Is there a God?
Passage: Psalm 19:1–19:14, Romans 1:18–1:25
God has clearly shown us and told us he exists.
For my first year in college, I lived with my best friend from high school. We both decided to go to a school in Arizona and were excited to be on the adventure of living on our own in a new state together. We shared a ton of interests and had a long history together.
Perhaps some of you have been in this same situation. Maybe in college you decided to get an apartment with a friend. Or you met someone that you love spending time with, dated them, and eventually moved in together.
Now, we also know that situations like this can end badly. Best friends in high school start living together, start getting on each others’ nerves, and grow distant. Two people love spending time together, get married, move in together, then can’t stand being around each other. The thing is, you can be physically near someone but relationally you can feel miles away. You can be living with someone and yet they can feel far.
Let’s think about what creates relational distance between people. If you were living with someone, what would make you feel far from them? Perhaps you don’t resolve conflict and instead let walls build up between you. Maybe you never spend time together or listen to each other. Maybe you don’t respect each other’s desires for the living space.
Along with over 800 churches in the Chicagoland area, we are continuing to Explore God this evening. Last week, we talked about whether life has a purpose and we said that living for what matters most give us the most purpose and joy. Since God matters most we need to live for him if we want the most purpose and joy. That brings up our second question: is there a God? Is God real? Does he exist? If he does, how do we know? That is the question we are covering tonight.
Most people in the world, no matter where they are from, believe in some sort of supernatural reality. Most people believe some sort of divine being or multiple divine beings exist. Most people have a spiritual side to their life. But that doesn’t mean all of us have the same answer to the question, “Is there a God?”
Some of you answer that question with, “Maybe, I don’t know.” You don’t rule out the possibility but you just aren’t sure. Maybe you are quite certain there is a spiritual side to life but you aren’t sure what that means about God. Maybe you even grew up going to church services and heard about God your entire life but as time went on, you became less sure about what you were taught so you are wondering, “Is there a God?”
Some of you answer the question “is there a God” with positive certainty. “Yes, there is a God.” But if someone really pressed you and asked, “How do you know there is a God? What proof do you have?” you would say, “I’m not sure. I just know.”
Some of you answer the question “is there a God” with “no” or “probably not.” Maybe you have done a lot of research and have become convinced that there isn’t enough evidence for you to say that there is a God.
Here’s the big idea for this evening: God has clearly shown us and told us he exists. God has clearly shown us and told us he exists.
How many of you have done “show and tell” in school or somewhere else? I remember those days in kindergarten when you got to bring in something you were really excited about to show it to your class and tell them about it. God has done show and tell with us.
Let’s talk about God showing us that he exists.
God has clearly shown us that he exists (Psalm 19:1-6)
The first sentence of the Bible tells us: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Everything that exists, exists because of God. Anything we create is only creating with material God provided for us. No matter whether you are looking at the smallest thing in the universe through a microscope or the biggest thing in the universe through a telescope, God made it.
Psalm 19 tells us that the universe can be called to the witness stand to give its testimony of God’s existence. Look at Psalm 19 that we read earlier on page 456. Verses 1 and 2 say:
1 The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
2 Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
3 There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
4 Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world. (Psalm 19:1-4a)
A couple years ago, I was on a retreat with some other pastors near where my parents live in northern WI. We stopped by so they could meet my parents and see where I grew up. It was night time and since there is very little light pollution up there, the stars were brighter than any of these guys was used to seeing when looking up from Chicagoland so they just stared up at the sky in wonder.
These verses focus on what we see when we look up. When we look up at the sun, at the stars, at the planets, at the galaxies, they declare to us the glory of God. They declare to us his power, his might, his majesty. They declare to us how amazing he is! The sky above proclaims his handiwork. When we marvel at a painting, we express it to the painter. When we are impressed with a house someone built, we express it to the builder. Looking up at the heavens in wonder should lead us to be impressed with and marvel at God because they are his handiwork!
But God doesn’t even say the skies are his most impressive creation. In Genesis 1 and 2, the first chapters of the Bible, human beings are the climax of God’s creation. It’s certainly true that when we look at our bodies and how they work, we should be amazed. But the more amazing part about human beings is that we are made in the image and likeness of God. We are not God, but God made us so that we reflect what he is like. When you look at another person, you are looking at someone who shows you a reflection of what God is like.
God has shown us that he exists by what he has done. The world around us is a showcase of what God has done. But there’s a problem. We heard about it in our second Scripture reading from Romans. Keep your finger in Psalm 19 because we will come back to it. Flip forward to Romans 1 verse 18 on page 938. Let’s start in verse 18:
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. (Romans 1:18)
The wrath of God expresses his opposition to what is evil - to what is not good and not right. What is not good and not right? Human beings are not right. What do we do? We suppress the truth. What truth? Verses 19 and 20 tell us
19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Romans 1:18-20)
When we look at creation, we should plainly see what God is like. Through what he has made, God has shown us what he is like. If it were show and tell day, God has brought all of creation to class. And what should it tell us about God? It reveals his eternal power and his divine nature. God has made it clear that he exists because of what he has made and in looking at what he has made we can learn about who he is and what he is like.
