May 23, 2021
To conclude our sermon series, "Does Christianity Work?" Pastor David engages us with a final question that is relevant for those who have doubts...How much evidence is enough to make a commitment to faith in God?
Is Christianity worth the commitment? Here is how you can think it through:
Come to terms with certainty
Consider the worth of faith
Think through the outcomes of commitment
It seems rational to seek a relationship with God and live a deeply Christian life because there is so much to gain and relatively little to lose. There are only 4 outcomes when you choose either to believe or to disbelieve; commit or not commit:
Commit to Faith in Christ
Belief in the Gospel
Verses to study
Is Christianity worth the commitment?
How much evidence is enough to believe that God and Christianity is worth the commitment?
Welcome into this moment of huddling around the word. And so, we come to the concluding message in this spring series, that's called “Does Christianity Work?” And so yeah, we've made this point every single time that it's an apologetics series. apologetics just means to give an answer. And yet, it's not the typical apologetics series, because we're not really dealing with a lot of academic questions or theoretical questions or hypotheticals. Honestly, we've gone straight to the bottom line. And that is, just ask this: does it work? Does Christianity work? In other words, does it do what it says it will do in a person's life? And you know what? That's a relevant question. Let me give you exhibit one, or exhibit A, the number one reason just published this week. So, from the American Worldview Inventory, they released their yearly report, it's a survey of the philosophy of life of American adults, this is their 2021 assessment. Do you see the headline: 43% of all young adults don't know and don't care if God even exists. That's what makes this question relevant, and very important to our lives. They found that 43% of millennials say that either they don't know, or they don't care, or they don't believe that God even exists. And so, it led the authors of this study to write this: this is a radical spiritual revolution that's created a generation seeking to re imagine a world without God, without the Bible, or even without churches. So, I want to engage a final question in this series for you, if maybe you find yourself somewhere in between totally certain that God exists, and that He is there for us, and Christianity is true. If you're somewhere between that and the I don't think God is even real. If you're like, somewhere in the middle there, I want to engage you for just a moment.
So, there's an incident in the life of Jesus, where a father comes to him desperate, because his son was afflicted with seizures that were a result of demonic possession. And so, the father comes to Jesus desperately, but yet unsure. He desperately wants Jesus to do something, but he is really unsure of who Jesus is, and if Jesus can do what he says that he can do. And so, I'm going to pick it up right in the text. So, the father begins talking to Jesus, and he says, beginning Mark 9: 22. “But if you can do anything,” That's going to offend Jesus a little bit. “But if you can do anything, take pity on us, and help us. And Jesus says to him,( Jesus, fully aware that he is God in flesh, you're saying, if I, if I'm the one who created the whole universe, if I if I can do something,) and so Jesus said to him, if you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes, and immediately the boy's father cried out, and this is where I want you to, tune in to this, look at what he says, I do believe, Help my unbelief. I do believe, help my unbelief; he's caught in the middle, I believe, but help my unbelief. And I think that's where most people who have never committed their lives to God through Christ, I think that's really where they live, they're living somewhere in this middle, not 100% sure that God does not exist, and I want nothing to do with him. But at the same time open, so open to the reality of Jesus, but I'm not 100% sure of that. I think that they live there most of all. It's not that they know for certain that God exists, and that Christianity is true, but they're just rejecting it. It's just that they don't know for sure that God is there, and that Christianity is true, and that paralyzes them, that freezes them sort of in the middle and so they leave it undefined. What would lead them to commit themselves to Christ? Did you hear that; they leave it undefined; they sort of live in this gray world of uncertainty. I want to bump us out of that place in this message.
So, I want to talk about what makes belief in God reasonable, and what makes Christianity worth embracing. That's a final, that’s a capstone, it's the final thing to say, in this series of six messages. I mean, the whole underlying question of the series has been, is there good reason to make a serious commitment to living a Christian life? That's been the underpinning of all of these five messages. So, if the evidence is there for each one of these five, then that then does that give us good reason to make a serious commitment to Christ? Let me just review, remember, what did we say we asked? Does Christianity do what it says it will do? In other words, does faith in God give hope? If the evidence is there, then there is a reason to believe? Does prayer work? We ask and we offered evidence of that. Does the experience of faith in God actually change your character? We talked about the evidence of that. Can God sustain a Christ follower, a believer, when they suffer? We talked about the evidence there. And then lastly, we asked can God turn bad things into ultimate good things, and we did the very same thing there.
