Why Believe? How do we know God exists? (John 1)

MOTIVATE

In one of my children’s watched movies is an ironic scene about the nature of morality. The movie is called “Wreck-It-Ralph,” and if it helps, Ralph is basically the man in the arcade game “Donkey Kong.” In the movie, all the arcade characters have a real life in their own world. For years, the villains from the other arcade games invite Ralph to join their group, but Ralph does not join. Unlike them, Ralph does not want to be bad but good. Yet, Ralph is stuck in his bad-guy role in his arcade game. Eventually, Ralph is so distraught that he attends a support group and all the villains join hands and chant their motto:

“I’m bad, and that’s good. I will never be good, and that’s not bad. There’s no one I’d rather be than me.”

This chant motto is ironic because it teaches the understanding of who and what is bad and wrong with who and what is good and right.[1] Their motto is in one sense biblical to affirm the depravity of humanity, but it stops short of providing a solution because it settles with humanity as the answer to its own problem. If the human heart is sick and filled with sin (Jer 17:9), we cannot possibly have the cure within. The phrases: “Be you” or “Listen to your heart” are well intended but not genuinely helpful. If I follow through on my every human desire, then I will leave behind a trail of hurt, heartbreak, and eventual personal unhappiness and self-loathing.

Stephen Hawking (renown atheist)

“My only fear is this. The terror that stalks my mind is that we have arrived on the scene because of evolution. Because of naturalistic selection, and natural selection assumes natural rejection, which means we have arrived here because of our aggression. And my hope is that somehow we can keep from eating each other up for another 100 years. At that point science would have devised a scheme to take all of us into different planets of the universe and no one atrocity would destroy all of us at the same time.” In other words, without the reality (or even just the idea) of God, humanity will not exist.

A Study In John’s Gospel

This leads to the question, what/who is the source of truth, goodness, and beauty?

EXAMINE           Why Believe? How do we know God exists? (John 1)

God is profoundly infinite.

The first book of the Bible – Genesis, opens not with proof of God’s existence but the power of His words. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen 1:1). God’s words have the wisdom to create systems and structures for human life to begin and sustain. God’s words have the wonder to create a spacious sky with comets, clouds, and birds; land with fruitful trees and delightful flowers; rocks, dirt, sand, shoreline, and the inspiring movement of lakes, rivers, and the ocean. This same God who is profoundly powerful and infinitely unique, is also personal and intimate.

God creates humanity “in His image” and with diversity of male and female, and onward from a Middle Eastern garden with the diverse melanin of Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas. “God has made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place” (Acts 17:26). And it is His desire to redeem people “from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9).

John’s Gospel opens in similar fashion by identifying Jesus as the agent of God’s creation. John labels Jesus as the Word (λόγος=logos) and the Word with God (lit. full fellowship; cf. 1John 1:2), and the Word was God. The Word is not simply like God as to negate the full divinity of the Word but is in every way God. The Word (Jesus) was with God in the beginning and all things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.[2] Undoubtedly, John is calling us to understand Jesus as our Divine Creator. The opening chapter of John expresses at least 17 identities or titles for Jesus.[3] Further, we know Jesus’s claims of deity were true based on the Jewish religious leaders mocking and sentencing Jesus to death (John 5:18; 7:30; 8:59; 10:19-20, 31; 11:48-57; 19:7, 21).

While John’s Gospel, and all Scripture assumes the existence of God, many reasoned minds doubt and dismiss God. No one can provide irrefutable proof for God’s existence, but nor can anyone provide irrefutable proof God does not exist. Yet, one could say our world has numerous clues all around us.

Some clues for God’s existence…[4] but really you should attend our Sunday Seminar 9:30am “Defense of Truth”

