Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
Select a thought to read by choosing a collection, the month, and then the day:
“The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ ”
David, in Psalm 14:1
On the car radio, I recently heard a man being interviewed as I traveled overnight to Louisville. This atheist was a highly intelligent person, an internationally known writer and speaker. He was promoting his new book on Thomas Paine, whom this man described as an unrecognized father of America. His stated purpose for writing this book was to demonstrate through the writings of Thomas Paine that the United States was not a Christian nation at its inception, that it is not one now, and that it never will be.
His opinions included the suspicion, shocking to some, that Jesus probably never even really existed. This opinion was not shocking to my ears. When I attended the seminary, I learned that certain Christian scholars themselves hold the same suspicion in their hearts. When I hear things like that, instead of becoming indignant, I feel sad because I know that such men as this atheist have never been touched by God’s power, or heard His voice from heaven, as I have. And if a man has never been touched by God’s power, if he has never heard His voice, he must wonder if Jesus and God are really there. And so, I can respect that atheist and others like him for stating their opinions honestly, more honestly, perhaps, than some who are deeply religious but who also have had no real experience with God.
Paul himself said that no one can say Jesus is Lord except by the holy Ghost. Therefore, the only people on earth who really know who Jesus is are the people who have had a real experience with the Spirit of God.
My father pointed out to me once an important point concerning this. The Scripture is in Psalms 14:1 (repeated in 53:1): “The fool hath said in his heart, ‘There is no God’.” My father pointed out to me that such a fool may with his mouth be saying something quite different from what is in his heart. He may be what men call a “minister of the gospel”, but if he has not been touched by the holy Ghost, that minister cannot help but wonder in his heart if God really exists. My father taught me that such a suspicion is really being pondered in the heart, no matter what a man is saying with his mouth because no man can say Jesus is Lord without a real experience with the holy Ghost.
According to his own testimony, my father himself was a Baptist “minister of the gospel” who, after his Sunday sermon, would often sit in his great chair on the podium, look at the fancy stained-glass windows in his church building, and would have given anything to know whether or not there really was a God.
So, when he says aloud, “There is no God”, the atheist on the radio was, in a way, being more honest than the minister with no experience with God’s Spirit who proclaims that there is a God because doubt is what is in both their hearts. And think about this: there is more hope for an honest man than for a dishonest one. In other words, in some cases, there is more hope for an avowed atheist than for one who professes he knows there is a God but who really does not.
Now, there are many young men and women who are worshiping God in a Christian atmosphere without really knowing that Jesus is Lord; that is, without experiencing the power of God. But they are attempting to worship God with a heart that is seeking God. That is very good for them to do. They may not know that there is a God, but they hope there is, and Hebrews tells us that “those who come to God must believe that He exists, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
I can remember as an 18-year-old senior in High School being in that condition. The Lord had poured out His Spirit in a great way at the South Henderson Church of God. Many lives were changed for the better during that time, including mine. I was even kicked out of a play at school at that time because I chose to attend the revival services rather than go to rehearsals.
During that revival, I remember seeing one particular school friend of mine, Hartwell Hudson, baptized with the holy Ghost during a Sunday morning service, and what an impression watching his joy made on my heart! The pastor there, A. B. Dawsey, made room for us zealous young men to spread our wings and exercise ourselves in the Lord the only way he knew. He reserved for each of us a Wednesday night prayer meeting to deliver a sermon. In the eyes of all those precious people, according to what they had been taught, we young men were at least “saved” and “sanctified”. But some of us did not really even know there is a God. We had no experience with the power of the holy Ghost.
Then, there came a night at Uncle Joe’s house, after we all had gone to bed – Uncle Joe, Aunt Myrtle, and I. In the bed, I was crying out to God in my spirit. I felt almost a painful longing in my chest for God. I was not uttering a sound, but I was seeking God. I had made everything right that I knew to make right, and in my chest was a deep longing for the Lord I had talked about in my sermon at the Church of God, the Lord I had sung about in the choir, and who I had seen do wonderful things for other people, such as my friend Hartwell.
That night, as I lay there in the dark looking up at that ceiling, longing for God, there settled upon me a heavy blanket of warm power from heaven. It was the most real thing I had ever experienced. It was more real than a concrete wall. In comparison to that power, this whole world is nothing but a shadow, a thin fog. I knew that if that power entered into me, the joy would be so great that I would not be able to refrain from running down the street praising God in my pajamas. And the reality of it frightened me beyond words. Then the power lifted and returned to where it had come.
Why God did not fill me with that power then is unknown to me, but I can tell you this. From that experience, I knew there was a God listening and watching me. If there was in my heart any wondering about His existence, God erased it, and His power will do that every time. You cannot talk that knowledge into people’s hearts. That is why I do not become angry with atheists. I pity them because I know that if God wants them, He has what it takes to get them, and if He treats them the way He has treated me in my life, He will have them.
Now, this atheist on the radio was very bold in his ignorance of God. He said that all religion is a sham, a farce, and in the vast majority of cases, I would agree with him because most religion on earth is not based upon experience and knowledge but on superstition and ignorance. But this atheist was a fool because he had come to a conclusion based upon his own lack of experience. He has judged others on the basis of his own ignorance. His universe does not go beyond his own life, and that makes for a very small universe indeed. He was denying the existence of anything beyond his world. That is the hallmark of a fool.
With great heaviness, I thought to myself as he spoke (and he could speak so well), that young people listening to him were sitting ducks for such fools if they have no experience with God’s power. And I prayed for the young people we know, that God would have mercy on them and touch them and innoculate them against the appealing, erudite words of such fools.
Next Time: In A World Without God, Part 2