by Frank Erb
This is a new year and a time of new beginnings.
With so much that is new, this is a perfect time for us to refresh our understanding of God – to look back to the first book of the Bible, the book of beginnings, to the book of Genesis.
Genesis is likely the most well-known spiritual book in the world, since the Bible is the most famous compilation of writings in history, and Genesis as the introductory book of the Bible is foundational to all the rest. As such, it is revered by all Christians, Jews, and Muslims, who together comprise more than half the world’s population.
This book, whose title means “origin,” is a fast-paced survey of the beginning of the universe, the planet, and the human race. Mostly though, it is the story of how God orchestrated ancient history in order to raise up one particular family line through whom he would later bless the entire world.
Every major Bible doctrine is introduced in some way in this first book, and the other Bible books often refer to it and quote it. If someone wants to understand the Bible, Genesis is the place to start.
Furthermore, Genesis has special application for anyone in leadership, since it includes the stories of one leader after another, including Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. From their examples, sometimes good and sometimes greatly lacking, we can learn much to help us to lead well in our day.
I hope you will join us on this journey through Genesis, as we marvel at the wondrous things God did in ages past so that we might know Him today.
THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
From the very first sentence, the Bible makes it clear that God exists. As we read the first chapter we see many of His attributes:
- God is unique. There is only one God, and no others.
- God is eternal. He existed before the creation of the universe, space, and time.
- God is all powerful. He made all thing from nothing and is distinct from His creation.
- God is intelligent and orderly. The universe and all creation is carefully designed.
- God is personal. He is not just a force.
- He speaks: “God said …”
- He creates: “God made …”
- He sees: “God saw …”
- He makes judgements: “it was good”
- He is loving and caring: “God blessed them”
- God is knowable. He wants all people, including you, to know Him!
HOW CAN WE KNOW ABOUT GOD?
But is this true? How can we know that God really exists, and if so, what He is like?
- BE OPEN TO THE POSSIBLITY
Psalm 53:1a “The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God,”
We live in the age of the so-called “new atheists,” well-known authors and speakers who say there is no need to believe in God because science has answered all the important questions about life. They believe, as one person summarized it, that “nobody times nothing equals everything.”
Though atheists claim to value reason, most I meet seem to have an underlying emotional motivation for their resistance to God. Their attitude seems something like, “I don’t believe in God, and I hate him.”
Consider how Lawrence Krauss, a prominent atheist speaker, put it: “I don’t describe myself as an atheist. I describe myself as an anti-theist. Namely, I cannot prove that there is no god. I just certainly wouldn’t want to live in a universe with one.” Even back in the 1800’s, famous pastor Charles Spurgeon stated,“I am persuaded that men think there is no God because they wish there were none.”
The truth is, the question of the existence and identity of God is the most intelligent and important and valuable question possible, since the answer will determine whether our lives have any purpose or permanence.
- REALIZE OUR LIMITATIONS
Isaiah 55:9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts,” declares the Lord.
We cannot figure God out on our own. Since God is so intelligent and powerful as to create the entire universe, He is far beyond our human understanding (See Job 38). Furthermore, we naturally have darkened hearts and minds to Him (Ephesians 4:18). As a result, the only way we can know God is if he reveals Himself to us in a way we can comprehend.
- CONSIDER THE EVIDENCE
There is widespread evidence for God throughout the universe, throughout humanity, and even internally within ourselves. Here are some examples:
Evidence for God in the universe
Psalm 19:1-6 “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.” (See also Romans 1:18-20)
The fact that the universe exists at all, and that it had a beginning, as scientists now agree, point to the existence of a Creator. Furthermore, no one can deny the unbelievably precise tuning of the universe found at every level, including in the physical laws such as the speed of light and the gravitational constant, that are necessary for our universe and for life to exist. (Check out this video for some examples.) As renown scientist Francis Collins put it, “It is astounding to see the knife edge of improbability upon which our existence exists.”
Evidence for God in humanity
- Ecclesiastes 3:11 “…He has also set eternity in the hearts of men.”
The concept of God is universal and part of being human. All people everywhere as far back as history goes have had a concept of a god or gods or supernatural beings. As Roman philosopher Cicero wrote in 45BC,“Hence the main issue is agreed among all men of all nations, inasmuch as all have engraved in their minds an innate belief that the gods exist. As to their nature there are various opinions, but their existence nobody denies.” This innate interest in the spirit world exists because God has created us with a capacity to know Him.
Evidence for God internally
All healthy people affirm the existence of objective morality, ethics, and justice. We also value beauty, love, and compassion. Furthermore, we desire for our life to have a purpose. None of these concepts would exist or matter if we were all merely products of random chance natural processes, and so these too are pointers to a God who defines and instills them.
- LISTEN FOR DIVINE SIGNALS
Jeremiah 29:13-14 “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD.” (See also Hebrews 11:6)
Maybe you’ve heard of the SETI institute in California, where scientists are using advanced and expensive electronic equipment to listen for signals from deep space in case aliens are trying to contact us. No such signals have ever been heard, but they keep listening year after year. Will we apply the same energy to listening to see if God is trying to reach us?
The signal of the Bible: If God is trying to communicate with mankind, where should we aim our receivers? Why not first carefully considering the means by which the highest number of people claim to have heard from Him? Though there are many world religions, Christianity is by far the most widespread belief system on earth, the Bible is by far the best-selling book in history, and Jesus is widely considered the most influential person to have ever lived. For these reasons and more, it makes great sense to start with a careful consideration of the Bible and Jesus. As we do, the Bible promises we’ll hear from God. Romans 10:17-18 “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
The signal of Difficulties: Sometimes even problems can be God’s way to get our attention. As atheist turned believer C.S. Lewis said, ““God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Indeed.
Maybe you’ve heard the story about the atheist was walking through the forest when Big Foot jumped out at him. As he approached menacingly, the atheist yelled, “Lord, save me!” Seconds later, a voice rumbled from heaven, “I thought you didn’t believe in me.” “Well,” the man said, “until a minute ago, I didn’t believe in Big Foot either.” If you’re going through challenges, listen carefully.
Ultimately, hearing from God is a gift from Him, as he enables us to hear his voice. John 6:44 Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.”
- RESPOND TO JESUS
John 1:18 “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.”
We are able to fully connect with God when we look to Jesus and open our hearts to Him. In fact, Jesus came for this very purpose. As pastor and author Tim Keller said, “The founders of all the religions said basically this: “I’m a prophet come to help you find God.” Jesus is the only one who said, “I’m God, come to find you.””
The truth is, while you may or may not be looking for God, He wants a relationship with you. As author Malcolm Muggeridge described his unexpected conversion from agnosticism to Christianity, “I had a notion that somehow, besides questing, I was being pursued.”
Countless people, including me, can attest to how we read the Bible, responded to Jesus, and suddenly a connection was made. It’s amazing, but true. God exists, and He wants you to know Him. This is how it happens – we open our heart to Jesus and, to our great surprise and with overwhelming joy, we meet God.
(c) Frank Erb