I was a visiting speaker at the Shrewsbury Sixth Form College Christian Union today, and spoke on the topic "a world without God?" When I was given that title I struggled to think how I could approach it. I mean, without God, there wouldn't even be a world. Trying to describe the difference between a world with and without God is a bit like describing the difference between a tennis ball and a game of tennis. So this is basically how I approached it...
We started by looking at some things in the world have value, like pizza, a duck, the Bible, an iPhone, the Archbishop of Canterbury and other stuff like that. I asked the group to trade so that they would end up with a set of items that would be worth the most in a world where God didn't exist. They ended up with a collection of useful stuff (like food and technology) and a pile of unwanted artifacts (church, a WWJD wristband etc).
My point was that this is how a lot of people (Christian and not Christian) see the influence of God on people's lives, i.e:
A Christian's Life = A Life Just Like Anyone Else's + Some Extra 'God Stuff'
Christians might try to persuade their friends that the 'God stuff' is really life-enhancing. They might quote John 10:10 - "I [Jesus] have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" and claim that the '+ God' equation results in a more fulfilled life.
We read Colossians 5:15-18:
"The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy."
and then John 3:16-18:
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
My conclusion from these two passages was that God is not a premium package life-enhancing supplement that we bolt on to our ordinary lives. He is a life-giver, who holds the universe together and saves those who would otherwise perish.
Then I posed the question: "What are you most looking forward to about the new heaven and earth?"
We talked about it and then read Revelation 21:3-4:
"And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”"
And John 17:1-3:
"After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
The best thing about the new heaven and earth is that God is there. What is eternal life? It's knowing God, and His son Jesus Christ.
A world with God is a world of hope, freedom, joy, healing, peace, love and grace, but the best thing is God Himself. It's the kingdom of heaven.
A world without God is a world of conterfeits - vain hope, 'freedom' that actually ties you up in sin, happiness that doesn't last and a constant striving for love and acceptance, but the worst thing is that God isn't there. It's hell. And people will end up in a world without God because it's what they chose.
People who are lost don't need to hear about a god who enhances their life - they get enough of that from L'Oreal, Bang & Olufsen and a kerspillion others. They need to hear about the God who is like Jesus; who loves, saves, heals, forgives, accepts and raises the dead.