I can appreciate his honesty about his initial doubts, since I have had some of the same doubts. I think many of us can easily see the tangible things in this world, and because we can see them, we know they are real and believable. The intangible, untouchable things in this world are harder to believe.
This week, I sat down and read the new edition of “More Than a Carpenter,” by both Josh McDowell and his son, Sean McDowell. This book brings Jesus alive and makes him tangible. He isn’t just part of a story that happened long ago. In fact, he is a real person, who lived on this very earth, and who was submitted to all of the good and bad elements of living here. He came here, by choice, to be an example to us of who God is. He conveyed God’s character to us by showing His great love, forgiveness, and healing. He showed mercy to and accepted people who we might judge as even the most filthy of the human race.
There are some questions addressed in this book that I often hear. I’ve even wondered about them myself in the past. If God is such a loving God, why won’t He just accept people for who they are? Why would a loving God send people to hell? Why is Jesus the only way to a relationship with God?
This book answers these questions by first saying that people seem offended by the exclusivity of the claim that Jesus is the only way to God. Then it adds that the deeper issue is that most people really just don’t understand the nature of God. The writers go on to say that most people understand that God is loving, but that’s where they stop. God is not just a God of love. He is also righteous, holy, and just. By His character, He cannot coexist with sin. The writers explain this further by saying, “He cannot tolerate sin in His heaven any more than you can tolerate a filthy, foul-smelling, diseased dog to live in your home (p. 152).”
The writers say that we know God through His attributes. However, we need to understand that His attributes can not be compared to attributes we have. We may possess attributes of kindness and courteousness because those are good attributes to adopt. God’s attributes are who He is. He didn’t adopt these attributes, they are part of His being and flow from His nature. “When God loves, He is not making a decision, He is simply being Himself (p. 152).”
The Bible tells us that when God created us, He did so out of love. When sin entered the world, though, Adam and Eve left God’s love and protection because of their choice to sin. God then faced a dilemma. He loved us so much, but He could no longer be with us because of sin. We would not be able to survive in His holy presence. The answer was for Jesus, God the Son, to become human, live a sinless life, and become a sacrifice for us. When he died for us, He took our sin and defeated death. Justice was done. A penalty was paid on our behalf.
When someone hurts you, and you make the choice to forgive them, is there a penalty to be paid? Yes, although you forgave that person, there is still the residual hurt from the insult. You pay the price by experiencing pain, but you still choose to forgive and move past the insult. In the same way, a penalty had to be paid for our sin.
So God doesn’t love anyone less. He doesn’t send people to hell. In fact, He has provided a way for us to escape hell and be with Him. We make that choice. We make the choice for hell or we make the choice to accept God’s gift through Jesus and then have the promise of an eternal life with Him.
If you get a chance, pick up a copy of “More Than a Carpenter,” by Josh McDowell and Sean McDowell. I bought my copy on amazon.com. It’s a great read that answered many of my intellectual questions about the world, sin, God’s love, and many why questions. Thanks for the recommendation, Kirk Cameron!