Reasons for the Resurrection

In my last post I argued that Christ’s resurrection is paramount to the Christian faith. In fact, if it didn’t happen, find another religion because this one isn’t worth your time. That’s how vital this single event is to Christianity.

So, did it happen?  The website ChristianAnswers.net has done a much better job than I could of compiling a defense of the resurrection.  Follow this link to read their article “How do we really know that Jesus Christ rose from the dead?”.  Especially insightful are their “six skeptical objections most frequently used by critics of Christ’s resurrection” listed as links at the bottom of the article.

What a sweet grace is ours to know that Jesus wants us to believe in him.  He’s not hiding behind some curtain and whispering our names to see if we’ll recognize his voice.  He’s loudly proclaiming truth to us in the form of eye-witness testimony recorded in four separate gospel accounts, hard facts, utterly changed lives, and an empty tomb.  These are his way of speaking to us today.  Do you hear his voice?  If so, respond today.  His sheep hear his voice and he knows them, and they follow him (John 10:27).

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The Lord is Risen!

Does it really matter whether or not Jesus rose from the dead? I mean, really. Rising from the dead sounds like it probably happened right after the princess kissed the frog and turned him into a prince. Just a bit too fairy tale for this enlightened 21st century sophisticate, right?

The apostle Paul gives us a jaw-dropping answer to that very question:

“[I]f Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ…. [I]f 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” (1 Corinthians 15:14, 15, 17-19).

In short, if Jesus didn’t really rise from the dead on Easter Sunday, Christianity is a sham and you shouldn’t have anything to do with it. Preaching the message of Jesus (and therefore listening to it preached) is “in vain.” Your faith doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. You’re still stuck in your sins. All those Christians who have gone before you wasted their entire lives believing in Jesus, and then, to add insult to injury, when they died they perished anyway. We Christians are a very pitiful people if this whole resurrection thing didn’t really happen.

I guess you could say that whether or not Christ really rose from the dead is rather important. In fact, on it hinges the entire Christian faith. If it didn’t happen, find some other religion. Christianity isn’t worth your time. If it did happen, however, then the opposite is true. The message of Jesus is your only hope. It is the only true faith. It is a true testimony about real events. Your faith in Jesus is worthy of your life. Freedom from your sins is found here. Those Christians who have gone before you found eternal life the moment they closed their eyes in death. And we, today, are of all people most to be envied.

I can only speak for myself when I say that I believe this Jesus of Nazareth really did rise from the dead just like the four Gospels say. I believe he’s ruling and reining in heaven at the right hand of the Father right now in this very moment. Whatever you choose to believe, you cannot sit on the fence on this one. As a Christian you must nail this one down because if not, you’re wasting your time.

And if you do believe it—believe it as in bank your life on it and rest in it and cling to it with all your might—then what a hope is yours. Happy Easter.

Greater than the Temple

In Matthew 12:6, Jesus makes an incredible statement. Looking into the eyes of the Pharisees (the Jewish religious establishment of Jesus’ day), Jesus states, “I tell you, something greater than the temple is here.”

To understand the shock value such a statement must have had, think for a moment about what the temple represented for a Jew in Jesus’ day. The temple was God’s dwelling place. It was where God was. It was “God’s house” on earth. It was where God came down and met with his people. His glory resided there. He spoke to his people there. Atonement for sin was made there. The entire Jewish religious system was centered around and represented by the temple. I don’t think I could overestimate the importance of the temple in Jewish life, Jewish culture, and in the hearts of the Jewish people. Even today, the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem (the remains of a wall that surrounded the temple that existed in Jesus’ day, the temple itself having been destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D.) is considered a holy site and continues to be greatly revered. And then here comes Jesus and says, “You know, something greater than the temple is here.” Whatever Jesus is talking about, it’s got to be absolutely astounding.

I think Jesus’ point by saying that something greater than the temple was upon them was that the Pharisees had completely missed the point altogether. Here the Pharisees are worrying about fulfilling their religious codes to the letter while extorting widows and defrauding their parents. They keep the temple building immaculate while the poor lie naked and dirty in the streets. They fulfill every external rule they had while breaking the very core of God’s law in their hearts. The reason the temple and the Jewish law existed was to move people toward loving God more and loving other people more. That doesn’t mean the law or the temple wasn’t important. It simply means they were secondary. The very truth upon which God’s law to man was based now stood before the Pharisees’ faces, and they completely missed it.

