The Double Claim

When we go to visit our grandchildren in Cambridge we often drive past the Chemistry Department where I studied for four very happy years, just along the road from the college and the rooms where I lived. Those historic surroundings reminded me of a story I heard from the Dean about a student who turned up in the Dining Hall one evening and demanded a tankard of ale with his dinner. The Dean, who is responsible for all discipline in college, was summoned. He consulted the rule book and discovered that, yes indeed, ancient regulations did require the college to supply a free tankard of ale at Dinner to any student who demanded it. But as the first sip was taken the Dean promptly fined the student half a crown for daring to turn up to Hall improperly dressed – the student was wearing his gown, but he was NOT wearing his sword!
Surfing the internet I was not surprised to discover that all over the world there are all kinds of silly laws and regulations about food. Across America in New Jersey, a person can be arrested for slurping soup in a restaurant. In Indiana it is against the law to ride on a bus or enter any theatre or cinema within four hours after eating garlic. Kentucky has a law forbidding anyone from carrying an ice-cream cone in his pocket. In Oregon, young ladies are not allowed to drink coffee after six o’clock in the evening.
Then there are many weird and wonderful laws about other matters. In Florida if an elephant is left tied to a parking meter, the parking fee has to be paid just as it would for a vehicle. In Alaska it is a specific offense to push a live moose out of a moving aeroplane. And you should beware that NOBODY is allowed to park or land a flying saucer in any vineyard in France. You probably know that in English Law there is still a specific offence of being found drunk while in control of a cow.
Even the church does not escape such ridiculous laws. Apparently in West Virginia, it is a specific offence for a clergyman to tell jokes or humorous stories from the pulpit during a church service. Ooops!
With so many ridiculous laws in place, it is no surprise that many people rebel against any and all rules and regulations. Respect for authority and the legal system has been eroded and in recent days we have seen too many examples of our politicians and lawmakers simply ignoring altogether the laws they themselves have imposed. The world is full of people with no regard for the law, and many with no idea at all of right and wrong. The other day I read this slogan, “The only rule is there are no rules.” Many people are living their lives by that slogan! Many people are living as if they never have to answer to ANYBODY else for their actions. “The only rule is there are no rules.”
Of course, through the years there have always been people who have broken the law and refused to be answerable to other people. But in earlier generations it was different. Even people who “feared no man” would fear God. Even people who weren’t afraid of being caught and punished by human law still were still afraid of being caught and punished by God. They knew they would face a reckoning one day. Today life is different. The vast majority of people today live their lives as if there is no God – as if God doesn’t exist. Some people respect man-made laws, some do not. Many people pick and choose which laws they will obey and which they will ignore. Very many people are content to live just by the eleventh Commandment, “Thou shalt not get caught.”
That’s why I was particularly struck by a book I found entitled “Hell’s best kept secret”. What is the great truth that all the powers of evil want to keep secret? What is the truth which would change the world if people really believed it? Simply the truth that God is a Holy and righteous God and every single human being will one day face judgement for all the wrong things they have done!
What I want to make very clear this morning is that people should not live a life which ignores God. Human beings are NOT free to live life any way as we like. We are not free to choose which laws to obey and which laws to disobey. Human beings are not free to ignore God, because God has a claim on every one of our lives. In fact God has TWO distinct claims on our lives – a DOUBLE claim on each of us. God has a first claim on our lives because He made us – God is our CREATOR. And God has a second claim on our lives because he has provided a way for us to be saved – God is our REDEEMER. Creator and Redeemer – The DOUBLE CLAIM. Let me explain what I mean
The first claim on our lives – God is our CREATOR
This world is not an accident. It is not here by chance. The whole universe is here because God created it! Our planet exists because God created it. We are only alive today because God made us! If you already believe that God created everything you don’t need me to tell you. If you don’t then we haven’t really the time to go through all the philosophical arguments for the existence of God. To many people it is intuitively obvious that the whole universe could not have just come into existence from nothing. Something had to make it all happen – there had to be a “first cause.” For other people, even better proof that God exists comes from the evidence of design in everything we see. Two hundred years ago William Paley expressed this “argument from design” something like this in his “Parable of the Celestial Watchmaker”.
Supposing you were walking along the road one day and happened to find a watch. You could look inside at its intricate mechanism. You would not imagine for one second that the watch was a purely natural object. You would recognize at once that it was man made – that some person had designed and manufactured the watch. In the same way, Paley said, if we look around at the intricacies of the natural world, we see evidence of design. And those signs of design point to the existence of a designer, the architect of the whole of Creation, the Celestial Watchmaker.
I saw a film a long time ago which I can still remember vividly. It looked at fascinating animals like the trapdoor spider and the archer fish and the bombardier beetle, and many others which demonstrate the inventive genius of God. Studying and then teaching science I became more and more convinced of the truth of this “argument from design.” Consider the incredible way in which the human eye works, or even more amazing the human brain. Look at the immensely complex way inheritance works, the way DNA and RNA and so many different proteins all interact to pass on genetic information. Look at the way that biological catalysts, enzymes, work at a molecular level. The probability of a wonderful world full of such amazing designs coming into existence by random chance is vanishingly small. Design points to the existence of the divine designer, the architect of the universe, God. Psychologists and philosophers find it impossible to explain how human beings developed consciousness and conscience, and appreciation of beauty and spirituality, the desire to pray and worship. Evolution never claims to explain these things, and never could! The Christian explanation is simple – God made us this way. The argument from design. So after decades of study, like many other scientists who are also Christians, I agree more than ever with Louis Pasteur, the biologist who gave his name to the process of pasteurization which gives us fresh milk to drink. Pasteur once said,
“Posterity will some day laugh at the foolishness of our modern materialistic philosophy. The more I study nature the more I am amazed at the Creator.”
