Look carefully at the evidence

Some years ago a university professor took a small group of students on a field trip into desert country for intensive study. Miles from civilisation, their vehicle broke down and the group set out on foot to complete an estimated three-day trek back to their campus. After two days of hard travel, they came to the summit of a huge sand dune. Thirsty and sunburnt, they looked around them and to their delight, far off in the distance, they clearly saw a lake with small trees surrounding it. They jumped and screamed for joy. Their professor, who prided himself on understanding desert phenomena remained calm. He explained that what they were witnessing was a mirage. It was just an optical illusion.

A rather unpleasant argument followed. The professor insisted that he knew best because he was an expert in this sort of thing. The fact that they could see the trees and see the lake in the distance was no proof it was real. The argument ended with the students walking off one way, while the professor went in the opposite direction. He made them promise that after they discovered it was a mirage they would stay put and wait for him to return with help.

It took the students three gruelling hours but finally they arrived at a plush new desert resort which had only recently opened. It had four swimming pools and six restaurants. Two hours after that, they set out in a Land Rover with rangers to search for the professor. He was never found.

This true story has a spiritual parallel because it is a reminder of the way in which two different groups of people view Holy Scripture. The first group represented by the students, after making a proper investigation of Scripture, take what the Bible teaches “at face value”. In other words when they see with their own eyes a command in Scripture, they realise that what they see is true and therefore something which must be obeyed. When they read verses calling for people to repent, they recognise those verses as having come from God; when they read that people “mustn’t be deceived, because the unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom of God” (1st Corinthians Ch6 v9), they take it to heart, and when they study verses of prophecy, they accept that one day those prophecies will indeed be fulfilled. They see these things in God’s Word and because they have properly looked at the claims of Scripture, they realise that they are true.

The second group is represented by the professor. This group indeed sees and reads the same things as the first, but they blindly refuse to accept what they see as being true and utterly refuse to take a proper look at them. The very thought that there could be any truth in them is simply rejected out of hand without any examination whatsoever. Just as the professor in his pride, refused to properly look at the scene his students were intensely viewing, so likewise this group refuses to properly look at the evidence that the Bible really has been inspired by Almighty God.

The outcome for both groups couldn’t be more different. The group which thoroughly investigates what they see in Scripture soon come to realise what a profound treasure it is. After assessing the evidence, they discover that the Bible is indeed true and it changes their lives at the very deepest level, bringing salvation, forgiveness, joy and eternal life.

The other group which rejects the Word of God out of hand, are left wandering and confused in the desert of their life. There is no watering hole for their thirsty souls, no shelter from the storms of life and no shade from the sun. They have rejected out of hand the very “Map” which would have shown them the Way, the Truth and the Life. There are many such people and they are their own worst enemy. Jesus describes this group in John Ch3vs19-20; “This is the condemnation, that light has come into the world, but many love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil. For those practising evil hate the light and will not come to the light lest their deeds should be exposed.”

There will of course be some among this group who feel uncomfortable rejecting every portion of the “Map”. The feeling of these individuals is that some parts of it should be followed, even if the “Map” as a whole is rejected. These people pick and choose which parts of the “Map” they are going to obey. They choose to adhere to the parts they like, and reject the parts that challenges them or makes them feel uncomfortable. These “pickers and choosers” totally miss the point. All that the Lord commands and teaches is important, not just bits and pieces.

The Bible clearly calls for individuals to repent of all their past sins and to start obeying the Lord Jesus in every way. God is Love, but He is also an infinitely Holy God requiring moral conduct and behaviour in keeping with His will. We can’t pick and choose what commands we are going to obey or which bits of the “Map” we are going to follow.

To belong to the Lord, an individual must truly make it their aim to follow His commandments and wishes in every area of their lives; at work, at home, in relationships and in their inner personal life. It calls for a complete change of attitude to life with regard to sexual immorality, ambitions, jealousies, bitterness, the holding of grudges, pride, and hatred etc. (See Galatians Ch5 vs19-21.) In their place, the Lord commands an attitude of self-control, love, gentleness, kindness, long suffering and the like. (See Galatians Ch5 vs22-23.) We can’t pick and choose which of these commands we are going to obey because they are all profoundly important.

The following story is a vivid illustration showing just how important complete obedience and loyalty really is. Some years ago retired astronaut General Charles Duke was talking about his experiences on Apollo 16. Shortly after he returned from the moon Charles himself, was converted and became a devout Christian. What he experienced on the moon is a reminder of our need to follow all of the Lord’s Commandments and not deviate from them in the slightest.

As he was talking about his walk on the lunar surface, someone asked “Once you were there, weren’t you free to make your own decisions and carry out some of your own experiments…you know, sort of do as you pleased, maybe stay a little longer if you liked?” Charlie answered “Oh sure, if we didn’t want to return to earth!” He then described the intricate plan, the exact and precise instructions, the essential discipline and the instant obedience that was needed right down to the split second if they were to be saved and get back. They landed with exactly 60 seconds of fuel to get them away again. The audience was given the distinct impression that a rebel doesn’t fit inside a spacesuit. To be safe they needed total and complete obedience to the commands from Mission Control.

So likewise, there are no rebels or partial followers of Christ in the Kingdom of God. To belong to the Lord and be a member of His Kingdom requires wholehearted commitment to all of the instructions given in the “Map”. Partial obedience or picking and choosing which Commands in Scripture to obey, will only lead to death. As we are warned in 1st Peter Ch4v18 “If the righteous person is scarcely saved, what will it be like for the ungodly and sinner?” And in Hebrews Ch2vs 1-3 it implores; “We must give all the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we should drift away…for how shall we escape so great a Salvation?” Genuine repentance must bring forth genuine obedience. If pickers and choosers have no place on the moon, how much more so, have they no place in the Kingdom of Heaven!