And so, the last question for the person who hasn't yet committed their life to Christ: is how much evidence is enough to make a commitment to faith in God? How much evidence is enough evidence? I'm asking, is Christianity worth the commitment? If it is true, how much evidence then is even needed? So how do you think that through? I want to spend this message thinking that through for a moment. So how do you think that through; is Christianity worthy of a commitment to it? How do you even think that through? Let me give you three ways to think, number one, first of all, do this: come to terms with certainty. Because there are a lot of people who say about faith in Christ, because I am not 100% certain that God exists, and Christianity is true, therefore I will not commit myself to it. My question is, do you operate that way in any other realm of your life? You put your trust in things all of the time that are not 100% certain, or sure. I'll give you a small example: You got into a car today and you drove here. How certain were you that you would make it? Because over 40,000 people a year die in auto accidents; meaning you have a one in 77 chance of being killed in a crash at some time in your life. So, it was not 100% certain that that you would even make it here alive. But you still came for reasons that outweighed the uncertainty; did you hear that? You still came for reasons that outweighed the uncertainty. A lot of people who don't believe in Christ or follow Him, they're putting their trust in something. They're putting their trust in something they can't be certain of. They're living by faith, that faith issues are important to live by. They're living by faith that people don't need to take faith in God seriously. They're living by faith without certainty of that. And so, the materialist is the person who says, look, God doesn't exist, and so, all that there is, is the physical world, all that there is, is just the universe and what's in it; that's it. That's a materialist, you know, they're putting their trust in something that honestly scientifically cannot be true. They're putting their faith ultimately in something that scientifically can't be true. Because if there is no God, no creator outside of the material universe, then you're forced to believe that everything that came into being came from nothing. I mean nothingness. I'm not saying that there was an empty universe, and then something began to happen inside that empty universe. No, you have to believe if you say there is no God that lives outside of time and space, you have to say that everything came into being from nothingness, there was not even an empty space for which it to even happen. Scientifically, that's not possible, because everything that it comes into being has to have a cause, scientifically, there is no other way. And so logically, the only reasonable explanation is that there is an eternal creator, outside of time and space, capable of bringing material into existence in a purposeful way, is the most logical answer. But coming to faith is not exactly like that. Coming to faith is more like the certainty that you have in relationships. For example, when you're thinking about asking that girl to marry you. Are you thinking about whether you're going to say yes or no when they ask? How certain are you, that in 10 years or 30 years, that they are still going to be the perfect person for you? Married people, I'm talking to you, when you got engaged, were you 100% sure that that they were going to be the perfect person for you 10 – 30 years from that moment? Or was there some uncertainty involved, yet it was worth the risk. That's how we make decisions. We calculate, even though there is uncertainty, we still we calculate our decisions. And so, you put your trust in many, many things that you don't know to be 100% sure. So, in coming to faith, or in evaluating faith toward Christ, you got to deal with certainty. Every person you know, including you, trust something that you believe in, that you can't prove, or that you don't know in an absolute evidentiary sense.
So, here's the logic to follow for the rest of this message. So, laying this as a foundation: deal with uncertainty is to come to terms with certainty and uncertainty. Here's a logic to follow this comes from a philosopher, I think his last name is Roto. So, as he lays out faith in Christ, he just says this, based on the logical answers: If Christianity is at least 50% profitable, then it is more than worth committing your life to. If it is at least 50% probable, then it is more than worth committing your life to it. Why is that statement logical? Let's follow it. It's the second way to think about is Christianity worth committing to. First: come to terms with certainty, but then secondly, consider the worth of faith; consider the worth of it. Let me give you a couple of statements from the Bible that describes the worth of faith to the sincere believer. II Timothy 1: 12, Paul, the apostle writes, near the end of his life, “I know whom I have believed, and I'm convinced, I'm convinced that he is able to guard that which I've entrusted to him for that day.” What he is saying is I have grown confident in faith in Christ, I've grown so confident in it, that I am convinced that the moment that I step out of this life, I will step into the presence of God and all that He has promised that heaven can be. I Corinthians 2: 9, quoting Isaiah 65, “But as it is written, what no eye has seen, no ear has heard, or the heart of man has imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him.” What Paul is saying there along with the prophet Isaiah is that they have become totally convinced in the worth of committing their lives to God.
