Questions of Faith

How can I know there is a God?

Some people say there isn’t a God because they cannot see Him. There are lots of things in this world that we can’t see but we know they exist because of the effect they have, for example electricity, the wind, love. We cannot see God but we are surrounded by the amazing world He created. Things don’t just happen by chance – a book has an author, a painting has an artist – anything that is made has a creator. So too with our world, and that creator we call God.

How can I know what God is like?

By looking at creation we can learn something of what God is like. We can see that He loves beauty and colour, that there is order in creation and He has taken care of the tiniest details – in fact nothing is left to chance! On the other hand, when we look at the size of the mountains and the oceans, and consider the vastness of space we get a glimpse of the almighty power of God.

But in addition, Christians believe that God is a person who is able to love, guide and protect us. Because he is not confined by time and by a physical body as we are, He is able to be everywhere, see everything and know all that is going on. He is far too wonderful for us to understand and so He sent Jesus to demonstrate what He is really like. You can read about Jesus in the books of the Bible called the Gospels (the books called Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). You will see that He travelled throughout Palestine preaching, teaching and performing miracles. Lots of his teaching was in the form of parables, or stories, which ordinary people would be able to understand. Jesus was concerned about ordinary men and women no matter what their situation and often mixed with people others looked down on, such as tax collectors and prostitutes. He showed them love and respect but also told them that they should change the way they were living and follow Him.

Jesus Himself summarised his teaching. He said we should love God with all our heart and mind, and we should love our neighbour as ourselves. He spent the three years of his earthly ministry doing just that and showing us exactly what God is like, and what He expects us to be like.

What Christians believe

Christians believe that Jesus was fully human. He was born as a baby and his mother was Mary. He had brothers and sisters, he grew up in Nazareth and learnt to be a carpenter. His ministry ended with death by crucifixion at the hand of Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Palestine at the time. Christians also believe that Jesus was fully God and that his physical death was not the end. Jesus rose from the dead (the

resurrection), appeared many times to his followers, and was taken back to heaven from where He came (celebrated on Ascension Day). Ten days later (Pentecost) the believers were all together behind locked doors, afraid of the authorities and no doubt feeling pretty miserable because their leader had gone, when what looked like tongues of fire, accompanied by a rushing wind, descended upon them and completely transformed their lives. Suddenly they were able to speak in a way that everyone could understand, even though they were from many different countries. They were no longer frightened and they spoke boldly about what Jesus had said and done. This was the foundation of the Christian church. What they had experienced was the Holy Spirit which is how Christians have continued to experience Jesus down the ages now He is no longer a human being.

What is sin?

Christians believe that God is the creator of absolutely everything in the Universe including all the animals and plants and people. He created a beautiful world in which we were all meant to live happily with each other and in harmony with our surroundings. However men and women are different from all the rest of creation in that they are able to relate to each other and to God in a loving way. They know the difference between right and wrong and they have freedom to choose between the two. Unfortunately, right from the start, people thought they knew better than God and could live without Him, and spoiled the perfect relationship that was intended by choosing to go their own way. People were, and still are, selfish. You know yourself that a selfish attitude quickly destroys a friendship or a marriage, and the consequences spread far beyond the initial perpetrator. Just imagine that on a global scale, from the beginning of time, and you begin to get a glimpse of why the world is in the mess it’s in today.

The word for this self-centredness is ‘sin’, and it separates us from God. It is like a big black cloud that blots out the sun and makes God seem very far away. God hates sin but He loves us. God longs to make Himself known to us and be part of our lives but sin acts as a great big barrier between us and God. It’s as if we are wandering round in a jungle and can’t find the way out or we’re drowning and cannot swim. We need a rescuer, and because God loves us so much, He Himself provided that rescuer in the person of Jesus. The Bible puts it this way:

‘God loved the world so much that He gave his only Son, so that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.’

Why did Jesus have to die?

Think of God’s character as a coin with two sides – love and justice. Because of his justice God cannot ignore sin and it has to be punished. We wouldn’t think much of a judge who continually let guilty criminals go free, would we? But because of his love, God wanted to forgive us and have a loving relationship with us. So He decided to provide a way out for us, to rescue us, by allowing the only perfect human being, his Son Jesus, to take the punishment the whole of mankind deserves – and that punishment was death on a cross.

That is how much God loves us. He sent Jesus to die on the cross for the wrong we have done, so that we can be forgiven and become God’s children. But this isn’t automatic – we have to do our bit and say ‘yes’ to Jesus.