J is for Jesus

Christmas is a good time to be prepared to answer the skeptics who gladly point out the celebration of the birth of Christ lacks significance if the facts about Him are not true.  The faith of many would be futile “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is useless; you are still in your sins. Furthermore, those who have fallen asleep in Christ have also perished” 1 Corinthians 15:17

If Christ had not concluded His earthly ministry dying on the cross and being raised from the dead, this celebration would have no foundational substance and no consequence.  Skeptics through the ages have tried to disprove the reality of Jesus Christ and many have come away with a more confident faith than most believers.

In the recent film “The Case For Christ” Lee Strobel’s journey from skeptic to believer is skillfully portrayed. His story affirms that Christians have a reasonable faith. The film is based on Strobel’s book about his investigative journey into the heart of the Christian faith. Setting out to save his wife from what he saw as a cult, Strobel found himself confronted with a reality that changed his life forever.

His training and success as an investigative journalist allowed him to pursue evidence in support of the objections raised for the resurrection of Jesus. An associate reminded him that the Christian faith rests upon the fact that Jesus died on the cross and was raised from the dead. The resurrection of Christ is the glue that holds it all together.

With that in mind, Lee Strobel set out to find evidence to bolster these objections.

  • The Gospel accounts are not reliable.
  • Jesus did not die on the cross.
  • Jesus did not appear to people after His death.

What he discovered moved him to confront the truth and respond with a decision.

Are the Gospel accounts reliable?

The closer the account is to the actual event the more reliable it is.

 https://carm.org/manuscript-evidence

The earliest manuscripts of the Gospel account date to within 25 to 40 years of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. In comparison, the earliest copies of Homer’s Illiad are 500 years from the original. There is no doubt among scholars as to the integrity of the Illiad as well as many other works of antiquity.

https://carm.org/when-were-gospels-written-and-whom

The apostles and countless others have died for their beliefs. It is courageous and noble to die for one’s belief, however, it would seem foolish for anyone to die for something they know to be a lie.

Sean McDowell writes “there is the highest possible probability that Peter, Paul, James (the brother of Jesus), and James (the son of Zebedee) died as martyrs.”

http://www.equip.org/article/apostles-really-die-martyrs-faith/

In 2014 Christian History Institute published an article summarizing the total number of believers who have died for the Christian faith.

“Church statistician David Barrett defined martyrs as “believers in Christ who have lost their lives prematurely, in situations of witness, as a result of human hostility.” He estimated that around 70,000,000 Christians have been martyred since the church began.”

https://christianhistoryinstitute.org/magazine/article/father-forgive-them

Did Jesus die on the cross?

In an article by “The American Journal of Medicine”,  medical experts reviewed what Jesus had suffered during His crucifixion and have determined that the  “Modern medical interpretation of the historical evidence indicates that Jesus was dead when taken down from the cross.” According to the evidence, Jesus suffered severe blood loss and hypovolemic shock from the scourging He received from the Romans. His hands and feet were nailed to the cross and He suffered exhaustion and asphyxia. No one is likely to survive this type of execution. The spear to the side which released blood and water ensured Jesus death.

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/403315

http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?article=145

Did Jesus really appear to many people after His death?

The first eyewitnesses to testify of the empty tomb were women. It would be foolish for the apostles to use the testimony of women in their fabrication of an incredible story. The testimony of women held no value in the courts at this time in history. Being the first to hear the women’s story, Peter and John raced towards the tomb to confirm the fact that Jesus was not there.

Shortly after this Jesus appeared to the Apostles and many others and by over 500 hundred believers at once.

https://answersingenesis.org/jesus-christ/resurrection/the-sequence-of-christs-post-resurrection-appearances/

Skeptics claim these appearances were the product of hallucinations and or hypnotic suggestion.

According to phycologists, group dreams or visions are not possible.

J. Warner Wallace speaks of the numbers of individuals who have seen the risen Christ and concludes that a great number of people seeing the same vision is not likely or reasonable.

