We live in a world where most people believe in some form of a God, but more often than not, people do not view God as personal or in a relationship with us. This sermon explores why it is logical to say both that God exists and is personal, and then it examines the importance of cultivating this personal interaction with God.
John is saying God IS love in these verses, and love is defined by the cross. God’s very essence is other-oriented, self-sacrificial love. Love isn’t just a verb God does. Love is the noun that God eternally is. This implies, at the very least, that God is a personal being because only personal beings can love. Because he’s personal, he’s a God we can interact with.
In 1940, 96% Americans believed in God. In 2012, this number dropped to 90%. But in 2020 it dropped to 81%. What’s worse, of those who still believe in God less than 40% believe God intervenes, interacts with us and answers prayer. Fewer than 40% relate to God as a personal being. Most see God as a vague higher power or higher intelligence, a being who maybe explains how the world came about, but who has little relevance to our actual lives. Belief in a personal God who wants a personal relationship with us is on the downslide.
Sometimes we hear people claim that science or evolution has disproven the idea of a personal God, but in reality, neither science in general nor evolution in particular is incompatible with faith in a personal God. Others point to the problem of evil to argue against the existence of a personal God. While this is a problem, the underlying problem is that we are conditioned to look at the world and interpret the world as though God did not exist. As argued in the book Secular Age by Charles Taylor, the world has become “disenchanted.”
Prior to the scientific revolution, people lived in an “enchanted world.” People not only believed in God, angels, and demons, but these mysterious entities were part of their experience of the world. This changed as the naturalistic scientific method became a naturalistic worldview. Whereas it used to be easy to feel special in an enchanted universe, it’s now all too easy to feel like a complete nobody in a merely materialistic universe.
There are two basic arguments for believing in a personal God. The first is simple. We can believe in a personal creator God because of Jesus. There are good historical reasons for believing the Gospels are basically reliable. Jesus reveals a God who is perfectly personal. Jesus says that God is our Father and he knows the number of hairs on your head and cares about the birds of the air and lilies of the field.
The second reason is a bit more complex. Humans are personal beings. This means three things: We reason to make sense of the world, we are meaningful in that we seek purpose to life, and we are moral.
The Ultimate Reality, or the Ground of Being is either like us, or not. If we suppose the Ultimate Reality is not like us then atheism is true. This means that there is no ultimate mind, purpose, or moral value. As a result, humans are freaks of nature because we are personal beings in an environment that is absolutely hostile to personhood. If there is no ultimate reason behind the universe, then reality is just absurd.
The same is true of meaning and moral values. If we are not created by a purposeful God, and if death is the last word for us and for everything else that exists, then life is completely meaningless. Also, if there is no transcendent moral being, there can be no transcendent goodness, justice or love.
If our lives are irrational, meaningless and devoid of ultimate moral value, we’re fundamentally out of sync with our environment. This leads us to ask why nature would evolve beings that operate in such a way that is so contrary to reality, so much so that it is grueling and painful. Jean Paul Sartre stated, “Atheism is a cruel and long-range affair: I think I’ve carried it through.” If it is true then why would it be so grueling? Pain is usually an indication that something is wrong or contrary to our nature. The pain of accepting that life is absurd, meaningless and devoid of moral value proves that the atheistic view is wrong and unnatural. Since we naturally long for things to make sense, for life to have purpose and for goodness to overcome evil, the Ultimate Reality must be rational, purposeful and good. The natural habitat for humans as personal beings is a personal God.
We are personal beings whose life is in a universe whose Ultimate Reality is personal. This personal God desires an intimate, loving relationship with each of us. We are most at home as we cultivate a personal relationship with God and engage him with our words and our lives.
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