Wednesday, March 9

First-Hand Experience

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched--this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. --1st John 1:1

I recently found myself engaged in a lively discussion as to the validity of the Bible. A friend of mine challenged me with several examples in the Bible which he claimed pointed out inconsistencies and errors. His arguments were full of the same kinds of questions that other skeptics have asked through the years. His reasons were so common in fact, that I was able to use Josh McDowell's books "Tough Questions"and "Evidence that Demands a Verdict" to address nearly every point my friend had against the Christian faith and the contents of God's word.

It is likely that each of us will have to rise to a similar challenge at some point in time. I expect this will happen predominantly to those of you who are on college campuses. It is very important that as Christians we not only know what we believe, but we know why we believe it. This raises an interesting question or two. How do we know that God is real and that the Bible is more than just a collection of stories written by many different people? How do you convince a skeptic of the Biblical truths on which we Christians stake our lives? Although there are no easy answers, I believe that today's verse provides us with a starting point.

We can begin to answer those questions by looking at the things God has done in our individual lives. When John, the beloved disciple, wrote this book, he was doing so in order to convince new Christians that Jesus was truly the Son of God. John was able to rely on personal experience and physical evidence when it came to sharing what he knew about Jesus. John, and the other disciples, had heard, seen, looked at and touched many things as they spent time with Jesus. The were physically with him as they learned from him. John based what he knew of Jesus on his first-hand, eye-witness experiences with the Son of God.

"That which we have heard" refers to all the things that he and the other disciples learned from Jesus as he taught them the truth about who he is. "That which we have heard" can also apply to us. Although we were not present at the Sermon on the Mount, many of us have heard about Jesus either by going to church or from some missionary group, or from our friends and family who are Christians. We did not hear Jesus' parable first-hand like John and the disciples did, but we hear them told at Bible study groups, from our pastors at church, and sometimes in places we wouldn't expect.

Jesus performed many miracles throughout his life, many of which the disciples witnessed. God's miracles did not end after Christ's resurrection. If you look around, you are sure to find many miracles each day that you probably take for granted. This is what is referred to as "natural revelations". This is how God reveals himself to us in our modern state. The changing of seasons is one such revelation. So are things like rainstorms, the intricate geometry of spider's web, and the delicate balance of the laws of physics, chemistry and biology that enable our environment to function as it does. Romans 1:20 says that anyone who has looked at these elements of creation is without excuse when it comes to acknowledging the existence of a Creator God.

We, like John, have heard, seen, touched, and experienced the reality of God in one way or another. Maybe it was in a big dramatic way like being rescued from certain calamity, or maybe it was the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit comforting you when no one else could. In either case, God is very much real. We must proclaim the truth and reality of God and his word to others. God can use us to help them see, hear, experience, and ultimately know him.

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