'And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.'
Hebrews 11:6 (NIV)
The following blog post is adapted from guest speaker Michael Ramsden's message at C3 Oxford Falls' 10am service on Sun 1 July 2018. Michael Ramsden is the International Director of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and a passionate Christian Apologist. Watch the full message here.
Michael considered the question, “Has the Christian faith failed?”. Many of us feel that it has or that it will fail.
Is Christianity true or just something we want? Michael looked at this from three perspectives:
The worldly view of faith is that what we believe in isn’t true or real so it requires faith to follow it. They admire that we’re happy but they feel they couldn’t take leave of their senses to join us.
But the word used in the New Testament that we translate as faith means something different, it means to be persuaded. When we say we have faith in a public figure what we mean is:
1. That they exist whether we like it or not, and,
2. That we think we can trust them.
That is what we mean when we say we have faith in God.
The Christian faith invites questions because that’s how we determine if it’s true and real. Faith is not a leap in the dark but a step into the light.
Sometimes people say they have lost their faith, but you can’t lose what you never had. What they mean is either that they knew Christianity was true and now that knowledge is gone or that they wanted to believe and when they asked their questions they decided it wasn’t real.
Truth and reality don’t fear questions and neither should we. Any question you’ve had, someone has asked it before and has probably written a book about it. Asking questions is how we learn.
2. Existential (relating to our experiences)
If you went to church and your experience was negative, don’t let that stop you investigating further. When Galatians talks about the fruits of the Spirit, it is saying, 'come and taste the flavour of my life'.
If someone claims to be a Christian and yet their life does not contain the fruits of the Spirit, they aren’t authentic. Jesus changes lives - so look for a changed life.
We don’t completely reject money just because once we were given a counterfeit note. So with Jesus: don’t reject the offer of something real because in the past someone slipped you something fake.
We tend to think “God I’ve been trying to live a good life, where are you?”. Unfortunately, Jesus’ answer to this is disappointing: there are no good people. No one is good except God. We do not meet the minimum entry requirement for Heaven.
We imagine when we’re young that we will live with integrity, but as we grow up we continue to do the things we don’t want to do (Romans 7:15-20). Our lives get polluted with compromises.
Humans have the capacity to sacrifice for others whilst also experiencing the limitations of being human. Christians aren’t perfect, they have just experienced the forgiveness and transformation of Jesus.
Some say it is intolerant to say that Jesus is the only way to God. We can tend to think that God being loving means that He is accepting of all things.
In our culture, love is highly connected to affirmation. But if your 5 year old asks to play with the electric drill, you say no because you do love them. We need to be able to question the ones we love if we feel they are making a wrong choice.
True love is not in the absence of judgement but in the presence of it. People who know all our imperfections and love us are the most meaningful relationships you will ever have. That is how God loves you.
Love is not that we loved God but that He loved us.