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Richard Bennett :: Chapter 4 What Really Divides People?

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Your Quest for God — Chapter 4

What Really Divides People?


I think I understand somewhat of human nature, and I tell you all the heroes of antiquity were men, and I am a man; but not one is like him: Jesus Christ was more than a man.

—Napoleon

The world of today has been described as a global village. However, because it is populated by hostile neighbors, this global village has become an increasingly dangerous place in which to live.

On the surface, it would appear that the problems that divide mankind cover a broad sweep of political, economic, domestic and even industrial issues. Though these problem areas do cause people to be increasingly and depressingly fragmented, there is an even greater, but less recognizable, reason for the alienation that exists in our world.

First, let us briefly consider the obvious causes of division among people, and then focus on the main cause.

Obvious Divisions

Politically: Politicians confront one another with fear and distrust. When faced with irreconcilable viewpoints, they hope that military might will guarantee their nation’s future security.

Meanwhile, concerned citizens raise their voices in favor of peace and nuclear disarmament. Ironically, those of us who have seen some of these ‘peace’ demonstrations on television have witnessed that, in their conduct, participants sometimes display the very type of passion from which war is made.

Economically: Natural disasters such as drought, famine, starvation and earthquakes are an ever-increasing problem, particularly in the Third World. These disasters add to the pain caused by the great economic difference between rich and poor nations. In spite of the goodwill and sacrifice of many people who try to help, it is a sad observation that all too often the rich become richer and the poor poorer.

Domestically: It is no secret that today the breakdown of marriage and family life has reached epidemic proportions. With tears in his eyes, Letsoale said: “My house has been broken.” I thought he meant that his four-walled African hut had been destroyed, but I soon learned that this expression of brokenness was Letsoale’s delicate way of telling me that his wife had left him. Today, too many ‘houses’ are being ‘broken’, as selfish lifestyles destroy loving relationships. (However, as we shall see in a later chapter, the love of God is available to any couple who wish to cement their marriage in a permanent union.)

Industrially: In the workplace we become accustomed to hearing about dissatisfaction and tension. Early in 1985 the bitterest industrial dispute of the twentieth century was brought to a conclusion in Britain. Though the strike and the violent street confrontations ended, lingering resentments and bitterness continued to be an open sore in labor-management relations and within the industrial community itself. How different this situation is from the outcome of the labor-management tensions that were subdued in the coal mines of Wales after similar industrial unrest in 1904. John Parry told me the story from first-hand experience.

When I first met John, he was a 91-year-old retired coal miner, totally blind and suffering from a chronic lung problem called Miners’ Disease. Whenever possible, my wife and I visited his humble miner’s cottage in North Wales. With hearty laughter and vibrant joy, John delighted to recount to us what God had done in Wales when He moved in conviction and power during the Revival of 1904 and 1905. At that time both miners and their employers had met with the living God. As a direct result they had found real togetherness, mutual trust and respect. What a difference between 1905 and 1985.

John spoke with exuberant joy as he reflected on those days. He recalled that scores of ‘public houses’ went out of business because suddenly there was no demand for alcohol. He also recalled going down into the pits with his fellow miners as they unitedly sang the praises of God. He chuckled as he reflected: “People still come to see me and ask where the revival was.” Thumping on his chest he would answer: “I tell ‘em it’s under here and it’s right now!”

The Real Division

Deep as these divisions may be, there is something that divides mankind in a much more startling and permanent way. It is a danger that presently threatens to destroy the tranquillity of many lands. You see, people are ultimately polarized by their confused understanding about God! In His revelation to mankind, God has never compromised the truth about His divine Being. Before Jesus Christ was born, God promised that He would send a great light to help people come to know Him as He really is. He said: The people who walk in darkness will see a great light (Isaiah 9:2 NASB). God also gave details as to how this light would be recognized: for a child will be born…a Son will be given (Isaiah 9:6 NASB).

