Linton's Testimony: A Man of Science
I was raised in the Syrian Orthodox Church and was taught to follow its customs. Despite that, I was a silent atheist who loved Science and did not see a place for God in the real world. I kept quiet only so that I would not offend those around me whose views diametrically opposed mine. In the Orthodox Church, the Christian Bible was never opened or examined. The services were a repetitious drone that seemed incomprehensible even for the religious elite. What was the point of all the glamour and outward piety? What was the point of religion if it was only meant to be a one day event? Though I did not believe in the existence of God, I could not reject the reality of a conscience. Science had tried to explain it away, but had failed. Atheists and agnostics alike tried to devise experiments and formulas to understand emotions and guilt. But all attempts by the world's great scientific minds had failed. So I continued attending church begrudgingly, hoping perhaps I could prove religion and the 'notion of God' wrong. I left the 'Syrian Orthodox' denomination when I was 18 and moved on to evangelical churches. I made such a move because I was drawn to the music and 'showbiz' style of worship at these so-called churches. Both in Kuwait and India, the churches I attended did not seem to have any interest in the Bible (which was surprising as Christians claimed it was the Holy Book of God). The pastor or ministers in these places often sounded just like Dr. Phil or Oprah with their self-help ideologies. But I continued attending because it was entertaining; like going to the movies except having to pay much less.
But, just out of curiosity, I started reading the Bible. I did examine the Hindu and Muslim religious books too, but they came nowhere close to the accuracy of the Christian Bible (scientifically or historically). Please remember that I say these things from a literary and neutral point of view (not religious). As an example, I was fascinated to know the shape of the earth and the value of blood for life had been contained in the Bible centuries before man had any understanding of them. This made me curious and led me to examine the Bible closely. I found many more examples. Now coming back to the evangelical churches and the Bible, I could see a huge gap; 'a disconnect' between the Bible and these church services. I was often confused by the preaching and lifestyle at these places. Mostly because much of what they were doing seemed to either contradict scripture or have extra-biblical influences. Please note that I am not blaming these churches or their leaders for my actions. According to the Bible, all men are held accountable for their own sins (Romans 14:12). Having said that, the Bible also states that God expects Christians (clergy and laymen) to handle His Word accurately (2 Timothy 2:15).
As stated above, I have considered myself to be a man of science since I was in middle school. Silly myths and superstitions did not interest me even though I remained quiet. In 2008, I came across the Christian radio show 'The Way of the Master'. These guys asked questions that engaged the intellect and required some deep introspection. I was drawn to the show because their conclusions were based on facts and were true; not based on feelings or silly beliefs. They seemed to have a good understanding of the Christian Bible and what it's authors were trying to convey; something that I had never seen before. At this point, I began to better comprehend the message of Christianity and the beauty of the Bible (a book that has been around for more than two millenia). A little later, I was convicted and understood the truth about sin, Hell, repentance and the work of Christ. I realized the importance of the Christian Gospel; saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Please be patient as I elaborate in the following paragraphs.
So, what is the Saving Gospel?? Well... there is only one Gospel.. the true unadulterated Word that Jesus commissioned His disciples (and those who would believe in Him) to preach (Mathew 28:19). But let's lay some ground work really quick before we get there.
God exists and this is unquestionably evident from creation. When you see a painting, you know there is a painter. When you see the axles, wipers and other parts in a car, you know that it has a manufacturer; someone who carefully and thoughtfully designed and assembled it. Likewise, when you see the creation around us, no one in their right mind, could ever deny that there is a Creator. If you look at the human body and it's various organs, a sober mind would rightly conclude that there is an 'Intelligent Being' that created it, as opposed to a random chaotic 'big bang'. I wonder if GM or Ford build their cars using an explosion that 'magically' assembles all the parts together into the final product? The Christian Bible is the only text that points to a Creator and God who is magnificent, knowledgeable, brilliant and intelligent. In fact, the Bible goes further--it is the only book that has ever existed that: a) accurately describes the creation of time and space as we know it, b) provides a foresight into the destruction of the earth in it's current form, and c) accurately captures historical events. The Word of God contains real events that occured in real time to real people. These are not fairytales or delusional ideas (as with other religions). Historically, chronologically and lexicographically, the Bible is the most accurate book ever written. But here's the truth; it is not the work of man. The Bible is inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16). That implies the Bible is God's revelation to man; His ideas, thoughts and words--not man's. God Almighty used men to write the Word through the Holy Spirit. No other text is divine and we can see that from the accuracy and inerrancy of the Bible.
How does one study or interpret the Christian Bible? The Bible has to be read always IN CONTEXT. An accurate comprehension of a portion of scripture from the text that surrounds it. This implies a basic knowledge of the physical, cultural and spiritual settings under which the passage was written. Who was the author? Who was his audience? What was the focal point?... These are some of the questions that need to be answered as one looks to understand the context. Subsequently, the true meaning of a passage is what the author originally intended; nothing more, nothing less. The Bible is not open to interpretation; it cannot have different implications or meanings to different readers. Truth is absolute and does not change as one's culture or feeling. So is the Bible.
