It was Woody Allen, the film director, who said: “Not only is there no God, but try getting a plumber on a weekend!”
Well the second part of that quote is so true but what about the first? IS GOD REAL? It’s a question some are asking. And I want to examine what the Bible says about that question from John’s Gospel and in particular from John 14:1-7. John 14 also answers two other related questions – IS THERE A HEAVEN? and IS JESUS THE ONLY WAY TO GOD AND THEREFORE TO HEAVEN? So we’ll look at those questions too. You see the Bible claims to be God’s Word written. In another part of the Bible - 2 Timothy 3:16 - we read that:
“All Scripture [the whole Bible] is God breathed…”
So it’s important that we go back to the original source and see what it says. Now some of you might be thinking well OK but how do we know if we can trust the Bible? Surely it’s biased? Well there’s actually a mass of evidence to back up what the Bible says. John’s Gospel, for example, was written by one of Jesus’ closest disciples. He saw and heard what happened with his very own eyes and ears and wrote it down not long after the event. The earliest fragment we have of the New Testament is of John’s Gospel from the early second century. That is the closest we have to the original of the vast majority of historical books written around the same time, books which are accepted as being fact. Other histories from the time, which were written not by Christians but rather by Jews and Romans, also testify to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Some argue that it is irrational to believe in God – but it is far from irrational. Yes it does involve faith but not an unthinking faith. The Christian faith is based on historical events. Not that historical fact convinces everybody today. Earlier this week a survey of young people revealed that a fifth think Winston Churchill didn’t really exist while two thirds believe Sherlock Holmes was a real detective who lived at 221B Baker Street! Well with all that in mind let’s now have a look at that first question
1) IS GOD REAL?
Of course this whole debate about the existence of God has recently been
raised again by Richard Dawkins’ million selling book ‘The God Delusion’.
At the beginning of that book Richard Dawkins writes:
“If this book works as I intend, religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down”
However even fellow atheists are not impressed by all his arguments. One, Dr Michael Fitzpatrick, writes:
“Though as an atheist I feel I should welcome Dawkins’ diatribe against religion, as a Catholic atheist, I find myself repelled by his crass polemic – and I am not alone. In his comments on the church he makes statements of such unmitigated prejudice – and indeed absurdity – that it is shocking to find them in a serious book by a reputable author.”
Books by three atheists – Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and Dawkins who have been labelled ‘The Unholy Trinity’ have all done well on best-seller lists but according to the Amazon.co.uk website, these books led to a 50% growth in their sales of books on religion and spirituality and a 120% increase in sales of The Bible. In the main Dawkins is not achieving his aim.
The Apostle John, who made no money from his billion selling eye witness account of Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection but rather suffered exile for his writing and missionary work, wrote in his Gospel (20:30-31):
“Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
So what is it to be? Atheism, which cannot be proven and which offers nothing? Or life in Jesus Christ, the Son of God which is promised in the Bible and experienced by millions of Christians around the world? No hope or life in all its fullness? God is no killjoy. In John 10:10 Jesus says:
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
Yet many people today still think of the Christian life as a sort of living death with God as a cosmic spoilsport. And some of you say where’s the evidence that it’s not? Where’s the evidence that God even exists? Well I could spend time going through all the philosophical reasons to prove the existence of God. Such as the five put forward by Thomas Aquinas:- 1) Motion 2) Causation 3) Contingency 4) Goodness 5) Design. The first way was clearly indicative of his reasoning and is helpful: There is something moving. Everything that moves is put into motion by something else. But this series of antecedent movers cannot reach back infinitely. Therefore, there must be a first mover - God. I could give you the argument from design using a coke can. So let me share with you a theory I have about where the coke can may have come from. Billions of years ago there was a huge explosion. No-one knows what caused it, it just happened. From the big bang came a rock and on top of the rock appeared some sweet brown liquid. And aluminum started growing around it. Millions of years later red and white paint fell from the sky and formed itself into the words coca cola! You say you’re insulting my intelligence. And so I am. If the coca cola can was made there must be a maker. If it’s designed there must be a designer. To believe that this world came about by sheer chance is to enter an intellect free zone. But you say OK but I don’t understand God. Why this why that. But just because you don’t understand someone and their ways doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Let me ask those of you who are married. Do you always understand your spouse? Does that mean they don’t exist? No!
I could quote you many eminent scientists who believed in the one true God and that he created the world. For example, Sir Isaac Newton saw God as the:
“masterful creator whose existence could not be denied in the face of the grandeur of all creation.” He also said "I have a fundamental belief in the Bible as the Word of God, written by those who were inspired. I study the Bible daily.”