Some argue that this was a spiritual resurrection and not a physical resurrection. The Gospel accounts point clearly to the fact that Jesus appeared in a physical body.

Matthew 28:9 states the Apostles “took hold of His feet and worshipped Him”

John 20: 24-28  says that Thomas placed his finger in the nail marks of Jesus’ hand and the wound mark at His side. Thomas then declares “My Lord and my God”

Luke 24:42-43 details the breakfast they had with Jesus “and they gave Him a piece of broiled fish and He took it and ate before them.”

John 20:29 describes how Thomas rejoiced when seeing Jesus Christ in the flesh and Jesus responds “Thomas because you have seen me, you have believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”

http://www3.telus.net/trbrooks/jesus_resurrection.htm

A reasonable faith will strengthen your belief

The evidence is abundant, the experiences of witnesses and followers through the ages is overwhelming. The blood of confessors, saints, and martyrs cries out to this day. The resurrection of Christ proves there is a loving God who reaches out to us to redeem us to Himself to become the children of God. He is a God of justice and mercy and grace.

Our sin and rebellion have separated us from God. God came to us in the flesh as Jesus. He laid down His life for us.

“No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” John 10:18 

“It is rare indeed for anyone to die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

At one point Lee Strobel is advised that blind faith works both ways. Some will refuse to believe because of a prejudice or bias to one belief system regardless of the evidence presented. In order to believe in the Gospel accounts and have faith in their validity, you must choose to believe the facts presented as a reasonable account of the reality of Christ. Some refuse to believe because it means being accountable to a higher authority. Many have yet to learn that the promise of Christ is a new life of liberty from the emptiness of sin and His spirit is a source of peace, strength, grace, and joy.

Lee Strobel was overwhelmed by the evidence answering his objections to belief. He realized he had to make a decision.

The Lord calls us to examine the evidence, and to engage our reason.

Isaiah 1:18  “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”

The child we celebrate at Christmas is the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” John 1:29

He laid down His life and is now risen alive in power to show us the way to a life eternal with Him.

I pray that you will receive the gift of Christmas, open it and believe Jesus is the way the truth and the life?

https://carm.org/manuscript-evidence

https://carm.org/when-were-gospels-written-and-whom

http://www.equip.org/article/apostles-really-die-martyrs-faith/

https://christianhistoryinstitute.org/magazine/article/father-forgive-them

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/403315

http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?article=145

https://answersingenesis.org/jesus-christ/resurrection/the-sequence-of-christs-post-resurrection-appearances/

http://www3.telus.net/trbrooks/jesus_resurrection.htm

I is for Infiltrate

Following my wife’s suggestion, I have been making the deliberate attempt to taste my food before habitually adding salt to it. Salt has always been a valuable part of our diet and necessary for survival. I have always appreciated the value of both physical and spiritual salt.

In biblical times salt was a valuable commodity used mainly to cure and preserve food. Roads were built to provide access to the salt trade, and salt was valued enough to be accepted as payment for labor. The Church has a spiritual understanding of the value of salt. Jesus compared his faithful followers to the salt of the earth.

Matthew 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its savor, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.” Jesus is calling us to be salt as a preserving agent to keep our society from moral decay.

If salt loses its savor it is no longer able to infiltrate and preserve. Losing this quality renders it flavorless lifeless and powerless. The meat and food we would like to preserve is easily infiltrated by bacteria and begins to decay. In the same way, we see a trend towards blandness and powerlessness in the moral influence of the Church. It seems no longer willing or able to infiltrate into the culture as a moral preserving agent.

In order to maintain saltiness, the true Church has had to shield itself from the influence of strange teachings and doctrine. However, it is now struggling with an insidious infiltration of anti-Christian teaching spearheaded by a cultural revolution wielding the weapon of political correctness. The Church is losing its salt.

