Some time ago, I had the privilege of hearing a fine lesson taught by Oliver Rogers in Bloomington, Indiana. The lesson dealt with the art of successful living, and the more I studied my notes from that lesson the more it seemed to be a great lesson of Christian evidences. I would like to share some of the of the concepts of that lesson with you.
All of us--whether we are atheists, agnostics, Christians, or of some other persuasion--have a keen interest in living successful lives. No one wants to be unhappy, frustrated, depressed, angry, empty, or any number of other conditions described by similar adjectives. We all want to be satisfied, fulfilled, happy, at peace, secure, and so forth. The CA big question is, "How do we do this?" What formula will give us a good life? The answer to this question can be derived both logically and biblically. There are four obvious foundations that every human being can build which will guarantee the best possible life we can live. This is not to say that there will be no problems or calamities in our lives, but it is to say that we can have a high quality of life no matter what happens, and it is also to say that we can control our lives and consciously build foundations that lead to this high quality. Let us now look at four basic foundations which lead to a successful life, and let us examine these logically as well as pointing out the biblical basis of each of these areas.
The Foundation of Faith
For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, the just shall live by faith (Romans 1:17).
But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).
It may seem somewhat redundant to point out that the Bible places an emphasis on faith. The point that every person needs to contemplate on this matter, however, is that faith is essential to having a successful life. This is admittedly a controversial statement, but it is one that lies in a basic argument for the existence of God.
The person who believes in God has a sharp, identifiable purpose in life. They also have a guide for making decisions. The person who has no faith, on the other hand, has no fixed purpose in life. The only reason to live is the physical pleasure or emotional reward that one may obtain from whatever they do. There is no guarantee that the reward or pleasure will actually be there or that it will be what is expected. There is no assurance that the basis of making decisions is correct. There is no security offered beyond the present and no common bond between oneself and a body of people who share a common bond or security.
It is interesting to notice how easy it is for those promoting things that offer a substitute for faith to draw adherents. We have discussed the religious nature of ancient astronaut claims, alien involvement in the Bermuda Triangle, UFOs, psychic phenomena, transcendental meditation, and a myriad of other similar claims in this publication in the past. For many people, this kind of thing offers a faith substitute but one that is woefully inadequate. It is the author's contention that the instability frequently observed in individuals involved in these things is a reflection of that inadequacy. I have personally observed in myself and others that atheists are frequently angry, hostile people--even with those they love.
Faith is not an inherited characteristic. Faith is something that is consciously built. The Bible tells us that we can know there is a God "through the things He has made" (Romans 1:19-23) and makes statements like "the heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth His handiwork" (Psalm 19:1). The Bible tells us we can know that God is and gives us ways of building our faith, and that is what the Does God Exist? work which produces this bulletin is all about. It is important to understand, however, that one can have the element of faith in the head and not have faith in the heart; and having it in one's head alone is not the foundation we are discussing. Nikita Krushchev, the famous Russian leader, could quote Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John from memory, according to his contemporaries. Obviously he did not have a sustaining faith, and in fact epitomizes a man who had an angry, unhappy life.
The sad part of all this is that some who claim to be Christians have as poor a foundation for life as Khrushchev did. All of us must strive to build our faith and develop a confidence that sustains our lives. Romans 1:19-23 says that we can know there is a God--that there is no excuse for unbelief. We must strive to build our faith--not just wait for God to pour faith into us against our will or without our involvement.
The Foundation of Honesty
Recompense no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men (Romans 12:17).
One of the least recognized contributors to having a successful life is the foundation of honesty. Even the Internal Revenue Service receives literally thousands of dollars of "guilt money" every year. This is money sent in anonymously by taxpayers to pay for cheating that they have done on their income tax forms. Every so often, I have had a student come in and confess something that they had done in my class that was dishonest to "clear their conscience."
In Acts 24:16, Paul emphasizes the necessity of always having "a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men." There is no way that a blatantly dishonest person will ever be happy or have a secure and positive life. The correlation between dishonesty and the occurrence of emotional and mental problems is extremely high at all levels of society, but especially when a high socioeconomic level is considered.
Honesty is critical for successful living in religion also. In 2 Corinthians 4:1-2, we read:
Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.
