“I like to have fun and a lot of Christians seem like duds.”
I could have written that quote. As a high school freshman, I wanted nothing more than to have fun. 45 years ago, when I boarded the bus headed to Young Life‘s Saranac Village, I was hung over from the night before. And like the headline, I loved beer! But I most certainly did not love Jesus.
My sole purpose for going to camp was to meet cute guys. So not drinking and hearing about Jesus all week was just something I would endure. However, I was totally blindsided by how much fun I was having without being drunk. When I finally figured out that my new friends were completely amazing not because they hailed from Grand Rapids, Michigan, but because they had the abundant life of Christ, well, I was suddenly all ears to hear about “this Jesus.”
“I have a deep faith in God, I have accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior and while the negatives listed above may make it seem otherwise, I try to live my life for Him.”
I could have written that quote, too. But I didn’t. So thank you, Scott Sauls, for sharing Jeff Hays’ “personal reflection — chiefly written for his children and his spiritually curious friends — about why Jesus and the Christian worldview make so much sense to him.” “I find Jeff’s thoughts to be fiercely winsome while also being true to my own experience.” I could not agree more! (Original post from Scott’s website found here)
I LOVE BEER AND JESUS
By Jeff Hays
I really like beer and drink too much of it. I yell at my kids way too much. I love beautiful women and admire them too closely and too often. I am crude, blunt and often times my sense of humor is only funny to me (and that is really all I care about anyway). I am a control freak, can blame and be critical. I am cynical, can be grumpy and, more often than not, people annoy me. And last, but not least, I constantly judge everyone I come in contact with — weird hair, ugly, geek, bad clothes, loud mouth, bad parent, and those are just a sample of the kind of things that have crossed my mind walking through the airport this morning. The list goes on but I think I have hit the highlights.
On the more positive side, I am fairly generous. I eat healthy and exercise regularly. I am a pretty good husband because Leeann makes it so easy to be and I adore her. I am confident, organized and fairly intelligent in a common sense sort of way. I am aggressive, competitive, and a risk taker. I am loyal to my family and close friends and a secret is safe with me. I am a very involved father and husband. And finally, I have a deep faith in God, I have accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior and while the negatives listed above may make it seem otherwise, I try to live my life for Him.
So Why Jesus?
The question is complicated as the information needed to address this question starts for me with ‘is there a God’ and ends with ‘when confronted with all of the religious options available, why do I side with Jesus?’
So, is there a God? I am not a scientist or a philosopher so I will not spend my time trying to prove creation over other alternatives. I will say that when I examine the evidence available and consider the alternative explanations of how this world began, a creator theory seems to hold as much possibility as anything else. I am not sure exactly what the creation looked liked, so I will leave the argument about big bangs or other ideas of the beginning to people smarter than me. To me, the important thing is that I believe that there is a creator and I have found no scientific evidence that would overturn that belief.
I will also admit that I have seen no scientific evidence that would completely convince me of a creator. What ultimately brings me down on the side of creation are some of the more subtle factors like the miracle of childbirth, a beautiful sunset, the mystery of the ocean or the vastness of the universe. The organized and deliberate nature of how this world works leaves me with a sense that there is someone pulling the strings. It seems too perfect and beautiful to be an accident. But what really pushes me over the edge of belief that there is a creator is something even more subtle. As I grow older I have realized that we all suffer from a bizarre empty place in our being. Something is just not right — we are missing something. Famous philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal described this hole in our heart when he said:
‘What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.’
Consider the amount of alcohol we consume, food we eat, drugs we take, antidepressants we ingest, sex we crave and money we spend trying to feed the void. I have never completely filled my void and I have tried a lot of the void fillers I have mentioned above. The only time I have temporary relief from the void is when I am centered on God and serving others. When I am truly focused on God, my void diminishes and I feel unbelievably whole. Since nothing else has ever brought relief of the void, it leads me to believe that the void is a spiritual need — which ultimately leads me to a creator.