Challenge of the Enlightened 

The Age of Enlightenment brought the Church face to face with scientific and political theories which directly challenged its validity and authority.

Gerald Hiestand and Todd A. Wilson authors of “ The Pastor Theologian” point out that

The effect of the Enlightenment on Christian theology cannot be overstated. The Enlightenment reshaped the scholarly and cultural consensus regarding the ontology of the Bible and the place of theology within the wider culture…the Bible was no longer a sacred text and theology was no longer the queen of the sciences” ¹

The intellectual battle over the creation account and Darwin’s theory of evolution was lost. Great institutions of learning formally created to prepare individuals for service in the Church and ministry were now transformed into bastions of liberal scientific and political thought.

The Church reacted slowly and only now within the past 50 years or so has there been an advance in apologetic teaching that addresses concerns of reason and science and proposes a defense of the Christian worldview. Great teachers have emerged such as Francis Schaeffer and C.S.Lewis. The list of popular apologist is growing and so is their influence. This is a good thing for the Church and it would behove us all to become acquainted with their work and their reasoning.

The Church is now responding to arguments which the Enlightenment brought forth. However postmodern culture and the spirit of anti-Christ continues its infiltration of the Church with false teaching. The division which theistic evolutionary thinking brought about is one of many battlegrounds where truth has lost ground.

The Second Wave

The Church culture, intimidated by the advancing political correctness movement, has yielded ground to secularisms lies and deception. The Churches on the forefront of engaging the culture with their newly acquired confidence in apologetics are finding many intellectuals are no longer interested in proving the existence of God or Christ. They have moved beyond these foundational arguments advancing their secular cultural agenda, using PC as a weapon to fend off the call to repentance by labeling it as hateful.

The strength of the leftist culture is not in its reasoning because engaged in a reasonable debate its principles are soundly refuted. The strength of the left is the weakness of those with whom it engages. Sara Silverman the liberal comedienne has created a new series “I Love You America” in which she reaches out to discover America and to affirm her liberalism. In a recent episode, she meets and dines with a “Christian” family from down south. She attempts to solidify her leftist ideals by asking opinions on gay-marriage and allows a few weak-kneed responses from some of the family members and then declares “I have news for you, you’re really a liberal”.  Granted the obvious bias of creator and producer of this series has made it essential to edit any effective rebuttal, I have seen the same weak response from church members regarding this issue and other morally damaging yet culturally acceptable trends.

No longer questioning the reality of God and the validity of the Church, the left has infiltrated the Church’s domain of influence and hijacked the truth. Redefining the concept of love and grace they seek acceptance and affirmation of a sinful lifestyle. Having successfully reconstructed the immature Christian’s understanding of a calling to a pure life in submission to Gods truth, they are now pursuing and promoting a lifestyle of sin within the church.

Any call to repentance from members or the leadership of the Church is met with offense and a repeated misapplication of God’s word. How many have heard the verses “judge not lest you be judged” or “God is love” and other verses misapplied or misappropriated?  Yet those who misapply scripture to their advantage reject clear teaching on the need for repentance.    Such as found in

1 Cor 6:9

 “Or do you not know that the unrighteous ones will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals,”

Acts 2:30

Peter replied,” Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” 

No one is without sin, even those who are saved, so our struggle includes not only a daily repentance but a loving supportive outreach to those who are in need as we are. This  daily repentance is only possible in the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

 

 

Called to Disciple

Darrow Miller of Discipling the Nations has often said

“If the church is not discipling the nation, the nation will disciple the church.”

There are many reasons that churches are not effective in discipling.  In a 2013 presentation to the Disciple Nations Alliance Forum in Brazil, Luis Sena gives one explanation.