If you want to read some more about this, two chapters in my book Prepared To Give An Answer deal with the questions, “What makes you believe that God exists?” and “Just how did God create the world?” If you haven’t got a copy, please take one today. If you are watching on Zoom or Facebook, or reading this online, and you would like a copy of the book, just send me a message.
God is our Creator. And that gives God a claim on our lives. Because He made us, that gives God the right to tell us how we should live our lives. He has done so, in the Bible, the Maker’s instructions. God has given us the rules we should live by if we want to be healthy and productive individuals and communities. Rules like the 10 commandments. Not silly rules, but basic obvious rules like respect family life and marriage, don’t steal and don’t murder and don’t tell lies and don’t be envious of each other. Other simple rules like love your neighbour and do to others as you would like them to do to you. Just the kind of rules that so many people are choosing to ignore nowadays because they think they know better! It is no surprise that the world is in the mess it is in, when so many people ignore the Maker’s instructions.
One of my hobbies is doing all kinds of things with computers. I enjoy the challenge of making computers do what they should do and of mending computers when they are broken. And over the last 40 years I have discovered that there is one simple secret of success in working with computers. RTM. Read The Manual. If a computer isn’t doing what it should do – read the manual. If a program or a website isn’t working like you want it to – read the manual. If your technology isn’t working at all – read the manual. That is good advice for the whole of life. The world would be a much much better place if everybody followed the Maker’s instructions! Read the manual! God HAS this inescapable claim on our lives – He is our Creator. He has revealed to us how we should live. And the Creator has warned us that we will be accountable for our actions!
Romans 1 18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
People have no excuse – Judgement Day is coming! God has this first claim on our lives – He is our creator!
The second claim on our lives – God is our REDEEMER
The reason this wonderful world is so messed up is because people don’t follow God’s rules. Every single act of disobedience puts a barrier between the Creation and its Creator. Every occasion when people reject or ignore God’s claim on their lives takes them further away from God. Every single one of us is trapped in a prison made up of our own greed and selfishness and pride. By rights God could just give up on us all. Scrap the whole earth and everybody on it and start again from scratch. But God hasn’t done that. Alternatively God could just sit back and watch us human beings take ourselves to destruction. God doesn’t do that either.
The Bible tells us that God has done something entirely different. God really cares about His creation. So God chose to enter into His creation, to be born as a human being, to put the world right again, the author appearing in his own play to write the perfect ending because all the actors keep on getting their lines wrong. The Almighty God became a human being in Jesus Christ. He lived a perfect human life to show us how to live. And then the Creator became so identified with His creation that he experienced human death, the death of a common criminal, death by crucifixion. And the Bible tells us that by his dying on the cross, Jesus Christ has made it possible for this damaged broken world to be put right again. Jesus has rescued us. Jesus has saved us.
One word for this rescue which the Bible uses almost 150 times is the word “redemption” God redeems us. We have been redeemed. God is our redeemer.” We heard it in our reading from the first letter of the apostle Peter.
1 Peter 1 18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.
We have been redeemed. God has bought us back. We have been saved from the mess we have got ourselves in to by Jesus and his death on the cross. It’s as if we are criminals, thrown in jail because we can’t afford to pay the colossal fine which is the just punishment for our crimes. But then somebody else comes along and pays the penalty we could never pay. Or it’s a bit like as if we have been kidnapped and held hostage. Our kidnappers demand an enormous ransom, so much more than we could ever afford to pay. And then a complete stranger pays that ransom on our behalf. We are free to go. The price has been paid. We have been bought back. We have been redeemed. But this rescue does not come to us automatically. It is not forced upon us. We have to accept it individually for ourselves. The prisoner is freed to walk out of that prison any time – but he has to choose to walk out into freedom. The hostage is freed to leave – but she has to choose to accept that freedom.
Tis is why God has a second claim on the lives of each one of us. Because God has redeemed us. He has paid the penalty. He has paid the ransom. “You are not your own; you were bought at a price.” Jesus Christ has died on the cross for us. He has paid the ultimate price – paid on the nail! So we owe a debt of gratitude to the one who has paid such a high price to make it possible for us to become free. That puts us under an obligation to walk out of the prison, to leave the kidnappers, to claim our freedom, to live our lives with God instead of without Him. We have an obligation to read the manual and live life according to God’s rules! We are in God’s debt because he is our redeemer.
There is a true story about Winston Churchill. A wealthy English family once invited friends to spend some time on their beautiful estate. The happy gathering was almost plunged into a terrible tragedy on the first day. When the children went swimming, one of them got into deep water and was drowning. Fortunately, the gardener heard the others screaming and dived into the pool to rescue the helpless victim. That young child was Winston Churchill. His parents were deeply grateful to the gardener and asked what they could do to reward him. He hesitated, then said, “I wish my son could go to college someday and become a doctor.” Churchill’s parents replied, “We’ll pay his way.” And so they did.
Years later while Sir Winston was prime minister, he was struck down with pneumonia. The king was very concerned and summoned the royal physician, the best doctor who could be found, to the bedside of the dying leader. That doctor was Sir Alexander Fleming who just happened to be that son of that gardener who had saved Winston from drowning as a boy! In 1928 Fleming had just discovered a brand new treatment, the antibiotic penicillin And penicillin saved the Prime Minister’s life. Years later Churchill said this. “Rarely has one man owed his life twice to the same person.”
Every one of us owes our life to God, not just once but twice! Almighty God has given us the gift of physical life. And then in Jesus Christ, God also offers us the free gift of eternal life. God is our Creator. And then God also offers to be our Redeemer. God has this double claim on each of our lives. Each one of us must decide – what are we going to do about that?

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