For the moment, let’s leave Jesus or Christianity out of the picture. What if you tried to just believe in God in general? What if you just tried to live a good life and pray to him? How would you get into a relationship with a God like that? Wouldn’t that be exploitation? God wouldn’t change—you would have to do all the submitting, all the repenting, make all the sacrifices.
But Christianity is different. Jesus Christ lost his glory and became mortal and died for us. In Jesus God says, “I will adjust to you. I will sacrifice for you. First I will give up my glory and immortality in becoming human in the Incarnation. Then I will give up all light and joy and my very life in the Atonement.”
He was nailed fast to the cross so he could not move. How is that for giving up your freedom? Christianity is the only religion that claims God gave up his freedom so we could experience the ultimate freedom—from evil and death itself. Therefore, you can trust him. He sacrificed his independence for you, so you can sacrifice yours for him. And when you do, you will find that it is the ultimate, infinitely liberating constraint. “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).
Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical
In that terrific tale of the Passion there is a distinct emotional suggestion that the author of all things (in some unthinkable way) went not only through agony, but through doubt. It is written, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” No; but the Lord thy God may tempt Himself; and it seems as if this was what happened in Gethsemane. In a garden Satan tempted man: and in a garden God tempted God. He passed in some superhuman manner through our human horror of pessimism. When the world shook and the sun was wiped out of heaven, it was not at the crucifixion, but at the cry from the cross: the cry which confessed that God was forsaken of God. And now let the revolutionists choose a creed from all the creeds and a god from all the gods of the world, carefully weighing all the gods of inevitable recurrence and of unalterable power. They will not find another god who has himself been in revolt. Nay, (the matter grows too difficult for human speech,) but let the atheists themselves choose a god. They will find only one divinity who ever uttered their isolation; only one religion in which God seemed for an instant to be an atheist.
–G. K. Chesterton,
Think about it: The first being of the universe, perfect in goodness, power and knowledge, creates free creatures. These free creatures turn their backs on him, rebel against him and get involved in sin and evil. Rather than treat them as some ancient potentate might — e.g., having them boiled in oil — God responds by sending his son into the world to suffer and die so that human beings might once more be in a right relationship to God. God himself undergoes the enormous suffering involved in seeing his son mocked, ridiculed, beaten and crucified. And all this for the sake of these sinful creatures.
I’d say a world in which this story is true would be a truly magnificent possible world. It would be so good that no world could be appreciably better. But then the best worlds contain sin and suffering.
Christian faith is not a shot in the dark. It is trust in a God who revealed Himself in Jesus of Nazareth. It is belief in the invisible God who became visible when He came to this world and lived among us for 33 years. Christian faith is not mystical speculation, wishful thinking, assent to irrational notions, nor is directed into empty space. It rests upon the concrete historical revelation of God in human form in the person of Jesus.
His life is without comparison. No one was born as He was born, no one spoke as He spoke, no one did what He did, and no one died as He died. He was sentenced unjustly, lashed with a whip, showered with spit, nailed to a cross, and He died pronouncing forgiveness on us all.
It is impossible to argue with such goodness.
It is blindness to dismiss such beauty.
Who but God could be the explanation for such a life?
When one is confronted by the overwhelming awesomeness of Jesus Christ, faith ceases to be a blind leap. It becomes the most reasonable and sensible thing to do. If you cannot trust someone who gave His life for you, who could you possibly trust?
Perhaps the most irrational decision of all is NOT to believe in Him.
Many people run from God and vehemently deny His existence. His presence terrifies them. It should. They have seriously offended the High King of heaven. They cannot find God for the same reason a thief cannot find a policeman.
However, there’s something vitally important and absurdly wonderful that God-avoiders need to know. The Supreme Judge did the unthinkable to fix the huge mess we are in. His Son paid the death penalty of His rebel creatures’ misdeeds, shedding His own blood on a cross to bring them back into His grace and favor. And He has sent out a notice, called the gospel, that He wants to welcome them back, forgive them, adopt them into His family, and invite them into His eternal banquet!
It’s either the craziest thing that’s ever been heard, or the best news ever broken on Planet Earth.
God-deniers need to consider the fascinating possibility that it might be true.
–J. O. Schulz