Jesus is greater than any temple, any priest, any system, or any religious code. He is the reason for which God gives men a temple, or priests, or a religious system or code. Jesus is the sign to which all those things point. That doesn’t mean signs aren’t good or even that they’re unimportant. It simply means that they, in and of themselves, are not the point at all. In fact, their entire purpose is to point people away from themselves to a greater truth: Jesus! And he was standing right in front of them! And they didn’t see him.

It thrills my soul that Jesus is greater than the temple. He’s greater than my Bethlehem Baptist Church membership. He’s greater than any church building. He’s greater than any organizational structure my church or any church has set up. He’s greater than any ministry. He’s greater than any doctrinal statement. He’s greater than the standard of ethics I’ve set for myself. He’s greater than my marriage and food and every other good thing that God designed in this earth. And the reason that he’s greater is because everything else serves but one purpose: to point people to Jesus. For “all things were created through him [Jesus] and for him. And he is before all things…. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent” (Colossians 1:16-18). Everything else is a sign. Jesus is the destination. And I’ve got him. How about you?

Why I’m a Christian

He’s Won Me Over

It is true I was raised in a Christian home, for which I am very thankful, but that’s not mainly why I call myself a Christ follower.  There is one reason I follow Jesus, and that reason is because he’s completely won me over.  No one who ever lived in the history of the world even comes close to him.  I’ve studied the prophets and leaders of other religions, and they simply don’t do it for me.  They’re as wicked as the “heathen” they intend to convert, and a lot of times more so.  Even Peter or Moses or Abraham, men remembered for having great faith and for being godly, don’t really do it for me.  That is, I wouldn’t follow their God for their sake.  No, it’s this Jesus who’s completely won my trust.

No One’s Ever Spoken Like This Man

We read in the gospel of John that at one point in Jesus’ life the Pharisees (the religious leaders of Jesus’ day) sent soldiers to arrest Jesus, and when they returned empty handed, the Pharisees asked them, “Well, where is he?  Why didn’t you bring him?”  To which the soldiers replied, “No one ever spoke like this man” (John 7:45-46).  And they didn’t have a clue as to how right they were.

What was it that the soldiers heard Jesus say that hindered them from arresting him and bringing him back to the Pharisees?  Maybe they heard Jesus’ completely open-ended invitation in the temple: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’” (John 7:37-38).  Realize to whom he was offering this invitation.  He was offering eternal, completely soul-satisfying life to the very Pharisees who were trying desperately to procure his death.  He was offering unending fullness of joy to the very soldiers who had been sent to arrest him.  And all that without condition.  Without bitterness.  All you have to do in order to drink the water he offers is to be thirsty and then come to him.  He does the rest.  The Pharisees could have come and could have drunk, and he would have filled them.  The soldiers could have come and drunk, and he would have filled them.  Astounding.  This means, of course, that you, too, can come and drink, and he will fill you.  Perhaps you’ve mocked him, cursed his name, or worse.  Yet there he is, inviting you to come.  That is not human.  That is divine.  No human being, naturally speaking, is like that.  Truly no one ever spoke like this man.

I Believe their Testimony

So in the gospels we have the historical, eyewitness testimony of people, like the apostle John, who saw and heard Jesus do and say these things.  They’re witnesses.  Of course, you must choose whether to believe them or not.  However, no one can simply dismiss them without at least hearing them out.  Have you heard them out?  Have you at least given Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John a chance?  Do you buy their testimony regarding this Jesus?  After examining their claims and comparing the Jesus they describe with the leaders of other religions, I’m completely convinced.

I’ve Come, Tasted, Believed, Received, and Drunk

And yet, if I stopped there—with a mere mental consent to the truth of who the person of Jesus was—I would miss out on salvation entirely.  That is, it would be possible for me to accept this eyewitness account of the utter uniqueness of Jesus without coming to him and drinking from him.  I have a feeling that’s what the soldiers did.  They realized—because they heard him speak—that he was different.  He wasn’t like any other religious leader who had come before him.  He was in a category all his own.  Yet, it seems like that’s all the further they went.  They accepted him as true, yet they didn’t accept his invitation to come and drink.  Accepting the invitation makes all the difference.  Likewise you may read the gospels and realize—because you hear and believe the record they contain—that this Jesus is completely different.  Yet it may be that, even so, you’re not willing to come and drink the water of life he so freely offers you.

What does it mean to “come to Jesus and drink” (John 7:37)?  Good question.  I’m glad you asked.  Coming to Jesus carries with it the idea of drawing near to Jesus.  Are you moving toward Jesus?  Are you seeking him out?  Do you want to be near to him?  God says that he draws near to those who draw near to him (James 4:8).  The opposite would be moving away from Jesus, shunning him, rejecting him.

