Last week I briefly mentioned that Genesis 1:1 might contain the four most important words in Scripture: “In the beginning, God…”
The most important thing for your mind to contemplate is the existence of God. Whether you realize it or not, there is no place where the existence of God doesn’t press upon and shape how you live.
The author of Hebrews writes, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (11:6, emphasis mine).
When we consider how people respond to the existence of God, we usually put people in one of two exclusive categories: either they believe in God, or they don’t.
I propose that we broaden that to at least four:
1. People who deny God’s existence: Psalm 14 says that anyone who says in his heart that there is no God is a fool. And Romans 1 explains why. God has made his existence so obvious in creation that you must deny the evidence willfully.
Yet because of the power of spiritual blindness and the self-deception of sin, people will not only argue against God’s existence but will also disrespect and mock those who believe it.
2. People who believe in the concept of god: The lowercase “g” is not a typo. This category of people doesn’t believe in the one true God of the Bible; what they believe in is a “god-concept.”
Sadly, their concept of whatever god they think exists is typically distant, impersonal, unattached, uninvolved, uncaring, inactive, powerless, or without authority. So, naturally, they have little desire to know this type of god, and their “belief” or “faith” makes little to no difference in how they live.
3. People who believe in the God of the Bible: I assume that nearly everyone reading this devotional falls into this category. By grace, you have come to God in confession, surrender, and worship. You study Scripture to know God better and serve him with greater depth and consistency.
The God of the Bible is not an abstract philosophical concept but a divine being with whom you have a relationship because of the righteous life and acceptable sacrifice of Jesus.
4. People who live with Biblical faith … but not always: I will be the first to confess that Paul Tripp falls into both category 3 and 4. If you are humble enough, you will admit this, too. I am intentionally choosing provocative words here, but I would go as far as to say that we all fall into this fourth category of practical atheism.
I’m not talking about a philosophical or theological rejection of the existence of God. What I am referencing is those moments when we think, desire, speak, or act as if God doesn’t exist. Or, that we are more important than He who is infinite from before the beginning.
Somehow, someway, as long as sin still lives inside of us, every faithful follower of Christ fits into this fourth category. You may not have any inconsistencies in your doctrinal understanding of God, yet we all have functional contradictions in how we live out that theology in the places, situations, and relationships of our daily lives.
That one line from the wonderful old hymn, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, captures how practical atheism is not first a denial in the mind; it’s a wandering of the heart.
“Prone to wander—Lord, I feel it—prone to leave the God I love.”
We all must confess this struggle and cry out for protecting, rescuing, and enabling grace.
“Let that grace now, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee […] Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.”
Paul David Tripp
1. Did you ever fall into either of the first two categories: denying God's existence or believing in a "god concept" but not the God of the Bible?
2. When did you first come to recognize that God exists? How, by grace, did you come to believe in the God of the Bible? Celebrate your salvation and spiritual rescue!
3. Read all of Psalm 14. Even though you believe in the God of the Bible and worship his existence, how have you displayed foolish behavior recently?
4. Revisit some of your sinful and selfish thoughts, desires, words, and actions of last week. If, in those moments, you were aware of the existence and presence of God, how would that have changed your behavior?
5. How motivated are you to witness and proclaim the gospel to those who deny God's existence? How can you share the truth of the Living God with those who acknowledge a god concept but are unaware of the qualities of the Lord? Be specific, then be an evangelist this week!