So if we have a creator, why Christianity? I told my wife a few months back that there are two groups of people in general that irritate me more than any other — rich people and Christians. This is ironic since my chosen profession centers around rich people and my chosen faith is Christianity. In the public square, some who claim to be Christians come across as hateful, self righteous, two-faced, hypocritical, conceited, closed minded idiots. From gay bashing to racism, Christians have often been at the forefront. On a more selfish level, my dislike of Christians may stem from the fact that I like to have fun and a lot of Christians seem like duds.
As I read the bible, Jesus’ life and behavior did not jive with the self righteous, hateful bores for which the modern day ‘Christian’ is known. Jesus not only made himself accessible to everyone but he went out of his way to associate with those that society shunned like the non-religious, the adulteresses, the sick, the poor. That doesn’t sound like the ‘religious right’ does it? Jesus didn’t judge or shame, Jesus loved. His greatest two commands are ‘Love God’ and ‘Love your neighbor.’ Conspicuously absent are commands like avoid gay people or be divisive political activists. And I think it is safe to say that His life was anything but boring.
Ironically, many of the Christians I know humbly model their lives after Jesus. They care for people and put others above themselves. Whether going to areas recently struck by disaster to deliver aid, traveling internationally to areas filled with disease or working in their local communities serving the needy and unwanted – their lives are anything but boring. Unfortunately, these Christians are not typically the ones making headlines so the stereotype of a self righteous, hateful Christian lives on and continues to mute the message of our loving, accepting Savior. And just like any stereotype, the few taint our view of the whole. By the way, this is true about rich people too.
So why do I identify with a religion that often irritates me? The reason — my mama told me to. At least that was it initially. But eventually I had to determine how to fill my spiritual void and ultimately I landed not on religion, but on Jesus. Which finally leads me back to my original question — Why Jesus?
Jesus is the most written about, recognized figure in history. Almost every religion recognizes Jesus as a God or a great man or a prophet. Even our calendar is divided based upon Jesus’ birth. The real question is not if he existed but rather are the claims made about Jesus in the Bible true. Is He Lord and Savior?
The following are a few of the reasons I believe Jesus is Lord:
- Why would a man claim to be God? The typical answer would be for power, fame or money. Jesus ran from these. Instead he was poor, hated and ultimately humiliated and killed for these claims.
- If someone was going to create a persona for people to follow, Jesus is the farthest thing from what one would choose. A poor kid from a single mom that has absolutely no social status is the person you lift up as God? It makes no sense, yet his story has affected the lives of billions of people.
- Intellectuals much smarter than me have examined the evidence and come to the conclusion that Jesus is Lord. Simon Greenleaf was a Harvard professor that contributed extensively to the establishment of Harvard Law School. His book, ‘Treatise on the Law of Evidence,’ still serves as a basis for the rules of evidence of our legal system. Greenleaf tried to disprove Jesus’ resurrection using evidence and as a result of his inability to do so, converted from atheist to a follower of Christ. C.S. Lewis, an Oxford and Cambridge professor also turned from atheist to believer. Christians founded the majority of the Ivy League schools. Many other brilliant scientists and professors have been and are believers. The acceptance of Christ by so many intellectual giants gives me the confidence to believe in Jesus without feeling like I have to ‘check my brain at the door.’
- 11 of Jesus’ 12 apostles died a Martyr’s death spreading the word of Jesus. Why would anyone give their own life unless they had seen the resurrected Jesus? Who would die to perpetuate something that, as eyewitnesses, they would have known was a lie?
- Jesus’ message is based upon total unselfishness and humility. This message can only be a message from God because every married woman knows that these two traits are impossible for men. There is no way that a human could have inspired the Bible. The basic premise is other worldly.
- The accuracy of prophesy in the Old Testament written several hundred years prior to Jesus is incredible. Over the years I have had the opportunity to learn about the OT from someone I consider to be a biblical scholar. I am blown away by the consistency of the Old Testament and how it points to Jesus. Once you crack the OT code, you see Jesus everywhere.
- Finally, it comes down to faith. The Bible or theologians cannot answer all of the questions. At some point, I have to take a leap of faith. This does not make me stupid or uneducated. Can I unequivocally state that God created man or that Jesus existed? Can an atheist unequivocally state that life started as an amoeba in a pond of water or that Julius Caesar existed? Atheists and Christians alike have an element of faith involved when establishing their belief system. Every theory, whether theological or scientific requires that we accept some unknowns as truths before we can believe.