There are many unhappy religious people. In a huge percentage of people, their unhappiness is rooted in dishonesty and a deceitful handling of the word of God--either by themselves or by someone else. This lack of honesty can involve holding on to a religious position when it clearly is not found in God's word. It can involve placing taboos or restrictions on someone that are not found in the Bible. It can simply be someone who has all the answers and is unwilling to recognize that it is possible to misunderstand something. And it can also be the selfish, egotistical, criminal attempt to gain money or reputation by abusing and using others. We can be the cause or the victims of such people, but either way the result is a poor life built on a poor foundation.
The solution to religious deceit is to not rely upon others for our beliefs and understandings. We cannot trust any human, but we can trust God. "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12). "Study to show yourselves approved unto God, a workman that needeth not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15).
The Foundation of Moral Integrity
Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
No one feels good about his or her life when they are lacking moral integrity. I make that statement on the basis of personal experience. During my years as an atheist, regardless of how much I claimed that I was happy and fulfilled, I was empty and frustrated. The anger and hostility evident in the lives of a huge percentage of atheists is a testimony to this fact.
In Galatians 6:7, we are told, "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." It has been said that we sow a bushel of wild oats and get a whole field of trouble. Some of us have a hard time learning that, but life will teach you that it is true--eventually.
The beauty of Christianity in all this is its corrective capability. In the passage in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 quoted above, Paul states "and such were some of you." These people had at one time been deeply involved in immorality, but their lives were no longer torn by the consequences of their life style. Paul says that they had been justified by becoming Christians. Being washed in the blood of Christ did to them what a justifying typewriter does to a typewritten page. When we justify a page, every line--no matter how out-of-balance and irregular it is--becomes the same. The blood of Christ does the same for us, taking our lives and bringing them even with God's design. We no longer need to be wracked with guilt by what we have done. We are cleansed, justified, and able to start over from where we are. There is no guilt in the Christian system. Our lives can be positive, secure, harmonious, and peaceful. We also can be people of ever-increasing moral integrity and our lives will be that much better as God gives us the ability to overcome the temptations around us.
The Foundation of Truth
Sanctify them through thy truth: Thy word is truth (John 17:7).
Philosophers and "great thinkers" have tried all kinds of interesting ideas to determine what "truth" is. A person who is not sure that what they are following is true is going to be an unhappy and insecure person. Listening to philosophers debate what truth is has always been a very depressing experience to me because it is obvious that they will never agree. In fact, based upon his own mental abilities, man will never know what truth is because one simply puts one fallible man's ideas against another fallible man's ideas.
The Bible claims to have truth. If people will examine the teachings and principles developed in the Bible, they can see even in their limited human intellect a system that is radically different from man's. Not only is the system absolute in claim and design, but it is beautifully workable. We can be confident that we have truth if what we use to guide our lives is the Bible. This confidence not only is found in the claims the Bible makes, but also in observing the success that application of biblical principles brings. In moral areas especially, we can see the wisdom of biblical teaching. As man has gone through countless attempts to change or replace the biblical standards of moral conduct, he has consistently reaped all kinds of disasters. The system works and has consistently worked in the lives of people who have been willing to apply it to their lives for nearly 2,000 years. Something that is fraudulent cannot stand that test of time.
This is not to say that everything that men teach in the name of religion or the Bible is true. In Romans 1:21-25, we read:
Because that, when they knew God, they gloried Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever.
Notice that "the truth of God" can be "changed.into a lie" by men. All one has to do is to look at the myriad of different teachings found in religions (all of which claim to be Christian) and the statement of the writer of Romans is clearly seen. We cannot trust men to give us truth. Only by the study of God's Word can we be confident that we have the "truth that will set us free." People work at making the Bible hard to understand and require "expert" help to get its message which is usually a man who knows no more than anyone else. By simply reading what Jesus said and following His message, we can have the answers to life's most complex problems.
If your life is not what you want it to be, there is an answer. All four of the foundations we have discussed are things that you can do! You can build a strong working faith in God by examining the evidence for His existence. You can build a life style of honesty and credibility which will serve you in all aspects of what you do. You can develop moral integrity in all aspects of your life. You can find truth through the study of God's word. You do not acquire these things genetically nor can they be given to you by someone else. They are foundations you lay and upon which you build your life.
Back to Contents Does God Exist?, JanFeb01.