But this morning, I’m going to do something a little different. What I’m going to do is share with you some thoughts that come from my observing men’s lives for a number of years now. And these are men who I’ve met with, maybe I have counseled, who I have taught, men who are searching possibly, or struggling. I’m amazed at the number of men who struggle with life, and yet you’d never know it.
And so, these are some observations I’ve made, and it is fascinating, the topic ultimately is fascinating, but that’s kind of where we’re going this morning. And the purpose of what I want to do, kind of goes back to the series that we did on wisdom. A key to finding wisdom and enlightenment; it comes when we have a good understanding of ourselves, when we understand who we are and what makes us tick. The problem we have though, is the fact that we are very complex. We are very complex beings, and sometimes I don’t think we really understand our hearts and the intentions and the motivations of the heart.
You know, the Bible teaches a great deal about the heart because at its core, Christianity is about issues of the heart. But one of the most interesting verses relating to heart issues comes from the book of Jeremiah, the 17th chapter, the ninth verse (Jeremiah 17:9), when the old prophet Jeremiah says, “The heart is deceitful, who can understand it.” And when he says deceitful, I think we automatically believe he’s referring to that we deceive other people, but I think he’s really also talking about the deceptiveness that takes place in our lives, our ability to deceive ourselves.
Now I share this light of my observations of men’s lives and how we respond, this is interesting, to the concept or the idea of God. And I say the concept or idea of God, because that is really what He is to most people, nothing more than a concept up or an idea, or maybe He is some distant being that’s out there, but not a living reality that, you know, personally.
Now, that being said, I want to read to you one of the most interesting verses in the Old Testament, and it’s pertinent to where we’re going this morning. And it comes from the book of first Chronicles and it’s the last words, it’s one sentence, one long sentence, that David gives his son Solomon as advice. And it’s not like he’s on his death bed or anything, but this is the last recorded words of David’s actual advice to his son, as far as his personal life. And it made me think, you know, I have two sons and I have a daughter and it makes me think, and I ask you, if you knew that you didn’t have much time left and you had some time, or you had some, you had the opportunity to address your children, what would you tell them? What advice would you give? I’m not talking about how much you love them, but what advice would you give them?
Well, listen to what David says, quite interesting. He doesn’t milk toast it. He says this to Solomon. “As for you, my son Solomon know the God of your father.” Interestingly, he doesn’t say believe in Him, make sure you have a good, strong belief in God. He says, know Him, know the God of your father and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind. And then he says this, “For the Lord searches all hearts and understands every intent of the thoughts.” In other words, he’s almost saying don’t play games with God. Don’t think you can deceive Him. He knows your heart. He knows your intentions. He knows your secret thoughts. And then he says this, “Solomon, if you seek Him, He will let you find Him. But Solomon, if you forsake Him, he will reject you forever.”
If you seek Him, that’s what I want to focus on. If you seek Him, He will let you find Him. Notice he didn’t say Solomon, this is the key to being a good king, Solomon, lead a good moral life, Solomon be good and religious; follow the law. His advice focused on the importance of seeking and knowing God, for David realized that all of life would flow out of this relationship with God. It would impact every other area of Solomon’s life. And that’s why he said, know the God of your father.
Now think about it guys. If what David said and reveals is true, and there are other passages in the Old and New Testament that say, the promise that if men and women seek God, they will find Him. So, if this is true, God should be a living reality to everyone who truly seeks to find Him. But conversely, if God is not a living reality in our lives, maybe it’s because we haven’t sought Him. And maybe it’s really because we have no interest in having Him in our lives. And so, this is a good question to ask this morning: How great is my desire to know God and to truly find Him as a living reality for my life?
Now, as way of introduction, I want to share with you one other concept real quickly, and I find this to be most fascinating. It’s going to take me a second to lay this out. First, I want to share with you something from The Wall Street Journal. It’s an article about a documentary that was made back in the spring, on the Enron mess.
