THE GOOD NEWS: God’s word gives certainty
How certain are you? Really.
The craving for certainty is actually in the brain. We are hard-wired to predict and anticipate. So from extended warranties to health insurance to strategic planning to palm reading to self-proclaimed prophets, we strain to satisfy craving for certainty.
This all begs the question: can we even be certain about anything?
Consider this word of God from John 1:29-34: "The next day (John the Baptist) saw Jesus coming to him and said, 'Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
"This is he on behalf of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who has a higher rank than I, for he existed before me.’ I did not recognize him, but so that he might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water.
"John testified saying, 'I have seen the spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and he remained upon him. I did not recognize him, but he who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon him, this is the one who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’ I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.”
To stand up in public and point to Jesus without hesitation and proclaim him to be “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”? To testify Jesus is the Son of God? How could John the Baptist be so certain?
He explained how. He said God gave him his word.
Understand this. God wants people to be certain about Jesus. He spent 1,500 years foretelling his coming through the Old Testament. He sent a host of angels to announce his arrival to shepherds. He used those shepherds to affirm his identity to the people inhabiting Bethlehem. He used a star to draw magi from hundreds and hundreds of miles away. He used Mary to reveal Jesus’ identity personally to the parents of John the Baptist. And John the Baptist himself had personally known Jesus for years.
So how, as John did, do you see, hear, touch, talk with the flesh-and-blood Son of God Jesus yet not "recognize" him? For all the proofs and indicators right in front of him John, had no certainty about Jesus.
That is, until God gave him certainty. John’s certainty came from the word of God.
This is good news because you and I are just like John the Baptist. We crave certainty. But we cannot avoid uncertainty nor can we remove it.
You see, craving certainty is not only in the brain. It’s in the soul. And because it’s in the soul not only are we unable remove uncertainty but we often resort to creating our own certainties.
The increasing focus on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation re-sheds light on the three "solas" — sola gratia, sola fide, sola scripture. That is, God saves by his grace alone through his gift of faith alone as revealed in his written word alone.
Now there is a fourth sola — "sola feels." It means "feelings alone." That is, we are saved based on how we feel. Sola feels creates certainty out of feelings.
It works like this. The Bible says God created the world but if I feel Genesis is unbelievable and science is more certain, I can disregard the word of God. Or if I feel what the Bible says about sexuality or marriage doesn’t apply to today’s culture, I can create certainty for the lifestyle I want to live by disregarding the word of God. Or in order to feel important I can disregard the written word of God by claiming God spoke to me in my heart or gave me a dream in my mind.
The problem with creating certainties is they do not satisfy our craving. And so we’re left in either our anxiety or our denial. It’s an addiction of sin that ultimately is certain only to lead toward charlatans who deceive and away from the one who saves.
The good news is we can be certain about the certainty God gives us — in his word.
Irrespective of our feelings, the external word of God reveals Jesus Christ is the one who saves.
This means Jesus Christ really is the sinless, substitution sacrifice for you. He really is the innocent, gift death for your life. And through faith in him, not through feeling in him, you can be certain you are blameless for your sin.
As Martin Luther wrote, “Sin has but two places where it may be: either it may be with you so that it lies upon your neck; or upon Christ the Lamb of God. If now it lies upon your neck you are lost; if it lies upon Christ you are free and will be saved.”
So says the word of God. Of that you can be certain.
Kevin Wendt is pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Destin.