Saturday, April 23, 2011

Did a Man Rise from the Dead?

Before anything else the Gospel is news. It is a declaration about reality. Jesus died on the cross for our sins. He was dead and buried. “On the third day he rose from the dead and appeared to his disciples and many others.” Christianity’s foundation is the factual account of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. So here’s the thing: This historical claim is either true or it is not true. It either happened or it did not happen. If it really happened, the ramifications are astounding.

If the resurrection did not happen, Christianity is a sham. The Apostle Paul says as much: “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1Cor. 15:17-19).

Did Jesus really rise from the dead? Is there any way that you and I, 2000 years later, can know the answer to this question? I believe that we can. All of the available evidence points in that direction. Here is some of the evidence:

The Tomb of Jesus was empty on Easter morning- The Jewish and Roman authorities as well as the disciples of Jesus testified that this was true (Matthew 28:11-15). The tomb was empty and two explanations were put forth: the authorities said the disciples stole the body; the disciples of Jesus said that He had been resurrected. If the tomb were not empty, the Jewish leaders could have quickly produced the body of Jesus and proven that Jesus' followers were lying; yet they did not. This is the first clue: an empty tomb.

The Transformation of the Disciples- The disciples on Easter morning were a beaten and discouraged bunch—not expecting that Jesus would return to life (Luke 24:1-13). Their leader had been killed. They called the initial resurrection report of the women an “idle tale.” Even after Peter runs to the tomb, we are not told that he believed, but that he wondered or was amazed at what had taken place. But we also know that within 50 days these downcast and discouraged men would undergo a major transformation. The Book of Acts tells us how these same beaten skeptics began to confidently and boldly proclaim the resurrection of Jesus.

What happened? What best explains this radical change? Did the disciples make up a lie together? That doesn’t fit with what we know of these men and their own initial skepticism. Some have held that they had some kind of mass hallucination or group delusion—they so much wanted to believe that Jesus was alive. I think this explanation is harder to believe than a resurrection from the dead. These men were neither expecting, nor inclined, to believe in Jesus’ resurrection. The most reasonable explanation is that these men had a real encounter with the risen Jesus. In fact, several of these disciples died because of their testimony of the risen Christ. The apostle James was beheaded. Peter was crucified and Paul beheaded in Rome. Do men willingly give up their lives for something they know is a lie?

The Conversion of Paul- Saul of Tarsus was a powerful enemy of the early church, persecuting and even putting to death followers of Jesus. Yet this same man became Paul, the greatest missionary and theologian of Christianity. What happened? What explains this radical change? Paul’s explanation was that he had had an encounter with the risen Jesus Christ (Acts 26:12-23).

This is just some of the evidence (not all!) that Jesus did indeed rise bodily from the dead. How is the empty tomb, the change in the disciples, and the amazing conversion of Paul best explained? The most reasonable explanation is that Jesus has been resurrected. Jesus is alive!

I would invite you to examine the evidence for yourself. If Jesus did not rise on that first Easter morning, we Christians are a sad and deluded bunch. But if He did rise—if He did—then there is a mighty and gracious Savior for all who will trust in Him.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A Brief Theology of All Things

1. God created all things.

I am the Lord, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens who spread out the earth by myself. (Isaiah 44:24)

2. All things are dependent on God for their existence—at the beginning and all the way along.

From Him and through Him . . . are all things. (Romans 11:36)

3. All things are God’s servants.

By your appointment they stand this day, for all things are your servants. (Psalm 119:91)

4. God guides and directs all things according to the counsel of His will.

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will. (Ephesians 1:11)

5. Because God can do all things and controls all things His will can never be frustrated.

I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. (Job 42:2)

6. God created all things, upholds all things and infallibly guides all things to show forth His glory.

From Him, through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. (Romans 11:36)

Therefore, if we love God and delight to show His glory . . .

7. Because God did not refrain from giving us His most precious treasure—His Son—He will give us all things.

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32)

8. God will give us all things we need in order to live a life of godliness and show forth His glory and excellence.

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence. (2 Peter 1:3)

9. This means that as God’s children all things in our lives are servants for our good and God’s glory.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:2)

10. Suffering and yes, even death, are servants for good for those who love Jesus.

For all things are yours, whether . . . life or death or the present or the future—all are yours. (1 Cor. 3:21-22)

Those who know and revel in these great truths of God’s glory and sovereignty in all things are the most unshakable of saints. There are so many set-backs, so many discouragements, so many failures and weaknesses in our lives. What keeps us from growing weary and getting disheartened* and giving up on God, ourselves and others? Because we know that “in all these things we are more than conquerors” through Christ Jesus (Romans 8:37). Nothing comes to us—nothing—as Christ’s followers that God did not bring about, direct and design to draw us closer to Him that we might gladly reflect His glory in our lives.

Let these words sink deeply into your heart, soul and mind this day. God is so great and He so greatly wants us to live lives of holiness and happiness. God made you to joyfully show forth His beauty and glory. If you love this truth then know this day that all things—all things in your life past, present and future—will help you see and show more of that unsurpassed glory this day and all your days.