When we implicitly trust God and His goodness, we are privy to a new reality, said Dr Robi Sonderegger over two separate sermons two weekends ago.
Over the Father’s Day weekend of June 14 and 15, City Harvest Church received words of scientific and spiritual wisdom from Australian clinical psychologist Dr Robi Sonderegger. This was Sonderegger’s second time preaching at CHC this year.
Before he took the stage, the congregation was treated to a light-hearted Father’s Day drama—a retelling of the parable of the Prodigal Son set in not-so-ancient China. Through the laughs, the audience was touched by the display of the love of a father for his adoptive younger son. In celebration of Father’s Day, the church also said a prayer of blessing over all the fathers.
Sonderegger began his Saturday message with his main Scripture reference for the day: Genesis 6, which talks about Noah’s Ark. God instructed Noah what to do and how to do it.
“Sometimes, we forget to ask God the ‘how’ when we hear something to do from God,” said the psychologist.
Noah had no idea what an ark was, and had never seen rain or floods before. He built the ark according to the specific instructions given by God. Imagine if, using his own logic and experience, Noah had built a zoo called Noah’s Park instead of an ark, he would have failed in his mission and become disillusioned and weary. If he could not see the point in carrying on, hopelessness will start to sets in.
Sonderegger drew a parallel from the fictional example of Noah’s Park: “When we do things in our own strength, with our own reason and logic, we would often not get the results we had anticipated, especially when God had given us the ‘what’, but we did not hang around for the ‘how’. We start shaking our fists at God because it was His idea, but we did not see the results. People often end up saying they have ‘no hope’ because they are feeling hopeless. Please note that hopelessness is not having no hope— it’s just having less hope. You cannot be alive and have no hope. The moment you have no hope, life is over.”
People experience hopelessness due to a lack of vision. The Bible says that people without vision perish (Prov 29:18). Yet people experiencing hopelessness often know that they lack vision and thus try to create hope using their own logic and strength–Sonderegger calls this “counterfeit hope”.
Sonderegger advised against counterfeit hope: “When we do things in our own strength, using our own logic and reason to get the results we can see with our eyes, we become spiritually blind. When God tells you to do something and gives you the way to do it, you need to set out on that track even if it does not make sense or if you can’t see the immediate results. Counterfeit hope is not long lasting and will eventually fade away. ”
The will of God was for Noah to bring the animals to the ark. God could have saved the animals in many other ways, but He chose to do it in a way Noah did not understand. All he had to do was obey.
“What we choose to do at that moment is largely determined by what we can and cannot see,” said Sonderegger.
“When we see in the natural too often, we become spiritually blind. We need to see beyond the natural,” Sonderegger reminded the church.
Applying priniciples from snowboarding—Sonderegger was a professional snowboarding instructor before he became a psychologist—he taught the following tips when it comes to “seeing right”:
1) Where you look and where you point is where you will go.
That is why we need to look and point to Jesus.
2) When you pick up speed, the natural human response is to lean back. You need to stay in a flexible, forward-leaning position to remain in control. Lean back and you will pick up more speed.
“When we make errors, we should lean into, instead of away from, God. Heed His instruction even though it does not feel natural or make sense,” he said.
3) Lean on the edge and trust that the edge will hold you.
Trust that the Holy Spirit edge will carry you to a new place.
“Being sure of what we can see is not called faith. Hebrews 11:1 says faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see,” he said.
HOW TO FIND HOPE IN HOPELESS CIRCUMSTANCES
Sonderegger read from 2 Kings 6:8-17, which talks about Elisha praying for his young servant so that he might see the angelic host on the mountain.
“Spiritual blindness is one’s inability to see how much God cares for you,” he defines. “The greatest insult we can give God is that after all the pain Jesus went through on the cross to give us a redeemed life, we still say that God doesn’t care about us.”
Continuing with 2 Kings 6:18-20, the Syrians were blinded supernaturally and taken to Samaria.