  1. Clue of causality: Everything has a cause and there cannot be an endless chain of events. There must be a first cause or a prime mover, which we believe God is the cause of such a complex universe. For life to exist, the fundamental regularities and constants of physics – the speed of light, the gravitational constant, the perfect calibrations and precise values to produce matter, galaxies, stars, planets, and human life are contingent upon the necessary existence of God.[5] Consider the “Fine Tuning” arguments…
    • Gear parts in a bag shaken do not create a watch; must be a watch maker. 
    • Ink factory exploding to create collected works of Shakespeare and the Holy Scripture.
    • A Poker player dealing self 20-straight hands of four aces in the same game w/o cheating.[6]
    • Something cannot come from nothing. Atheists must answer, “Why is there something rather than nothing?”
    • Earth in “Goldilock Zone – not too hot/cold” – the exact degrees away from sun (freeze or fry); tilt of earth (gravity); chemical levels on earth: Nitrogen, Oxygen, Carbon Dioxide (breathe or suffocate)… Scientists say the odds of a planet like earth existing are so heart-stoppingly astronomical that the notion that it all “just happened” defies common sense. It’s like tossing a coin every second and having it come up heads for 10 billion years in a row. If you don’t believe in miracles, you’d still say the existence of life on planet earth was one!
    • Atheist Richard Dawkins (God Delusion) says, “Cosmology is waiting on its Darwin… Darwin’s theory works for biology but not for cosmology (or, ultimate origins.)” In other words, he thinks scientists can explain how life took shape on earth through evolution, but they still are uncertain of where life itself, or the materials that produced life, originated. So, he/they need a theory of blind faith!
  2. Clue of being or beauty: The source of our standards of being (ontology), goodness, morality, power, health, etc. are all relative to a perfect source which we judge. God is the ultimate source and standard of being and perfection.
    • Some theologians call this General Revelation. The awareness of God with an inward sense or conscience and an external observation of design/beauty is a hint at God’s existence.
      • Ac 17:23 “to the unknown God… what you worship as unknown this I proclaim to you”
      • Ps 8:3 “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him?”
      • Ps 19:1 “The heavens declare the glory of God and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”
      • Rom 1:20 “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.”
  3. Clue of purpose/telos: The universe appears designed with a purpose (telos – end, goal) and not random results. Magnets have a drive to align their poles, seeds have a process to become plants. Where do unintelligent/inanimate entities derive their aim if there is no purpose for all life? Further, how is human life able to reproduce and yearn for purpose – and the afterlife – if there isn’t something more? God designed the entire world for a direction of bearing fruit and bringing Him glory.
    • Scientists have pointed out the sheer improbability of complexities of life forming out of nothingness, or unguided chaos. Even most basic molecules & DNA strands are incredibly complex.
    • C.S. Lewis,  “… A baby feels hunger: well, there is such thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such thing as sex. If I find myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probably explanation is that I was made for another world.”[7]

God is profoundly infinite and personally intimate.

God does exist and the Word has entered our world in human life as the “light of men – the light shining in the darkness” (John 1:4-5).

à Your darkness may be a momentary struggling phase or an extended season of suffering. You need to be reminded “God is light and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). It was never God’s design for you to experience a world tainted by sin. And it’s not God’s desire for you to experience the effects of sin without the comfort of Jesus or the community of saints.

> Ps 119:50 “This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.”
> In the book The Magician’s Nephew (CS Lewis), a boy named Digory meets the lion Aslan (Christ-figure). Digory’s mother is deathly sick, but he’s afraid to ask for Aslan’s help. Lewis writes:
“Up till then he had been looking at the Lion’s great front feet and the huge claws on them; now, in his despair, he looked up at its face. What he saw surprised him as much as anything in his whole life. For the tawny face was bent down near his own and (wonder of wonders) great shining tears stood in the Lion’s eyes. They were such big, bright tears compared with Digory’s own that for a moment he felt as if the Lion must really be sorrier about his Mother than he was himself. ‘My son, my son,’ said Aslan. ‘I KNOW [emphasis mine]. Grief is great. Only you and I in this land know that yet. Let us be good to one another.”
– – – Jesus knows. His promise is for you.

Also, it’s no accident that as John describes Jesus as light (1:4), glory (1:14), and truth (1:14, 17), and then describes the first human interaction Jesus has with John the Baptizer calling Jesus, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29). The same eternal Word entered human flesh with divine life and captivating light. God’s light comes from understanding the Person and purpose of Jesus.

Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

Jesus is our sacrificial lamb and the cross opens our eyes to the forgiving grace of God, by which we are also to relate toward others. The concept of a sacrificial lamb was familiar to the Jews but may not likely be to us today. One could say the OT Scriptures are answering the question: “Where’s the lamb?”