Surely, there would be nothing particularly significant about that statement if God had only said that a child would be born. After all, children are always being born! Indeed, it would have been unimportant to record that a child was to be born if that fact had not been linked to the promise that a Son was to be given. And now what was once prophecy is history, for what God said would happen did happen. On earth a child was born; from Heaven a Son was given. Through the birth of a child who was the gift of a Son, God sent light to people who had been groping in darkness. Even to this very day that Light still dispels the darkness and doubt that would otherwise hide God from our eyes.

To distinguish the birth of God’s unique child, and to set Him apart from all others, God promised that the birth of His Son would be authenticated by a miraculous ‘sign’: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14 NASB).

How wonderful that His very name Immanuel means ‘God with us.’ And through what was conveyed by this name, we can begin to appreciate how the good news, as it is recorded in the Bible, is distinctive from the teachings of all other religions. Whereas false religions attempt to show how man is to reach up to God, the Bible is God’s record of how He reached down to man.

As recorded in the Bible, when God established His beach-head on Planet Earth, a virgin was with child. And that day when the Creator of the universe condescended to become a part of time and space is now a matter of history: An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:20 NASB). And later, after Jesus had been born and had matured to manhood, He further asserted His deity in the presence of hostile skeptics by saying: I and My Father are one (John 10:30 KJV).

Astronaut Jim Irwin of Apollo XV wrote: “God walking on earth is more important than man walking on the moon.” Certainly no feat that man has accomplished in space can compare with the miracle of that moment when God stepped out of eternity into time.

After the prophecy that a child would be born and a Son would be given, there follows a more detailed prophetic ‘résumé’ of this unique Person: “His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace” (Isaiah 9:6-7 NASB). Surely, such an awesome blend of power and purpose would be desirable if one were to become a successful world ruler. Even in today’s world, we search for leaders who not only have the knowledge to do the right thing, but also the power to do it. Some leaders may have known what action should have been taken, but no leader in history has ever had the power and wisdom to produce a state of perpetual peace.

The Prince of Peace has both the knowledge and the power to bring permanent peace to this world. One day Jesus will return to rule on Planet Earth. When that day dawns, every armament factory will be closed; every unexploded nuclear bomb will be defused, and every border guard and soldier will be sent home for good!

Man has already demonstrated how hopelessly inadequate he is to govern the human race. Peace and justice for all must wait for the moment when the Prince of Peace Himself shall sway the scepter of a universal empire! Then men will hammer their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war (Isaiah 2:4 NASB). On that peaceful day: the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14 NASB). There can be no other conclusion to history that would satisfy the God of eternity.

But before that day of universal peace under the direction of the Lord Jesus, the deep and real division among people will be clearly seen. And the coming conflict will be centered around the person of Jesus Christ.

Therefore it is very important that you should be sure who Jesus is, why He came, and what He did for you when He was here.

The book of Genesis and the book of John begin in similar ways. In Genesis we read: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1 NASB). In John we read: In the beginning was the Word…and the Word was God…All things were made by Him (John 1:1, 3 KJV). God, who is called Elohim in Genesis, is referred to as ‘The Word’ in the Gospel of John. Elohim is The Word, and He clothed Himself with flesh to walk among His own creation. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. In its complete text this awesome statement reads:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made…He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name…And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth…(John 1:1-3, 10-12, 14 KJV ).

Like Moses many centuries earlier and like people of all times, the Disciple Philip also desired to know what God was like.

Philip made a special request of Jesus when he said: Lord, show us the Father (John 14:8 NASB). Surprisingly enough, Jesus answered: He who has seen Me has seen the Father (John 14:9 NASB). Such an astonishing reply would make Jesus seem like an idiot or a deceiver, unless He were God Himself. No one would seriously accuse Him of either of the first two. If He were not God, He would be the biggest impostor that the world has ever known. So we must accept that when we look on Jesus we see God. It is at this point—the declaration of who Jesus is—that people begin to part company. In one sense, it is not surprising that when Jesus said: I and the Father are one (John 10:30 NASB), some found in Him the answer to their quest for God. However, others who could not conceive of the possibility of God humbling Himself in such a way reacted with hostility. Jesus attracted some, but He alienated others; though there were those who followed Him, there were others who plotted His death.

