gases..." and on they go building lie upon lie. They claim that science has established and proven it. But once again they believe the lie.

In truth, it is a scientific statement to say that evolution has not proven anything.

Evolution is a theory, and nothing but a theory—and a very bad one at that! Actually, there are many different theories of evolution, some of which cancel one another out. In fact, science proves nothing, because in a sense there is no such thing as science.

And when you say, "Science proves...." What you mean is that certain scientists say this or that, which is a very different thing than proof or evidence. But still, on this kind of false theory there are people who say, "I do not believe in God." Of course, that is nothing but folly.

Jeremiah 5:20-25 "Declare this in the house of Jacob and proclaim it in Judah, saying, 'Hear this now, O foolish people, without understanding, who have eyes and see not, and who have ears and hear not: Do you not fear Me?' says the LORD. 'Will you not tremble at My presence, who have placed the sand as the bound of the sea, by a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass beyond it? And though its waves toss to and fro, yet they cannot prevail; though they roar, yet they cannot pass over it. But this people has a defiant and rebellious heart; They have revolted and departed. They do not say in their heart, "Let us now fear the LORD our God, who gives rain, both the former and the latter, in its season. He reserves for us the appointed weeks of the harvest." Your iniquities have turned these things away, and your sins have withheld good from you.

The whole issue is that people do not believe God, or that there is no God, or they tell themselves that they believe such. As we know, sin separates us from God.

Foolishness is a problem of the heart because that is where rebelliousness and sin dwell. Sin is a crime against God and separates the sinner from God and His blessings of understanding and wisdom.

Psalm 14:1 "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God.' They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none who does good.

Then there is comparative religion, and all that it entails. In every single case the answer is the same. All these things are but humanly reasoned theories; suppositions and ideas conjured up in the minds of foolish men to try to explain what they do not understand. None of them is adequate. All are susceptible to criticism.

There are rival theories and rival schools of thought. All of these are driven by pride; everyone wants his or her name attached to the popular theory fad of the moment. Global warming, now called "Climate Change" is a case in point (although, more and more scientists are admitting it is a scam). It is a religion to the environmentalists. It is driven by the ancient pagan practices of earth worship.

A similar thing happened in ancient Israel. God summoned them to repent and turn from her ways. God revealed to Jeremiah the story of two sisters—Israel and Judah. The Northern Kingdom of Israel committed spiritual adultery on all the high places of the land—this was a reference to her extensive idol worship.

God patiently waited for her to return to Him, but Israel refused and continued in her idolatry. But what was worse was that her unfaithful sister Judah was watching Israel sin. God's response was to give Israel a certificate of divorce and to send her away. Jeremiah was referring to the destruction of the Northern Kingdom of Israel by Assyria in 722 BC

Jeremiah 3:9 "So it came to pass, through her casual harlotry, that she defiled the land and committed adultery with stones and trees.

Sadly, Judah did not learn from Israel's fall. Instead she also committed adultery. In numerous scriptures in the Old Testament, Israel is accused of two major sins, Sabbath breaking and idolatry. To make matters worse, Judah added hypocrisy to the sin of Israel because Judah committed the same sins while making a pretense of returning to the LORD. As a result, Israel in spite of her sin was still more righteous than unfaithful Judah. Jeremiah pointed out that they were guilty of 'hypocrisy,' which is a problem of the heart.

Jeremiah 42:20-22 "For you were hypocrites in your hearts when you sent me to the LORD your God, saying, 'Pray for us to the LORD our God, and according to all that the LORD your God says, so declare to us and we will do it.' "And I have this day declared it to you, but you have not obeyed the voice of the LORD your God, or anything which He has sent you by me. Now therefore, know certainly that you shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence in the place where you desire to go to dwell."

By quoting Isaiah, Jesus defined the sin of hypocrisy to the Scribes and Pharisees,

Matthew 15:7-9 "Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: 'These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'"

So both Isaiah and Jeremiah prophesied and complained to Israel and Judah about the hypocrisy. On the one hand saying that they believed in God, and wanted to do what He said, but on the other hand doing the direct opposite.