Albert Einstein is claimed by some atheists to support their views but said:
“In view of such harmony in the cosmos which I, with my limited human mind, am able to recognize, there are yet people who say there is no God. But what really makes me angry is that they quote me for the support of such views.”
Before I became a Christian I used to think that Christians had two brains – one was out there and the other was out there looking for it! But you don’t have to disengage your brain to believe in God. I could quote you lots more evidence. If you want to read more get hold of a little book called More Than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell or Mere Christianity by CS Lewis. They’re both available on the bookstall. And if you want to discuss further then come along to Christianity Explored this week. But I want to get back to John’s Gospel. You see Christianity’s truth claims can be tested because they stand or fall on the historical reality of one man. In Jesus, God has said: “Do you want to know if I exist? Well here I come ready or not!” That’s what John says at the very start of his Gospel. Have a look at John 1:1:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…”
Then verse 14:
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth…”
Then verse 18:
“No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known.”
Can you see what John is saying? God is not an illusion. He’s not just the figment of people’s imaginations. There may not be any CCTV footage but he came down to earth, became flesh and blood. So that you could stop guessing about whether he’s there or not and just know. Now look at v7 of John 14. Jesus says:
“If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
What is he saying? Jesus is saying that he is God. He is God incarnate - God come in human form. And Jesus brought a full revelation of the Father. In another part of the New Testament – Hebrews 1:3 – we read that:
“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being…”
In other words Jesus is not merely an image or reflection of God but because he himself is God, he is the absolutely authentic representation of God’s being. How do we know God is real? Yes because of creation. Yes because of his written word. Yes because of Jesus Christ. Yes because he’s changed my life by his Holy Spirit. So God is personal, even though some great minds like Einstein have thought otherwise. And we can know God personally, not because of anything we’ve done but because of what God has done. Earlier in John's Gospel we read these amazing words (John 3:16):
“God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son [that’s Jesus Christ], that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
Did you know that all of us are included in the first part of that verse even those of you who don’t yet believe in God – God so loved the world, God so loved you and me, that he gave his one and only Son to die on a cross taking the punishment we deserved for our sin, for our rebellion against God. In Christopher Hitchen’s book ‘God’s not great’ he says if there’s a God why didn’t he create a perfect world? Well he did. Its we human beings who spoilt it by our sinful rebellion which means we’re separated from God and under judgment and therefore in need of rescue. So the question is, are you in the second part of the verse? So that whoever, whoever you are and whatever you’ve done, believes and trusts in Christ will not perish, will not go to hell but will have life with God forever, a life which begins when we trust Christ and which continues in all its fullness in heaven for eternity. Are you trusting in Jesus Christ? But some of you ask hold on Jonathan
2) IS THERE A HEAVEN?
Well Jesus Christ, who is the truth, v6, gives us an emphatic ‘Yes!’ in v2&3.
“In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
Heaven is my Father's house says Jesus. Elsewhere Jesus says, “I go to my Father and your Father.” Therefore heaven is the home of Christ and of true Christians. It’s a helpful and comforting picture. Home is the place where you are (or should be) loved for your own sake and not for your gifts, material possessions or achievements; the place where you are (or again should be) loved to the end, never forgotten, and always welcome. And at home in our Father's house are many rooms or eternal dwellings. We’re not told the size of the rooms but what is clear is that there’ll be room for all who believe and trust in Christ - for the strongest believer and for the weakest believer. Only unrepentant and defiant unbelievers will be shut out. But you may be saying to yourself – Jonathan surely this is all just 'pie in the sky'. C.S. Lewis wrote this in his book 'The Problem of Pain':
“We are very shy nowadays of even mentioning heaven. We are afraid of the jeer about 'pie in the sky', and of being told that we are trying to escape from the duty of making a happy world here and now into dreams of a happy world elsewhere. But either there is 'pie in the sky' or there is not. If there is not then Christianity is false for this doctrine is woven into its whole fabric. If there is then this truth, like any other, must be faced.”
A Russian cosmonaut came back from a mission in space and famously remarked: “Some say God lives out there. I looked around, and I didn't see any God out there.” But as someone replied - he looked in the wrong place. If he'd stepped outside the space ship without his space suit, he would have seen God very quickly! Jesus then says (v2):
“I am going there to prepare a place for you.”