So, to consider the worth of faith, I want you to consider this statement. It's a bit like Pascal's Wager; it's sort of like that. Listen to the worth of faith. Listen to this: It seems rational to seek a relationship with God and to live a deeply Christian life. Why? Because there is so much to gain and relatively little to lose. This is like the premise, the core of everything that I'm saying to you. It just seems rational to seek a relationship with God to live a deeply committed life to Him, because there is so much to gain and relatively little to lose. It is only logical to commit oneself to faith in Christ. If Christianity is true, then it has the potential to bring the greatest joy, total reassurance, and hope in your life. And if you're not sure whether Christianity is true, but you're open to it being true, then this whole thought process is for you. So, look, based on everything we've said, over the past several messages, we're talking about the worth of faith, the evidence that Christianity gives real hope, the evidence that prayer does work, and that God does sustain committed believers, when they suffer. The evidence is that it does indeed appear that God can transform bad things that happened to us into ultimate good things. Then, according to logic, if any of those are at least 50% probable, then Christianity is more than worth embracing. That's the point, consider the worth of faith. And look, on the other hand, hypothetically, what if on the other hand, Christianity is false, and you've committed your life to Christ, and it's a huge mistake, that it's not true, then what's the outcome? You will still have lived an incredibly worthwhile life, you would still have lived with hope and answers for suffering, you would still have experienced the benefits of striving for moral excellence, you would still have experienced the satisfaction of growing into a person of goodness, compassion, and service, and you would have experienced the incredible benefits of spiritual community. Even if it is the worst possible mistake because it's not true, you still carry all of these benefits.
But let's move to number three. And so, this message is sort of re-focusing, it's sort of going from wide angle to a very narrow angle. First, we said, just come to terms with certainty, do you have to be 100% certain for anything in your life? Or do you make decisions on another basis? Secondly, consider the worth of it, which we've just talked about. Now, think through the outcomes. So, what about the outcomes of commitment? What if I were to commit my life, and what if I were to not commit my life? So, I want to do it in a matrix for you. So, pull, pull up the matrix, and let's just let's talk about it for just a moment. So, think of the outcomes: look only one of two things can be true. Either God exists, Christianity is true, or naturalism is true, and God does not exist. So, you see, the two columns, either God is God is real, and Christianity is true, or naturalism is true, and God does not exist. And, and so it's not real. So, there are only two things, one of two things that can be true, either God exists, or he does not. And there are only two responses, only two choices that you can make about it. Either you commit to God, or you do not commit to God. So, what does that give you logically: only four possible outcomes. There are only four possible outcomes. I want us to dig into them, I just want you to see and feel what the outcomes would be when you make the choice. So, if Christianity is true, and you do commit to it, then what are the outcomes? Well, the outcomes are incredible. I mean, you experience true atonement, the true freedom of sin forgiven, and all that means to the human personality and human soul, and your spiritual destiny. You experience the power to grow your character into a replica of Jesus, the power to pursue moral excellence, and you experience the daily help and power of God in your life right now. You have a hope, that defeats the fear of death. And, and you will experience eternal life in heaven forever, and inexpressible joy, if God exists, and Christianity is true, and you come into it, then you gain everything. But what about a second outcome? There are four possible outcomes. Hypothetically, what if Christianity is not true, but you commit to it. This big mistake you make: it's not true, but you do commit to it; what's the outcome of that? There are now hundreds upon hundreds of contemporary studies that show the here and now benefits of living out religious commitment, and in fact, show that to you. I'm going to wear you out for the next few minutes. The