How do we know that there is a God , and how do we know what He is like? Sigmund Freud, the progenitor of modern psychoanalysis, postulated the very opposite of what the Bible states. Whereas the Bible says that God created man, Freud said that man created God. In his book, "The Future of an Illusion" (1928), Freud said that man so desperately needs security and has such deep-seated fears from living in a threatening world in which he has very little control over his circumstances, that he invented God, developing the idea of a protective father to help him out when he needed something. His book set forth three reasons why he believes man supposedly did this.
1. Man needed a supernatural skyhook. Man fears the unpredictability, impersonality, and ruthlessness of nature. Because he sees the frightful reality of disease, famine, and disasters, against which he has only nominal defense, man postulates a supernatural being somewhere who can deliver him.
An illustration of this might be the native who lives on a volcanic island in a mud hut with his family. All of a sudden he hears rumblings and the ground begins to shake. So he runs outside, looks up, and sees lava blowing out the top of the volcano. Now, he realizes that straightening up his mud hut and comforting his wife and kids isn't going to have much of an effect when the lava starts pouring down the hillsides. So, because there seems to be no way out, he resorts to looking for a supernatural skyhook to bail him out of fearful situations.
2. Man needed a universal umpire. The second thing that Freud said caused man to invent God is his fear of relationships with his fellow man. Because man so very often feels that he always gets a raw deal from everybody else, he wants to conjure up a sort of divine umpire, a cosmic God with a super whistle who ultimately can stop play and give everybody what they deserve. He wants someone who can right the wrongs of injustice.
3. Man needs a happy heaven. Thirdly, Freud said man invented God because he fears death and extinction. Man wants to find a heavenly father who will take him to a happy place because he can't stand the fear that he would go out of existence.
I think that Freud is wrong, and, in fact, the opposite of what he taught is true. Man has not made up God, but, in fact, if man had his way, he would rather that God did not exist.
If you study history, you'll find that man either philosophically or pragmatically exists without God. He does the very best he can to eliminate Him by proposing a theology that says, "God is dead." To be free from a God who calls you into accountability has been a constant goal of sinful men throughout history.
The evidence is pretty clear that God exists. Theologians say there are many reasons why it is logical to believe in God, and though they can't prove His existence, they can certainly show us that there's more reason to believe in God than not to believe in Him. There's plenty of evidence. For example, two deductive arguments give us clear evidence of God.
1. The Teleological argument:
This term comes from the Greek word teleios, which means: "perfection, result, end, or finish." When we look at something that is perfected or finished, we conclude that its resulting design must have had a designer. Creation tells us that there is a Creator. If you see a piano, you know that someone built that piano, right? Could that piano have been an accident? Could an elephant have run into a tree with a man sitting in it playing the harp, and as a result of the wood, strings, and ivory, a piano appeared? No, that is ridicules. When we look at creation, we know that their is a Creator. All the beauty and wonder of nature is not an accident, but an act of God. The Bible puts it this way.
Psalms 19:1 (NKJV) The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork.
2. The Cosmological argument:
This is the argument of cause and effect. You see, there are only two views of the universe: either God is, and that makes sense, or God is not, and then we've got some problems. For example, the equation of the nonexistence of God is: nobody x nothing = everything. That's a little difficult to believe. Just look at the universe!
The other possibility is: somebody x something out of nothing = everything. Now that makes sense. We look at the world and the universe and we conclude that somebody made it. And as we examine the world, we learn more about the One who created it.
We look at the world around us and we know that there is a God. This is what is called general revelation. We know that there is a God from general revelation but we don't know much about Him from the creation. If we want to learn more about the Creator God, how do we do it? Where do we find information about God? The Scriptures! This is called special revelation. If you want to learn about God, who He is, what He expects from us, you must go to the Scriptures.
Freud's view of God admits to a rather simplistic, ignorant view of religion, for when you really examine religion you find that the god manufactured by man is very rarely a delivering god, but rather an oppressive god which continually has to be appeased. Do you think for one minute that the woman in India who takes her baby and throws it to drown in the Ganges River thinks of her god as a great savior, a great universal umpire that can deliver her from her problems? Not on your life. She looks at that god as some great fearful ogre who must be appeased.