The Lord, through Hosea, called for a formal accusation to be brought against ancient Israel.

In Hosea 2, the covenant relationship is compared to marriage, the Lord being the husband and Israel the wife. Apply this spiritually to what we know of the last forty years of the church's relationship as the betrothed bride of Christ.

This section of Hosea is an indictment against God's unfaithful people. The theme is God's punishment of Israel.

Hosea 2:2-4 "Bring charges against your mother, bring charges; for she is not My wife, nor am I her Husband! Let her put away her harlotries from her sight, and her adulteries from between her breasts; lest I strip her naked and expose her, as in the day she was born, and make her like a wilderness, and set her like a dry land, and slay her with thirst. I will not have mercy on her children, for they are the children of harlotry."

In verse 2, the word translated 'charges' here is used here of a formal legal accusation. A related noun often refers to a lawsuit. The reason for the accusation was the disrupted relationship between the husband and wife—the covenant partners.

The Lord, speaking as the Husband who had been severely wronged, states that, "She is not My wife, nor am I her Husband." This is not a formal declaration of divorce, because at this point in the covenant relationship the Lord's ultimate purpose was to heal the relationship, not to terminate it. He wanted to give her another chance.

So, the statement was an acknowledgment that no reality remained in the relationship. The Lord's wife, by her unfaithful behavior, had for all practical purposes severed the relationship with her Husband by seeking other men, represented by other countries.

Rather than exercising His legal right by having His unfaithful wife executed, the Lord called for repentance, urging the unfaithful nation of Israel to abandon its adulterous activity.

In verses 3 and 4, the Lord's appeal to her was strengthened by a severe threat containing three solemn warnings to Israel:

First, the Lord threatened to strip her naked, making her an object of shame and ridicule. With God, the punishment fits the crime. She had exposed her nakedness to her lovers, as a result, and her punishment would be that she would be exposed publicly for all to see. In ancient times, this public act preceded the execution of an adulteress.

Second, the Lord threatened to make her like an arid desert, deprived of water (thereby slaying her with thirst) and she would be incapable of producing or sustaining life; just like the woman's womb being made barren. Again the punishment fits the crime. She had engaged in illicit sexual behavior and would become incapable of reproduction. Keep in mind that this is both speaking about Israel's relationship with God and how she went to other nations by treaty, and by seeking their religions, even allowing the other cultures to come in. We are seeing this today in our country.

The third threat involved the rejection of the wife's children. The reason for this is that they were children of adultery. They were affected by their mother's illicit relationships, and they were covered with shame because of their association with such a mother.

As a result, the Lord announced they would not receive His love, implying that they would be disowned, and become orphans. The purpose was to eliminate any reminder of their relationship with their unfaithful mother. There were very serious things going on here, and God does not look at it lightly.

The harsh punishment threatened in verses 3 and 4, implies complete termination of the marriage. Under normal circumstances the unfaithful wife would be executed and her children disowned. But, the context clearly demonstrates that this was not going to happen.

This same anomaly occurs in Ezekiel 16, where Israel is accused as an adulteress only to be eventually restored to favor. Apparently, the harsh language was intended to emphasize the severity of the punishment without implying the absolute termination of the Lord's relationship with Israel.

Hosea 2:5-13 "For their mother has played the harlot; she who conceived them has behaved shamefully. For she said, 'I will go after my lovers, who give me my bread and my water, my wool and my linen, my oil and my drink.' Therefore, behold, I will hedge up your way with thorns, and wall her in, so that she cannot find her paths. She will chase her lovers, but not overtake them; yes, she will seek them, but not find them. Then she will say, 'I will go and return to my first husband, for then it was better for me than now.' For she did not know that I gave her grain, new wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold—which they prepared for Baal. Therefore I will return and take away My grain in its time and My new wine in its season, and will take back My wool and My linen, given to cover her nakedness. Now I will uncover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers, and no one shall deliver her from My hand. I will also cause all her mirth to cease, her feast days, her New Moons, her Sabbaths—all her appointed feasts. And I will destroy her vines and her fig trees, of which she has said, 'These are my wages that my lovers have given me.' So I will make them a forest, and the beasts of the field shall eat them. I will punish her for the days of the Baals to which she burned incense. She decked herself with her earrings and jewelry, and went after her lovers; but Me she forgot," says the LORD.