So the conclusion is that if anyone doesn’t know God, it is their own fault. If anyone doesn’t believe there is a God, they are without excuse. God has clearly shown us that he is real and what he is like. If people conclude otherwise, they are suppressing the truth.
What happens when we suppress the truth that God has clearly shown us? Let’s read from verse 21 to 25:
21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. (Romans 1:21-25)
There are two truths about humans that are revealed in these verses. First, we are worshipers. We are worshipers. We were made to honor and serve God. We were made for God. We were made to find our identity, value, worthy, meaning, safety, security, satisfaction, and purpose in God. But if you stop worshiping God, you don’t stop worshiping. Verse 23 and verse 25 both use the word “exchange.” We don’t stop worshiping, we just exchange one God for another. We transfer our worship. We stop worshiping God, our Creator, and start worshiping things he created.
You know those little prickly balls that get stuck to your dog or your kids’ clothing? I’ve always called them cockleburs and I discovered today that that’s what they are actually called. Those things are so annoying to remove because once you get them off one thing, they stick to another thing.
That’s what we are like. We are sticky. Sticky things stick to things. If we remove ourselves from God, we will stick to something else. We will cling to something else. It could be work, money, a relationship, sex, school, success, whatever it is, we cling to it.
The second truth we learn is that we have a moral compass. We have a moral compass. God built us with a conscience that gives a sense of right and wrong. But if we stop worshiping God and give our worship to something else, it throws off our moral compass. Our minds become darkened and we become foolish. God is the one who sets our true north.
Many people point to these two truths about humans that we observe across all cultures and across all time as clues that there is a God. Why would we have this need to worship if God doesn’t exist? Why would we have this sense of a spiritual side to life if it doesn’t exist? Why would we feel this sense that God is out there if he doesn’t exist? Secondly, why do we have any sense of right and wrong? Where did that come from? Someone must have put it there.
If you buy an iPhone or any cell phone, it comes preloaded with certain apps. The designer has created the phone with its hardware and software with a particular purpose and it has come preloaded with features that advance that purpose. You can delete some of the preloaded apps and you can add your own apps and customize as you want, but there are certain ones you can’t delete. You can’t delete the Phone app. You can’t delete the Messages app.
God created us with preloaded apps to advance his purpose. No matter how hard we try or how far we run from him, our need to worship and our moral compass can’t be deleted.
God has clearly shown us he exists through what he has made, but we suppress the truth. So he also needs to tell us.
God has clearly told us that he exists (Psalm 19:7-14)
This rock looks like any old rock. You would pass by it on the side of the road without thinking twice about it. If you were my classmates in kindergarten and I just showed you this rock and said nothing, you would not be very impressed. You’d probably assume I grabbed it out of my backyard and wonder why I was so excited about showing it to you.
To understand the significance of this rock, I need to do more than just show it to you: I need to tell you about it. In the summer of 2016, Katie and I were given the amazing gift of a trip to Israel. Along with others, we spent ten days traveling Israel with a tour guide who knew the ins and outs of the land. One of the places we went to was the Valley of Elah. That name probably doesn’t ring a bell to you, but these two names will: David and Goliath. The Valley of Elah is where David fought Goliath. If you are familiar with the story, you will remember that Goliath was a giant of a man and David defeated them with no armor and no sword but with a sling that threw stones. In preparation for the battle, David went to a brook in the valley and picked out five smooth stones. He put one of these in this sling, hurled it at Goliath, and it hit him in the forehead which killed him. When we went to the Valley of Elah in Israel, we stood in the same brook David went to for his five stones and I brought a stone from that brook home as souvenir.
Because we suppress the truth about God that he has shown us in creating the world, we need to him to tell us the significance of creation. We need him to tell us that he created it. Creation is not enough. John Calvin, a pastor who lived in the 16th century, described us as being like old or bleary-eyed or those with weak vision, who if they had the most beautiful words set in front of them even if they might be able to recognize that it is writing yet could only make out a few words. They are in need of glasses for them to be able to read it. That, he says, is what we are like when we come to creation. We need our vision corrected. Calvin says that the Bible serves as our glasses: it corrects our vision so we can see rightly (Institutes I.VI.1).
The second half of Psalm 19 tells us about the Bible. The Bible contains God’s Words. Psalm 19 says it is perfect, sure, right, pure, true, righteous, more desirable than gold and sweeter than honey. He says God’s words revive the soul, make wise the simple, rejoice the heart, enlighten the eyes, and warn. What God has to say does a lot for us! And it is completely trustworthy and extremely valuable.
Because we suppress the truth about what creation shows us, we need to be told the truth about what creation should show us. In the Bible, we read that in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. In the Bible, we learn that the heavens declare the glory of God and that the skies are his handiwork.
But there is a third element we need.
