We can trace all our human problems to our view of God- even the problems we're facing today. A contrast in two lives from history illustrates the different outcomes that result from a wrong and a right view of God.
The first example is Karl Marx, who was born in Trier, Germany, in 1818. Educated in German universities, he became the editor of a Cologne newspaper. Marx denied the existence of God, believing that man, not God, is the highest form of being. Instead of God being in control, he felt that people make themselves what they are by their own efforts. Society, therefore, is the supreme agent for achieving success and fulfillment.
In Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, he wrote, “All that is called history is nothing else than the process of creating man through human labour, the becoming of nature for man. Man has thus evident and irrefutable proof of his own creation by himself...For man, man is the supreme being.”
Since Marx believed that man was, in effect, a god, he concluded that society, composed of the common man, should rule and overthrow the reigning government by force. He and Friedrich Engels collaborated on defining philosophical ideals that eventually formed the basis for communism.
In the early 20th century, Vladimir Lenin revived Marx’s ideas, accomplishing the overthrow of the czarist rule in Russia. Stalin followed Lenin as Communist leader of the Soviet Union. Under their reigns and the Communist rulers who followed them, tens of millions of Russians were slaughtered by the state. The loss of life resulted because these Communist leaders believed that there was no God, that the individual had no inherent value, and that the state was of supreme importance. Today, Marx’s ideas still form the basis for totalitarian government in many countries, including North Korea, Cuba, and China.
Contrast the life of Marx with the life of Martin Luther. He too was a revolutionary. He was born in 1483 in Eisleben, Germany, only a couple of hundred miles from where Marx would later begin his life. Martin Luther was also educated in German universities.
Like Marx, the young Luther struggled with ideals of authority, morality, and ethics. Although he tried to serve God as a monk, he grew increasingly terrified of God’s wrath. Then he was drawn to Romans 1:17, “The righteous shall live by faith.” This simple concept changed his view of God. Luther wrote:
At last, meditating day and night and by the mercy of God, I...began to understand that the righteousness of God is that through which the righteous live by a gift of God, namely by faith...Here I felt as if I were entirely born again and had entered paradise itself through gates that had been flung open.
Luther’s realization—that God’s free gift of forgiveness is available to each person on earth—emphasized the value God gives to each individual created in His image. What a contrast to the beliefs of communism!
Luther’s teaching on the life of faith, as opposed to earning salvation by good works, was the beginning of the great Protestant Reformation that reshaped Europe during the next two centuries. Today, the principle of forgiveness by faith is followed by hundreds of millions of people worldwide. In America, we owe much of our historical and religious roots to what Luther began in Germany.
These two examples show that a false view of God leads to sin and corruption—and many times cruelty and great human tragedy. On the other hand, a proper understanding of God leads to a life of blessing for oneself and many generations to follow.
You may dismiss this by thinking, I am no Karl Marx or Martin Luther. I am not a world leader or a person with great influence. None of us are. Yet how we view God will change the way we live and relate with others. Consider the couple who takes in a foster child because they know God loves that little one; they may live next door to parents who neglect or abuse their child. One person cheats his customers because he thinks “no one will ever know”; another repays a loan despite severe financial hardships, because he has a reverential respect for a God who notes men’s actions and expects honesty.
All of our actions, like Marx’s and Luther’s, are driven by our view of God and how He interacts with us. Nothing in life could be more important than knowing God accurately.
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