As I look back on my own story of faith, I can see how the mind and the heart both play a crucial role.
I remember as a teenager hearing a presentation on the “Evidence for the Resurrection” and I went home thinking, “This is really true!” Over the years, that belief was fortified when I was presented with more evidence.
It strikes me that you must believe in your mind that God exists and that Jesus is the Son of God before you can become a Christian. My challenge to those who don’t believe is to examine the compelling evidence.
I am reminded of Dr. Francis Collins’s spiritual journey. Collins is one of the most celebrated scientists in the world. He was for many years a professing atheist. However, he got to a point in his life where he began to wonder how he had come to this conclusion. He realized he had never looked at any evidence for God’s existence. So he began searching and based on the accumulation of the evidence that he found, Collins concluded that God exists and that Jesus is the Son of God. What I find interesting is that Collins believes that most of the religious skeptics he knows are just like him, never drawing conclusions from the real evidence that is available.
This is what Dr. Dallas Willard, former professor of philosophy at the University of Southern California, believed was a major problem with individuals who considered themselves to be agnostic or atheist. Willard found that so many of the students and scholars he encountered on campus and in the world were guilty of what he called “irresponsible disbelief.” These bright men and women would often choose to disbelieve in something without any significant commitment to an investigation of that disbelief by way of sound reasoning and careful examination of the evidence.
Once a person believes, it is important to truly understand the Christian gospel message. I am amazed at how many people today do not comprehend the real meaning.
I told a group I was speaking to recently that if you went downtown and asked a pedestrian on the street “Who goes to heaven?” you very well might get the response that “good people” go to heaven. However, that is not what the Bible teaches. There are no “good people,” we are all sinners. We are all separated from God because of it. The correct answer is “forgiven people go to heaven.” And then it is essential that we understand how we are forgiven. In next week’s blog I will explain this.
In Jesus’s parable of the sower and the seeds, he tells of a farmer, who throws out seeds for planting. He throws them on the road, on rocky soil, among thorns, and then others fall on good soil. It is only on good soil that a bountiful harvest is reaped. When Jesus gives the explanation of the good soil, he says, “this is the man who hears the word and understands it. Understanding the message is critical.”
What is interesting for me is when I left for college, I believed the message to be true and I understood it. I just did not want it. I resisted it. Ultimately it was my heart that was resistive. It is the heart that keeps so many from receiving and embracing the message.
I will pick up on this in next week’s blog.
Richard E Simmons III is the founder and Executive Director of The Center for Executive Leadership and a best-selling author.