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DON'T CHECK YOUR BRAINS AT THE DOORKnow What You Believe and Why
By Josh McDowell Bob Hostetler
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2011 Josh McDowell and Bob Hostetler
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTHE COSMIC COP
The Killjoy Myth
Many people imagine God as a cosmic cop standing in the center of the galaxies like a policeman directing traffic.
"Hey, you! Yeah, you. You look like you're having fun over there. Well, cut it out!
"And you, with the movie. What's it rated? R? PG-13? Hand it over, slow and easy-like!
"And who's that couple lip-locked in that dark corner? That you, Cindy? And David—I shoulda known. We'll have no more of that. Not while I'm patrolling this beat."
God. The Cosmic Killjoy. All we want to do is have a little fun. God just wants to spoil it for us.
Conversely, we imagine the devil as a fun-loving imp. Comedian Flip Wilson popularized the phrase, "The devil made me do it," as if the devil is a "good ol' boy" who only wants to help us enjoy ourselves.
That's a lie.
The devil doesn't care if you have fun. He hates your guts. He will eat you up. Peter says that the devil is always "seeking whom he may devour" (1 Peter 5:8 KJV).
A group of tourists in the Holy Land were told by their guide, "You're probably used to seeing shepherds in your country driving sheep through fields and roads. But in Palestine things are different; the shepherd always leads the way, going before the flock."
Much to the amusement of the tourists, the first flock of sheep they saw was being driven, not led. Embarrassed, the guide asked the man, "How is it that you are driving these sheep? I've always understood that shepherds here lead the sheep."
"Oh," replied the man. "That's true. The shepherd does lead his sheep. But I'm not the shepherd. I'm the butcher."
Satan is a butcher. He is not interested in giving you pleasure or happiness. He is interested only in driving you to destruction.
Jesus put things in perspective and exploded this myth when He said, "The thief [Satan] comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that [you might] have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10).
The devil doesn't care if you have fun. He only wants to steal and kill and destroy you.
God does not want to spoil your fun. He wants you to enjoy life and enjoy it to the full. He wants you to experience the sort of happiness that people long for, the "eternal pleasures" the psalmist talked about:
You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. Psalm 16:11
* Read 1 Peter 5:8. How does this verse portray Satan? Why?
* Read Job 2:1–8. What does the devil want to happen to Job? Why?
* Read Zechariah 3:1. What is Satan doing to Joshua in this verse?
* Read Revelation 12:10. This verse speaks of Satan. What does it say he does "day and night"? From what you read in Job and Zechariah, can you determine to whom "our brothers" refers? Does it include you?
Chapter TwoTHE LUKE SKYWALKER GOD
The Impersonal Force Myth
Luke Skywalker, having just escaped from the Sand People, stands in the spartan dwelling of Obi-Wan Kenobi on the planet of Tatooine. Luke has just learned that Obi-Wan was a Jedi Knight who had fought in the Clone Wars with Luke's father. ObiWan gives him a lightsaber that once belonged to Luke's father and, in the course of the conversation, mentions "the Force."
"The Force?" Luke says.
Obi-Wan responds, "Well, the Force is what gives the Jedi his power. It's an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together."
That concept of the Force, which occurs throughout the immensely popular Star Wars movies, has a familiar ring to it. That is because "the Force" is what many people imagine God to be. They picture God as a faceless, formless "energy," an impersonal "force," that mysteriously surrounds and guides the universe.
But that's a myth.
Oh, God does surround and guide the universe. He is present everywhere. He is Spirit. But He is not some mysterious "force," not some elusive "energy" that's just "out there somewhere." He is not a "thing," an "it." The astounding thing about God is that He is a personal God.
"I love those who love me," He says, "and those who seek me find me" (Proverbs 8:17). Notice the personal pronouns God uses to refer to Himself: "I ... me ... me ... me." Does that sound like some "cosmic energy?"
Far from being an impersonal force, God is often referred to in the Bible as "the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob." He spoke His name to Moses. He revealed Himself to the boy Samuel. He spoke to Isaiah in the temple. He told Jeremiah, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you" (Jeremiah 1:5). Throughout his writings the apostle Paul called Him "my God." King David called Him "a father to the fatherless, a defender of widows" (Psalm 68:5). And all Christians have received the "Spirit of sonship," so that we may call Him "Abba, Father" (Romans 8:15).