The Lord's judgment was designed to effect restoration, rather than bringing His relationship with Israel to a complete end. The first step in this process was to remove the false gods from Israel, as well as, the prosperity Israel wrongly credited to them.

In verses 5-7, Israel is deprived of her lovers. In verse 5, Israel's unfaithfulness is vividly pictured. She was determined to chase her lovers (the pagan gods, 'the Baals') because she believed that they supplied her physical nourishment (food & water), her protection (wool & linen), and pleasure (oil & drink).

In response, the Lord declared that He would soon eliminate all access to these lovers. Israel would find her usual routes to her lovers blocked with thorns and stonewalls. Her frantic efforts to find her lovers would be thwarted.

As a last resort, she would decide to return to her Husband, the Lord, opening the way for restoration. The reality behind this figurative portrayal of judgment probably included drought, invasion, and exile if Leviticus 26:18-22 is any indication.

In verses 8-13, Israel is deprived of the Lord's blessings. In verse 8, Israel's guilt was established as the basis for her punishment. She failed to acknowledge the Lord as the source of her produce and wealth. Instead she used silver and gold to manufacture idols of Baal, because it was to this Canaanite deity that she attributed her agricultural (grain, wine and oil) and economic prosperity.

Baal was the Canaanite god who supposedly controlled storms, and was responsible for both agricultural and human fertility. By looking to Baal for these things Israel broke the first of the Ten Commandments, rejecting God's sovereign authority and snubbing the covenant.

The Lord made it very clear through Moses' writings that He was the One who provided Israel's grain, wine, and oil. In fact, He provides everyone's grain, wine and oil.

In verse 9, in response to Israel's unfaithfulness, the Lord said that He would deprive the nation of agricultural produce (grain and new wine), leaving Israel destitute. God's Law makes agricultural prosperity dependent on loyalty to the Lord. So now, in this nation, we are seeing floods destroying the crops, and we are seeing droughts destroying the crops.

Obedience to the covenant stipulations resulted in the Lord's blessing in the form of plentiful harvests, abundant offspring, and security. Disobedience resulted in drought, pestilence, war, death, and exile. For this reason, the announcement in verse 9, revealed the Lord's intention to implement the covenant curses against Israel. Drought, blight, insect swarms, and invading armies would destroy the land's produce.

In verses 9 and 10, the figurative portrayal of Israel as the Lord's wife is carried along in these verses. Without wool and linen (as we see in verse 5), which were used to make clothing, she would have no way of covering her nakedness.

Through this deprivation the Lord would expose her lewdness. Her shameful behavior would become known to all through this public demonstration. The word "lewdness" (in verse 10) came from the original "nablut," and it refers to a blatant breach of covenant, which disgraces the entire community.

A related term, "nebalah," is used in the Old Testament in reference to sexual perversions, including fornication, incest, rape, and adultery. During this exhibition Israel's lovers would be forced to stand by helplessly, being unable to deliver her from the Lord's powerful grip. Then the Lord's superiority and the lovers' weakness (or apathy) would become apparent to Israel.

Keep in mind that Israel's lovers were the nations that she had treaties with, and whose cultures and religions she received with open arms. Today, we see the clear similarity with the Israelitish nations of the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, The Netherlands, France and the others.

In verse 11, the coming judgment would also bring the end of Israel's religious celebrations, including the annual feasts, the monthly New Moon sacrifices, and the weekly Sabbath observances. It appears that the annual feasts had been corrupted by Baal worship, and were no longer acceptable by the Lord.

In verses 12 and 13, the themes in verses 5-9 are repeated. In implementing the covenant curses, the Lord would destroy the produce—her vines and her fig trees—that Israel wrongly regarded as the pay given by her illicit lover in exchange for her services. The vineyards would be reduced to an overgrown thicket inhabited by wild animals. This would be a result of the depopulation that would accompany the nation's military defeat and exile.