  • Genesis 22:6-8 with God calling Abraham to sacrificial obedience, waiting for God’s provision of a lamb instead of his only son.
  • Exodus 12 with God requiring every Israelite family to sacrifice a lamb and wipe its blood on the external doorposts. When the plague of the death angel entered the city, it spared every house with the blood of the lamb.
  • Exodus 29:38, ff. with God requiring Israelite priests to sacrifice a lamb in morning & a lamb in evening.
  • Hebrews 10:11-12 “And every priest stands daily at his service offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.”
  • Jesus is our Passover lamb (1 Cor 5:7; 1 Pet 1:18-19). He is sufficient to daily sustain salvation with His sacrifice on the cross and save us to the uttermost.
  • John uses the title for Jesus “lamb of God” 29x in Revelation, to indicate Jesus is not just a sacrificial lamb but a victorious king.
    Revelation 17:14 “These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords and King of kings”
    A nation’s elephants and donkeys will compete and conflict but they will both be conquered by the Lamb.
  • Our only hope in this life is to have our name written in the Lamb’s book of life (Rev 21:22-27).

APPLY/THINK

Proving the existence of God is wrapped up in the identity and resurrection of Jesus, which we will continue to explore in upcoming messages and Sunday seminars through early May.

Apart from Jesus, the existence of God is less like a mathematical equation or scientific discovery, and more like a voice speaking behind a door. God is not an abstract possibility but an authentic person. The Christian faith is a relationship with a living Lord and sustaining Savior.

The opposite of faith in God is not atheism but idolatry, because we all worship something or someone.
Rom 1:25 “they exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served what has been created instead of the Creator, who is praised forever.”Our disbelief in God originates in the heart, not the mind. We suppress the truth of a Creator and of Christ because we simply do not want to surrender to His Lordship. Our problem isn’t the insufficient evidence for God and the gospel, but the over-sufficiency of self – our pride keeps us from trusting and obeying God. The issue is human resistance not God’s existence.[8] Each of us are made to worship our Creator, and our hearts are restless until we find our rest in the Lord. There’s a God-shaped hole in every heart that we stuff many puzzle pieces but the only shape that fits is the cross of Jesus Christ.

There’s a rock foundation upon which you can build your life. Today can be a first stone and step to begin building…

  • Prayer of salvation
  • Prayer of spiritual growth to know God more and grow in His word.
  • Pray of surrender an area/item to God that you’re holding back, but trusting in His hands.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – –


[1] Illustration and some thoughts inspired from Rebecca McLaughlin, 10 Questions Every Teen Should Ask (And Answer) About Christianity. Also, her book Confronting Christianity, which is the academic/mature version.

[2] In John 1:1, Jehovah’s Witness (JW) note the definite article – the – is missing from the word “God” (theos) to imply the translation should say, “and the Word was a God” rather than “and the Word was God”. The difference indicates our faith as monotheistic or polytheistic. The translation in the Christian Bible is correct based on context. If John had included the definite article he would have contradicted his previous statement. If he said “the Word was the God”, then the reader would conclude the Word is the sole being and basis for God and miss out on his previous statement that “the Word was with God”. In other words, the Word is not all there is to God, as there is also God the Father and the Spirit; with the Word being the Son. Moreover, for JW to indicate that Jesus was “a” God is contrary to other monotheistic verses (Isa 43:10; 44:6, 8; and not to mention the numerous times Jesus claims to be God (cf. John 1:14; 5:18; 8:58; 14:6-7; 20:28; Rev 1:8; etc.).[2] Finally, John clarifies fully that the Word – Jesus – was not made, but made all other things. There was never a time when Jesus was not; He is Creator and completely God!

[3] https://growinggodlygenerations.com/2017/01/22/jesus-son-of-god-and-son-of-man-john-1/

[4] Explore further with a search of Thomas Aquinas 5 ways or a brief summary of “proofs” here: https://www.gotquestions.org/Does-God-exist.html

[5] See Tim Keller’s Reason For God and chapter 8 for full discussion.

[6]  Alvin Plantiga, “Dennett’s Dangerous Idea” in Books and Culture (May-June 1996): 35.

[7] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Book III chap 10, “Hope”.

[8] Thoughts inspired from Andy Stanley, Who Needs God? Series.

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