Show and Tell Requires Trust
For you to be impressed by this rock it requires more than just showing it to you and telling you about it. It requires you to trust me. You have to trust what I have said about it. There’s nothing special about this rock to indicate it came from where I said it came from. Maybe I made up that story because I want to impress you. Perhaps you ask for proof and I knew people would ask me for proof so I pull out a certificate of authentication signed by the tour guide that brought us there saying, “This rock did indeed come from that river bed.” But still, how hard would it have been for me to make that certificate myself, print it off, then make up a signature? And what’s more likely? That I went to the exact creek bed in Israel where David fought Goliath or that I took this out of my backyard?
Whenever anyone says something to us, we have to decide whether we trust them. That decision determines what you will do going forward. When someone gives their testimony in court, we have to decide whether we believe it. Is this person trustworthy? Are they in their right mind? When someone gives their testimony or review about a product or a business, you have to decide whether you trust them.
The Bible gives us God’s own testimony about himself. And actually God went even further. God took on flesh in the person of Jesus who was a living, breathing testimony. Jesus was both show and tell. He showed people what God is like and he told people what God is like. Jesus is God’s ultimate testimony about himself. Do you want to know what God is like? Do you want to know what he is all about? Look at Jesus.
One of the most fundamental truths that God was showing us and telling us through Jesus is that he loves us. The Bible says that God proves his love for us in the fact that Jesus died for us so we can be forgiven of our sins and have a relationship with God. We have to decide: do we trust God is telling the truth? Do we trust God is telling the truth about where the universe came from? Do we trust what God says about the Bible being trustworthy?
The problem is that we suppress the truth. We can find an alternate explanation about anything. A famous philosopher and atheist named Bertrand Russell was once asked what he would say if he found himself standing before God on the judgement day and God asked him, "Why didn’t you believe in Me?" Russell replied, "I would say, ‘Not enough evidence, God! Not enough evidence!'" God’s response would be: “I gave you plenty of evidence, you just rejected it.”
Many people will claim science is add odds with God or that God is at odds with science. The truth is that God created the natural world that science seeks to explore. Does God make mistakes? No. So that means when God reveals himself, he does it perfectly. God has revealed himself through creation and God has revealed himself perfectly in the Bible. They perfectly reveal God and are in perfect harmony. If they ever seem to contradict one another, it means our interpretation of one is wrong and it may just be our interpretation of the Bible is the one we’ve gotten wrong.
Here’s the big idea for this evening: God has clearly shown us and told us he exists.
The problem we all face, no matter how convinced we are that there is a God, is that we often live as if he doesn’t exist. If what we say as Christians is true, that there is a God who created us, who looks after us, who loves us, who protects us, and who is the greatest thing we could give our lives to, then why do we so often live as if the opposite is true? Why do we not make this amazing, all-powerful being the center of our lives?
The issue is less about reason and more about relationship. “Faith” is not about taking a blind leap. “Faith” doesn’t require us to suspend our reason. “Faith” doesn’t require us to check our brains at the door. “Faith” is about trusting a person besides ourselves. It’s about trusting God and what he has said about himself. “Faith” is not an anti-reason action. “Faith” is a relational action.
There is something deep within us that makes us run away from God. There is something deep within us that makes us come up with alternate explanations for where the universe came from. There is something deep within us that makes us resist and reject God’s authority over our lives.
First, we run from God because we want to run our lives. We don’t want someone else in control. We want to call the shots. We don’t like someone else telling us what to do.
Second, we run from God because we believe he’ll ruin our lives. We believe he will suck all the fun out of it. He will take away everything we like and want to do. We believe that living for him means giving up all the good things we love.
Both of these are based on lies. We have suppressed the truth. We have exchanged the truth about God for a lie. God created us. God loves us. He has proved his love for us by sending Jesus to die for the penalty of running from him. God knows what is best for us and wants what is best for us. He is good and completely trustworthy.
So if God is real, why can it be so hard to live as if he is real? If God exists, why does he often feel distant and far away? Why do we wonder if he is even around? Just like other people are real and we can feel far from them, so the same issues can happen in our relationship with God.
We can not deal with what we do that is wrong by not going for him to apologize and receive forgiveness. We can never listen to him. We might never slow down to spend time with him. We might not be interested in what he is interested in, living for our own will instead of his. God may be physically close as our Creator and we might be religiously close by doing church things, but we can still be relationally far. We need to invest in the relationship if we want to feel close.
If there is a God, it should change everything about our lives. If you say that you believe he exists, your whole life should change to fit that belief.
For some of us, we have trouble believing God exists because of all the pain, suffering, and evil in the world. We look out at it all and say: “If there was a God, he would do something about all of this.” For many of us, it is even much more personal than that. We have personally experienced pain and suffering so we are saying: “If there is a God, why would he have let this happen to me? I’ve gone through too much to believe that is a God or if there is one, he obviously doesn’t care about what I am going through.” That is the question we are going to cover next week.