Why do we believe what we believe? Are our beliefs based on a reason? How did that reason become "the reason"?

In 1961, three months after Joyce and I married, we moved to Nashville, Tennessee, so that I could be a senior at David Lipscomb College. We rented an upstairs apartment from a kind, friendly, retired, Christian couple.

Our landlord had some specific beliefs. One of his specific beliefs was that the earth was square. He held his belief for a reason. His reason was Isaiah 11:12.

Isaiah 11:12 And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. (The King James Version, Cambridge: Cambridge, 1769.)

He said, "The Bible clearly states that the earth has four corners. If the Bible says the earth is square, the earth is square."

In 1961 the United States and the Soviet Union were in the great space race. Rocket launches received prime time television coverage. Television reports plotted the orbit of rockets as they circled the earth, and my landlord would get upset.

He had an explanation. The United States had a huge movie studio hidden in the dessert. They filmed these so-called rocket launches in that studio, gave the film to the television stations, and, in a great conspiracy, they deceived the American people.

Did he know what he believed? Yes. Did he have a reason for his belief? Yes. Did he find his reason in the Bible? Yes. What do you think of his reason? What do you think of the way he used the Bible?

He never discussed another verse found in Isaiah.

Isaiah 40:22 It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in (The King James Version, Cambridge: Cambridge, 1769.)

  1. If you are tempted to laugh at his reasoning, don't.
    1. Many of us, if not all of us, have beliefs that use his reasoning.
      1. "David, I see it coming--you are going to ask us to think."
      2. "Can't you understand that I did not come to think?"
    2. "I don't want to think, I don't want to understand, and I don't want to grow!"
      1. "I just want to come, hear what I heard in the past, and hear things I already agree with so that I don't have to think."
      2. "I already know and understand what I want to know and understand."
      3. "What do you expect?"
      4. "I'm here, aren't I? I come to the building at least once a week, don't I? Just as long as I do what I am supposed to do, that is all that matters."
      5. "All this stuff about my concepts and my understanding just does not matter."

  2. So concepts just don't matter? So understanding is just not important?
    1. Some people in this congregation ask you a question.
      1. "Could you tell me what we will do in heaven?"
      2. "I have never understood that. Could you help me understand?"
    2. What if a teenager asks you that question?
      1. Your answer is, "Well, as I understand it, we will sing and praise God for eternity."
      2. The teenager responds.
        1. "We are talking eternity here, right?"
        2. "I am not sure what praise is, we have not heard much of that."
        3. "If you are talking about worshipping like we do on Sundays, about an hour is all I can take of that--I don't think I could handle it for eternity.
        4. "So we will sit around and sing songs that the old folks enjoy for eternity?"
        5. "I think I will pass. That does not appeal to me."
    3. What if an older Christian asks you that question?
      1. Again, your answer is, "Well, as I understand it, we are going to sing and praise God for eternity."
      2. The older person responds.
        1. "How loud will the praising will be? I can't stand a whole lot of noise!"
        2. "When we praise, will we get on our knees? I can't get up and down very well anymore."
        3. "Will I know the songs? If I don't know the songs, I don't enjoy the singing."
        4. "If there will be a lot of noise, a lot of getting up and down, and songs I don't know, I may not want to go."
    4. What if the person who asked you was unchurched?
      1. This person has never studied the Bible.
        1. He does not know or understand Bible concepts.
        2. He came from a truly nonreligious, nonchristian background.
      2. Again, you give the same answer: "Well, as I understand it, we are going to sing and to praise God for eternity."
        1. First, he is clueless about the meaning of "eternity."
        2. Second, he is not sure what the word "praise" means.
        3. Third, he never tried to sing a religious song.
      3. So, you read to him about heaven in Revelation 21 and 22.
        1. He responds, "Let me get this straight: we are going to live in a walled city that has streets made out of gold with nothing to drink but water from a river that runs through the middle of the city and nothing to eat but fruit."
        2. He immediately concludes that heaven is not an interesting place to go.
    5. Their faces tell you that your idea of life in heaven has a negative impact on them, so you make this appeal.
      1. "Wait! Wait! Wait! You must go heaven. You must want to go to heaven. "
      2. "If you don't, you will go to hell. And you don't want to go to hell!"
      3. All three ask, "You mean that is our choice--heaven or hell?"
        1. "The choice is between eternal boredom or eternal suffering?"
        2. "That is not a choice! That is two kinds of pain!"
      4. Is your best argument for going to heaven escaping hell?

  3. Scripture says little about life in heaven; it does talk about the experience of heaven.
    Revelation 21:3,4 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away."
    1. Heaven's environment is beyond our comprehension.
      1. There will not be any evil of any kind. Can you imagine nothing evil happening in our whole world for just twenty-four hours?
      2. Permanent peace beyond anything we have experienced will exist.
        1. I will be at peace with myself.
        2. There will not be one person I have to avoid.
      3. The acceptance and joy of love will be permanent.
      4. Grief cannot exist.
      5. No one will experience any form of need.
    2. What does that mean?
      1. There can be no conflict of any kind.
      2. Anger cannot exist.
      3. Rejection, abuse, and insecurity are impossible.
      4. No one can hurt you, but no one wants to hurt you.
      5. There will never be anything to fear, and never be a need to escape.
      6. Enemies do no exist.
      7. And there is no grief, no sorrow, no pain. I will never preach another funeral, never visit another hospital, never see another tear caused by sorrow.
      8. I will never see another person in need; there will be no needs of any kind.

  4. In each December, attention is focused on the fact that God allowed His son to be born as a human infant.
    1. Why did God do that?
      1. "Bottom line" answer?
      2. God did that to make it possible for us to come live with Him.
    2. For just a moment, I want you to think about who you are and what is happening in your life.
      1. Is it true that God patiently worked for thousands of years to send Jesus? Yes.
      2. Is it true that God endured constant frustration and rejection, but He refused to give up? Yes.
      3. Is it true that He not only allowed His son to be born as a human, but He also allowed His son to have the complete human experience? Yes.
      4. Is it true that God let His son be murdered by unjust execution, and that God raised him from the dead? Yes.
      5. Is it true that God did absolutely everything necessary for you and me to be able to escape the wickedness of this world and come live with Him? Yes.

  5. May I ask you something?
    1. Do you think God did all of this so that you would have the opportunity to make a mere religion out of His efforts?
      1. Do you think God did all this to create spiritual salt and pepper shakers for you to add religion to your life according to your personal taste?
      2. God did all that for you to be who you are right now living like you live?
    2. Assume with me: assume you will live the next twelve months in reasonable health.
      1. In twelve months from this week, will you be the same person that you are right now, or better, or worse?
      2. In twelve months from this week, will you live just like you live right now, or better, or worse?
    3. "Oh, in twelve months I will be a better person who lives a better life."
      1. If you do not know any more about God in twelve months, what will make you and your life better?
      2. If you do not understand God any better in twelve months, what will make you and your life any better?
      3. If you do not develop a better relationship with God in twelve months than you have right now, what will make you and your life any better?

Prayer: God, help us stop assuming that we will be better. Help us not be content with good intentions. You paid an enormous price to make it possible for us to be your sons and daughters. Help us pay the price to be a part of your family.

I want to make a request. If you are not attending a Sunday morning Bible class, I want you to commit yourself to be part of a class by January 2. Our adult classes begin a new study that morning.

"Why do you want us to do that?"
So that you will know more about God in twelve months. So that you will understand God better in twelve months. So that you will have a better relationship with God in twelve months.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 19 December 1999

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