And it says this, “One of the many insights provide by this documentary which was entitled, “Enron: The smartest guys in the room…involves eyesight. When Jeff got LASIK on his eyes, we were told Jeff, being Jeff Skilling, the company’s charismatic leader, everybody at Enron got LASIK on their eyes.” He says, “Nobody wore glasses, and nobody looked closely for the longest while at the energy company’s claims of stupendous profitability. For those inside Enron, as well as those outside looking in, the epic corporate scandal was a case of willful blindness.” Willful blindness. That’s an interesting term, willful blindness, an intentional resistance of the truth, an intentional resistance of the truth.
I don’t know how many of you saw the movie. I saw it years ago, “Judgment at Nuremberg”, a great movie about the Nuremberg trials. They did a remake of it a couple years ago. It’s a long movie, but it’s terrific, a lot of great actors in it. One being Burt Lancaster. And if you saw it, he’s on the witness stand in his role as a German war criminal, and the prosecutor is questioning Lancaster. And he says, I want to know how the German people could not have known what was happening to the Jews. And listen to Lancaster’s response. He said, “If the German people said they did not know, it was because they did not want to know.” Again, willful blindness.
I’m not much of a scientist. I don’t know that much about science. One man that I am familiar with somewhat is a guy by the name of Robert Jastrow. He’s probably the most prominent well-known astronomer in our country today. You may have seen him on Good Morning America or The Today Show. He’s been on CBS News over a hundred times. He’s got his PhD from Columbia. He’s written several books. He worked for NASA for a number of years and then left NASA to teach at Dartmouth where he was for 11 years. And you need to know this. Jastrow is an agnostic. He’s not a friend of Christianity, but he is not hostile either. And one of the things that he says is that astronomy, which for the longest time believed that the universe was eternal and static, he says “More and more evidence is coming to bear that the universe had a beginning. And if it had a beginning, then there had to be a cause behind that beginning.” And he says, “It points more and more to the fact that there may be, in fact, be some type of mover that got this started.” What we call God.
And listen to what he says about this. He says, “Theologians generally are delighted with the proof that the universe had a beginning, but astronomers are curiously upset about this. Their reactions provide an interesting demonstration of the response of the scientific mind, which is supposedly a very objective mind.” It’s interesting, he says, “When evidence uncovered by science itself leads to a conflict with the articles of faith in our profession,” and that article of faith is there is no God, he says, “it turns out that the scientist behaves the way the rest of us do when our beliefs are in conflict with the evidence. What happens is we become irritated. We pretend that the conflict does not exist, or we paper over it with meaningless phrases.” Do you realize what he’s saying? He says, when scientists run into evidence that is in conflict with what they believe, he says it irritates them. And he says, what they usually do is “pretend the conflict does not exist”. Willful blindness.
Now, let me give you one more example of this and this falls more into the spiritual realm. It’s in a little different context, but I don’t know if any of you are familiar with a guy named Barry Levinson.
Barry was a Jewish gentleman; he went to UCLA. He was an All-American on his football team. He led UCLA to a Rose Bowl Championship in 1966. And in his senior year, some of his good friends were Christians, and they had conversations with him and they, one guy showed he, he says, Barry, you know, the Old Testament, and he pulls out his Old Testament, the Old Testament has all of these prophecies about this Messiah that you’re waiting on. And he says, they clearly point to Jesus. And Levinson’s first response was, “that’s a trick Bible you have. That’s a Bible you Christians have come up with to validate your beliefs.” And one of them said, well, do you still have your Tanakh? I’m not sure how you pronounce that, which is the Jewish Bible that’s given to every young girl and boy, when they have their bar (bat) mitzvah. They said, take it out and look at this, and they gave Him all of these prophecies about the Messiah. He says, Barry, that night, dusted off his old Tanakh, the one he hadn’t even opened since he was 13. And he says he was shocked at what he found. Every prediction, every prophecy that was referenced was indeed in his Bible. And he said he was shaken to the core. He said, particularly when he read Isaiah 53.
