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An Anchor for the Soul Bible Study
By Ray Pritchard
Moody PublishersCopyright © 2002 Ray Pritchard
All right reserved.
Chapter OneA PLACE TO BEGIN
Suppose I say to you, "Define God in twenty words or less." And I give you thirty seconds to do it. What would you say? Could you do it? Does it seem unfair? Suppose I give you 200,000 words and thirty years. Would it be any easier? And would you come any closer to the truth?
God is the first fundamental of the universe, which is why we can't really "define" Him. But we can say this: knowing God is the most important thing in life. If you live thirty or forty or fifty or sixty or seventy or eighty years and you don't know God, then it doesn't matter what else you have done with your life. If you don't know God, you have missed the very reason for your own existence. If you miss out on knowing God, you have missed the central reality of the universe. Compared to knowing the One who made you, everything else is just crumbs and nibbling around the edges.
OUR NEED-TO KNOW THE GOD WHO MADE US
We were made to know God, and something in us desperately wants to know Him. We are incurably religious by nature. That's why every human society-no matter how primitive-has some concept of a higher power, some vision of a reality that goes beyond the natural. On one level, that explains why science has not eradicated religion from the earth.Science can never do that because technological achievement can't meet the deepest needs of the human heart. That explains why millions of people read their horoscopes every morning and millions more call psychic hotlines.
We want to know the answers to the three most basic questions of life: Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going? And we will spend money, buy books, listen to tapes, attend seminars, and travel great distances to find the answers. Several years ago a book claiming to report one woman's after-death visit to heaven climbed to the top of the best-seller list. Recently another book purporting to find hidden messages in the Hebrew text of the Old Testament sold hundreds of thousands of copies. People are hungry for spiritual truth, and if they cannot find it by normal means, they will reach for anyone or anything that claims to give them an answer.
It is the same wherever you travel. Superficially we are very different in our appearance, background, language, and customs. But scratch deeper, and you discover that all people are substantially the same. Once past the surface, you discover no fundamental difference between a person born in poverty in Haiti and a corporate lawyer on Wall Street; or between a schoolteacher in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and a computer scientist in Singapore. Everywhere we are the same-with the same longings, regrets, dreams, and hopes; with the same need to love and be loved; with the same desire to be remembered after we die; and with the same sense that there must be a God of some kind who made us.
We were made to know God, and we need to know Him. God made us to know Him. He designed us so that we would want to know Him-and then He guaranteed we wouldn't be happy unless He Himself fills the void within. This brings us face-to-face with the famous statement that there is a "God-shaped vacuum" inside each person. We may turn to God, or we may fill the vacuum with idols of our own making or the evil spirits of our ancestors. Something in us drives us to seek ultimate meaning. That "something" inside us is put there by God. Augustine gave us this oft-quoted prayer: "You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you."
GOD'S DESIRE-THAT WE SHOULD KNOW HIM
The whole Bible demonstrates that God wants us to know Him. In a sense, that is the theme of the Bible-how God loved us, how we rebelled against Him, and how God set about rescuing people who had turned against Him. The story is clear enough. God sent prophets, priests, and messengers of various sorts. He sent His messages in writing. But we (the human race) didn't want anything to do with God. So we ignored His message and sometimes killed His messengers. Then He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, the ultimate expression of His love. And we killed Him, too. But in His death God made a way for anyone and everyone to be forgiven.
Let's go back to the very beginning of the story for a moment. When God first created the world, He created Adam and Eve and made them "in his image" and "after his likeness." These simple phrases are full of meaning for us. We were made in God's image, which means there is something in us that corresponds to who God is. You and I were designed to know God personally. Dogs don't pray, birds don't worship, fish don't praise-but we do. Why? Because there is a "God-consciousness" inside every human heart. It is that "God-consciousness" that makes us want to know God and makes us eager to find out why we exist.
But there's another part of the stow. Ever since Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, that image of God within each of us has been marred by sin. I picture a piece of paper with the words GOD'S IMAGE in huge letters. Before Adam and Eve sinned, that paper was clean and smooth. But now for all of us that paper is crumpled, dirty, and torn. But it is never completely destroyed. Despite all our failures, we still want to know God, and we still want to find meaning in life but just don't know where to look.
To use a very modern phrase, we are left with a kind of "Father hunger." That's a phrase used to describe children growing up in a family without a strong and compassionate father figure. He may have died or he may have abandoned his family. Or perhaps he was so busy he had no time for his family. Because he barely knows his children, they compete desperately for his little scraps of love and approval. Children growing up in a home like that desperately want a father, and sometimes they will look for someone (or something) to fill that void.
On a much larger scale, that's the story of all humanity. We were made to know God and we want to know Him, but our sin has separated us from God. As a result, we are left with a deep "Father hunger" that won't seem to go away.
OUR SEARCH-IN ALL THE WRONG PLACES
So what do we do? As a popular song says, we look for love in all the wrong places. We can illustrate this using a pen and a piece of paper. Draw a cliff on the right side of the paper and label it "God." On the left side draw a cliff and label it "Us." Label the gap in between with the word "Sin." That's the problem we all face. We're on one side, God is on the other, and our sin stands between God and us. Something deep inside tells us we belong on the other side with the God who made us. So we set out to build bridges across the great chasm.
Now draw lines that start on the "Us" side and move toward the "God" side, ending each line somewhere in-between the two cliffs. Each line represents a human "bridge" we build in our attempts to find our way back to God. One bridge is labeled "Money," another "Education," another "Good works," another "Sex," another "Power," another "Science," another "Success," another "Approval," another "Relationships," and another "Religion." You can make as many bridges as you like, but they never seem to reach the other side. Each one ends somewhere in the middle, illustrating the truth that you can never find God by starting where you are. No matter which road you take, you fall into the great chasm and end up being broken on the jagged rocks of reality.