In burning incense to the Baals, Israel had, in effect, seductively chased after her lovers. The rings and jewelry, though sources of delight and signs of prestige in the proper context, here represent the unfaithful wife's efforts to attract her lovers. That is exactly what this nation is doing with the massive amounts of money that it is sending to other countries.

The final statement in this section summarizes Israel's basic sin, and the reason for the coming judgment. She had forgotten the LORD. She no longer believed in Him. In effect, ancient Israel at that time was a foolish nation that said through her unfaithful attitude and actions from the depths of her heart, "There is no God!"

And there is the problem. People can say they believe in God (as most of the citizens of the United States claim), but by their sinful attitude and actions, they are bellowing out that they do not really believe that there is a God in heaven who will pass judgment on them one day.

The verb "forgot" in verse 13 does not refer to a mental lapse or loss of knowledge; it describes a refusal to acknowledge the Lord's goodness and authority. Moses had repeatedly urged the nation not to forget the Lord's righteous and benevolent works, and His demand for exclusive worship.

Neither the civil nor religious leaders had the wisdom to guide the nation in the right direction. Sin and enmity go hand in hand with folly. We see it in our nation today.

Hosea 9:7 The days of punishment have come; the days of recompense have come. Israel knows! The prophet is a fool, the spiritual man is insane, because of the greatness of your iniquity and great enmity.

While folly in the Old Testament is just sometimes plain silliness, it usually is guilty of a disdain for God's truth and discipline.

Proverbs 1:7 "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction."

Even the simple or gullible person is not merely without sense, but is fatally rebellious. He has to make a moral and spiritual choice, not only a mental effort.

Likewise a fool (who in scripture is described by various, virtually interchangeable terms), is typically one who, like Saul, has played the fool and closed his mind to God.

Proverbs 27:22 Though you grind a fool in a mortar with a pestle along with crushed grain, yet his foolishness will not depart from him.

There is a good reason for that. This process has an interesting background to it. To pound wheat in a mortar with a pestle, in order to free the wheat from its husks and impurities, is to go through a far more elaborate process than threshing. But the folly of the fool is much harder, actually near impossible to get rid of. It sticks to him to the very end; all discipline, teaching, and experience seem to be wasted on him.

This is true of those in this society who are thought of as being very educated and intelligent people. As much as they learn and experience, and as intelligent as they are they reject the proofs and evidences of the power and wisdom of God. God's attributes are clearly seen in the creation.

Anyone who draws the atrocious conclusion that there is no God, or that God has no impact and influence on our daily lives, wastes his education and intelligence. For him to use the evidence that the sciences of psychology, evolution and comparative religion offer to prove that 'there is no God' or that 'He is impotent' is simply a fool. These people are doubly guilty.

Such people take their tiny bits of evidence, and draw from them a false conclusion about God's existence. But, at the same time, they refuse, and ignore, and will not face the other overwhelming and substantial evidence that God is alive, and well, and is still the Sovereign of the universe. They ignore the tremendous evidence of creation—the creation of the earth and the solar systems and galaxies. It is mind boggling to me, that anyone would believe that this amazing universe is merely the result of an accident or chance. With all of the mathematical calculations that they are finding, this is just one small aspect of that creation.

And we are told to just believe the popular atheist scientists that all this just happened—that there is no intelligent mind behind it all? So they tell us to believe human scientists, but not our Creator Himself!

And look at mankind. Could anyone honestly believe that man is an accident, and that he just evolved from slime or an amoeba? Who made the amoeba?

The design of a human being is just too complicated, advanced, and amazing to be explained in mere human terms. The microcosm of a human is even more impressive than the universe itself. The parts of the body, the cells, the DNA, and they all work in perfect harmony with one another.

And, what about history itself? Have you considered the evidence of history?

We will look at two connected illustrations:

The Bible records an example of an actual conference at God's throne in heaven, at which was discussed the best manner of influencing a crucial historical event! Undoubtedly, similar heavenly conferences have been held frequently throughout history. This is one of the few that is actually recorded in scripture.