God, the true God, is personally interested in you. He knows your name. "See," He says to His people, "I have engraved you on the palms of my hands" (Isaiah 49:16). "He cares for you," the apostle Peter says (1 Peter 5:7). Jesus says that "even the very hairs of your head are all numbered" (Matthew 10:30). And God promises, "Call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:12–13). That's a promise you may take personally.
* Read Jeremiah 29:12–13 in the last paragraph of this chapter. Circle each personal pronoun ("I," "me," "you," and "your") in those verses.
* Locate the portion of Jeremiah 1:5 quoted in the second-to-last paragraph. Circle the personal pronouns in that brief reference.
* Read Moses' encounter with God in Exodus 3:1–15. How does God identify Himself to Moses in verse 6? By what name does He call Himself in verse 14? How many times does God use the pronoun "I" in these verses? (Count them and write the answer here: _________.)
Chapter ThreeTHE VENDING MACHINE GOD
The Father Christmas Myth
OK, God, I'm gonna give You a chance to prove Yourself."
Bob knelt beside his bed. He was seven years old and wanted fiercely to believe in God. So he bent his unruly red head over folded hands and continued.
"I really want to believe in You, God. So when I wake up in the morning, if there's a million dollars under my bed, I'll know You're real. And I'll never doubt You again."
He didn't get the million dollars.
Maybe it was because he wanted the money more than he desired God. Maybe, too, the money wasn't there in the morning because a million dollars (he expected it in one-dollar bills) wouldn't fit under the bed with the Monopoly game (which, if you're wondering, in those days only included about fifteen thousand dollars in fake cash), G.I. Joe action figures, comic books, dirty clothes, and dust bunnies occupying so much space.
Probably, though, the reason he didn't get the money had more to do with a mistaken idea about God. Bob imagined God to be like a vending machine: you deposit a prayer, push the right button, and your wish is fulfilled. He imagined God to be a Father Christmas figure who waited in the uncharted expanse of space to fulfill his wish list. If he prayed hard enough and believed hard enough, God would plop down everything a seven-year-old heart desired.
That's understandable for a child. Un fortunately, many people carry their perceptions of God as a Divine Vending Machine into adulthood. They never advance beyond the Father Christmas Myth in their understanding of God.
God loves to answer prayer. He says, "Call to me and I will answer you" (Jeremiah 33:3). He even promises, "Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear" (Isaiah 65:24).
But prayer is not a coin to be inserted in a vending machine, and faith is not a button you push. God does not submit to our whims and wishes. No matter how hard seven-year-old Bob prayed for that million dollars, no matter how fervently he believed, he would not have found it under the bed the next morning. Not because God doesn't love him. Not because God doesn't answer prayer. Not even because there was no room under the bed. The million bucks never came because Bob was not really praying; he was wishing.
Contrary to the Father Christmas Myth, God is not some heavenly vending machine for the dispensing of gifts and favors. He transcends our petty wishes. He is Almighty God, Love Incarnate. He longs for His children to return the love He has lavished upon them. He wants us to love Him, not things. He wants us to seek Him, not answers to greedy prayers. He wants us to obey Him, not because it might get us a million dollars, but because we love Him and want to please Him.
And, ironically, when we advance in knowledge beyond the image of the Vending Machine God, His Word promises that we can "have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him" (1 John 3:21–22). The question is, when you live your life in communion with God, who gave His only Son to die for our sins and loves you beyond anything you can imagine, what will you ask for?
Each of the following verses indicates a condition for answered prayer that can be expressed in four words or less. Write those words on the lines below.
2 Chronicles 7:14 ______________________________________
Jeremiah 29:13 _______________________________________
Mark 11:24 ____________________________________________
James 5:16 ___________________________________________
1 John 5:14 ___________________________________________
Chapter FourPROPHET JESUS
The Good Teacher Myth
Devils and Underdevils, come to order!"
An unholy convocation of fallen angels commenced in the cavernous meeting room of Underearth.
"This session has been ordered by the Evil One himself to discuss and decide a strategy that will prevent humans from turning to the Enemy. A suggestion has been offered by Toescum."
A hideous, wart-faced devil rose from the front row and turned to face the devilish assembly.
"My despised colleagues," Toescum began, "I propose that our darkstars assigned to the world's cults and 'isms' and organized religions put forth the idea that the Enemy's Son was a 'good teacher.'"