“Sometimes we need to become blind to what we can see so God can reveal something we cannot see. That is why we close our eyes when we pray; prayer pulls us into vision. Authentic hope comes when we increase our vision and faith through prayer–closing our eyes and asking God to reveal His love for us.”
In 2 Kings 6:21-23, the blinded Syrians experienced love and grace when their eyes were opened. The king of Israel set out a feast for them, and gave them freedom. The Syrians then turned from their wicked ways. Sonderegger explained that Elisha was a forerunner of Jesus and the things He would say and do. When one can see spiritually, he will realize God’s plans are to prosper His people and give them hope.
“When you find yourself in a hopeless situation, remember the words that God has said. Success is not determined by our results but rather, our resolve. When we implicitly trust God and His goodness, it is then we see a new reality. When you simply obey His Word irrespective, come what may, you have already succeeded.” Sonderegger concluded.
NO APOLOGY, JUST APOLOGETICS
Always the entertaining speaker, Sonderegger shared his Sunday sermon with the help of an alter-ego scientist. The entire sermon played out like a dialogue between “Dr Robi the skeptical scientist” and “Dr Robi the presenter of Biblical truth”. Sonderegger produced answers to each of 10 ten questions asked, proving that science confirms what Scripture has been saying for years.
1) How can you be sure God exists and that He created everything in the universe?
“I cannot empirically prove the existence of an Almighty God any more than operational science can prove that the universe came into being by random chance and that life evolved over billions of years–quite simply because no one was around in the beginning to see it all take place!” he said.
He presented that operational science (the systematic study of the physical and natural worlds) has two fundamental tenets; creationism, however, fail to meet both criteria because no one was alive to give an eyewitness account. Given that no current living scientist was alive at the dawn of time, and no one is able to observe, test, and retest what had happened, it means that evolutionary biology does not meet the criteria of operational science either. It is just a theory based on faith, which, unlike the Bible, carries no recorded account in history.
However, Sonderegger argued that the law of information states that all information must have an intelligent starting point, an authority or mind that designs, conceives and creates. Nothing in the known universe is able to create itself. At present, there is only one known, irrefutable law of nature: life must come from life thus demonstrating that an intelligent, living Creator created Life.
2) Isn’t human DNA 98 percent the same as chimpanzee DNA? Doesn’t that prove that humans evolved from apes?
Firstly, that is inaccurate and outdated information. Science no longer suggests that there is a 98 percent similarity between the DNA of humans and chimpanzees. Humans and chimpanzees have different types and number of chromosomes. They are intrinsically different—in fact, the human string of chromosomes is completely unique!
3) “Survival of the fittest” is the cornerstone of evolution. Hasn’t it been well established that genetic mutations have been found to enhance the survival of a species, therefore validating evolution?
Sonderegger explains that if by evolution one species mutates into another species, there is no length of time long enough for chimpanzees to mutate into humans than there would be time long enough for cats to mutate into dogs. It is unconditionally impossible because gene mutations add no new information to the genome. Every single study ever conducted at a molecular level has found that gene mutations reduce genetic information that is passed on, not the other way around. It is not plausible that life evolved by random chance, because that would defy the laws of information that has already been established.
4) If there is an intelligent Creator, then why has He gone to such great lengths to hide Himself from us?
If there is a Creator God, we should expect Him to reveal Himself to us, atheist argues. He does, and His name is Jesus, Sonderegger refuted. The Bible says in the beginning was the Word; the Word was with God and the Word was God. The Word became flesh and dwelled among us. The infallible Word of God records the life and times of Jesus–there are more supportive evidence to the validity of the Bible than any other body of literature in history.
The very fact this discussion is being held today proves that the universe and life in it adheres to intelligent laws authored by a law-making Creator. If the universe was simply a result of random chance, there should be no laws of nature that govern the universe and no capacity of reason for humankind to make sense of it all. Every time a person opens his mouth to argue against God or His creation, regardless of what he says, he becomes evidence that supports an intelligent Creator.
5) If God is the creator of everything, did He also create disease?