most comprehensive study of studies on the relationship between religious commitment and wellbeing was done by Duke University just a few years ago. And here are some of their conclusions; I'm going to give them to you. Number one, after reviewing 79 studies, they found religiously committed people had significantly stronger and happier marriages. Number two, after reviewing 74 separate studies, they found religiously committed people had much stronger social support, they had people caring into their life. And the benefits of that are just are hard to explain; they're incredible. Number three, after reviewing 67 studies, they found significantly higher number of high self-esteem in religiously committed people. Number 4: 80% of the relevant studies reported significant positive relationships between religious commitment and optimism. Number five, there was a much higher correlation between religious commitment and hope. Number six, after looking at 45 studies, they found that 93% of those showing religious commitment have a much greater sense of purpose and meaning in life. Number seven, a separate research group, a group from Stanford and Duke medical schools, they reviewed 29 studies on longevity, the relationship between longevity and non-religious and religiously committed people. And they found that religiously committed people live a significantly longer life on average. Now, what point are we making? If Christianity is, if God's not there, and Christianity is not real, and yet you make a commitment to it, look at what happens in your life. If you commit to a life of faith in God, and you're wrong, the benefits are still extraordinary. The empirical studies say that you'll be significantly healthier, happier, and you'll live maybe 10% longer than you would have without faith.
Outcome number one, outcome number two. But what about outcome number three? What is the outcome, if Christianity is true, and yet you do not commit to Christianity? If Christianity is true, and you do not commit to it, then then biblically, according to the Word of God, you lose everything. Everything that Christianity doesn't align, everything that we just talked about, in terms of the hearing now benefit, but most significant of all, there is as an outcome in relation to eternal life. It’s a life separated from God, fully conscious, in a place that the Bible calls Hell. Not only do you miss any of the outcome, one or any of the outcome two, you lose it all. What about outcome number four, that Christianity, hypothetically that Christianity is not true, and you don't commit, then you lose all the joy, meaning, purpose, health, of living a religiously committed life, you're less happy, you have a less meaningful life, less supportive relationships, less healthy, shorter, physical life. And so, let's put it all together in one grid. Now, let's say everything we just said very quickly. And so, we're going to pull up a matrix. And so, if Christianity is true, or naturalism is, is true, you commit to God or you do not commit to God, and what are the possibilities? If Christianity is true, and you commit to God, you gain everything, we just said that. A second possibility is that is that Christianity is not true, and you commit to God, what happens is you gain in this life, is you live with greater purpose and hope. And then when you die, it makes no difference. Number three, if naturalism is true, if God does not exist, and you do not commit to God, you live a significantly less meaningful, purposeful, hopeful life, you fear death, because it's the end of everything, and then you die. Outcome number four. Christianity is true and you do not commit to God; you lose everything; everything that Christianity does in our life. Plus, you have significantly less meaning, purpose and hope. And you die and lose Heaven, spending an eternity, consciously separated from heaven and all that it means in a place the Bible calls Hell.
Now logically, look at the grid, logically look at the four outcomes. What does it make sense to do? What is the most logical thing to do? Do you get that it's not inauthentic, to not have 100% certainty that God is there, and that God can change your life, he can come into your life to Christ, it is not inauthentic to not have 100% certainty of that, and yet seek to commit yourself to it? And here's why: Here's my experience and the experience of every genuine Christ follower around you. When you place your faith in Him, when you turn to him in a way that he describes in his teaching, you'll find him to be real. You'll find the experience of following him to have reality in it.
