For those of you who read or check out my blog from time to time, you know I am a Christian, through and through. Still, I would say I have the mind of a skeptic. My mind often wanders into these grand questions about creation, the great flood, and those many questions within Christianity that seem to remain unanswered.* Because of this, I'm sympathetic to skeptics; those who are stuck - not because they are rejecting God and just want to live their own way - but because they've heard all the teachings of the day out there, and they just don't see how it adds up. If you are reading this as a skeptic, I encourage you to keep reading. If you're reading this as a Christian, I hope you find encouragement as I did pondering these things.
In 1 John 5:11, the Bible says, speaking to Christians,
"the witness is this: that God has given us eternal life."
and only a verse earlier (5:10),
"the one who believes in God has this witness in himself."
The eternal life that God gives to His children works in all who believe and call on his name. It is not imaginary nor made-up. It is predictable, testable, able to be tried, and proven. What God can do in a man who gives himself to him, once that Eternal Life enters, is almost always similar for all who truly seek to follow the Lord Jesus.
If you really want to see the truth of this, talk to Christians from every corner of the earth. Every continent. Every cultural background. This can't be a "church goer" or someone who has some general belief in God. In order for the test to work, this has to be a true, born-again Christian, who has confessed his sins and asked Jesus to come and live in him. If you can't find people from every corner of the earth, read the biographies of Christian men and women. You will find the same story, the same experiences, and though they may be a part of different cultures or church backgrounds, or live in different parts of the world, when they tell how God talks to them, the story is the same. The convictions are often the same. The ways they are asked to obey and the things they’re asked to give up, are often the same.
God does come to live in men. God’s life in man changes him from the inside out. Religion will change a man from the outside. Religion will bring people to all think the same, and unite in some types of common ideas. But Christianity, when God truly comes into a man, when He gives Him the eternal life inside of him, that produces change from the inside out. That is provable, tangible, visible, change. So when God’s people, who have called upon the name of Jesus, and have had His life living inside of them, say that they hear His voice… There is, in fact, a life inside of them that is altogether different from the life of this world. His voice is real because He is real. “My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me. “ John 10:27
So how does a Christian actually hear the voice of God?
You know there is a song that came out years back, and it says "I know He lives," ..."I spoke with Him this morning"^ This is really how a Christian knows that God lives. God speaks through His word, especially to His children who are reading the Bible. When a Christian is reading through the Bible, something will just jump off the page, and his heart will jump or leap or awaken in someway, and he will know what to do. Or, he may be praying and then something comes so strong, some impression in his heart, and again he knows what he should do. Of course it is not always this clear, and there are definitely times when we are not sure... but often times it is this clear. And those who are reading this who have been born of God, who are real Christians, they know what I’m talking about.
But if you’re not a Christian, this doesn’t work. You can’t just say, “OK I’m going to go join Christianity and test this out and see if this is real." No. It doesn’t work like that. Because in order for God to speak to you, you have to have the life of God in you to speak. (Sometimes, when God is first drawing someone to know Him, they may begin to feel as if God is whispering to them, not so strong or specifically, but like a gentle drawing.) If, however, you truly want to test this out, anyone can. You just need to open your mouth, and come humbly before the living God, and say, “Jesus, are you real? Are you who you say you are? If you are who you say you are, then wash me clean all of my sins and help me to now begin to follow you and to hear your voice.” Or you can be completely honest. "God, I don't think you're real, but here I am. If you are who the Bible says you are, in some way, show me." But it is not a formula.
You cannot just say these words and it happens. This is something real we are talking about. This is a real God. And if you really want to test out to see if the real God speaks to you, then you have to really come to him. In the deep deep spot of your heart, you have to look up to Him and talk to Him and tell Him you are willing to follow him. It has to be a real transaction to work.
So. This is my challenge to you.
My atheist friends. My agnostic friends. And the many skeptics who I know are out there. The world out there, and the media out there, really does portray Christianity as something it is not. There are “Christians” within “Christianity" who do not have this life. And so for them, Christianity is a bunch of rules, a list of do's and don'ts. It is heavy, and hard. It is a joyless religion. But to those who have really been born again, who have received a new life of God inside, this is the most wonderful thing. This life comforts in sorrow, will give peace when you were upset and disturbed. It will give strength when you are weak and feel like you cannot go on. God's life is a real life. And for some reason, He has chosen to give that life and allow that life to dwell inside of men. This, is what I wish the world could know. This is what hundreds of thousands of people have discovered over the course of hundreds of years. It is the reason why a Christian can read the story of God working in another Christian 200 years ago, or 2000 years ago, and feel as if you they are reading their own story. It’s the reason we can read the Bible, and hear of God's dealings with Moses, and David, and Peter,… And say, "amen, that was how God spoke to me and worked with me and dealt with me."
God is real. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He has His sheep, and they know His voice, and He speaks with them.
And yet, in John 10, He speaks of sheep that He does not yet have, that are not yet in His fold, that He must bring also into the fold. If you are not a Christian, or you think you’re a Christian, but you have never really heard the voice of God, or maybe it even sounds crazy to you that someone could hear the voice of God, then I challenge you to stop. And just take a moment to look up to heaven, and ponder, could this really be true? Remember, the test only works if you are fully willing to do it. But if you are willing, God is willing to give His very life to you. This is not signing up for religion or church or agreeing to any certain doctrine or creeds. This is coming before the God who created the universe and saying, “God, are you real? Jesus, are you who the Bible says you are? Is all of this true? If it is true, Help me to believe”
"But to as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to be called children of God..." John 1:12
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16
To see the initial question that began this thought, see my short article "Do Christians Have a Mental Illness?"
*While not relevant entirely relevant to my initial point, it should be noted that there are so many hidden truths, both in and out of the Bible, that really make such a strong case against even the biggest Bible difficulties. If you or someone you know really has a strong argument against Christianity based on a seeming "Bible Difficulty", take time to look into the opposing view or talk with a knowledgeable Christian. You may be shocked at how many difficulties exist just because you're not familiar with all the scriptures working together, or unaware of archaeological discoveries, or were taught an incomplete science theory.
^Nicole C. Mullins, "My Redeemer Lives"