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.
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"Ask, and it shall be given to you. . . ."
Jesus, in Matthew 7:7
From a Broadcaster newsletter by John David Clark, Sr., August, 1988
A few years ago, when people were signing up for my Old Testament class at our local Community College, I received some friendly warnings concerning a lady named Minerva who had registered for the course. "She will drive you up the wall with her questions," they told me.
Little did those people know that I longed for just that sort of person to be in my classes. Questions are like mortar in the wall of education, and Minerva's class would be very much indebted to her for her contribution in holding the class together. When Minerva's class was under way, however, I soon discovered why Minerva was persona non grata in certain Bible study groups. It was because she dared to ask . . . "The Question"! If there is anything that intimidates believers who don't yet know the truth, it is . . . "The Question."
"The Question " enters into the mind of every person who thinks on divine matters, yet many fear to voice it, or even ponder upon it for long at a time. Actually, it is the Spirit of the Lord that causes this penetrating question to arise in a person's heart, because God wants us to know His wonderful answer.
If you are fainthearted, you may want to turn back now, because I am about to print "The Question" right here, right now, in public, right before your eyes! You may want to call your spouse, or a friend, or even your pastor, so that you won't be alone when you read "The Question". Are you ready? Are you sitting down? Hold on! Here is "The Question"!
How do those who believe in Jesus know for certain that they, and they alone have found the only way to eternal life?
When Minerva dared to ask "The Question" during one of our Old Testament classes, it caused a discernable tenseness to fill the air. No one moved. Why, you'd think that she had intruded into the forbidden "most holy" room of Solomon's temple!
"How do we know," she asked in all sincerity, "that the Japanese are wrong in their religion, or that the way of Buddha is not acceptable to God, or that God didn't speak to Mohammed and show him a way for His people, just as acceptable as the way Jesus taught?"
Yes, now I clearly understood why some concerned believers warned me about Minerva. Now I could clearly see why they were so irritated by her. Oh, how she must have put a damper on some prayer meetings by asking . . . "The Question"! You should know, by the way, that Minerva was completely sincere in her asking. To her beautifully sincere mind, there could be no harm in asking the people of the Lord to help her to understand how she could really know Jesus was Lord of all. It is, after all, a perfectly reasonable desire to want to know for sure if one is worshiping God the right way.
Far from being harmful, there is great benefit to be had by asking "The Question" of the Lord's people, but because many of God's children do not know the proper response to "The Question", they often become indignant or exasperated with the one who dares to ask it, putting on a thin disguise of righteous indignation when it is asked, as if the questioner is contaminating their holy ears with an unholy question. This typical reaction to "The Question" has a chilling effect upon honest and inquisitive minds--an intimidation against tough inquiry. And it leaves a wrong impression of God, as if He can't stand up to serious examination. But God longs for an honest soul to come to Him and ask, seek, and knock on His door with sincere, tough questions. It was the Lord, you will remember, who implored men to come and reason with Him (Isa.1:18), not vice-versa. It was the Lord, in Malachi 3:10, who challenged man to "Prove Me!"
God is pleased to have sincere and tough questions asked of Him, and when believers discourage people from asking such questions, it can only be because they don't know God and His truth well enough to answer it plainly, and are ashamed to admit it.
But what is the truth? What is God's answer to . . . "The Question"? Here are some of the answers Christians often give to the few who dare to ask "The Question":
(1) One must simply "take it by faith" and assume he is being told the truth about God. But this is a counsel of despair. "The Question" being asked is really just another way of saying, "How do I know that this is the truth about God?" Surely, there is a better answer than, "Take it by faith". This is an ungodly, nonsensical response to a sincere question. The notion that the person being taught must "take by faith" what he is taught is unscriptural; it is not the way of Jesus. To "take by faith" what a religious leader says is how one becomes a Buddhist, or a Muslim, or a Christian, or anything else of earth; it is not how one becomes a child of God.
(2) An empty tomb near Jerusalem proves that Jesus has risen from the dead and is Lord of all. That silly answer trivializes the faith of Christ, for it is starkly clear that there is not a person on this earth who knows whether or not the tomb men claim was Jesus' burial place is really the one in which he was buried. And even if it was his actual burial place, how can we know he literally arose, and not that thieves or wild animals, or even his disciples, carried away his corpse (as his disciples in their own time were falsely accused of doing)?
(3) It is written in the Bible and, so, that proves that Jesus is Lord is what lawyers call "begging the question." The very question is, "How do we know the Bible is true?" We prove nothing by telling people that the Bible is true because we think that it is true. Muslims think that the Koran, Islam's "holy book", is true. The Mormons think "The Book of Mormon" is true. What, for the person seeking to know which claims are legitimate, separates the gospel of Jesus Christ from all false ways of serving our Creator?
Tomorrow: The answer to "The Question"!