So what does it mean to drink?  Jesus talks this way a lot.  Don’t get tripped up by this kind of language.  In other places Jesus says that he is bread, and he says that we can come to him and eat and drink him (John 6:48-58).  What does that mean?  Right after offering his invitation in the temple that all could come to him and drink, Jesus says, “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’” (John 7:38).  “Eating the bread of life” and “drinking the water of life that Jesus offers” means to believe in Jesus.  Time and time again accepting the bread of life or drinking living water is explicitly connected with believing in Jesus.

OK, great, so what does it mean to “believe in Jesus”?  Isn’t that a little ambiguous?  Good question.  I’m glad you asked.  The apostle John says, “[T]o all who receive him [Jesus], who believed in his name, he gave the right to become the children of God” (John 1:12).  That is a very important verse.  In that verse “receiving Jesus” and “believing in him” are paralleled.  Grammatically, the phrase “who believed in his name” explains the phrase “who received him.”  It would be like saying, “To all who received [Jesus], that is, to all who believed in his name….”  So believing in Jesus and receiving him are like terms.  When you do one, you are doing the other.  So far we have eating, drinking, believing, and receiving, and I’m saying they’re all different ways of saying the same thing.

Now, my point is not to be cute or clever with words.  I’m hungry for truth here.  I want to understand what in the world Jesus is talking about.  My conclusion, then, is that the Bible uses a variety of terminology to describe the process of coming to Christ.  You come to him.  You move toward him and not away from him, and you’re willing to leave behind where you currently are to get to where he is.  You eat of him as if he were bread; that is, he becomes your sustenance.  He becomes what your soul longs for just like bread is what your body longs for.  You drink of him.  That is, he becomes more needful to you than a cool glass of water on a hot day.  He is your refreshment.  He is your satisfaction.  You believe in him.  Your faith is in him.  You trust him.  He speaks, and from the depths of your being you shout, “Truth!”  And then even upon threat of death or public humiliation, the fire of conviction burns hot within your soul, and you don’t turn back.  You receive him.  That is, you accept him.  You welcome him in.  You bid him come.  You don’t stiff arm him or ignore him.  You want him to come and be near to you.

Those are just a few of the ways that the Bible talks about the exact same thing.

Quick Recap

My point so far is this: I’ve examined the New Testament writers’ testimony regarding Jesus, and I’m sold.  Are you?  But not only am I intellectually convinced concerning Jesus, he’s won my trust, my admiration, my love, my life.  He’s done all that because I’ve “tasted” him.  I’ve “drunk him in.”  I’ve “believed” and “received” him.  I’ve “embraced” him and “cleaved” to him.  He’s it, and I will not be satisfied with any other.  What about you?

It Will Cost You Everything to Have Jesus

I would not leave you ignorant, dear person who’s still reading this.  Accepting Jesus’ invitation to come to him (and drink and eat and believe in him and receive him), is a very weighty matter.  Jesus said, “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27).  If you come to the point in your life in which it’s as clear as crystal to you that Jesus is the way, and if you desperately realize your deep thirst and your heart yearns to drink of the water of life that Jesus freely offers, then know that coming to him will cost you your life.  To bear one’s own cross means to die like Jesus died.  Are you willing to die to yourself?  Are you willing to renounce the half-baked pleasures of worldly fame, and job security, and a fat retirement account, and sex, and public approval, and all the other small pleasures this life might afford you so that you might experience eternal, joy-filled life forever with this Jesus?  Are you willing to die to your pride, and to your own self-exaltation, and to your will, and to your way so that you might live for this Jesus?  You must count the cost.

And if you’re willing, something awaits you that is 10,000 times greater than anything you’ll ever give up.  Jesus says to the person who comes to him and drinks, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38).  You don’t just get one satisfying drink when you come to Jesus; you get an eternally satisfying spring embedded within you that will never run dry.  Jesus was referring to his Spirit coming to dwell within those who drink (that is, those who believe, and come to him, and eat of him, and receive him).  The Spirit of the risen Jesus comes and abides with and within that person.  The Spirit of the living God who is the source of all existence and of all joy and of all good takes up residence in the one who comes to (and eats and drinks and believes in) Jesus.  Neither pornography, nor a master’s degree, nor a new smart phone, nor a beautiful wife can even come close to knowing Jesus because he lives in your heart.

May you not only intellectually see the incredible beauty of Jesus, but may you know him personally.  And may he be to you a spring of “living water” more satisfying than anything this world has to offer.