“Most plans for churches have as their focus the “expansion” of their size (i.e. numbers as indicators of effectiveness). Driven by self-preservation, preachers and teachers don’t touch the hot issues of the culture, because they know they will be persecuted. The privileges they enjoy as organizations will be lost. They will be challenged by the surrounding culture. Church leaders (usually) won’t risk publicly applying truth because it might mean putting the ministry in danger. But, when a church adopts this paradigm, it has inadvertently forsaken the truth.” ²

Until recently the Church has had much influence in forming a strong freedom loving society built upon the foundation of family and morals guided by the authoritative word of God. Yet as always throughout history, the Church is being asked: “hath God really said?”

As the Church, our challenge today is and has always been to be prepared to give a reason for the hope that fills us. 1 Peter 3:15  This means being able to explain what and why we believe as well as live out what we believe. We should be able to speak to our culture in defense of the sanctity of life and the sanctity of God ordained marriage. We should be able to speak to our culture about how the pursuit and justification of sin bring destruction to the individual and to society. Many churches have fallen into apostasy resulting in a trend affirming gay-marriage and transgenderism. Unless we see repentance and revival other pathologies will soon follow.

2Timothy 3:1-7  “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

The Healing Repentance

Discipling the lost does not begin by embracing sin it begins by embracing the sinner with a call to godly sorrow and repentance. It is in repentance that the grace of God is found. A doctor sharing bad news with a patient is not offensive, it is a word of compassion that wakens the patient to his need for medicine.  Reaching individuals struggling to make sense of their lives and speaking truth to a deceived culture is a compassionate calling of the Church.

Laura Perry, a former transgender, shared her testimony with Life Site News explaining that because of the support and care of loving members of her study group “God opened my eyes to the truth….He made me realize that the transgender life was … a dead end.” Many like Laura have been rescued from the snare of transgenderism, homosexuality and adultery and are actively sharing their testimony. They turned to God and sought Him with all their heart soul and mind.

Acts 26:20that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.” To repent means to change your mind and its proof is in a change of action.

Biblical repentance, in relation to salvation, is changing your mind from rejection of Christ to faith in Christ….Turning from sin is not the definition of repentance, but it is one of the results of genuine, faith-based repentance towards the Lord Jesus Christ.”³

A sorrow for sin and a desire to be restored, to be made whole, is what is needed. This is the role of the church to preach salvation in the name of Jesus and to make disciples of all nations.

Acts 4:12 “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

Jesus offers forgiveness.

John 8:11  “go and sin no more”

Jesus offers grace and power to live in peace with God.

2 Cor 12:9 “My grace is sufficient”

Phil 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”

We have no idea how much time we have left to save those who are lost to sin. So the call today is to engage with the knowledge we have in apologetics and to clearly stand with conviction and the power of the Holy Spirit upon the word of truth, which God has given us. The Bible speaks with clarity, there are no hidden meanings, mixed messages or private interpretations which allow for sin. Preached in love, God’s word brings conviction. Some will react to their conviction and deem it offensive. If it leads to repentance then it will redeem the once offended.  We will hear them declare as Laura Perry has “I am living proof that God’s love is greater than the devil’s lies,” 

We have no greater duty than to stand for truth in all areas of life and to live it and speak it clearly in love.

Pass the salt, please!

Source

¹ https://www.amazon.com/gp/search?index=books&linkCode=qs&keywords=9780310516996

² http://darrowmillerandfriends.com/2013/06/03/luis-sena-why-the-church-is-not-discipling-the-nations/

³  https://www.gotquestions.org/repentance.html

Other Resources

https://stream.org/salt-needs-get-salty/

http://www.notthesamelove.com/testimony/testimony-of-an-ex-transgender-ex-gay

https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/she-tried-to-change-her-gender-but-spiritial-awakening-brought-her-back-to

http://www.apologetics315.com/2009/06/100-christian-apologists.html

https://pjmedia.com/faith/2017/01/09/how-gay-marriage-is-infiltrating-evangelicals-reading-of-the-bible/

http://www.disciplenations.org/

http://seanmcdowell.org/blog/balancing-grace-and-truth-on-the-lgbt-issue-interview-with-author-caleb-kaltenbach