What does he mean? Does he mean he’s going there to vacuum, dust and make the bed up for you? No, he means he’s going to suffer and die in our place on the cross, to pay the price for our sin and then be raised from the dead so that we can be forgiven, have new life and a room in our Father’s house. The common perception is that heaven is for good people. That it’s a reward for those whose good deeds outweigh their bad. But the truth is that heaven is not for good people but only for forgiven people. And the only way to be forgiven is through faith in Jesus Christ. You may also be thinking where is heaven? Well heaven is where Christ is. V3:
“I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
Jesus Christ is the only sure hope in the face of death. There is no hope from non-Christian philosophies and religions. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. His resurrection proved it. None of the other founders of religions rose from the dead. Mohammed did not do that and Buddha did not do that. The bones of Mohammed are in Medina. The bones of Buddha are in India. But in Jerusalem there is the empty tomb. Jesus is alive. He offers real and certain hope to those who trust in him. Will you trust Jesus with your death? Now some of you maybe thinking OK Jonathan perhaps there is a heaven but is Jesus the only way to get there? So thirdly and finally
3) IS JESUS THE ONLY WAY TO GOD?
How do we get to the place where Jesus is? You may still not be clear about the way there. The disciples weren't. Look at v4-6. Jesus says to them:
“You know the way to the place where I am going. Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me."
Let me tell you a little parable. The traveler stood by the signpost, weary & perplexed. Around him in all directions were innumerable paths heading off in every direction. The mist was thick & the sign itself weather beaten & illegible. The traveler asked himself; which way should I go to get to the CITY OF GOD. There are so many alternatives, which one is right?
As he pondered the situation three other travelers came up behind him having traveled by the same road. "Excuse me", the traveler said to the first, "I want to go to the CITY OF GOD, do you know the way?" "Huh", said the fellow traveler, "You don't still believe in that rubbish do you? These roads all lead nowhere. All this talk about there being a CITY OF GOD is all so much mythological claptrap. If you take my advice stay here and set your tent by this sign and make the best of what you've got."
The traveler’s face fell but it brightened a little as the second traveler arrived. "Excuse me do you know the way to the CITY OF GOD?" The second traveler shrugged his shoulders uncertainly, "Who can say? I'm agnostic myself; may be this road, maybe that? No one can really know which is the right one, all you can do is to be open minded & tolerant, you make your own mind up as you want, I wouldn't dream of influencing you." The traveler thanked him but privately he had hoped for more specific guidance.
As the third man approached the traveler he asked again "Do you know the road to the CITY OF GOD? The third man smiled back benignly, "An unnecessary question my friend, all roads lead to CITY OF GOD they only appear to go in different directions. I promise you, back there in the mist they all circle back on themselves and all converge on your desired destination. So follow any as you wish and it will get you there in the end."
The traveler frowned. Was it really likely that roads which start off in such radically different directions should end up in the same place? Surely it would be possible to go the wrong way, as well as the right way. But which is the right way? He sighed in frustration and bewilderment.
Suddenly out of the mist a fourth man appeared. Unlike the others he did not come up the road the traveler himself had come by. Instead he had come down one of the other paths - a steep and little trodden one at that. "Excuse me", said the traveler one more time, "Do you know the way to the CITY OF GOD? One person has told me no such place exists, another told me to be open minded on the question & a third assured me that all roads lead there. Can you tell me right way?" "Indeed I can," replied the stranger, "I'm afraid the others you spoke to were only guessing. You see they have never been to the CITY OF GOD and so can only speculate about the route. I, on the other hand, live there - the CITY OF GOD is my home. So, come, follow me, I am the way." Jesus Christ is the only way to God the Father and therefore to heaven. There is no other way. No-one, Jesus says, comes to the Father except through him. Someone put it like this:
“Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. Without the way there is no going. Without the truth there is no knowing. Without the life there is no living.”
Some of you here tonight have a growing sense of that to be true. And you’re beginning to realize that you’re without the person who can give you life. Your hearts are troubled. You may fear death. The French philosopher Rousseau once said that 'he who pretends to face death without fear is a liar'. We may fear the future. Or may be you are a Christian but you lack assurance. Well the answer, antidote or remedy to a troubled heart is trust - trust in God, and trust in Jesus. For John there is only one faith and that is in Jesus and God at the same time. Will you trust him and follow him whatever the cost? If so join with me in praying this prayer to receive Christ who is the way, the truth and the life.
Heavenly Father, I have rebelled against you. I have sinned in my thoughts, my words and my actions - sometimes unconsciously, sometimes deliberately. I am sorry for the way I have lived and ask you to forgive me. Thank you that Jesus died on the cross so that I could be forgiven. Thank
you that I can now see clearly who Jesus is and why he came. Please send
your Holy Spirit to help me follow Jesus as Lord whatever the cost. Amen