I Kings 22 records the incident of Ahab, King of Israel. The crisis was that Ahab was such an evil king that he had to be removed. The problem was how to influence Ahab to go to battle against the Syrians, a battle in which he would be killed.

With a host of angels gathered around him, God, according to this account, asked for advice:

I Kings 22:19-23 Then Micaiah said, "Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by, on His right hand and on His left. And the LORD said, 'Who will persuade Ahab to go up, that he may fall at Ramoth Gilead?' So one spoke in this manner, and another spoke in that manner. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD, and said, 'I will persuade him.' The LORD said to him, 'In what way?' So he said, 'I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.' And the LORD said, 'You shall persuade him, and also prevail. Go out and do so.' Therefore look! The LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these prophets of yours, and the LORD has declared disaster against you.

Why would God allow an evil spirit to lie? This is no more than Micaiah saying, "God has permitted the spirit of lying to influence the whole of your prophets; and He now, by my mouth, apprises you of this, that you may not go and fall at Ramoth Gilead." So Ahab had a choice whether to listen to the false prophets or God. He chose to listen to the lying false prophets. That was his choice.

Ahab was fairly warned. He had counsels from the God of truth, and counsels from the spirit of lies. He obstinately forsook God's counsel and followed Satan's counsel. Satan and his demons can deceive men only if God allows them to as He did in this example.

On the day of battle, the powerful Syrian army—as God intended—easily defeated the Israelites. During the fighting, someone shot an arrow at random and it struck King Ahab between the joints of his armor.

I Kings 22:34-38 "Now a certain man drew a bow at random, and struck the king of Israel between the joints of his armor. So he said to the driver of his chariot, "Turn around and take me out of the battle, for I am wounded." The battle increased that day; and the king was propped up in his chariot, facing the Syrians, and died at evening. The blood ran out from the wound onto the floor of the chariot. Then, as the sun was going down, a shout went throughout the army, saying, "Every man to his city, and every man to his own country!" So the king died, and was brought to Samaria. And they buried the king in Samaria. Then someone washed the chariot at a pool in Samaria, and the dogs licked up his blood while the harlots bathed, according to the word of the LORD which He had spoken.

In light of the way Ahab was killed, it is interesting that Proverbs 21:1 tells us, "The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord." We certainly see God's hand in this example.

The Bible repeatedly assures us that God is in complete control of events. The prophet Daniel declares that, "God removes kings and raises up kings" (Daniel 2:21).

In Isaiah 40, God says that He can determine the rise and fall of princes and rulers.

Isaiah 40:15-18, 22-23 "Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket, and are counted as the small dust on the scales; look, He lifts up the isles as a very little thing. And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor its beasts sufficient for a burnt offering. All nations before Him are as nothing, and they are counted by Him less than nothing and worthless...To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare to Him? It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. He brings the princes to nothing; He makes the judges of the earth useless.

Speaking at the United States Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in June 1787, Benjamin Franklin stated:

The longer I live the more convincing proofs I see that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?

Historical evidence to support such a conclusion is abundant. Strange, inexplicable and miraculous circumstances, at certain crucial junctures in the stories of nations and empires, point unmistakably to the guiding hand of God.

God's intervention is seen in the crucial Battle of Hastings on October 14, 1066, in which the English succumbed to the Norman, William the Conqueror. This battle has been described as, "One of those battles which at rare intervals, have decided the fate of nations."

In the late afternoon Harold—last of the Anglo-Saxon kings and commander of the English army—was killed in battle shortly after being struck in the right eye by a Norman arrow shot into the air at random.

As evening neared, the news of his death spread throughout the English ranks. Leaderless and demoralized, the English were unable to rally and re-form, and they fled the field of battle. The Norman conquest of England was assured, laying the foundation for the emergence of a united England as a major world power.

There are many other similar unusual circumstances in which the direction of history has been changed. This example is especially interesting because of the similarity in the way that the tide of battle was changed between ancient Israel and Syria when Ahab was killed, and the way that Harold was killed. There are also many examples from World War I and II, of God's intervention. There are so many historical evidences of God's hand that it is uncountable.