That's what I mean by "searching in all the wrong places." Nothing in this world can satisfy our longing because nothing in this world can lead us back to God. The answer we need must come from outside this world.
Three thousand years ago, a wise man named Solomon went on a search to find the key to the meaning of life. He recorded his findings in a book of the Bible called Ecclesiastes. In the first two chapters he tells about his grand experiment. He built buildings, planted vast gardens, tried the party scene, and accumulated a vast fortune. He gathered books and amassed a vast store of human knowledge. Anything he wanted, he got for himself. Nothing was held back. He tried anything and everything in his search for meaning.
He reported his finding in three terse words: "I hated life" (Ecclesiastes 2:17). When nothing satisfies, when you've truly tried it all, when you can say with calm assurance, "Been there, done that" and you still feel the emptiness within, what do you do then? Solomon's conclusion could stand as an epitaph for every generation.
Here is our problem in a nutshell. We were made by God to know God. There is a "God-shaped vacuum" inside each person that causes us to seek after the One who made us. Because we search in all the wrong places, we can never find Him. Our eternal longing for God is not fulfilled.
GOD'S SOLUTION-HE HAS MADE HIMSELF KNOWN
In the end we are left with this great truth: We can never know God unless He reveals Himself to us. Try as we might we always end up in the darkness, seeking a God we know is there but cannot seem to find. But God has not left us to live in darkness forever. He has revealed Himself in four primary ways:
A. In creation-Everyone sees this.
B. In the human conscience-Everyone has this.
C. In His written Word, the Bible-Not everyone knows this.
D. In His Son, Jesus Christ-Not everyone understands this.
The last revelation is the most important. Jesus is "God incarnate," that is, God clothed with human flesh. When Jesus walked on the earth, He was the God-man, fully God and fully man at the same time. Jesus is the supreme revelation of God. If you've seen Jesus, you've seen God. If you want to know what God is like, look at Jesus.
SOME FACTS ABOUT GOD
The Bible says a great deal about who God is and how He has revealed Himself. Here are six facts about God you need to know:
1. He eternally exists in three persons
The truth about God begins with the fact that He eternally exists as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. When we say that, we mean that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, but they are not three gods but only one God. The Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Spirit, the Spirit is not the Father, but each is God individually and yet they are together the one true God of the Bible. This is called the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.
Someone asked Daniel Webster, who happened to be a fervent Christian, "How can a man of your intellect believe in the Trinity?" "I do not pretend fully to understand the arithmetic of heaven now," he replied. That's a good phrase-the arithmetic of heaven.
The Trinity should cause us to bow in humble adoration before a God who is greater than our minds could ever comprehend. We have a God who has provided everything necessary for our salvation. When we were lost in sin, our God acted in every person of His being to save us. The Father gave the Son, the Son offered Himself on the cross, and the Holy Spirit draws us to Jesus.
2. He is the Sovereign Lord
God is the purest, simplest, most basic being in the universe. He is a personal God-not an impersonal force. Because He is infinite, He is not subject to time, corruption, or decay. Because He is eternal, He is always present everywhere in the universe. He is the "unmoved mover," "the uncaused first cause," and the source of all that is. He is the power behind all other power.
His character is unchanging-and therefore entirely dependable. What He says, He will do. Because He has the only truly "free will" in the universe, He does whatever He pleases, yet He never acts in an arbitrary fashion, but only in conformity with His own perfect character.
God is holy, which means He is utterly pure, free from all evil, totally without blame or error. Holiness is what makes God God. He never lowers His standards, never compromises, and makes no "deals." All that He does is right, just, and good. There is no falsehood in Him or from Him. He makes the rules, and no one can object. He Himself is the final standard of right and wrong. Therefore, everything He says about you and me is true.
3. He created all things
God designed everything that is; He initiated Creation and personally brought all things into being. The universe did not happen by chance, accident, or by the random collision of cells. It is not the product of random evolution. God spoke and the universe came into being. He is so powerful that He is the source of all things-living and nonliving. All things were made by Him, and all things exist at this moment by His powerful word. This means that He personally created you, that you were put on this earth for a reason, and that the highest purpose of your life is to know the God who made you. Think about that for a moment. The God who can create anything-created you! And He wants you to know Him personally.
4. He made you in His image
You were made to know God. Something in you yearns to know the God who created you. That yearning may be hidden deep within, or you may feel it burning inside you at this moment. Perhaps you have tried to cover it up or to satisfy your longings with the things of this world. But that doesn't work. You were made with desires that nothing in this world can satisfy. Only God can fill the hole in your heart. Only God can love you the way you long to be loved.
5. He knows all about you
Theologians call this "omniscience," which simply means that God knows everything-the past, the present, and the future. He is never caught by surprise by anything that happens anywhere in the universe. Nothing is hidden from Him. That includes your secret thoughts, your dreams, and your unfulfilled desires. He knows your words before you speak them and your thoughts before you think them. He knows where you were last night and who you were with. He knows the whole story of your life-the good, the bad, and the ugly. What about those secret things that no one else knows about? He knows them all, and He knows them completely.
6. He cares about you
The Bible tells us that "God is love." He is perfect, infinite, unconditional love. His love is freely given. It is not a reward for good behavior because no one can ever "earn" God's love. The greatest gifts in life are the ones we don't deserve. No gift could be greater than the love of God. The Bible declares that God loves the unlovely. We shook our fists at God and sinned against Him. The amazing news is that God even loves His enemies. While we were sinners, God demonstrated His love by sending His Son to the earth to die for us.
Excerpted from An Anchor for the Soul Bible Study by Ray Pritchard Copyright © 2002 by Ray Pritchard. Excerpted by permission.
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