Top 10 Ways the Bible Changed My life: 3. It Explains Why Humans Are the Way They Are
Psychology is the study of mind and behavior. I could go to school and spend years studying the greats like Freud, Pavlov, and Carl Jung…or I could just pick up and read the Bible. I’m not knocking those men or their work. But who better to find out the truth about ourselves, than from the One who created us?
God made humans in his image. That alone should give you some indication that we are more than just mere “creatures”. The Book of Genesis teaches us that God gave us dominion over all other creatures on the planet. I’m pointing this out not to rile up animal lovers…but to emphasize how much God favors us.
And what if I told you that not only did he create us in his image, he also embedded in us the feelings, instincts, and a sense of right and wrong? How many times have you heard this?: “I’m not a Christian. I’m not a believer, but I’m still a good person. You can be a moral person without being a Christian!”
Not only have I heard it, I’ve actually seen examples of it. I’ve met self-proclaimed Atheists who almost put me to shame in the way they live their lives, how helpful they are, self-sacrificing, putting others before themselves. They almost seem more Christian than myself, yet they don’t believe in God, Jesus or the Bible. It’s a bit strange, no?
In reading the Bible from cover to cover, I’ve come to understand why this is the case. In my last point about the “World Making Sense,” I explained why things are happening. The Book of Deuteronomy lists the cause and effect where God lays out good things that will happen if we obey, and bad things if we disobey.
Then there was the question of why God made these rules to begin with. I made an illustration about a loving father looking out for us, his children as we navigated the world. But really it’s much deeper than that.
The Apostle Paul teaches in several scriptures that, as the Grand Creator, God imprinted his moral law into the conscience of every human being ever created whether they know of him or not. This means all the people who ever lived, the natives in America who never knew of a world beyond the Atlantic, the Chinese, the Japanese… all of mankind was not only created in Jehovah’s image, but they knew right and wrong because God’s moral law was embedded in them. (Acts 14:16-17, Romans 1:20, Romans 2:13-15)
You could argue that “no,” it’s all about common sense and the golden rule of doing onto others how you’d like to be treated. But how did you receive such wisdom and common sense to think that way? Experience? Trial and error? Passed down from your parents? Who passed it down to them?
In Acts 14:16-17, Paul says that “In past generations, God allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways, yet he did not leave himself without witness…”
In Romans 2:13-15, Paul explains, “For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. For when Gentiles (people who aren’t Jews) who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them.”
What this shows, as Pastor John MacArthur notes in his study bible, is that our conscience has an innate warning system when we’re doing what’s wrong, regardless of whether or not you’ve been taught the Scriptures. When you do what’s wrong, it’s this trigger that activates in your body because you’re choosing to ignore or disobey that moral law. If you do this enough times, you become desensitized to your own conscience, eventually silencing it.
Instead of looking at the Bible as a book of rules, it might be better to see it as a book of warning signs. Why would God give us these warnings?
Because he knows us. God has feelings and emotions. He gave us those same feelings and emotions in varying levels. In reading the Bible I’ve come to understand his judgment. Without the feelings we have, there’s no way we’d even come close to grasp his logic or reason.
For instance, in the Old Testament (which teaches us about God’s character), there’s instances of God more or less sanctioning the destruction and genocide of people inhabiting the land of Canaan, the land he promised to give to the Israelites as part of a covenant he made with Abraham.
Genocide is awful, right? We compare it to the Holocaust or the Nanjing Massacre and no matter how many ways you spin it, there’s nothing we can say that could ever justify those atrocities.
But if it’s sanctioned and ordered by God, then can we say it’s justified? What is justice? In its simplest terms, justice is fairness. It’s not fair for you to take my things or my life for no reason other than you want it, so that’s not justice.
However, if we’re to believe that God is the epitome of righteousness and justice, then we must also believe that his actions are righteous and just.
So when God told King Saul in 1st Samuel 15 to “go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.” We have to believe there’s a good reason why God ordered this done. Even if God provides no explanation.
Consider his servant Job. With God’s permission, Satan stripped Job of all his wealth and killed most of his family in a windstorm, leaving Job with his life, suffering day after day with boils only to be guilt-tripped by so-called friends. At the end of the ordeal, God never went to Job and said, “Hey man. Sorry about that. See what had happened was…”
No. Job never knew the reason why this had happened to him, yet he had faith and put his trust in God that his ways were just.
Consider Abraham…after Abraham and Sarah went 99 years of life without a child between them, God finally gives them Isaac. And before Isaac had become a full-grown man, God tells Abraham to take Isaac up to an alter to be sacrificed. And Abraham is prepared to do it. Abraham was prepared to sacrifice the son he’s waited his entire life to have, simply because God asked.