In the Bible, we see a God: an Almighty, righteous, just, loving and gracious God who is the supreme authority over ALL. He created the heavens and the earth. He created man in His own image. All the animals, plants and seasons belong to Him (Genesis 1-2). Indeed, God is sovereign and nothing happens without Him knowing. (Yes, that includes evil, poverty and sickness). God is holy; that is there is NOTHING sinful, unjust or wrong in Him. He is perfect and His standards are absolute (just like His Word). This is the same God that created man in His own image (to know, praise and glorify Him) (Genesis 1:27). He did not have to, but He chose to. He gave them life, strength, joy, food and even companionship (with Himself and with human beings). In return, God only expected obedience and love. But man sinned by not trusting or loving God and rebelled against Him.
What exactly does God require from men? God commands men everywhere to be holy, just as He is holy (Leviticus 19:2). But every person, whether man or woman, child or adult, has sinned against Him and falls short of His requirements (Romans 3:23). God requires sinless perfection. What does that mean? To explain sin, God instituted the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20). These laws had two purposes: 1) To show how holy God is, and 2) To be like a mirror, showing how sinful man is. Sin is 'transgression of the law'. For instance, the law said 'Do not covet'. Therefore, those who covet, break the law and hence sin. Another example is that the law also said 'You shall have no other god's before Me'. This is idolatry and hence if you make a 'god out of wood or a god out of your job or car (in the sense that you love your job or car more than the living God), you break the law, and... you sin. Therefore, the law makes us aware of sin (Romans 7:7). The Commandments were not some rules and regulations that were meant to be kept fastidiously. NO!... in fact, it showed that no man could keep it and hence showed how sinful we are. And guess what? NO MAN can enter heaven unless he keeps all of the law; (remember that was not it's purpose as I mentioned above). God is a just and righteous God; He cannot be deceived by some extraneous effort to appease Him. He is not fooled by outward piety. He requires purity, holiness and righteousness from the inside; from the heart.
Bringing it down to a personal level; If you think you have never sinned, then let me ask you something... Have you ever lusted in your life? Have you stolen or coveted something that does not belong to you? More importantly, have you always loved God with all your heart, soul and mind?. By the standards of this world, these may not seem like violations or deserving of punishment. But God's standards are different; they are absolute. The law is like a ladder; unless all the rungs are present, it falls apart. That is to say, if you break one commandment, you have broken them all (James 2:10). There is no person who can answer the questions above affirmatively; no person who can keep the law perfectly, not even the person who seems moral outwardly. Yet if you think you have not sinned, then according to 1 John 1:8-10, you call GOD a liar. You are doing nothing but deceiving yourself. We all rebel against the One who created us. The sin may vary from person to person, but it's effects are real, personal and eternal (i.e. separation from God). This is the truth, independent of whether you believe it or not--no one escapes God's judgement.
So, what's next? Is there any hope for lawless mankind? Is there any hope to be at peace with the living God? Yes... Here is some Good News. God Almighty took the form of a man (Jesus Christ) so that He could be the perfect sacrifice for man's sin. Let me emphasize that Jesus Christ was fully God and fully man (that is He had human needs like sleep and hunger; and Godly attributes like calming the storm and raising the dead. Again, these are actual historical events and not merely allusions). In John 14:6, "Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me'". Here Christ was making it clear that He alone is the God who saves. In fact, Luke reiterates this in Acts 4:12 when He says "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved". That means you can NOT go to Heaven (which is tantamount to 'going to the Father') apart from Jesus Christ; no other person, no other teaching or belief and certainly no other religion. There is only one God and one way to God: through the 'finished work' of Jesus Christ.
Why Jesus Christ? Why not Buddha or Krishna or Mohammed? Why not 'Cindy next door'? The reasons are straightforward:
- Jesus Christ was the only one who ever declared Himself to be the Son of God. He proved that fact with His life, wisdom, sovereignity over creation, and His power over sickness and death. No one could ever do what Christ did except if He was God himself; and that's who Christ was and still is. Jesus Christ is God. He didn't just claim it; He proved it.
- The Scriptures (the Old Testament) prophesied from the beginning (Genesis) about the Messiah and His redeeming work. If you examine those passages, you will notice that Jesus Christ fulfilled each and every one of them (as in perfectly fit the description). From His birth to childhood, from His adolescence to His baptism and then to His earthly ministry, from His suffering and death to the resurrection; they were ALL prophesied in the Old Testament. Coincidence? Are you kidding me?... The evidence is overwhelming. It could have been no one else but Jesus Christ.
- As I mentioned earlier, God requires inward perfection and purity, which is accomplished by keeping the Law. No man can keep the law completely. But Jesus Christ did. Being the Son of God (and therefore God Himself), Jesus Christ was able to obey the law (Ten Commandments) perfectly. Since He was also 'fully man', He was the only one who could die a substitutionary death on behalf of men. Christ lived on earth for thirty three years and did not sin even once. He neither coveted nor lusted; he always honored His parents (despite being their Creator); He loved God (the Father) with all His heart and obeyed Him completely. In fact, He kept all the commandments to completion and hence fulfilled the law. He indeed was perfect as God the Father required.