Now, I just would challenge you, if you’re not familiar with the 53rd chapter of the book of Isaiah, you ought to go read it sometime. It’s a picture of this suffering servant written four or 500 years before Christ. And if you read it carefully, you realize it could be nobody else but Jesus, But Levinson says, “I vividly remember the first time I seriously confronted Isaiah 53, or better still, the first time it seriously confronted me. Being rather confused over the identity of the servant in Isaiah 53, I went to my local rabbi and I said to Him, Rabbi, I’ve met some people in school who claim that the so-called servant in Isaiah 53 is none other than Jesus of Nazareth. But I’d like to know from you, who is this servant in Isaiah 53?”
Barry was astonished his response. “The Rabbi said, ‘Barry, I must admit that as I read Isaiah 53, it does seem to be talking about Jesus. But since we Jews don’t believe in Jesus; it can’t be speaking of Jesus.’ Now, Barry didn’t know a lot about formal logic at that point, but he knew enough to say to himself that just doesn’t sound kosher to me. ‘Not only does the Rabbi’s so-called reasoning sound circular, it also sounds evasive and even fearful,’ today Barry observes.”
And then he makes this statement and I want you to listen to it. He says, “There are none who are as deaf as those who do not want to hear.” Again, willful blindness. You know, I think willful blindness, this resistance, this intentional resistance to the truth, manifests itself in many areas of our lives. It can be in our work. It can be in our relationships. It can be in our marriage, but I think where we find it most often is in the spiritual realm. In fact, Jesus talks about this in one of His famous parables. Now, I don’t have time to read the entire parable because it’s rather lengthy, but it’s about, Jesus tells the story, it’s about a poor man named Lazarus and a rich man and they both die. And Lazarus goes to Heaven and the rich man goes to hell. And the rich man in hell can see Lazarus and Lazarus is up there next to Abraham and in the parable, it’s a story, the rich man makes this appeal. He said, “I beg you Father Abraham, that you send him Lazarus to my father’s house for I have five brothers in order that he may warn them so they will not also come to this place of torment.” But Abraham said, well, “they have Moses, and they have the prophets, let them hear”. But he said, “No Father Abraham. But if someone like Lazarus goes to them from the dead, they will repent. They will change. They will turn.” But Abraham said to him, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets,” listen to this, he’s giving them a little insight, we see a little Insight into what’s the going to happen in his life, “They will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.”
Ravi Zacharias says, “This parable is more about the five brothers than the rich man and Lazarus because Christ is telling us that there is evidence enough for those who really want it, who really seek it. But he says there will be many who refuse to believe, regardless of the evidence that is out there.”
You know, I have a friend who’s a Presbyterian minister. He’s retired from being a minister in the church, but he says that over the years he’s had a number of conversations with skeptics. And he says, I always ask them this question. He says, it’s always interesting. He says, I ask them if I can answer all of your questions, and deal with all of your doubts to your satisfaction, would you give your life to Christ? And he said, over the years, invariably, the response is almost always, well, no. No. Again, willful blindness.
Now, here in Birmingham, in the venue in which I conduct the work that I do with men, I can say, and I realize I’m going out a limb when I say this, I can pretty much, or I feel like, our lives can be, you can be divided into one of three categories. Now that’s fairly bold and again, this is kind of my observation, my opinion, and that is there are three ways I think we respond to the concept or the idea of God. And the first is, is that we can reject Him. In other words, we can just not believe it or not be sure that we believe it, which is being an agnostic, or we can believe in God, but not really desire God, or we can believe in Him and not only desire Him, but daily seek to know Him personally.
Now I realize those are broad categories. That’s a huge spectrum. But I just ask you to listen and see how does this relate to me? Where am I, where did I fit from here to here? Now I realize here in the south, we don’t encounter too many people who don’t believe in God, but they’re out there and I encounter a lot of them. But you know, if you go up to the est coast, you go out to out west, you’ll find a lot more, but they’re there.