It is fact that events were foretold hundreds of years or more before they ever happened. Historical records and archeological finds corroborate it. More books come out every year about the latest discoveries in archeology that confirm biblical history; they never genuinely refute it. They come up with information that they say is evidence that some account in the Bible is true, and when they do find evidence of it, that is pushed to the side and the new evidence is shown. That is just the pride in man coming to the forefront.

If you ever doubt the genuineness of biblical history—just write down the facts concerning the birth, the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and all of the prophecies that foretold it. That alone should be enough historical evidence to convince you.

Then, go back to the Old Testament and you will find factual predictions of the same events there. It was all predicted and prophesied going back to Genesis 3:15, and coming all the way up through. God sees the end from the beginning and orders all things after the counsel of His own eternal will and wisdom. God controls the events of history—all of it from beginning to end. God is still on His throne.

But over and above this evidence, please look at the person called Jesus of Nazareth. He is a major part of history. We all recognize that by numbering the years as we do, that He did live. The world is trying so hard to prove that He did not exist. He died under Pontius Pilate. Jesus is in secular history, and honest historical records confirm it and recognize Him. It is those who try to re-write history, as they are doing with the exclusion of the holocaust in German text books, who lie to try to cover up and erase the truth like it never happened. "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God!'"

There is only one way to explain Jesus Christ and His presence through human history. God controls all things and carefully plans all things. God is the only explanation. Now these atheists—anti-God people—draw their conclusions out of the flimsiest evidence, and they neglect and ignore the overwhelming and abundant evidence.

And, how do you explain God's church herself? The church always prevails. Though she is small, and her members are just a remnant, just a fraction in number, she always rises to the occasion to witness. And neither antagonistic powers nor hostile principalities can prevail against her. And we know that because many have tried.

And then, there are the prophets, the apostles and many other saints of the centuries. Most of the world's Christians and Muslims acknowledge the existence of Abraham.

To the Christians he was the father of Isaac who begat Jacob (whose name was changed to 'Israel', making him the father of the 12 tribes of Israel), and the Muslims recognize that Abraham was the father of Ishmael (who is the father of the Arabs).

To this day, the descendants of Abraham through Isaac and Ishmael are at perpetual war with each other. And so, we see more proof of the accuracy of biblical history.

In reality, these people who say 'There is no God' are fools. They do not hesitate to sacrifice their whole eternal life, and their whole eternal future on the altar of pride and hostility. They argue that they do not believe in anything after death. Well, they may not believe it, but can they prove it? I would call them gamblers

In light of that evidence, anyone who is willing to risk it is a fool. We can see the foolishness of this reasoning in the mind of a gambler. His livelihood hangs on the very small chance that he has chosen correctly on no real knowledge. When he loses time and again what do people say? "What a fool!"

Imagine risking everything on the indiscriminant toss of the dice or the arbitrary cut of the cards or the random spin of the wheel. A person who does anything on inadequate security and evidence is a fool.

It is estimated that gambling in the U.S. rivals alcoholism. Polls show that the majority of the "ordinary people" who play lotteries, are the poor and less educated, and those who can least afford to spend their money this way.

A common attitude toward small wagers is seen in the comment, "All I do is use some money playing the lottery once a week. Without doubt there is nothing wrong with that." Or, so they try to convince themselves.

Statistically, the odds are, the person with this attitude will not become a gambling addict. Even if they approve of gambling, most people are not addicts. But even minimal amounts of wagering, in whatever form, carry with them the big question of motive. Gambling by definition is, "The act or practice of betting, the act of playing a game and consciously risking money, or other stakes on its outcome."

I want to spend some time on gambling here, because it is so closely connected to what people are saying when they say that there is no God. As a game, it involves little or no effort—rather, chance and luck become the controlling factors. Today, calling gambling "gaming" has cleverly removed much of the societal stigma that once rightly plagued gambling.