Even in His lifetime Jesus divided people. He clearly stated:

He who is not with Me is against Me (Matthew 12:30 NASB).

However, an initial reaction need not be a permanent response.

Let us consider one man who turned from being a foe of Jesus to being His follower. In his early days Saul, a Jewish rabbi, hated the followers of Jesus so much that he persecuted them and even consented to their death. But, after being converted, he spent his remaining years honoring Jesus as his Lord and Master. Eventually, he joyfully suffered great hardship because of his loyalty to Christ. What made the difference?

When Saul was journeying to Damascus, he saw a “great light.” That light was so brilliant that he was temporarily blinded. Saul intuitively knew, however, that he was in the presence of God.

Using the Greek word for Yahweh, he asked: Who art Thou, Lord? God replied: I am Jesus whom you are persecuting (Acts 9:5 NASB). That day Saul learned that Yahweh and Jesus are one.

This revelation changed Saul from being an enemy of Jesus into Paul the Apostle. From that day on, he completely committed his life to the Lord Jesus Christ. Though he suffered much for his faith, he spent the rest of his life spreading the Good News that God had visited Planet Earth. The reality of Jesus Christ in Paul’s life transformed him into the greatest missionary of all times. His letters are full of his convictions that all things were created by, and for, the Lord Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:16 NASB).

As we have seen, the Bible declares that Jesus of Nazareth is God the Son, not just a son of God as Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and many others believe. Nor was He just a prophet of God as Islam teaches. In an effort to include the false teachings of such groups many choose to ignore the revelation that God has given of Himself. This is known as ‘syncretism,’ which is defined in Webster’s Dictionary as the “attempt to combine differing beliefs.”

Hindus, for example, acknowledge ‘Jesus’ by simply adding Him to their shelf alongside their many other ‘gods’. We do well to remember that when Elijah’s God, the true and living God, confronted the pagan idols of Baal, He knocked them flat on their faces before Him. In like manner every man-made and man-conceived god must fall before the Lord Jesus Christ, for He is God the Son, eternally one with the Father and with the Holy Spirit.

Once we understand that Jesus Christ is God, we should have no difficulty believing in His virgin birth, His many miracles, His death and resurrection, His ascension into Heaven, and His soon return to earth in power and glory. Because Jesus Christ is ‘Very God,’ the creator of the universe with all its laws and life-support systems, He transcends every law that He Himself created for His own purposes of love and redemption.

Around the person of Jesus of Nazareth, the world is divided. The separated groups alienated from one another do not consist of the ‘have’s’ and the ‘have not’s,’ nor the politically strong and the politically weak, nor even nations with different ideologies. The real division that exists, which was caused when God visited this earth, is far more fundamental than all of the other issues that divide humanity.

This definitive statement is not an over dramatization of the facts, for the Lord Jesus Himself said:

If God were your Father, you would love Me; for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word. You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar, and the father of lies (John 8:42-44 NASB).

Does it come as a surprise to learn that just as there is a family of believers whose Father is God, so, too, there is a family of unbelievers whose father is the Devil? Not everyone is a child of God. To be in the family of God or in the family of Satan, these are the eternal alternatives for you and for me.

Regardless of how sincere your belief about God may be, you can still be ‘sincerely’ wrong. It is a lie to say that it does not matter what a person believes, provided he is sincere. In like manner, you could eat poison while sincerely believing that it was medicine, but you would still die!

Truly, the human race is divided into two families. Every person belongs to either one or other of these two families: the Family of God or the family of the Devil. It is very important that you know to whose family you belong. And the first step in becoming a member of God’s family is an understanding of who God is and what He has done in giving us His Son, Jesus.

The name ‘Jesus’ means ‘Yahweh is salvation.’ So the angel said to Joseph: …you shall call His name JESUS, for it is He who will save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21 NASB).

Pause to Consider

  1. As long as you are sincere, does it really matter what you believe about God?
  2. What is the ultimate cause of division among people? Is it political, economic, domestic or industrial? Or is it spiritual and eternal?
  3. To which one of the two families that the Lord Jesus described do you want to belong?
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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