And it’s interesting. Gary Habermas, who is a great Christian thinker, who spends a great deal of his time, debating skeptics. This is quite interesting, he says, 15% of all atheists, he says, their doubt is intellectual. In other words, the barrier to belief for them is intellectual. Now, I don’t know where he gets his data. I don’t know how accurate it is, but he makes that contention. But he says, the problem is, most of these same skeptics rarely look for answers to their doubts. In other words, they generally are not seekers of spiritual truth. They’re pretty content in where they are. And this reminded me of a story that Tony Campolo shares, Campolo, being a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and as a sociologist for years, and now is at a smaller college in Philadelphia called Eastern, he was a guest speaker at an Ivy league school, and he says, “The students that crowded into the lecture hall were intensely interested in the Bible and the Gospel message. It was as though they wanted to believe and were hoping to hear some good reasons that would enable them to do so. But at the end of the lecture, there was a question time. And the very first question was asked by a young man who stood and inquired, How can you possibly believe that the Bible is true? You seem like an intelligent person and you seem to be well credentialed. How could anybody with your academic background possibly accept those Bible stories as though they were true?”
And Campolo says, “Because I decided to. Many years ago, I considered the various options of truth that were available in the intellectual marketplace. And I made a decision to believe the Bible. Having made that decision, I spent the ensuing years constructing arguments and gathering information that would buttress my beliefs. But to be honest, I believed first. All my thinking and all my philosophizing and theologizing, since then have been designed to support my apriori faith commitment. The young man was taken aback by my forthrightness. He smiled and said, I thought so. Before you sit down, I said to Him, but I have a question to ask of you. Why don’t you believe the Bible? Isn’t it because you decided not to? Please don’t tell me you’ve read it from cover to cover, tested out what it has to say and gained empirical evidence to contradict it. Please don’t tell me that it’s full of contradictions because I don’t think you can name five. I think that what you did was decide a while back that the Bible was not true and having made that decision, you’ve been constructing arguments and gathering information to support your apriori commitment to non-belief. Let’s be honest. I have as much basis for believing the Bible as you have for not believing.”
You know, Habermas goes on to say that most people who call themselves atheists or agnostics are what he calls “volitional skeptics”. In other words, they don’t want to believe in God because they have an agenda. And Blaise Pascal, you know, who Einstein says had the greatest of anyone who’s lived in the last thousand years, Pascal said this, “People,” listen to this, this is a great statement, “People almost invariably arrive at their beliefs, not on the basis of proof or truth, but on the basis of what they find to be attractive.” In other words, what appeals to them.
Let me give you an example. C.S. Lewis, who we all know as a great Christian author, many don’t realize, you know, he was an atheist until the age of 31. And he admitted, looking back, he says my attraction to atheism was, and I quote, “So that I could gratify my wishes.” In other words, he says, “I’m drawn to it to gratify all my desires so that I won’t have any divine authority to interfere with my life.” Lee Strobel, who many of you are probably familiar with, a very outspoken atheist, worked for The Chicago Tribune. He called himself, “I was a, a decadent atheist”, and he loved being one, he said. Graduated from Yale Law school, worked for The Chicago Tribune, head of their legal affairs department until one night his wife comes in and shares the fact that she’s become a Christian And his response was, “This is going to be a disaster for our marriage.” And he waited thinking, this might pass in her life, but he saw that not only it was there, but it transformed her life.
And so, Strobel decided he was going to have to demonstrate to his wife how foolish this was, but he was intrigued and he says, I’m going to share this with you, this is his own words, “I launched on all-out investigation into the facts surrounding Christianity. Setting aside my prejudice and self-interest as an atheist, I read books, criss-crossed the country interviewing respected scholars. I asked questions, analyzed history, explored archeology, studied ancient literature, and for the first time in my life, I picked up the Bible and read it from cover to cover. I plunged into this case with more vigor than any story I’d ever pursued. I applied all my training as a lawyer, as well as my experience as a legal affairs editor at The Tribune. And over time, several years, the evidence began to point to the unthinkable that this was true.” And he became a Christian. He’s a minister today up in Chicago. But it’s interesting, I just read this recently about him. He said, at the heart of his Atheism, I’ll just read it to you, he said, “I latched onto a naturalistic worldview because it was an excuse to jettison the idea of God so I could unabashedly pursue my own agenda in life without any moral constraints.”
