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Bill Gates explains his faith

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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Bill Gates, Microsoft Chairman and Co-Chair and Trustee of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, takes part in a panel discussion titled ''Investing in African Prosperity'' at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California May 1, 2013 (Credit: Reuters/Ruelas)

Bill Gates is the richest man in the world, with a net worth of $76 billion.  He is usually listed among celebrity atheists or agnostics, due to statements such as this claim in 1997: “In terms of allocation of time resources, religion is not very efficient.  There’s a lot more I could be doing on a Sunday morning.”  That quote got him included among “27 Celebrities You Probably Didn’t Know Are Atheists.”

However, Gates is now involved in his local Catholic church.  In an interview for the current issue of Rolling Stone, he says, “The moral systems of religion, I think, are super important.  We’ve raised our kids in a religious way; they’ve gone to the Catholic church that Melinda goes to and I participate in.”  Gates is not yet what we might call a committed disciple: “I think it makes sense to believe in God, but exactly what decision in your life you make differently because of it, I don’t know.”  However, despite his theological reservations, his religious beliefs have clearly evolved in the direction of God.

Perhaps his philanthropy has played a role: for the last six years he and his wife have focused full-time on strategies directed at health, agriculture, water, sanitation, financial services, and education.  Perhaps being married to a Catholic Christian and becoming a father have changed his outlook.  And perhaps he’s just getting older and wiser.

The bottom line is simple: our hearts yearn for Jesus.  We are among the Galilean crowds who “got into boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus” (John 6:24).  We are one of the Greeks who said to a disciple, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus” (John 12:21).  We are Nicodemus as he sought Jesus at night (John 3:2) and Zacchaeus as he climbed a tree to see the Savior (Luke 19:4).

More books have been written about Jesus than about any other figure in history.  More people have committed their lives to him than to any other religious leader.  More people attend church services in America than go to football games.  We were designed for the kind of intimacy with God that our first parents knew in the Garden, so our hearts will always yearn for him.  Our longings to be loved, accepted, and wanted all stem from this fact.  Our world is broken, not because our longings are wrong, but because we try to satisfy them everywhere but in God.

Here’s a good way to start the week: give yourself the gift of a few minutes with the One who loves you.  Begin with a moment of worship, as you “enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise” (Psalm 100:4).  Now ask the Spirit to show you a longing in your heart that you are trying to satisfy outside of Jesus.  Name it, and ask Jesus to meet it.  Now do whatever you sense his leading to do—be still, read Scripture, take a walk, listen to worship music.  Let the Great Physician heal that pain in your heart.  Ask the One who fed the 5,000 to feed your soul.

And he will.