All this sounds cruel doesn’t it. It makes no sense. What kind of God does this?
What if I told you that the Amalekites that God told Saul to destroy…when the Israelites had come out of Egypt, the Amalekites attacked and antagonized God’s people. Think about it, the Israelites were in the wilderness. They had just escaped from Egyptian bondage, toiling in the wilderness. Then here comes this nomadic tribe raiding and attacking the Israelites. God saw this and out of love and a strong desire to protect his people, a strong desire to avenge his people, said in Exodus 17:14 “I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.”
What if I told you that God knew Job so well, that he knew Job could withstand the suffering and disaster. In Job 1:8, God himself said “Have you considered my servant, Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” God himself said this about one of us humans. Do you think he would have approved of his 6,000 plus livestock getting wiped out, or the deaths of all ten of his first children if he didn’t think Job could handle it?
And what if I told you that Abraham heard a voice call out to him in Gen 12:1-3. Where God tells this man to leave his country and his kindred to a distant land he planned to give him. He promises to bless Abraham and make his name great. God gave him Isaac though Sarah was ninety-nine years old. God took Abraham to Sodom and Gomorrah where Abraham witnessed with his own two eyes a spectacular destruction the likes of which no one has ever seen. If this almighty God told you to go up and sacrifice your son, knowing full well what God was capable of, which of you would tell me you’d disobey?
Could it be that in Abraham’s close personal friendship with God, Abraham trusted that the sacrifice of Isaac would have been for a good reason? Could it be that Abraham had such faith that he knew if God wanted, he could easily have resurrected Isaac?
“Well, why did God allow those things to happen to his servants to begin with?”
For us! Don’t you see? Remember when Jesus came across the man blind from birth and his disciple asked, “Rabbi, who sinned? This man or his parents, that he was born blind.”
Jesus said neither. But the man existed “so that the works of God might be manifest in him.” (John 9: 3)
What this means is that God used these servants so that all of us, can see and know God’s power and works. Think about it. What was it that the Pharisees kept asking of Jesus? “Give us a sign that you are the Messiah.”
What do we hear from skeptics and non-believers today? “Give us evidence that God exists. I don’t believe in God because there’s no proof.”
We live in times where we don’t see seas being parted down the middle. No one’s been resurrected after being dead for three days in over 2,000 years. God knows who we are better than we know ourselves. The Bible is for us who haven’t seen, and yet believe.
In reading the Bible and taking it to heart, we become witnesses to what has happened to those who came before us. Like a toddler to big brothers, we witnessed their pain, their suffering, their sacrifice, their adversity and how they overcame. In witnessing what Job and Abraham went through, we learn the lessons about God’s character and ourselves.
Look at the MeToo Movement. #BelieveAllWomen. If I hadn’t read the Bible and stumbled across the false allegations Potiphar’s wife levied against Joseph, I imagine I would’ve been ten times more frustrated with those movements. But in so doing, I’ve become very grateful that the false accusations I faced didn’t land me in prison for three years the way it did Joseph.
Get it? When you’ve come to know who God is and how he imprinted in us more than just his appearance, I won’t say you’re no longer upset or angered by the injustices going in the world, but more so it’s easier for you to relax and let go of the injustices of the world. It also helps you feel less shame for all the God given emotions we feel.
Hate, anger, rage, jealousy, envy, spite, selfishness. Those are all negative emotions, yes? So why do we have them? Could it be that God gave us these emotions to use as tools? Like a hammer, you can use it to construct and build something up, or to destroy something. The Bible teaches us to avoid some of these emotions, but God knows we have them. They can be powerful motivators to uplift us and prompt us to forge ahead. And in reading the Bible, I believe you can be taught to use these emotions properly.
I’ll leave you with this. In Acts 14:15-17, the Apostle Paul was in the city of Lystra in present day Turkey. After performing a miracle where Paul cured a cripple who, since birth, was never able to walk, the people tried to worship Paul and his companion Barnabas as visiting Gods.
Paul then rebuked the people of Lystra, saying “Why are you doing these things? We are also men of like nature with you and we bring you good news that you should turn away from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them.”
And in verse 16, Paul said… “In past generations, he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways, yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.”
Verse 16 tells me that just because the Bible focuses on the Israelites and his people throughout the majority of the Scriptures, it doesn’t mean he hasn’t had a hand in the lives of people of all nations.
So when I encounter Atheists and non-believers who seem to be good, moral, upstanding people…it makes sense. They may not believe and I won’t offend them by shoving my belief down their throat, but I know that all good people with a strong moral code of what’s right and wrong, are merely adhering to the principles God put in all our hearts.