Now guys, I don’t know what goes on in the heart and mind of any religious skeptic. I meet with them. I talk to them. They thought about a lot of the issues, but I always wonder if their belief, as Pascal has noted, is built not on proof, but on the basis of what they find attractive.
Before we transition over into the second category, this idea of people that, I believe in God, but God really doesn’t have a place in my life. Before I go there, I want to share with you a true story because this willful blindness, this intentional resistance of the truth is something I believe we all struggle with because of our, our desire to be autonomous, our desire to not have constraints in our lives. But this is a fascinating story. It was written by a guy named August Turak. He won an award for this little short story.
I’m sure you’re familiar with John Templeton. His foundation sponsored a contest on the search for purpose in life. And there were 28,000 entries, and this was the winning story or the winning essay. And he talks about, Turak is a scholar and he spends a couple of weeks a year on what he calls a spiritual retreat. He goes to a monastery, and he says, at this particular monastery there’s, he has a what’s called a spiritual director, a guy named Father Christian. Now try to imagine this guy, Father Christian, he’s 88 years old. He’s sharp as a tack. He’s got a shaved head and a beard that comes down to here and he never cuts it. So he is unusual looking, but he says, this guy, he’s fluent in French and Latin and passable in Greek. He has PhDs in philosophy, theology, and Canon law. So here, you’ve got a pretty sharp guy and a pretty wise man. And they get into conversation. And Father Christian shares with him this story.
He says one of his good friends, a Presbyterian minister, was having a crisis of faith and was going to leave the ministry. He said, the man was a friend of his and so he took this crisis real seriously to the point he says, “I left the monastery and went to see him. I went to his house.” He said, “The two men spent countless hours in fruitless, theological debate, dealing with all these intellectual issues. Then finally dropping his voice, Father Christian looked the man steadily in the face and said, Bob is everything all right in your life. The minister said everything was just fine. But the minister’s wife called Father Christian a few days later. She said, I overheard your conversation with my husband. And she told Father Christian that the minister, her husband, was having an affair and was leaving her as well as his ministry. Father Christian fairly spat with disgust. I was wasting my time. Bob’s problem was that he couldn’t take the contradiction between his preaching and his living so God got the boot.” He says, “Remember this, August, remember this, all philosophical problems are at heart moral problems. It all comes down to how you intend to live your life.” That’s a great statement. He’s saying your beliefs all come down ultimately to how you intend to live your life.
Now guys, the group of men that I probably meet with most frequently are those, and again, this needs to be somewhat broad in its spectrum, are men who believe in God but really don’t desire Him. In other words, there’s no real desire to seek Him and to know Him personally. And this includes a lot of men that maybe, we might call churchgoers, maybe even come to Bible study sometimes. Because what happens for some of us, you know, we want the blessings of God and, you know, we want to kind of be under His umbrella. We just don’t want Him. We don’t want His interference in our lives. And we all have some of that in us. We do.
You know, I just recently heard a minister make this, I think it was a minister, he was making this comment about this fear he has. He says, I fear that my church is full of what he calls practical atheists. You know what a practical atheist is? It’s a person that believes in God but lives their lives as if He doesn’t exist. And I think what happens so often guys is modern people; we look at God and we conform Him into what we want Him to be instead of conforming our lives to who He is and what He wants us to be as men. And this is what I find to be most fascinating, is the indifference and apathy so many of us have in our spiritual lives. A pervasive apathy and indifference. It doesn’t mean I don’t believe, but no real desire to know God, to pursue Him and seek Him.
