We’re one day closer to Easter, and I can’t seem to get out of the rut of teaching this week. Please hang in there with me – I’ll get back to personal stories, but so much is going on in my life with faith issues, that I really feel the need to share with you. Perhaps that’s because our weekly Bible study starts on Thursday night, May 5th, and I am starting to get amped up about it. In any event, as I focus on this Easter week, I can’t help but think of things that are important to know about the Christian faith.
Another reason I am thinking about this tonight is that earlier today I was speaking with a friend of mine who really does not want anything to do with religion – of any kind. Now I have known Bill for almost thirty years, but for some reason, today, he seemed more resolute than ever about the fact that God does not exist. In fact, for the first time ever, I heard someone refer to themselves as an anti-theist – not just an agnostic, or an atheist, but an anti-theist. And I was sad for my friend.
Now, for those of you who may not know the differences, let me explain. An agnostic is someone who just does not know, and can not affirm or deny the existence of God. The word comes from the Greek “ginosko” which means “to know beyond all doubt” and became the root of the gnostic movement of the first century. The prefix “ag”, in the Greek, means “not”, so in short, we have an agnostic as someone who “does not know” whether God exists. On the other hand, an atheist is one who does not believe in God. Again, from the Greek, “a” means “without” and “theos” (the root of theist) is God. Therefore, we have someone who lives “without God”. Sad, isn’t it?
But it gets even worse. Bill called himself an anti-theist. From above, we already know that “theos” means God, but what about the “anti” part? You guessed it – again from the Greek origins, “anti” has two meanings – either “against” or “in place of”. In either case, we are left with someone who is “against God”, or worships something “in place of God”. (Think antichrist from Revelation, for example.) This just about blew my mind when we spoke today. Now I know that to argue with him, or to try and convince him of the need to have faith and eternal life in Jesus Christ is just about futile. I have been around the block with him on those issues, and he has suffered the loss of his wife to cancer, and even has a minister in the family who has sparred with my friend for many years – all to no avail.
And I don’t think that this is a case of anger with God – Bill just does not see any evidence that God exists. And as you have heard me say before, at some point in your spiritual walk, it is necessary to take a step, not even a leap, of faith. For some reason, he can’t get there from here. Oddly, I have a peace about it; and I realize that may sound strange to you. Certainly, I don’t want him to spend eternity in hell; or to never know the saving grace of Jesus Christ, but this is going to take God working on his heart, through the agency of the Holy Spirit, before he can even possibly accept Christ as his Lord and Savior.
And this brings me to another point; and that is that only God can save. I really have a problem with people who tell me how many people they have “saved”. Because in my mind, the answer is always zero. No human being has ever saved anyone – although God may have used them to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to the unsaved. But saving – that is a God sized job, and we just can’t do that.
Although it took me a long time to get here tonight, this brings me to this evening’s verse. And it’s a great one, from Ephesians 3:14-19, “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
Now, at the risk of teaching one additional minute, note that I have highlighted “know” in the Scripture. I thought that you might appreciate that this is the word “ginosko” from the Greek, which I explained above. In other words, Paul wants us “to know with certainty beyond any doubt” the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge. And I can rest in that – so can you!
So my encouragement is that you have a God who loves you beyond your understanding and knowledge; and my prayer is that my friend may come to have that kind of knowledge some day. So, if you have a moment, maybe you can shoot up a quick prayer that the Holy Spirit may continue the work of softening my friend’s heart so that when God sees fit, we can welcome another member into the eternal community of Jesus Christ, Lord and Messiah. Have a great day in the Lord!