This morning I want us to look at just one aspect of God's character, one thing that the Bible teaches us about Him. It clearly teaches us that God is good.
Psalms 100:5 (NKJV) For the LORD is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations.
Psalms 135:3 (NKJV) Praise the LORD, for the LORD is good; Sing praises to His name, for it is pleasant.
Psalms 145:9 (NKJV) The LORD is good to all, And His tender mercies are over all His works.
Jeremiah 33:11 (NKJV) 'the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of those who will say: "Praise the LORD of hosts, For the LORD is good, For His mercy endures forever"; and of those who will bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the LORD. For I will cause the captives of the land to return as at the first,' says the LORD.
Exodus 34:6-8 (NKJV) And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, andabounding in goodness and truth, 7 "keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children's children to the third and the fourth generation." 8 So Moses made haste and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped.
The goodness of God is that essential perfection of the divine nature which inclines Him to deal bountifully with His creatures. The biblical concept of God's goodness focuses on concrete experiences of what God has done and is doing in the lives of His people. Scripture affirms that God is and does good.
The goodness of God is experienced in the goodness of God's creative work:
Genesis 1:31 (NKJV) Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day.
And in God's saving acts (liberation of Israel from Egypt:
Exodus 18:9 (NKJV) Then Jethro rejoiced for all the good which the LORD had done for Israel, whom He had delivered out of the hand of the Egyptians.
Psalms 34:8 (NKJV) Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!
Philippians 1:6 (NKJV) being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;
Mark it down, God is good, and His goodness should cause us to give Him praise and to be thankful.
Psalms 107:1 (NKJV) Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.
Psalms 107:8 (NKJV) Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men!
If we had to narrow it down to one quality to which goodness points, it would be the quality of generosity. Generosity means a disposition to give to others in a way which has no mercenary motive and is not limited by what the recipients deserve, but consistently goes beyond it. Generosity expresses the simple wish that others should have what they need to make them happy. God's generosity in bestowing natural blessings is acclaimed in Psalm 145.
Psalms 145:9 (NKJV) The LORD is good to all, And His tender mercies are over all His works.
Psalms 145:15-16 (NKJV) The eyes of all look expectantly to You, And You give them their food in due season. 16 You open Your hand And satisfy the desire of every living thing.
The psalmist's point is that since God controls all that happens in His world; every meal, every pleasure, every possession, every bit of sun, every night's sleep, every moment of health and safety, and everything else that sustains and enriches life is a divine gift. Stop for a moment and think of how good God has been to you. What are some of the good things that God has given you? Have you counted them lately?
If there were ever a people who should never question God's goodness, it would be Americans. It is absolutely incredible what we have. And yet, we are probably the most prone to question God's goodness. Why is that? It seems like the more you have, the less you trust God. At least this is what we see in the children of Israel.
Does the fact that God is good mean that He is some kind of celestial Santa Claus who gives us everything that we want and overlooks all our sins? No! The Scriptures also teach that God judges sin, he disciplines his children.
Romans 2:4 (NKJV) Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?
Romans 11:22 (NKJV) Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.
God's goodness is to lead us to repentance, to turn us from sin to Him. When we take for granted and ignore God's goodness, we will experience His judgement, His chastening. His goodness should cause us to praise Him and live in gratitude toward Him.
What about when bad things happen to us like a car accident, or sickness, or death, is God still good? Yes, God is good -- all the time!
Psalms 52:1 (NKJV) Why do you boast in evil, O mighty man? The goodness of God endures continually.
James 1:17 (NKJV) Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.
God only gives good and perfect gifts. With that in mind, is trouble or suffering a good gift?
Psalms 119:71 (NKJV) It is good for me that I have been afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes.
David said it was good for him to be afflicted, he learned more about God through his suffering. Things that are good for us don't always seem to us to be good.
When Julie was little, she was running in a store and tripped and split her head open. We took her to the hospital and they needed to give her stitches, which were a good thing. But in order to do that, they had to put her in a papoose, they strapped her to a board so she couldn't move. She was very scared, and she sure didn't see what we were doing to her as good, but it was for her good. Chemo therapy is a poison that they put into the body of a person who has cancer to fight the cancer. Poison is not good, but in this case it is to kill cancer, so it can be good for the person.