This reminded me of that famous, it’s a parable, it’s an animal fable, by a guy named Richard Adams called “Watership Down”. I don’t know if you’re familiar with it or could remember it but they made a movie in 1978. But it’s a parable and we can glean something from this as relates to indifference and apathy. The story, it tells of a colony of wild rabbits who are uprooted from their homes by a construction project. As they wonder, they come across a new breed of rabbits that are huge and beautiful with sleek, shiny hair and perfect claws and teeth. “How do you live so well?” the wild rabbits ask. Don’t you have to forage for food? The tame rabbits explain that food is provided for them in the form of carrots and apples and corn and kale. Life is grand and wonderful. But after a few days, the wild rabbits notice that one of the fattest and sleekest of the tame rabbits has disappeared. Oh, well that happens occasionally, the tame rabbits explain, but we don’t let it interfere with our lives. There’s too much good to enjoy. Eventually the wild rabbits find that this land is studded with traps and that death hangs like a mist over their heads, but it’s like the tame rabbits have blinders on. In exchange for their plush comfortable lives, they had willingly closed their eyes to one fact, the imminent danger of death.
You know, this story, I think, makes a great point. You know, it’s amazing how we can be so apathetic and so indifferent towards an issue that is so important. But I think sometimes we’re kind of like these fat, sleek rabbits, we easily believe the sole purpose of life is to be comfortable. To gorge yourself, to have all the things in life you want, to enjoy good food, good sex, to live the good life. And for many people, that’s all there is to life. But the only problem with this, guys, is that death and eternity complicates that view of life, because we are going to die. And unless we choose to wear blinders like these tame rabbits, I wonder how many of us, when it gets right down to it, are willfully blind to the most vital issues of life.
Now I read something recently that was quite interesting. And this is a good exercise for you to examine your own life and look at your own heart. Because what I read talked about how modern people suffer from apathy and indifference over the issues that matter most, but how we care so deeply about the trivial. And in this article, it says there are ways you can gauge this in your life. And the way you gauge them is to look at, number one, your knowledge of it. And I’m going to come back and talk about this to explain it, and then also your passion for it. And the way you measure your passion for something is the time you spend on it, the money you spend on it and how often you think about it when you have time to yourself. Now, being here at a golf course, knowing that a number of men here play golf, you know, the way you can tell a person really loves golf is this way and before I mention this, let me throw this question out, other than your family, what do you love most in life? This is a good question.
You know, what do you treasure the most in your life as you sit here this morning? But let me just go back to golf because if you don’t play golf, I think you understand the game, but let me tell you, I mean, I like golf. I like it a lot, But I have friends that I think like it more than I do. I mean, the way you can tell a man loves golf is his knowledge of it. He know the game, he knows the golf swing. He knows the golf balls you play with. He knows the finest equipment. And I just bought a driver recently. I didn’t know what to buy. I went to a guy who knows a lot, you know, this is the hot driver. You need to buy this. They know all the great golf courses in our country. They know everything that’s going on in the PGA. It, they know who the top money winner is and they love to play and they mess a lot of their time and a lot of their money. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I mean, golf is a very respectable way to spend your time, but it can be, I mean, think of this, I don’t know how many of you listen to talk radio; you wonder what some people do with their lives when college football is not going on. I mean, it is amazing, and I love it myself, but think of the issues of life that are really important, that we really know, that we really spend a lot of time on, that we spend money on, and that we think about a lot. I mean, it can be any kind of sports, whether we participate, or whether it’s a spectator sport, it can be money, it can be travel, it can be work, it can be food.
I remember two years ago, my wife and I were going to Chicago, and I had no idea where to go, but I knew one guy, he loves food, and I figured he knew the restaurants to go to. And you know what? He did. People that love food know everything about the restaurants to go to. It can be wine; it can be hobbies. It can be anything. And let me say this, none of these, inherently, there’s nothing wrong with them. There’s nothing wrong with them, unless we love them more than we love God. You know, how great is our knowledge of God and the things of God and how passionate are we to know Him? How much time do we spend seeking Him? You know, Jesus was right on target when He said, wherever your treasure and riches lie, that’s where your heart will be also.
