I’ve met many people over the years who tell me that if God would just show up personally, in a visible manifestation of Himself, then they’d believe. When I answer that God did show up on Earth in the person of Jesus Christ about two-thousand years ago, they say, “That’s not good enough!” They want to see Him NOW, today, in front of their very own eyes… then they’d believe.
What do you say to a person who demands a sign? Jesus told his disciples that: “a wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” (Matt. 12:39.) Jesus referred to Jonah because similar to the three days Jonah spent in the belly of a gigantic fish and came out alive, Christ spent three days in the “belly of the earth,” and would come out alive but in a new, resurrected body. And this is exactly why the New Testament accounts were written – to record the story of the God-man (who sacrificed Himself to atone for the sins of the world) to those who weren’t privy to being there firsthand.
The Gospels are the actual accounts of bonafide eye-witnesses of Jesus Christ who saw Him after He’d resurrected. These stories are reliable. Why? Believers trust that God inspired the authors of the Bible, but skeptics don’t buy it. So, from a purely secular point of view, the Gospel accounts are reliable because there are more manuscript copies of the New Testament than any other book in ancient history. This means that the Gospel is the most attested historical book; it’s been authenticated by historians to be a reliable record, even if the events themselves are questioned.* Yet for skeptics, this is where apologetics helps.
Scholars have analyzed if what the documents in the New Testament claim are true or not. One of the best investigators I know who has done this is Jim Wallace, a former cold-case detective. Wallace took his skills of determining the truth of eye witness testimonies to analyze the New Testament accounts. He was looking to prove his atheism and find the accounts to be false. That didn’t happen. Instead, Wallace is now a Christian! His research is fascinating, and he has a free insert on the reliability of the New Testament documents here.
Wallace was the first professor at Biola who taught me that no one should ever believe something based purely on feelings. After all, feelings can deceive us at times. “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” (Jer. 17:9 NLT.)
Faith should be based not only on feelings and experiences, but on good reasoning and evidence. Like Wallace, everyone should investigate the truth claims of Christianity to develop a confidence in why it is true. A true seeker, not a skeptic who just wants to argue, should learn the evidence of Biblical reliability as a start. Once they realize these testimonies are true, how can you help them to seek God and to know Him?
Here are 5 ways that have helped me:
#1 Pray & Then Read the Bible
One awesome way that the Lord reveals Himself today is through His Word, the Bible. When a seeker honestly ponders the Word of God, tell them to pray before reading it, asking God to reveal truth. The seeker may not have a ‘lightning bolt’ of confirmation, but she may notice a subtle depth of knowing that begins to happen. She reads a passage and now it seems to make more sense. She develops an understanding that she didn’t have before. This is how the Spirit of God works. It’s rarely a “knock yourself off a donkey” experience. It’s usually more subtle, and we need to quiet ourselves to perceive it.
Finding God is an intentional act—it happens when we seek Him with all our hearts (Jer. 29:13). Those who don’t find God may want Him to “perform” for them. My dad was such a person. I remember telling him all the amazing things God was doing in my life, and he claimed that he wanted those kinds of experiences, too. Yet, I never saw him actively pursue God. Instead, he wanted God to give him a “Damascus Road” experience and knock him off his donkey. That never happened. As far as I know, my dad went to his grave never finding God.
#2 Stay Humble
What does the Bible mean when it says that people must seek God with all their hearts? First, and foremost, we must be humble. People can’t demand anything from God. It just doesn’t work that way. After all, He is Holy and the Creator of everything – even the very breath in our lungs. Acting entitled, like He owes us something, is an attitude God typically won’t honor.
“…But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.” (Isaiah 66:12.)
#3 Be Open
God often uses creation to reveal Himself. The beauty of a gorgeous sunset, a majestic mountaintop, or the crashing waves of the bluest ocean can affect your soul by recognizing God’s design. Sadly, modern science has reduced everything to parts, as if nothing is very special. Science has explained why that mountain is there, we know why the ocean is blue, and we realize a gorgeous sunset is simply the sun’s rays reflecting off of atmospheric conditions. That doesn’t sound inspiring when you stick creation in the scientific test-tube of analysis. But recent discoveries in various scientific fields are showing that maybe we should not view the Earth’s resources as so ordinary. We’ve yet to find another planet like ours that can sustain human life, and the more we know about the Earth, the more science is recognizing that life on this planet is finely-tuned. Earth is very rare indeed! This should cause an attitude of awe and gratitude.
“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!”( Romans 11:33)
Another important aspect of seeking God is to be open to the spiritual realm. This means we can’t “intellectualize everything away” as mere ‘coincidences’ or ‘good-luck’. I’ve found that the Lord can show Himself (not a literal manifestation) through a generous person who demonstrates the selfless love of Christ. God uses people to bring about His blessings all the time! Be open to a variety of ways God may reveal Himself.
#4 Desire Prophecy
This is definitely a more controversial revelation of God, but the gift of prophecy can impact a person’s life in a way few other things can. Lots of apologists I know rarely mention this because, frankly, it is a spiritual gift that has often been misused. Yet, Paul encourages the Corinthians to: “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy.” (1 Cor. 14:1.)
Now I get it — sometimes people go way wrong using this spiritual gift. Some of their theology may be off, too, or they just plain get things wrong. But when they get it right? Oh, yeah… it’s soooo good! I’ve had a handful of prophetic words spoken over me in the 30 years I’ve been walking with Jesus. Some of the prophecies were so personal that I knew God really did know me in great detail (just like the number of hairs on my head – Luke 12:7). Those prophetic prayers must have been inspired by the Holy Spirit. So, prophecy is another way God reveals Himself.
#5 Be Real
Be real with God. He knows everything about you anyway, so hiding anything from Him is pointless. True seekers will find God when they are open to how He works through His Word, creation, circumstances, or ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Last but not least, faith is required. We can know a lot about the evidences of Christianity to make a reasonable choice to place our faith in Christ, but we can’t know everything absolutely. That is something some skeptics do not like! They want all the answers but none will be given to them with that kind of attitude.
“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists, and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:6
What are some ways that you’ve earnestly sought God and found Him?
(*) Historians, believers and non-believers alike, agree on the attestation of the New Testament, but disagree on whether what was recorded actually happened. Non-believing historians look at the accounts as probable legendary stories. However, many scholars of ancient literature state that the stories do not read like typical myths or legends—they read like eye witness accounts. Plus, there are too many embarrasing issues included in these testimonies; something that legends would not include. For more about this, read the blog I wrote on “odd verses” in the Bible here.