Our sermon series this month is inspired by Andy Stanley’s series called “Who Needs God?” I was so moved and excited by it, I felt like some of his key points needed to be shared with others. I hope you’ll follow us on our journey, but also check out Andy’s sermon series if you want to hear even more.
Chocolate. Wine. Bacon.
Three things we gave thanks for when we discovered they were actually good for you. Chocolate. Wine. Bacon. But even this good news came with an asterisk. Most chocolate you buy in the store ISN’T good for you. It’s highly processed and doesn’t contain the nutrients needed to make it the superfood that people hope it is. Wine should be enjoyed in moderation – not a canteen full at a time. Small amounts, like a glass of wine a day, can actually be good for you. And bacon? Well, it’s not nearly as bad as people made it out to be in the 80’s, but it DOES have its health risks, too. Cardiovascular disease, increased potential risk of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes have been linked to processed meats like bacon. Again, too much is never a good thing. But we are not a people who appreciate the fine print. We like the headlines, but don’t often take the time to read the whole story. Because what we are really after is validity rather than verity. We are looking for validity instead of verity. The truth may be out there, but we aren’t all that interested in finding it.
The same is true with our faith.
We are interested in finding out whatever it is that supports our view of faith, but aren’t all that interested in finding out information that may challenge it. If you believe in predestination, you aren’t all that concerned about passages where God tells us we have the freedom to choose (Joshua 24:15). If you believe women don’t belong in the pulpit, you aren’t interested to hear about Paul supporting women who taught Scripture to men (Acts 18:26). If you believe that every word in the Bible is the literal word of God, you don’t want to hear about the two creation stories or the two accounts of the flood. Because these things challenge your system of beliefs. That’s even true for people who don’t believe in God. If you’ve made up your mind that God doesn’t exist, no amount of evidence is going to convince you otherwise. You might say that you have a bunch of reasons why you don’t believe, but I have to challenge you to ask yourself, “Is my objection to God really about God’s existence or my resistance?” Is my objection to God about His existence or my resistance?
How open are you to the truth?
Whether you are a believer or not, how open are you honestly to the truth? Are you willing to explore the possibility that what you know about God may not be true? Because if you’re not open to it, you just have to admit that no amount of argument is going to make you believe. Take for instance the number of people who have membership in Flat Earth societies around the globe. The most prominent one was run by Charles Johnson who founded his belief in a flat earth on (you guessed it) the Bible. Despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Johnson stated that as late as the 1990’s they had a membership of 3,500! Now, it’s true that 3,500 isn’t that many when you consider the population of the world at the time was about 5.2 billion, but the idea that anyone still believes in it is pretty astounding. What’s more shocking and disturbing are the number of people who deny the Holocaust ever happened. After a survey of 53,000 people in 100 countries, the Anti-Defamation League found that over half of the world’s population had never even heard of the Holocaust. And of those who had, nearly a third (or about 1 BILLION people) believe that it never happened. One billion people deny that one of the world’s most tragic events, if not THE most tragic event, never happened.
What is it in us that leads us to deny the truth?
How is it that we remain willfully ignorant of the facts no matter how obvious they are? And this is a question for all of us. It would be hypocritical to look around and think, “Well, I hope all of them are listening,” because I am sure there is something in your life that you are denying right now. Whether it’s the way you are living, the way you are caring for your body, the way you are practicing your faith, there is probably something you are living in denial about, and if you say, “That’s not true” there’s perfect evidence right there. Now, whether you believe in the Bible or God or any of it, you’ll find that this problem of truth denial can be found all throughout history. We already talked about the Flat Earth Society, food myths, and holocaust deniers, but even Jesus had to deal with this particular problem.
31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”
34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word. 38 I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father.”
Pride. That’s what gets in the way of the truth.
Pride. It is the poison that gets in the way of healing, of good relationships, of reconciliation, and the truth. Pride. Did you hear how the other Jews answered Jesus? He said, “If you hold to my teaching, you really are my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” But instead of absorbing those words, instead of thinking about what Jesus had to say, they responded. “We’ve never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” Pride had made them blind to the fact they were slaves to their own sin. You’ve probably heard kids say, “You’re not the boss of me!” Well, this is the adult version of that very same sentiment. “We’ve never been slaves of anyone! You’re not the boss of me! You can’t tell me that I need to be set free.” Andy Stanley brought up a great example in one of his sermons. How many times have you been in the middle of an argument and it dawns on you the other person is right. And even though you know they are right, you keep on fighting anyway. Because it’s no longer about being right, now it’s all about winning. That’s pride. We think pride makes us strong. We think pride is an admirable trait. But we would be wrong. Strength lies in humility. Strength lies in humility.
There’s a reason people use the expression “puffed up with pride.”
Pride inflates our ego to the point where we devalue others. Pride makes no room for new ideas and new learning. Pride forces us to continue down a path even when it’s clear it’s the wrong path. Humility on the other hand keeps us grounded. Humility opens us up to new ideas and new ways of thinking. Humility makes others feel valuable. And it takes a great deal more strength of character to be humble than to be filled with pride. Pride is for the weak, not the other way around. Pride is for the weak, not the other way around. C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity that pride was the great sin, the one from which all others stem. He describes pride as “spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense.” Pride is spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense. There was a study done on the quality of humility as a competitive advantage in the workplace and the researchers came to the conclusion, “Humility is frequently associated with shyness, lack of ambition, passivity, or lack of confidence. We argue quite the opposite—that humility offers strategic value for firms by furnishing organizational members with a realistic perspective of themselves, the firm, and the environment. In fact, we propose that humility is a critical strength for leaders and organizations possessing it, and a dangerous weakness for those lacking it.” Another study showed that humble people make the best leaders. And even the FBI believes that humility is essential for success. In an article on leadership they wrote, “Humility often can be overlooked or, even, viewed as weakness. It is not. It is vital. Allowing yourself to be humble and to express your humility openly allows for others to grow. There is nothing more powerful than that.”
Commit yourselves to the pursuit of truth instead of your own righteousness.
Humble yourself that in your pursuit you might find that your beliefs and suppositions are wrong. Dare yourself to open up to new ideas. And challenge yourself to explore the beliefs of others. If you’re a Christian, a humble attitude is exactly what Christ asks of us. He challenges us that if we are humble in our pursuit of truth that we will be set free. But that means keeping an open mind to new ways of learning, new ways of worshipping, and new ways of understanding the world. Explore for yourself what online worship might be like. Look at different styles of music people are engaging in. Be willing to accept that old beliefs might need to be replaced by new ones. If you’re not a Christian, I want to dare you to open your mind to the possibility there is a God. That he actually loves you. That he really did send his Son to Earth to die for you. And that he wants a relationship with you even if you don’t want one with him. If you have honest objections to faith, that’s totally reasonable and also healthy for any strong journey towards the truth. But be open to a world where God exists and has been searching for you for your entire life. Open that door a crack and watch the love that will pour in. The truth about chocolate, wine, and bacon lies deeper than just the headlines would lead you to believe. The truth about faith is also deeper than what you hear on television or see on the Internet, but is infinitely more rewarding than any of those three. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
 From Andy Stanley’s sermon “Who Needs God? I do” https://whoneedsgod.com/message-gallery/2016/10/4/who-needs-god-part-6
 C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, p. 125.