Now guys, the final group of men that I observe are those who not only believe in God, but there are those who desire Him and diligently seek Him. And they do this with the intent of knowing Him personally, in other words, there’s a commitment in their lives. I realize in a room of 300 men, this isn’t where everybody is. In fact, we’re probably all in different places. But the question that I would lay out to you this morning as we wind this down is this, are we satisfied with where we are spiritually? Are we satisfied? And do I really want to move forward and really know and love God the way I should. I mean, that’s the great commitment. We’re to love God with all our heart, all our soul, all of our mind. And if the answer is no, I’m not satisfied and yes, I do want to forge ahead, I want to share with you two suggestions.
One, it’s important to figure out where you are. Where am I? I had a guy come see me last week. It was really kind of interesting. He said, you know, I’m a member of a church. He says, but you know what? I don’t have any spiritual life. I don’t have any commitment in my life to God. He said, I’m not even sure I’m a Christian. It was interesting what his wife told Him when he told her that. He said, she said, well, if you don’t know whether you’re a Christian or not, she said, you probably aren’t. That’s something my wife would tell me. Instead of saying, you’re a fine Christian man, what are you talking about? But what this guy was saying to me, and he said, I believe in God, he says, but I have no clue who He is.
The second suggestion is to be somewhat introspective, and we all should do this and ask ourselves, am I guilty in any way of willful blindness? Am I guilty of this? And I read recently, and this was very eye-opening for me, in the book of Acts, Paul goes into Thessalonica, and the Jews there are jealous of him, and they are hostile towards him and they stir up the crowd and they’re not in any way interested in spiritual truth and so they leave and go down to Berea, and listen to what it says. “When they arrived in Berea, they went to the synagogue of the Jews, and listen to this, this is crucial, “now these were more noble minded than those in Thessalonica.” Noble minded. “For they received the word with great eagerness and they examined the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were true.” Noble minded. This is the opposite of willful blindness. It’s to love the truth. And do you remember what Jesus said to Pilate? Jesus was soon to be crucified and He says to Pilate, or Pilate says to Him, so you, Jesus are a king. Jesus said, you say correctly, I am a king. For this, I have been born. And for this, I have come into the world, to testify of the truth. Everyone who is of the truth, in other words, everyone who is on the side of the truth, everyone who loves the truth, He says, will hear My voice. Being noble minded. Loving the truth. This is so crucial.
And guys, this is at the heart of why human beings struggle to find God. We resist Him. We intentionally resist Him. To be noble minded is to follow the truth wherever it leads.
I don’t know how many of you read this; this was a huge issue in the philosophic world, in the halls of academia. I don’t know if you saw this; it was almost a year ago when this, probably the most prominent atheist in the world, a guy by the name of Antony Flew, declared that he now believed in God. I saw this on ABC News. In fact, this is from ABC News. It’s an interview with him. In fact, it’s titled, “Famous Atheist Now Believes in God. One of the world’s leading atheists now believes in God based on scientific evidence.” And they interview him. And he’s not a Christian; he just believes in God, but it’s interesting, he’s gotten a lot of grief over this, a lot of criticism. And he says, well, “if my new belief upsets people,” he says, “that’s too bad.” Flew says, listen to this, this is a quote from him, “My whole life has been guided by the principle of Plato’s Socrates; follow the evidence wherever it leads you.”
You know, this is not willful blindness guys. This is what being noble minded is. This is what it means to have integrity in your life. This is why C.S. Lewis was such a great thinker. I’ve just read several different books where Albert Einstein was mentioned, one by Alistair McGrath, and he says, “This is why Albert Einstein was such a great scientist. The guiding principle in his life was follow the truth wherever it leads you.”
