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

G is for God

Hubble Star-Forming Region

In 1770 Voltaire, the famed critic of Christianity said ““If God didn’t exist, we would have to invent him.”  There are several interpretations of what he meant by this statement. I believe it means that in order to reasonably make sense of this world, to give meaning to life, and to understand who we are and what we are to do, that we would need to have a God. There are many arguments for the existence of God and I have linked to them below.

Inventing God

The history of mankind is guided by the innate need to search out and/or invent god. Early man invented gods from their understanding or misunderstanding of their immediate surroundings. Their imaginations helped them invent gods for air, earth, water, trees, and plants.  For them, all the natural world, every part of life and emotion was influenced by a god. They invented gods of sensual pleasure, and love, gods of fear and hatred, war and pain, gods of plenty and of poverty. In order for early civilizations to flourish, they had to share a common understanding of who their gods were. The Egyptians had numerous gods, and goddesses, they had a god of the underworld and the afterlife, a god of agriculture and gods of art, music and wisdom.

 People Forming God

Early civilization follows two paths. One formed their own gods and built their civilization upon the collective understanding of them. The early history of these civilizations have been described in countless history books through the ages and trace the evolution of their gods and the cultures that emerged under their influence. This influence was guided along by intellectuals and storytellers, priests and prophets, shaping the people’s imagination and understanding of their gods. This common understanding drew the people together first into tribes and communities and into larger cultures.

God Forming People

The other civilization was formed by the awareness of and understanding of the true God. The people forming this civilization followed the intellectuals and priest and prophets of God as described in the accounts of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. Prior to these written accounts of Moses, the understanding of God was passed on from generation to generation in the oral tradition by their intellectuals, storytellers, priests and prophets. After the written accounts of Moses, the understanding of God flourishes and the nation of Israel is established. After many years of living under the influence of the Old Testament books, the nation of Israel would encounter the true God in the way in which their prophets had predicted.  (See the top 40 Messianic Prophecies)

The Fullness of Time

These two developing civilizations merged for a time under Roman rule. Galatians 4:4-7  Rome had become the head and center of many cultures and the crossroads of civilizations. Rome had adopted a pluralistic form of religion in which all were free to worship as many gods as they wished or none at all as long as they bowed always to Rome. Ancient Rome is one of many examples of the attempts of the state to become a god. It is in this era that Jesus, the Son of God walks among His people and explains that “I and the Father are one” John 10:30

The Way

Jesus explains that He is the way the truth and the life and no one comes to God the Father except through Him. John 14:6  God sent His Son so that whoever believed in Him would not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16  While in Athens, the Apostle Paul explains to the Romans at Mars Hill that Jesus is the way to understand God. In order to honor all possible deities, the Romans had built an altar to the unknown God.  Acts 17:23-31 Paul, concerned by the number of gods the Romans worshiped, addresses them as a superstitious people and points to their altar to the unknown God.    He declares to them who this un-known God is. This is the true God, the one you don’t know and you never will know until you turn from your sin, and acknowledge and believe on His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus, the one who had recently been crucified and who many claimed has risen from the dead is indeed alive and He is the way the truth and the life.

Lost and Found

I once had a vague an incomplete awareness of God. For me, He was an unknown God. I was lost with no understanding of the true God. Nothing could explain my reason for being or the reason for the existence of anything at all. That changed once I personally came to a place of total surrender of all my imaginings and misunderstandings of God and began to study the one true God in the person of Jesus Christ. There is much to learn about God and a good place to start would be reading the New Testament Book of John. If you are seeking the true God and His meaning for your life, pray to God in Jesus name and read His book. Put aside all your defensive armor and allow His word to inform you and guide you and encourage you. Seek and you shall find.

Voltaire http://americanvision.org/5425/the-war-against-god-is-war-against-reality/

List of Egyptian gods and goddesses https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Egyptian_gods_and_goddesses

Top 40 Messianic Prophecies  https://jewsforjesus.org/answers/top-40-most-helpful-messianic-prophecies/

Galatians 4:4-7  “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

John 10:30   “I and the Father are one”

John 14:6-7  “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Acts 17:23-31  “For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship–and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.” The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples made by human hands. Nor is He served by human hands, as if He needed anything, because He Himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man He made every nation of men, to inhabit the whole earth; and He determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their lands. God intended that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. ‘For in Him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are His offspring.’ Therefore, being offspring of God, we should not think that the Divine Being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by man’s skill and imagination. Although God overlooked the ignorance of earlier times, He now commands all men everywhere to repent. For He has set a day when He will judge the world with justice by the Man He has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising Him from the dead.”

Matthew 7:7  “Seek and ye shall find, knock and the door shale be opened unto you”

“Is there a God?”  http://www.everystudent.com/features/isthere.html

“Jesus is Evidence That God Exists”  http://coldcasechristianity.com/2015/jesus-is-evidence-that-god-exists/