"Curse you, Toescum!" spewed an objector who had risen to his horny feet on Toescum's right. "You should be cannibalized by the Assembly for suggesting friendly treatment of the Enemy's Son!" Several demons around Toescum licked their crusted lips in anticipation.
"You imbecile," Toescum retorted. "This is no friendly treatment I propose." He straightened proudly. "My suggestion is truly diabolical."
Another devil stood.
"How can you call such a simpleminded idea 'diabolical'?"
"Because," he replied, "to label Him a 'good teacher' will effectively class Him with Moses, Zoroaster, Mohammed ... it is to damn Him with faint praise."
A silence of realization descended on the crowd.
"Don't you see, you half-wits? If humans believe He is only a 'good teacher,' they can dismiss His Lordship, His divinity."
"No," responded a devil called Spewbile. "They'll never fall for that! He Himself made it very clear He is the Son of God."
"Spewbile's right," said another. "Humans have the Book. They know that He said Himself, 'Before Abraham was born, I am!' (John 8:58). They've read His words about the glory He shared with the Father before the world began."
"Yes, you fool," Spewbile added. "They know He claimed the power to read men's minds and hearts and to forgive sins. They have His words, 'I have come down from heaven' (John 6:38). They know that He claimed the power to raise Himself from the dead and that witnesses confirmed His resurrection. They're not so foolish as to think a mere man, a 'good teacher' could do those things!
"And," asserted Spewbile with finality, "they will recognize that if those things He claimed about Himself were not true, then He was not a 'good teacher.' ... He was a liar or a lunatic!"
A murmur arose in the room. Some demons around Toescum again licked their lips and looked at him with hungry eyes, but he appeared confident.
"I must remind my contemptible comrades of the human tendency that allows us such frequent success. Mortals will often choose a lie even when they know the truth. As the Enemy's Son Himself said in one of His stories in the book of Luke, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead'" (16:31).
Toescum's lips parted in a sneer as he sat down. The hungry demons surrounding him exchanged disappointed glances.
"Toescum's proposal," bellowed the chairman, "meets with the approval of the Demonic Council. The propagation of the 'Good Teacher Myth' is now an official strategy of Hell."
Match the verse references on the next page with Jesus' claims about Himself.
Matthew 5:17 I have the authority to lay down my life and the authority to take it up again.
Matthew 12:8 I have told you everything ahead of time.
Matthew 24:30 If anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.
Mark 2:10 The Son of Man will come on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory.
Mark 13:23 The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.
Luke 12:9 I am the Messiah.
Luke 22:70 The Son gives life.
John 4:25–26 He who disowns me before men will be disowned before God.
John 5:21 I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live.
John 8:51 The Son of Man has the authority to forgive sins.
John 10:18 I have come to fulfill the Law.
John 11:25 You are right in saying that I am the Son of God.
From these verses, do you think Jesus left any doubt that He was the Son of God?
Chapter FivePARTIAL JESUS
The Superstar Myth
Andrew Lloyd Webber's rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar opened in the early 1970s to mixed reviews of "blasphemy!" and "inspirational!" In the play, Mary Magdalene sings a song about Jesus called "I Don't Know How to Love Him" that became a radio hit.
In addition to portraying Mary Magdalene's romantic infatuation with Jesus (which has no basis in Scripture), the song contains a lyric that reinforces a popular myth about Christ. Mary sings, "He's a man / He's just a man."
That's a myth.
Jesus is a man. He was born as a human in a stable among cattle; the stench of dung and urine was among the first smells to greet His newly exposed senses.
But contrary to the Superstar Myth, that's not all He is. The Bible describes clearly the dual nature of Christ: "Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness" (Philippians 2:6–7).
For centuries men have wrestled to comprehend that duality of Jesus' nature. Sometimes Christians (and non-Christians, like the talented Andrew Lloyd Webber) have emphasized Jesus' humanity to the point that they have obscured His divinity. Others have made the opposite mistake. As a result, many people's understanding of Jesus Christ is partial. But the teaching of God's Word is clear. He is "God with us" (Matthew 1:23); yet He is also, in every respect, "the man Christ Jesus" (1 Timothy 2:5).
Excerpted from DON'T CHECK YOUR BRAINS AT THE DOOR by Josh McDowell Bob Hostetler Copyright © 2011 by Josh McDowell and Bob Hostetler. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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