Evidence of a Presence

Many of you know that recently I served as a juror on an important murder trial.  I had never before been called to serve on a jury, so I was surprised when I not only received the summons, but I got called back for questioning.  There were two long days of questioning where the lawyers gauged our understanding of the law.  Many times they emphasized the important responsibility of being a juror.  The fact that, although our system is not perfect, it is the best out there because we allow citizens to stand between man and the government as an arbiter.  Our decision decides the fate of the defendant.  I felt both honored and terrified of the responsibility.  In the end, me, and fourteen others, were chosen from the pool of 90 potential jurors and were told to come back on Monday.  We were warned to not do any research on the case, so that we made our decision only based on the information presented during the trial.

On Monday we heard the opening statements from both attorneys explaining the main gist of their future arguments.  For those who aren’t familiar, the case is about the murder of a man who came home in the midst of a robbery in his home.  There were two men who were committing the burglary.  The prosecutors were arguing that the defendant was not only one of those men, but that he was also the murderer and mastermind of the crime.  The defense was arguing that he was not even there, and that the co-defendant was framing him in order to protect someone else.  Over the next few days, the prosecuting attorneys laid out a meticulous set of evidence that walked us through the events concerning the crime and revealed step by step the proof that the defendant was in fact there.  This evidence was so overwhelming that, even though there was no DNA evidence linking the defendant to the crime scene (ie no fingerprints etc), the jurors would have had to throw all common sense out the window to believe that he wasn’t the culprit.  You see, even though he didn’t leave a solid piece of scientific evidence of his presence that night in the house, he left a distinct trail of his presence including witnesses, distinct shoe prints, cell phone GPS coordinates, and the possession of stolen items among many others.  

Today it hit me that this concept is very similar to our belief in God.  No, we do not have direct scientific evidence of God’s presence.  I cannot give you a piece of God.  I cannot record His voice and play it for you.  I cannot even show you a photograph of His face.  I can, however, show you a set of evidence of His presence that, using common sense, removes any shadow of doubt concerning the existence of a Creator.  

Starting with the evidence around us, the obvious conclusion we would draw from the complexity of the universe we live in is that our world was designed.  I’ve read the analogy where we are asked what we would believe if we found a watch on the beach.  Would our first thought be that the watch came to be as a natural outgrowth of the ocean?  Of course not.  The assembly of a watch requires intentional action–complexity never comes out of chance.  In the same way, it takes a stretch to believe that the amazing detail of our universe came about as a result of millions of years of random interactions.  God’s “fingerprint” is all over His creation–His thought, His creativity, His plans shown through the smallest details of the human cell to the hugeness of the universe (see Louie Giglio’s video here for an awesome description).

The foreman of our jury, and also a lawyer, explained how he came to the conviction of guilt for the defendant.  He said that there is a logical train of thought that helps identify the most realistic option.  He tried to follow the thought presented by the defense that the defendant was in fact not there.  That someone else had his phone when the GPS coordinates were taken near the crime scene.  That someone else was wearing the identical shoes that matched the shoe prints at the scene of the crime and that he himself was later wearing when he was arrested near the scene of the crime.  The amount of speculating and juggling it would require to accept this idea was preposterous.  It sounds similar to Occam’s razor–a problem solving principle that states that the simplest hypothesis is often the one most correct (click here for a more detailed definition).  This too fits when considering the existence of God as Creator.  It takes much more mental gymnastics to believe the earth created itself.  

Looking at the revelation given to us in God’s Word, we find hundreds upon hundreds of witnesses.  Those who have seen Him face to face.  Those who have spoken for Him and seen those things come to pass.  Those who have been willing to die for the revelation that they have experienced.  

Through the course of the trial and preceding it, we were instructed quite specifically how to evaluate the plausibility of a witness. We were to note how they acted on the stand (fidgeting, not making eye contact, etc), their past character as known to us, and what they might have to gain from testifying.  These points helped us to weigh the testimonies of conflicting statements.

In the same way, we can evaluate the witnesses set forth from the Bible.  Let’s evaluate the disciples following Jesus’s death and resurrection.  Following Jesus’s death, the disciples were in hiding.  John 20:19 says, “Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.'”  In this moment in time, the disciples were afraid for their lives.  They knew from what happened to followers of other rebel factions that after the leader was killed so were any of their close followers.  Into the midst of this fear, Jesus shows up.  He speaks to their fears knowing this was crippling them.  Scripture tells us that Jesus hung around for 40 days revealing himself to hundreds of people before ascending to heaven and leaving them with the commission to go and be witnesses. The book of Acts records what happens next–these fearful disciples become bold proclaimers of Christ.   Every single one of them dies as a martyr, except John who is exiled.  

As we observe these men, we see they are not ashamed or acting shifty.  Instead, they act with certainty.  We observe the change in their characters from the competitive, showy disciples of old to men who demonstrate that they had been with Jesus (Acts 4:13).  We see that they have nothing to gain from their testimony except ridicule, excommunication, and death.  Can you get a stronger witness than theirs?  (For an awesome article on the plausibility of their witness, click here).

And we aren’t done yet.  I am a witness too.  I can relate a hundred, a thousand times, I’ve seen God work in my life in a way that cannot be explained away.  I have the witness of a changed life and changed heart, and even more so, the witness of a changing life and a changing heart.  He is real and He is at work in me.  

In that jury room, the twelve of us who were left to deliberate found it easy to look at the evidence and state that he had been at the scene of the crime.  Based on the evidence of witnesses and evidence of his presence, we found him guilty of first degree murder.

In many ways, the truth of God himself is on trial though not for a crime.  Will we listen to the defense and follow the absurd manipulations of truth that we must believe in order to show that God is not here or will we use our common sense and choose the only verdict that makes sense?

God is guilty of being here and being real.  The evidence for His presence is overwhelming. 

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