I want to do this last word. But how? What if you're that person, you're somewhere in that gray zone, but you've left it undefined. How much evidence is enough? For me to commit my life to Christ, you've left that undefined. You've been able to excuse it by saying because I'm not 100% certain well, then I won't do it. Except that you don't operate that way in any other part of your life. And so, what if you're there. But in this moment, it is making perfect sense. It is the logical step to take. So how, how do you do that? How do you place your faith in Christ? I want to say to you, in in a very simple way. The Bible says it's that when you believe the gospel, straight from Jesus, right out of Jesus’ life. Mark 11:4, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God. What is this gospel of God? Verse 15, Jesus was saying, the time has fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand, meaning he has come, and now he is about to make it possible, to put your faith in God. And so how do you do that? So, he was saying, do this, Repent, and believe in the Gospel. Those two words, Repent, and believe. First of all, repent, what does it mean to do that? Repent means that you're turning to Christ, and therefore turning away from some other things. You are turning to Christ, to be the source of your life, and to be your life, and to be all that you need to be made right with God. And so, if you're turning to him for that, you're turning away from those things that you've looked to in the past to be your source, your life, your meaning, it means that you're turning to Christ, to be the leader of your life. And that means that you want to follow Him, and that you want to obey Him. And so, look, you're repenting. That's what the word means, you're repenting of sin. One way to look at sin is this, that it's everything that doesn't put him at the center of your life. You're repenting of that. That's word one, Repent, and then secondly, to believe, to believe what: to believe the Gospel. The Gospel is the message of what Christ has come to do for us. And what is the message of what Christ has come to do for us, that is that Christ is God, he came in flesh in order to pay the price for our sin before God. And so, it goes to the cross in order to take my punishment for my sin that I owed God. And he did this in order to offer us total forgiveness for our sin and release from our guilt and shame before God and to give us a brand-new identity and to give us eternal life when he places his life in us. It's a life, it's this regeneration and brand-new life you are born again, from the inside out a life of meaning and purpose now and alive in his presence, when you pass out of this life.
I'm going to ask us to bow in prayer at this moment. Because I want to ask you to focus just on where you are with God right now. Just where your spiritual life is maybe you've lived in that gray zone in the middle. You've never placed your faith in Christ. One of your reasons, it’s because I'm not 100% certain. But you're realizing you don't operate that way in any other part of your life. And that if you were just to be reasonable and logical, if Christianity is just 50% probable, then it is more than worth it to embrace Christ. Here's what I think's happening. I know from experience that I know from seeing it, the Spirit of God is real. And he's speaking into your heart right now, and you feel that. And so, it's not just intellectual, it's not just a matrix, you sense, you know that he's there. I want to invite you to invite Him into your life, to surrender to him. Can you make that decision at this next moment? Yes, I will. Not 100% certain, but yes, I will. Here's how you can engage God in prayer. Let me just help you, pray something like this, Father in heaven, thank you for your son. Jesus said that he came to this earth for a purpose, and that is to redeem me, to buy me back for you, a relationship. So, I turned to what Christ has done on the cross, and I asked for it to count for me, his sacrifice on the cross from my sin. I receive that gift; I take that gift by faith. And so, I turn to you Jesus as the Lord and leader in my life. That means I'm turning away from all my other sources. I've decided to follow you. Father, I pray for every person in this place that has just prayed that Father, I pray that you will give the confidence and the joy that you come into their life, and you've done exactly what you said, you could do. And we pray that now in Jesus’ name, Amen and amen.
I want to invite you there. If you've just prayed with me, if you just ask Christ into your life, a very important thing for you to do is to take the next step. And the next step is just text BC hope to 84576, BC Hope, because what happens is we send you a link and that link is a way for you to just get started. It's just reading, it's all it is. But you began to read and learn how to start growing in your faith toward God. And I just want to challenge you to do that you need that. And I want to invite you to do that. If you're here in the room, and you'd like to talk with someone about a spiritual need in your life, to ask Christ into your life, or a prayer need or a recommitment or to join our fellowship. Just when we say amen to this service, just go out to the Next Steps table and spend a moment there with someone and just say, hey, would you pray with me about this, and they would be so happy to do that. Last reminder, if you're wanting to be involved in voting today for this new staff member on our church staff, just go to the info desk and ask for a ballot.
Let's stand together. Let me lead us in prayer. Thank you so much for being here. It's just awesome to see you gathered like this. And so, Father, thank You that You love us. God, I asked you please, to just help us walk out of here with the confidence that you were real, that faith in you is valuable and that I want to live it out. And we pray in Christ's name. Amen. God bless you. Thank you so much for being here.