The lure of effortless, fast profit is just another manifestation of greed. Herbert Armstrong clearly described the basic character problem that gambling in any form exploits. He wrote:

Coveting money, and that which money will buy, is merely the manner of manipulating Satan's way of life—get instead of give—take and compete instead of cooperate—self-concern and self-gain with desire to win instead of love toward God and love toward neighbor.

The basic problem behind gambling is the covetous idea of acquiring some material gain at the expense of someone else. The attitude is what is important! The attitude of greed and covetousness is sin!

Hebrews 13:5 Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."

The verb translated covetousness in the New Testament is "epithumeo." It is a compound-word consisting of "epi," meaning upon, and "thumos," meaning passion. Combined, the word "epi-thumeo" means to fix passion upon. Related to gambling, it means to become obsessed with getting rich quick. "Epithumeo" vividly describes the mind-set that often surrounds the gambling climate.

What is the mind-set? It is found by honestly evaluating whether your motive is one of getting for self, or of giving and sharing with others.

The apostle Paul was inspired to write to Timothy a warning that there is something that Christians have to do.

I Timothy 6:6-10 Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

The love of money can also cause a person to refrain from giving tithes and offerings.

Godly character must govern the proper accumulation of material things such as money. That is why the principle behind gambling is ungodly. The same motive of getting for oneself destroys or prevents the building of God's own nature of giving in our minds.

What about worthy causes? Gambling is often promoted through the diversion of some of the intake to so-called "worthy causes." Subtle forms of gambling are often big business in religion. Bingo is a big money generator in a number of religions. Church raffles where money is staked in order to win more money is common and seldom questioned by religionists today. "But the money is for a good cause," they argue.

Lotteries and raffles are the most common form of this deceitful scheme. Many charities and service groups have been receiving large sums of money through government lotteries. In the minds of many people this is justification enough for gambling. But consider two deceptive factors that are often overlooked.

The first factor is that some of the collected money never reaches the charitable cause. Promoters, ticket sellers and winners all may legally take their share of the money before the remainder is allocated to charities. God is clear that we should not neglect the needy. But, that is what this legalized gambling does under the umbrella of lotteries, or raffles, or bingo. They skim off their cut before the poor see a dime.

Proverbs 28:27 "He who gives to the poor will not lack, but he who hides his eyes will have many curses."

Observation clearly shows that giving with no strings attached is far more effective on a one-to-one basis than worldly organizations that may have no concern or personal interest for the needy.

Governments and civil organizations often use the image of worthy public causes as a primary selling point to promote lotteries, or even actually to promote taxes. They promise that a percentage of the proceeds from ticket sales and taxes will go to a worthy cause.

But they fail to reveal that this does not mean the money will be added to existing budgets, but in reality, it will reduce the amount that the government has to allocate from its overall budget to the worthy cause. So the budget for education, for example, remains virtually the same as before the lottery was introduced.

The second factor is that of the motive for giving. Experience shows that supporting gambling for a supposedly altruistic motive is often just a self-deceiving excuse for justifying greed.

Gambling violates God's legitimate laws of obtaining money. The principle includes the law of labor, the law of exchange, and the law of love. In contrast, gambling expresses the attitude of trying to get something for nothing.

Ephesians 4:28 Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.

One quality that gambling stifles is the character trait of productive effort. Good character development requires personal effort. Jesus taught, through the parables of the pounds, in Luke 19, and the talents in Matthew 25, God's way of developing and increasing those things entrusted to us. In Luke 19:15, spiritual growth is compared to the proper use of money that was "gained by trading." Those who had produced wisely were rewarded.

Whether we consider it physically or spiritually, the unmistakable lesson is that character gain requires personal effort. In contrast, gambling teaches us to rely on "blind luck" to acquire things. There is no guarantee on investment, just enormous odds against any return at all.

Hopes and efforts should be directed at acquiring the true riches of the coming Kingdom of God.

For every sensational story about the world's latest "instant millionaire," there are millions of unheralded losers who will never recover their lost investment in an entire lifetime.

Still far worse, the selfish motive of getting something for nothing, the attitude of gain at someone else's expense, blocks the character growth needed to be in God's Kingdom. To gamble one's character on what the world has to offer is pure folly. It involves vain and tragic waste and it produces bad fruit.