God is indeed the Creator of Heaven and Earth, all that is see and not seen; yet it does not mean He created disease, or anything evil. When God created Man, He decided to give them free will and the dominion over the earth. God’s original design for man was to be without disease or death; but what they chose to do on earth with the free will and dominion given to them had its consequences. The Bible says no one makes a fool out of God; the wages of sin is death. With the fall of Man, disease and death entered the world; choices made by people today continue to bear consequences of disease and death.
The Apostle Paul says all things are permissible, but not all things are profitable. The Bible outlines the best way in which Man should live their lives but they are rebellious against the Word. The good news is when people make mistakes or when things go wrong, God in His mercy will redeem and save.
6) Why does God hate amputees? You say He can heal the blind, the leper, the cripple, even raise the dead to life but when was the last time He regrew a missing limb?
“I do not accept that God hates amputees, because the final miracle that Jesus performed before He was crucified was to have compassion on a man who involuntarily had his ear amputated in the Garden of Gethsemane,” replied the good scientist. There are countless other historical and contemporary of limbs growing because of divine healing miracles. When Jesus healed those who were sick, amputees may have been included as well.
7) Hasn’t religion been the cause of most of the wars, conflict and killings throughout history?
Although historians believe that Judaism and Christianity are collectively responsible for 17 million deaths over the past few thousand years, anti- or irreligious forces are responsible for 1.128 billion deaths in just the last 100 years, noted Sonderegger. It is erroneous to suggest that people who believe in God caused most of the wars, conflict and killings throughout history.
Sonderegger presented that institutions of faith cannot be deemed evil just because a member of that institution does something bad. In fact, the movement of the Christian faith has created more schools and theories of education than any other entity over the last 2,000 years. It has built thousands of hospitals and remains the largest provider of healthcare in the developing world. It brought about the abolishment of slavery, fought for justice and women’s rights, and more than any other force in history, it has championed a fight against suffering and the pursuit for peace. It has played a crucial role in the birth of modern empirical science.
Once again, the psychologist argued that without faith in the existence of God, there is no objective ground on which good and evil can be established and thus no premise to suggest that God, or anything at all, is good or evil. If the world is a chemical accident, there is no God to determine moral law.
“Can a pedophile repent and be saved? Absolutely!” Sonderegger said.
9) How can you believe in the Bible when it is just a bunch of letters, poems, stories or historical accounts that were written by different people?
The Bible is unlike any other book–it is the divinely inspired by God, who used 40 authors from three continents and nearly 2,000 years to pen His words. Despite the number of authors, the geographical locations, or the length of time it took to construct the Bible, it maintains a perfect consistency of one single message. The Bible uniformly points the reader towards Jesus Christ, God incarnate, who redeemed, ransomed and rescued the world. The accounts in the Bible have more supporting evidence than any other piece of historical literature. Scientifically speaking, the New Testament is said to be 99.5 percent authentically accurate. However, the best reason to believe in the Bible is not scientific, archaeological, historical or even prophetic fulfillments evidences, important as they are; the best reason is that the Bible is alive, the living Word of God that reveals His character. If our individual lives are not changed by the transforming power of Jesus, then why bother reading it in the first place?
10) How is Jesus any different from Buddha, Muhammad, Krishna, Zeus or any other god that people may want to worship?
Everyone has the free will to choose whom to place their faith in. All religious leaders or prophets promote religion, but Jesus came to put an end to religion. Religion is all about the people’s doing, whereas Christianity is all about what He has done. Jesus came to start, and restore a relationship.
A person who comes into a relationship with Jesus recognizes that he is loved despite his flaws, whereas in all other faiths of the world, a person has to earn his salvation through acts or religious rituals. With Christianity, there is nothing a person can do to earn a position in Heaven because Jesus has already opened the access to the Kingdom. To be transformed by the love of Christ, one just has to be humble to admit his brokenness and allow God to fix him.
God was the first great scientist, and science is not diametrically opposed to faith, but science continues to serve to validate faith. Faith continually serves to validate scientific discoveries that are being made. At the end of the day, it is not about religion or rituals, but about a relationship.