Romans 8:28 (NKJV) And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
We can't see the big picture, so, too often we don't see things as good, but if we understand that our God is good all the time, we will learn to trust Him in every situation of life. We see in the life of Joseph a man who trusted in the goodness of God. A lot of things happened to Joseph that we would not consider good, but they were.
Genesis 37 tells us that when Joseph was 17, his brothers hated him and wanted to kill him, but instead of killing him, they sold him as a slave to Ishmeelites. That sure doesn't seem like a good thing. How do you think you would feel if it happened to you? Talk about rejection! Genesis 39 tells us that Joseph is sold to Potiphar who was an Egyptian. As he was working for Potiphar, Potiphar's wife tried to get Joseph to sin by committing adultery with her. Joseph did what was right, he would not sin against his God. So Potiphar's wife had him put in prison because he wouldn't go along with her plan. Joseph did what was right, he would not sin and because of this he was put in prison. How would that make you feel? Would you remember that God is good all the time? After 13 years of living as a slave, Joseph interprets a dream for Pharaoh and because of this Pharaoh promotes Joseph to the number two man in the most powerful nation on earth at that time. I think that all of us would consider this as a good gift from God. But we need to remember that Joseph spent 13 years as a slave before he was promoted. Because of his position in Egypt, he is able to take care of his family, the brothers who hated him and his father, during a severe famine. Many years later Joseph's father died and his brothers were afraid that Joseph would try to get revenge on them for selling him as a slave. Look with me at Genesis chapter 50 to see Joseph's response to them.
Genesis 50:15-20 (NKJV) When Joseph's brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, "Perhaps Joseph will hate us, and may actually repay us for all the evil which we did to him." 16 So they sent messengers to Joseph, saying, "Before your father died he commanded, saying, 17 'Thus you shall say to Joseph: "I beg you, please forgive the trespass of your brothers and their sin; for they did evil to you." ' Now, please, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of your father." And Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18 Then his brothers also went and fell down before his face, and they said, "Behold, we are your servants." 19 Joseph said to them, "Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? 20 "But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.
Joseph tells his brothers that he is not in the place of God, meaning that he would not take vengeance against them. Joseph knew that vengeance belongs to the Lord. Notice very carefully, what he tells his brothers in verse 20. They meant evil against him, he knew that and yet he had no anger or bitterness against them because he knew that God meant it for his good. Because of all that happened, he was in a place to save the lives of all of his family. For 13 years things didn't seem good, but they were. God was working all things together for good for those who loved him. God is good all the time. To question God's goodness is a sin, because Scripture clearly declares that He is good, all the time.
Mark it down, God is good, gracious, merciful, longsuffering. But most people don't see God as being good. Most people wonder how God could be so bad as to allow bad things to happen to them. They believe that God doesn't want them happy; He doesn't want them to really experience the abundance of life.
Once that well is poisoned, once you begin to question God's goodness, all the water is destroyed. For example, probably one of the most beautiful confessions of love and faith in the Bible is the confession Ruth makes to Naomi. She says, "Entreat me not to turn away from you. Where you go, I will go. Where you abide, I will abide. Your people will be my people, your God will be my God. Where you die I will be buried." That is an expression of love.
But suppose someone came to Naomi and said to her, "Naomi, listen. Ruth's a gold digger. She's a manipulator. What Ruth really wants to do, this Moabitess, is get back into Israel to marry a wealthy Jew, and she knows her passport home is with you. She'll tell you just about anything to get a free pass into Israel." If Naomi believes that, then the well is poisoned and every good thing Ruth does, Naomi will suspect. Every kind word Ruth will speak, Naomi will reject. When you poison the well, all the water is poisoned. When you come to the place where you question His goodness, you will question everything that happens to you.
How easily we are tempted to question God's goodness. Something happens in your life that is difficult, and you find yourself asking, "Why?" and that question mark is like a dagger pointed at the heart of God. How easily we begin to suspect that what happens in this particular case in our life is really a demonstration that God is against us. When you doubt God's goodness, you'll doubt his Word, and you will see God restricting you and holding you back; you'll see God as an adversary instead of a loving heavenly Father.
