Fueled by concern about the spiritual state of post-Depression youth, mass evangelism exploded onto the American scene in the 1940s in the form of Youth for Christ rallies. Thousands of young people streamed to arenas to see the programs, which included preaching, music, and various acts. Youth for Christ was becoming a North American phenomenon.
One of the leaders in this movement was a young man from Canada, Charles Templeton. Born in 1915, Templeton converted to Christianity in 1936 as a teenager and became an evangelist.
Billy Graham and Charles Templeton met in the spring of 1954. Templeton and Graham were soon preaching at youth For Christ rallies all across North America.
Soon, the movement became so popular and widespread that a team was selected to take their message to Europe. For five weeks, they preached all over the continent. They shared the pulpit, preaching each night to large enthusiastic crowds.
When they returned home, many thought Templeton would go on to be the most successful evangelist of the 20th century. He was even listed among those best used of God by the National Association of Evangelicals. Everywhere he went he set attendance records. His days were filled with excitement.
Yet despite the success of his ministry he found himself facing a growing dilemma. He began to face doubts that challenged and sometimes refuted the central beliefs of his Christian faith. Templeton’s’ doubts gradually eroded his belief in the validity of the Bible, the deity of Jesus, and the existence of a loving God. In 1957, after a long struggle with doubt, Templeton declared himself an agnostic. (Agnosticism is the view that the existence or non-existence of any deity is unknown and possibly unknowable.)
Templeton warned Graham that it was ‘intellectual suicide’ to not question the Bible and to go on preaching God’s Word as authoritative.
In 1996 he published his final book, “Farewell to God,” stating his reason for rejecting the Christian faith. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in the latter part of the 1990s and died from complications of the disease in 2001.
1. DOES TRUTH EXIST?
In order to even have this conversation about the truth of God’s Word we need to know whether or not truth exists to be found. With any increase in knowledge, there needs to be a certain amount of belief in the teacher. You cannot know the truth unless you first believe there is truth to be known. You cannot refute truth without believing that truth exists.
Perhaps our biggest aid in finding if truth exists is to go to the skeptics. The skeptics are those who claim the Bible is not true. Skeptics claim God did not create the world and that it evolved. Skeptics claim ancient peoples and towns never existed. Skeptics claim there never was a man Jesus Christ. Skeptics claim Jesus never rose from the dead and it cannot be proven otherwise. When the skeptics search for these things and find them, whether in history, science, archaeology, and so forth, it shows that truth does exist.
TRUTH DOES EXIST.
2. IF TRUTH EXISTS, WHAT IS IT? WHO DO I BELIEVE?
When someone you mistrust and often lies tells you something, it creates doubt rather than belief.
If someone tells you that Nelson Miller lives in Canada, you may or may not believe it. If someone else tells you that I live in Missouri, you will be confused. And if someone else declares that I lives in Pittsburgh, you will be very unsure of who to believe. At this point it may be wise to ask me personally where I live.
GO TO THE AUTHOR AND SOURCE OF TRUTH.
3. WHO IS THE AUTHOR AND SOURCE OF TRUTH?
Hebrews 6:18 [it is impossible for God to lie] That sound like truth to me!
Jesus Christ said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
“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.” “…but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.”
“If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.”
If God is the author of Truth, He deserves a closer look.
GOD IS THE AUTHOR OF TRUTH.
4. IS THE BIBLE TRUTH?
The external evidences for the truth of God’s Word are massive! An approach to this topic could be to spend countless weeks of seminary sifting through the reigning evidences in history, archeology, astronomy, physics, science, geology, and so forth. All research points to the extraordinary accuracy of the Bible. But I prefer an alternative approach – that of knowing the author personally.
The Bible claims that its author is God. If God is the author of the Bible, and we already discovered that God is truth, then naturally the Bible is truth.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
If you believe the Bible, then you believe in God. If you believe in God, you believe in His Word. There is no use believing one without the other. It’s like saying I believe in *so and so* but I don’t believe anything they say. Oh, but I believe in them.
John claims to have tangibly experience the Word of God in I John 1:1 “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life.”
YES, IF GOD IS THE AUTHOR OF THE BIBLE, THEN THE BIBLE IS TRUTH, AND ITS TRUTH CAN BE PROVEN.
5. DO YOU BELIEVE IN GOD?
Hebrews 11:6 “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is…”
The way to any truth is often narrow and specific. Getting to know God personally is the best way to believe the Bible. Jesus strongly desires a relationship with each of us. And the best way to develop belief in God is to read and meditate on what He has to say.
Take the Buddha out of Buddhism and you still have Buddhism. Take the prophet out of Islam and still have the teachings of Islam in the Quran. But take Jesus out of Christianity and you have nothing and the Bible is nonexistent. Christianity is all about Jesus. You cannot remove Jesus from it. It separates Christianity as a relationship from religious systems.
Belief in the Bible is like walking down the sidewalk. None of us worry that suddenly the concrete will just disintegrate and collapse under our feet. And why is that? Perhaps it is because you know that concrete is solid, that there is solid ground under the concrete, and that such a collapse has never happened before. The more you walk on sidewalks, the greater your trust in the concrete will be. This is like the Bible. I believe in its foundation, God. The more you spend time with Him, the more you trust Him. In fact, it is ok to come to the point that you take all of God’s Word without question. Just like you probably never think about the sidewalk collapsing in front of you, we should never think of God’s Word with doubt.
One of my favorite testimonies of faith is found in the book of Daniel, and may this be the testimony of each of us. I believe in the God that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego believed in when they said “our God is able to deliver us from this fire, and even if He doesn’t we will not serve other gods.”
Charles Templeton admitted that he strayed from his beliefs when He became too busy to have a relationship with the God he used to preach about. Does that sound like you?
THE GOSPEL MESSAGE
Do you believe that God exists? Do you believe he created the entire world, including us? Do you believe he loves each one of us personally and sent His only Son to come to this sinful earth to save sinners? If your answer is yes, it should dramatically affect your life.
6. WHAT IS LIFE LIKE AFTER BELIEF?
Believing prompts action; it directly follows. Suppose you were sitting in a building that was on fire and you feel the heat, smell the smoke, and see the flames. This should cause you to believe the building is on fire. If you really do believe it, you will take the necessary step of exiting the building. Likewise, it just doesn’t make sense to say you believe God and His Word but fail to act on some part of it.
If you stay in the building, you will face death. And worse, you will lead others into the fire. (Emergency rescue workers/firemen). But if you run, you will lead them to safety.
If we believe in God and His Word, we will live different lives. We will magnify the Creator!
Jesus said that only those who obey His Word really love Him. Obedience and action each are core ingredients to faith.
“Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
If you scream for insight and call loudly for understanding, if you search it out as you would hidden treasures, then the Lord will be awesome of you, and you will come into possession of the knowledge of God.
Let us go forth walking in the Spirit of God, in the truth of His Word.