- Subsequently, He became the only one able to bear the punishment for man's sins (a lamb without blemish--which was what God required in the old covenant--more information can be found in the books of Exodus and Leviticus). Christ suffered an excruciatingly painful death; it was long and very harsh. No one except God would be able to bear such pain. (Christ knew this would take place from the beginning and never backed away. He quietly obeyed knowing it was the will of God and knowing there was no other way to redeem (buy back) sinful mankind). Apart from Christ, God's justice would require men to pay their debt by spending eternity in Hell. But Christ, being fully God was able to bear God's wrath upon Himself on the cross; the wrath that was due every person who was not able to keep the law (and that's everyone who truly believes). God punished Christ for our sake so that we might be saved.
- That brings us to the resurrection--one more proof of Christ's deity. On the third day, God the Father raised Christ from the dead (in bodily form, in the flesh. 1 Corinthians 15:6 records five hundred eye witnesses who saw and touched Jesus Christ after His resurrection). Why did He have to be raised?... Because God was pleased with Christ's sacrifice; because God had accepted the substitutionary death of Christ on behalf of those who would believe. Justice was served and God was pleased. God raised His Son not only to fulfill prophesy but also that through Christ's life believers would live for God in righteousness and holiness (Romans 6:10). (The last I checked, no other person representing their god or religion was raised from the dead. They are still in the grave and were all false in their proclamations as their lives and deaths clearly show).
- The Bible says that because Christ died for us, we have peace with God. His righteousness is imputed (freely given) to those whom the Father has chosen before creation (1 Peter 1:20). The book of Acts and Romans clearly describes this. According to 2 Corinthians 5:21, "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him".
How should one respond upon hearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Well, we should be broken hearted, humbled, inconsolable and repentant; we should be desperate to 'right the wrongs', seeking mercy and forgiveness from God. But we need to understand that we don't have the capacity to pay for our crimes, with the exception of spending eternity in Hell. Our response should be similar to those to whom Peter was proclaiming the gospel (Acts 2:37-38). His hearers were remorseful and repentant. "Peter replied, 'Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off?for all whom the Lord our God will call.'" Please note that one is baptized after being graciously saved. Baptism is not part of salvation, but is done as an act of obedience after a person repents and puts their faith in Jesus Christ. Peter stresses in Acts 2:38 that our focus be on the name, person and work of Jesus Christ. We must understand that people are saved only through the redeeming work of Christ on the cross of Calvary.
Biblical repentance is 'not just being sorry'. It is the conscious 'turning away' from ourselves and our sins and looking to Jesus Christ (turn away from sin, and turn to Christ). According to 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness". Such who are mercifully forgiven and saved are no longer bound by the laws requirements (that does not mean Christians forget the law and sin as much as they want). Saved men and women are considered righteous and acceptable to God. This is emphasized well in Romans 6:14. In fact, if you are a new believer, I strongly recommend an expository study of the book of John and then Romans. Once saved, Christ does not leave us all alone in this wicked world. In John 14:16, Christ said "I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever". This Helper is the Holy Spirit. (The same Spirit through whom God's Word was written). Jesus Christ lives in every believer through the Holy Spirit; who comforts and guides us. As Christians, we need not fear God's wrath any more, neither are we slaves to sin any longer. Our sins are all paid for and we can now walk in obedience as God conforms us to the image of His Son. "For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers" (Romans 8:29). Note the words 'foreknew' and 'predestined'. These are important doctrines mentioned in the Word that exalt God's sovereignity in salvation. God is sovereign (i.e., the supreme authority over all and is in control of all). This is important to understand when one gets saved, because salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone by reading the scriptures alone for the glory of God alone! Those are the Five Solas emphasized during the Protestant Reformation of the 16th Century. Men are converted and saved only because God chooses to do so. No person, no man gets ANY credit for his own salvation or the salvation of another. We were heading straight to hell; helpless, weak and unable to change our course, and Jesus Christ saved us.
We should be grateful for his love, mercy and grace. The joy, peace (especially with God), contentment and everlasting life that we have in Christ is more amazing than words can describe. In fact, no silver, no gold, no amount of money can ever purchase it; nothing here on earth can ever compare to the glory Christians will share forever and ever with their Lord and Savior.
But, as it is written,
"What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him".
(1 Corinthians 2:9)
So now you have heard the Gospel. What is YOUR response? Unfortunately, we don't know how long we will be here on earth. It is not something that we have control over. Fortunately, we do have control over our response; we can choose to reject Christ and the fact that we need to be saved; or we can respond in humility, faith and turn to Jesus Christ and the cross where His blameless blood was shed. What are you waiting for?
I want to conclude by stating that Jesus Christ alone deserves ALL the glory, honor and praise for transforming me from an enemy of God into His child.Tweet