And this is the problem we have. This is, I mean, this is maybe the most important thing I’ll share with you. This is, as Ravi Zacharias says, this is where we run into our obstacle. If we want to be noble minded, if we want to follow the truth wherever it leads, he says, this is the problem we run into. Anytime truth involves a total commitment in which you bring yourself to complete humility, to the surrender of the will, you will always have resistance, because Christ violates our autonomy. You know, that’s right. We want our will done and not His will. And yet, on Sunday mornings, we pray the Lord’s prayer thy will be done. Do we really want His will in our lives? You see the conflict, the resistance, and Zacharias says, he challenges us in every area of our lives, our morality, our relationships, our finances, and our lifestyle. That’s the issue.
Now I want to close with two short stories and then I’ll pray, and we’ll be finished. And this first story comes from, it’s really the thought process of a guy by the name of Sheldon Van Auken. He wrote a book called A Severe Mercy. I read it 25 years ago. It’s a love story, but it’s also a story of a man who has no faith, no belief and it’s a story of his coming to faith and the book, I highly recommend it, A Severe Mercy, the book is laced with conversations and letters that he has with C.S. Lewis and they’re wonderful. And he gets to a point where he says, I’ve got to make a decision for my life. Whether to stay over here, where I am, or take that leap of faith and listen to this, listen to the clarity of his thinking. He says, “There is a gap between the probable and the proved. How was I to cross it? If I were to stake my whole life on the risen Christ, I wanted proof. I wanted certainty. I wanted to see Him eat a bit of fish. I wanted letters of fire across the sky. I got none of these. And I continued to hang about on the edge of the gap. It was a question of whether I was to accept Him or reject. My God, there was a gap behind me as well. Perhaps the leap to acceptance was a horrifying gamble, but what of the leap to rejection? There might be no certainty that Christ was God, but by God, there was no certainty that He was not. This was not to be born. I could not reject Jesus. There was only one thing to do once I had seen the gap behind me. I turned away from it and I flung myself over the gap towards Christ.” You realize what he’s saying? “I faced with a choice, give myself completely to Christ or reject Him.” Because as he says, “There is no middle ground.” And I share that because so much of my life, that’s where I wanted to be, somewhere in the middle.
Seventeen years ago, I heard Drayton Nabors, who at the time had just been appointed CEO of Protective Life. Today, as you know, he is our Chief Justice. He shared his story of how he came to faith. Drayton was very well-educated, a great mind. He went to Princeton, graduated from Yale Law school, clerked on our Supreme Court, under the Chief Justice, and then came back to practice law before going to Protective. And he describes himself, I think up until the age of 36 or 37, as being agnostic. But then he began to search, and he said, I finally decided one day, I’m going to read the Bible from cover to cover. I’ve never read it. I’m going to read it from cover to cover, which is what he did. And he said it had a major impact on him. And he said, when he shut the Bible, He said, I had this one thought in my mind, this one thought in my mind, either you are completely with Jesus or you’re against Him, because there is no middle ground. And you know, those are Jesus’ own words in Matthew 12:30. Either you’re with Me or you’re against Me. As humans, we want middle ground and some of us this morning may think that sure doesn’t seem very reasonable, that’s mighty harsh and extreme, but you know, if you think about it, it’s not. In fact, I would say this, it’s quite reasonable. It’s quite reasonable for this reason. Entering a relationship with God is compared to entering a marriage relationship. And when a young man falls in love with a young lady, he has two choices. He can give himself completely to her and enter into a binding marriage relationship or he can walk. And that’s what we’re faced with, with God. We can completely give ourselves to Him or we can walk. Because guys, there is no middle ground.
Let me pray. Father these are hard words sometimes for us to accept because we realize how easy we do resist. We do want to have our way in life, and yet You’ve called us to submit and to surrender and to follow You. I pray that You would give us the courage to do that; that You’d give us the strength, that we would have that kind of integrity, that noble mindedness to follow the truth wherever it leads. Lord, I thank you for these men. I thank you for their lives, their friendship. We’re grateful for all that You bless our lives with. And we pray all these things in Christ’s Name. Amen.