Corruption and crime are just some of the possible products of gambling.

Luke 16:10 "He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.

We have the responsibility to glorify God with good fruit in our lives. In no way does the covetous way of gambling accomplish this. It may seem like a minor offense, but God watches to see if we will be faithful in what is least.

The same principle that applies to gambling also applies to the folly of unbelief. The foolish atheist who says, "There is no God" cannot prove that there is not life after death. He does not know what is going to happen to him when he dies, and even still he says, "I am prepared to risk it!"

The thing that finally makes such people utter fools is what they refuse, and what they reject. They want to live the kind of life that is so popular with the world; it seems so glamorous and exciting. It deceptively appears as freedom and emancipation from restraint.

Especially young people want to have their fill of the excitement. They do not stop to consider that when they are middle-aged they will be somewhat tired of it, and it will become boring and unfulfilling. And when they are old, they will be lying in bed somewhere with everything gone, and even if they did have wealth they cannot take it with them. They begin to worry about what lies beyond the grave for them.

Look what they have rejected and despised. Consider what they have refused. There is no life anywhere in this world that is comparable to God's way of life. It is the clean life; it is a pure life; it is a holy life; a life lived in fellowship with God and with Christ. It is a life lived among people who are one of the greatest blessings to the rest of the world, and who we have an opportunity to live with for eternity.

In contrast, the rest of the world has nothing to look forward to, that other life is so empty and void of hope. But this life of trust in God has joys and fulfillment to give us that the world does not know, even here and now.

As this life in Christ goes on it gets better and better; and as we begin to contemplate the end, we are not frightened of death and the grave. We look to the future with vision, knowing that we are going to spend the rest of eternity with God the Father, Jesus Christ and all the other saints.

We are looking forward to an incorruptible and undefiled inheritance that does not fade away, reserved in heaven by God for those who believe in Him.

I Peter 1:3-9 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.

So, the end result of our faith is salvation and eternal life. Some of the evidence that we believe in God are faith, repentance, obedience, overcoming and producing spiritual fruit.

Faith in God is a defining virtue of the Christian. The work of God requires that we are faithful to both God the Father and Jesus Christ. Mere belief is not enough—even Satan believes that there is a God.

John 6:29-30, 35 Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent." Therefore they said to Him, "What sign will You perform then, that we may see it and believe You? What work will You do? ... And Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.

We must believe in Jesus Christ as well as the Father. If you know one you know the other.

John 6:36-37 "But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.

Belief in God is not just believing that God and Christ exist, but truly knowing They are who They are. Would we skip church or not pay tithes and give offerings if we really believe that God is both our forgiver and our judge?

The time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God, in the church, right here and now!

Hebrews 11:6 insists that, "without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him." Faith is frequently measured in quantitative terms. Jesus commended the centurion for his "great faith". But in contrast, He scolded his disciples for having little or no faith. You remember the incident in Mark 4, where Jesus calmed the sea while His disciples were cowering.

Mark 4:39-41 Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Peace, be still!" And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. But He said to them, "Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?" And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, "Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!"

Jesus wondered if He will find any faith at all when He returns. But, although the faith of some may be weak, there is always room for it to grow. Fear shows a lack of faith. We have not been given a spirit of fear. Therefore, if a Christian fears, he lacks faith. Of course, there is one fear that we are to have, the fear of the Lord!

Wisdom and folly are opposites just as faith and fear are. It is not hard to see the folly of saying, "There is no God!" It is sheer madness from every perspective to speak or think such foolish words. Folly and fear are the absence of understanding—the absence of clear thinking, and the absence of love.

Even in small doses, genuine faith has access to power. This is not due to the power of the faith itself but to the power of the God in whom faith is placed. Jesus tells us that if we have faith the tiny size of a mustard seed we will be able to move mountains. Nothing is impossible for a saint with mustard-seed-sized faith.

Remember the encouragement that the apostle Peter gave:

I Peter 1:6-7 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.


The Berean: Daily Verse and Comment

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