When I was young, I thought faith had to be blind. I thought you couldn’t give reasons for God. I thought belief was something you simply had or you didn’t. I didn’t become a Christian until university and that was partly because, for the first time in my life, friends were able to show me that their faith was not blind–that they had strong reasons for believing in God.
Over the course of the next few weeks, I’m laying out four reasons why I believe in God, and then I’ll place those reasons side-by-side with alternative beliefs so that we can judge what is most reasonable. We’ve looked back to God’s creation of the universe; we’ve looked up at God’s design of the universe; we’ve looked down at the grave that Jesus rose from. Now let’s look in.
A friend of mine once said to me, “Vince, do you think we can know God?” And I said, “Yeah, sure.” But he wasn’t satisfied. He said, “No, do you think we can really know God?” What he was asking was, “Do you think we can know God personally? As a Father? As a friend? Do you think we can know not just about God, but God himself?”
There are many things in life that cannot be known from a distance. Some knowledge requires direct experience of the thing known. My wife, Jo, and I recently spent time in Florence, and we had the privilege of seeing Michelangelo’s famous statue of King David. We almost didn’t bother; it was pouring outside, there was a long queue, and we had already seen the statue countless times on postcards and documentaries. But when we directly experienced the David up close, we were so grateful we did. Only then did we know what all the fuss was about. We knew something by experiencing that piece of artwork firsthand that simply could not be known from a distance. I think this is also true of knowing God.
Let me tell you a story of someone I met recently who came to know God, not just because of the evidence and the arguments, but because she realized that God was personally involved in the details of her life. She realized God wanted her to give up her distance, and to live life together with Him.
I was giving a talk at a university, and a Chinese young woman showed up and said her name was Alba. One of my friends said, “You have an interesting name; what does it mean?”
And Alba said, “It means ‘by grace washed white as snow.’”
My friend’s eyes went wide, and he asked if she was a Christian.
She said, “No, not at all.”
Then my friend said, “Do you realize that your name is basically the heart of the Christian message?”
And she had no idea. She had just chosen her English name, because she liked the sound of it. My friend began to explain to her the Christian message–that Jesus loved her so much that he couldn’t bear to see her punished for the things she’s done wrong, and so on the cross where Jesus died, Jesus took our punishment for us, and, as a result, all of the bad things we’ve done are washed away; they are washed white as snow.
Then my talk started, and halfway through the talk I quoted a verse from the Bible, and I put it up on a PowerPoint slide. This was the verse from Isaiah 1:18:
“Though your sins are like scarlet, they will be as white as snow.”
My friend tapped Alba on the shoulder, who looked astonished, and he said, “I told you; that’s your name!” At the end of the talk, my friend continued to explain to Alba the love that God has for her and the sacrifice that He made for her. And that night, for the first time, Alba decided she wanted to know God. She wanted to be in a real relationship with Him.
There’s one more detail to the story that I find so amazing. My talk for that night was already written and printed a week in advance, and the PowerPoint was done. But at lunchtime of that same day I had this strong sense that something was missing from the talk, and so I rushed home after lunch and added just one additional page to the talk, and just one additional PowerPoint slide. What did that slide read? Isaiah 1:18: “Though your sins are like scarlet, they will be as white as snow.”
God beautifully crafted all the details of that day, so that he could reach into the heart of that one girl named Alba. The Christian promise is that you can really know God, in the deepest possible way–not just about God, but God Himself.