I think that we abuse and question God's goodness when: 1. We forget all the benefits that He has given us when things aren't going our way. 2. When we murmur and complain about our circumstances. Most of us are guilty of this. 3. When we distrust His providence.
How could any of us who are saved question God's goodness? We have all sinned and because of our sin, we deserve to go to hell. But because of God's goodness, we are saved and will spend eternity in His presence. No matter how bad our situation seems, it sure beats hell, which is what we deserve.
If we truly understand that God is good and we are undeserving of any of his goodness, it should cause us to love him and want to live in a way that pleases him.
David's circumstances brought him to the place where he began to question God's goodness.
Psalms 13 (NKJV) How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? 2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart daily? How long will my enemy be exalted over me?
Have you ever felt like this? Do you ever get the "everybody hates me" syndrom?
3 Consider and hear me, O LORD my God; Enlighten my eyes, Lest I sleep the sleep of death; 4 Lest my enemy say, "I have prevailed against him"; Lest those who trouble me rejoice when I am moved.
Here David is asking God to open his eyes, to help him to have wisdom in the matter.
5 But I have trusted in Your mercy; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. 6 I will sing to the LORD, Because He has dealt bountifully with me.
In verses 5 and 6, we see how David had moved to the final stage of the soul's experience in a time of trial and testing. He had come through tears (v.1-2) to truth (v. 3-4) and through truth to triumph (v. 5-6).
Some people may wonder how David could swing so swiftly from gloom to gladness. The secret is found in the fact that he shared his problems with God, and then focused his heart on God, and that changed his perspective.
In verse 6, David said that God had "dealt bountifully with me." (KJV) Notice that he is speaking in the past tense! Had David's circumstances changed? No! Had Saul called off the bloodhounds and his bullies? No! Had David received a new shipment of arms? No! Nothing had changed, except David's perspective. Suddenly he realized that God had not forgotten him, and that he had not been abandoned. Even though the situation was the same, his heart was now filled with joy. David had gone from Tears to Truth to Triumph. He found that things get better when you focus on God instead of your problems. God is good, we need to focus on that truth.
As God's children, we are called to imitate him, to be like Him. Since God is good, his children should also be good.
Ephesians 5:1-2 (NKJV) Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.
In Acts 10:38, Luke summarizes the life of Jesus Christ into a single statement: "He went around doing good." During his ministry, Jesus healed, taught, fed the hungry, comforted hurting people, and He forgave - He went around doing good. Jesus tells us that we are to imitate his goodness to those we come in contact with.
Matthew 5:44-48 (NKJV) "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 "that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 "For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 "And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? 48 "Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
As we love others, we reflect in our lives God's goodness. God is good to all men and so are we to be. As we are good to others, we reflect the image of our Father. We can imitate God's goodness by relieving and assisting others in need. Most of the opportunities for good deeds will arise out of the course of our daily lives. We must look for opportunities to do good, and not see them as interruptions or inconveniences but as occasions for doing good works that we might bring glory to our Father as we imitate Him.
Matthew 5:16 (NKJV) "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
True goodness is self-sacrificing. The world is full of people with needs, and if we are paying attention, we will see them. Many Christians, as well as non-Christians, are starved for the genuine interest of one other person. A little bit of concern from someone who cares will go a long way.
Don't look for the spectacular; few people ever have the opportunity to pull a victim from a burning car. But all of us have the opportunity to give a kind or encouraging word, to do the little, perhaps unseen, deed that makes life more pleasant for someone else.
May it be said of us as it was of Dorcas in Acts 9:36 that we are "always doing good and helping the poor."
Folks, God is! Man did not invent God. As we look around we see the clear evidence that God exists. And as we look into the Bible, we learn that God is good all the time. Don't ever question that! Even in our worst circumstances, God is good, and he works all things together for our good. As His children, we are also to be good -- all the time - so others will see our good deeds and glorify our Father who is in heaven. We are God's representatives to this lost and dying world. Let's take our responsibility seriously and be people who, through doing good, reflect the glory of God.