These are compelling arguments that have helped me land on Jesus as my Savior. Unfortunately, I believe many in this world that are exposed to these same truths, that could come to the same conclusion, decide not accept Jesus as Savior because of two common misperceptions. The first and biggest inhibitor is the stereotypical Christian (see description above). Who in their right mind would want to be associated with that group? The second issue is ‘The Rules.’ There is a perception that if you are a Christian you have to follow ridiculous rules. As I intellectually consider some of the more disliked biblical principles that discourage sex before marriage or getting drunk, it does seem like the cons of participating in these behaviors pretty heavily outweighs the pros. We could all do without hangovers, discussion with our spouses about former girlfriends, money troubles, vengeful relationship, etc. in our lives. Is it possible that our creator knows what will bring us happiness or help us avoid hardship and that could be the focus of these principles? Could helping someone less fortunate or doing something for someone else be more fulfilling that hammering back beers or hooking up with a stranger? My mind and the commercials on TV tell me ‘NO,’ but if I look back to the times in my life when I was most content, it was not the morning after a great party, it was when I gave of myself to someone in need.
Admittedly, I am a better preacher than a practitioner which is why I started out this narrative with who I am. I have issues. I make a ton of mistakes because I am brainwashed daily by the same messages and conventional wisdom that everyone else is. But for brief moments, there are times when I actually use my ‘fairly intelligent in a common sense sort of way’ brain and it seems so ridiculously simple — Love God and Love My neighbor equals peace and contentment. And yet, that moment of brilliance quickly fades and I am back to chasing ‘happiness.’ Luckily for me, in spite of my stupidity and complete inability to follow ‘the rules,’ I am ultimately saved because of the grace and love extended to me by my Lord.
What if I am wrong? Well, if it is another religion that offers the way to eternal salvation or damnation, I am toast regardless. Unlike Christianity that offers the free gift of salvation to any race, color or creed that believes, most religions require that you earn salvation through good works, and I am way too much of a screw up to make the cut. But what if I am wrong about God and Jesus and the truth is that there really is no creator? How does that play out in my life? The way I see it, I will ‘waste my time’ serving a non-existent God whose fake philosophy is based on love. A non-existent God whose fake book tells me that my life should be about love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. A God whose principles will make me a better man, husband, father, and friend, regardless of whether or not He is real. I also get to believe that at my death I have an eternal life in paradise. The bible says it best when it says in I Corinthians ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ For me, there is no fear in death, but even more amazing, having this eternal backstop allows me to live with no fear in life! But He is real and I challenge anyone with doubts to do what me and my fellow intellectual giant (J/K!), Simon Greenleaf have done which is to explore the question. You have nothing to lose and literally everything to gain!
Watch: Pete Briscoe – What’s so great about the Bible
Listen: What A Beautiful Name (Lyric Video) – Hillsong Worship
Rooted in Truth Scripture: For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. John 1:17-18 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. Isaiah 53:7, 9-12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said,“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” John 8:58 …Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Mark 14:61-62
Growing In Love Practical Application: I believe choosing sides between truth and love is choosing to know only half of Jesus. It has led to division in the church that grieves the heart of God. Pastor Scott Sauls addresses this in Jesus Outside the Lines: a way forward for those who are tired of taking sides. Scott threads the needle between truth and love so well, I recommend it over and over again. Chapter headings include: Red State or Blue State? For the Unborn or for the Poor? Personal Faith or Institutional Church? Money Guilt or Money Greed? Affirmation or Critique? Accountability or Compassion? Hypocrite or Work in Progress? Sexual Freedom or Chastity? Hope Or Realism? Self Esteem or God-Esteem? This book will help you appreciate those on the “other side” of the church and realize how much we need each other to be rooted in truth, growing in love and fully reflect Christ.
To the Grand Rapids, Michigan Young Lifers at Saranac Village in 1972, I don’t remember your names, but I will never forget how God used you to bring me to faith in Jesus!
(if you can identify any of these people, please contact me below.)