Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday

“Christianity is a resurrection religion. The concept of resurrection lies at its heart. Remove it and Christianity is destroyed.” - John R. Stott

“For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit.” - 1 Peter 3:18

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” - Romans 5:8

I was watching a Tim Keller interview earlier today and he stated that although Christmas is a much bigger holiday in this country than Easter, it is Easter that gives Christmas its credibility. After all, at Christmas we celebrate that God's Son, Jesus, was born into our world - fully God and fully man. Yet, how do we know it was really God's son? The resurrection is our proof.

Thomas Arnold (1795-1842), professor of Modern History at Oxford said, “No one fact in the history of mankind . . . is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort than the fact that Christ died and rose from the dead.”

There has been many an opponent and skeptic of Christianity who having set out to disprove the truth of the resurrection has become a devout follower of Christ through their honest research. Such as:

Dr. F. Morrison, a rationalistic lawyer
Lord Lyndhurst, Attorney General of Great Britain
C.S. Lewis, a literary genius
Dr S. Greenleaf, Royal Professor of Law at Harvard University

What evidence you may ask? What proof do we have?

1.) The Christian Church exists and persists across races, geographies and cultures. There have been numerous individuals claiming to be the Messiah before Jesus came and certainly since He departed. Yet, none of them maintained a following after their death. Jesus prevails primarily because the resurrection is the defining and differentiating fact.

2.) Something incredibly significant must have happened on that Sunday to shift the day of worship from what had been the norm for over a thousand years.

3.) The Empty Tomb. No one in history has come up with any factual evidence to contradict the historical record and testimony of the scriptures. The Roman authorities and Jewish religious leaders had every reason to discredit and erase this story but they could not. There are 10 possible explanations for the empty tomb that have been espoused through the years. Only one takes into account all the facts available and the resultant conclusion is that Jesus Christ supernaturally rose from the dead.

4.) Roman Guard Goes AWOL. The Roman guards fled. They left their place of responsibility. How can their attrition he explained, when Roman military discipline was so exceptional? Justin, in Digest #49, mentions all the offenses that required the death penalty. The fear of their superiors' wrath and the possibility of death meant that they paid close attention to the minutest details of their jobs. One way a guard was put to death was by being stripped of his clothes and then burned alive in a fire started with his garments. If it was not apparent which soldier had failed in his duty, then lots were drawn to see which one would be punished with death for the guard unit's failure. Certainly the entire unit would not have fallen asleep with that kind of threat over their heads. Dr. George Currie, a student of Roman military discipline, wrote that fear of punishment "produced flawless attention to duty, especially in the night watches."

5.) The recorded appearances of Christ. These occurred from the morning of His resurrection until His ascension 40 days later. There are ten distinct appearances recorded to either individuals, to the disciples as a group, or to over 500 people in different places, at different times. This was no hallucination or mere slight of fantasy. The Apostle Paul rested his whole case for his faith on the bodily resurrection of Christ.

These people didn't expect to see Him again! Yet,
He walked with his disciples .
He talked with his disciples ,
He ate with his disciples following the resurrection.

This resulted in them being....

6.) The Changed Disciples. Strike the Shepherd and the sheep will scatter. Upon Jesus' arrest, the disciples fled, denied knowing Him and then locked themselves in a room for fear of the same persecution by religious and Roman authorities. Their Rabbi...their teacher...their friend was dead. Yet, they ended up becoming incredibly bold and confident witnesses for Christ in Jerusalem and numerous other places. They were all martyred, killed for the very commitment to Christ that they had so badly wanted to hide. Paul who had been killing Christians and persecuting the church became just as zealous for God when confronted with the truth about Christ.

7.) The contemporary and personal evidence. If Christ rose from the dead, then He is alive today. He is powerfully able to invade and change people’s hearts and lives as they respond to Him. Millions of people today testify to the life changing power of Jesus Christ in their lives. They come from every nation on the face of the earth, every background, from sympathetic families and nations to hostile ones. Millions testify today to the fact that Christ has revolutionized their lives.

As Canon Westcott said, "There is no historic incident better or more variously supported than the resurrection of Jesus Christ" from the dead.

Can the penalty of sin resting upon all mankind be remitted? Plainly not, if God is to remain God. That penalty of sin was ordained in the law of God, and the law of God was no mere arbitrary and changeable arrangement but an expression of the nature of God Himself. If the penalty of sin were remitted, God would become unrighteous, and that God will not become unrighteous is the most certain thing that can possibly be conceived.

How then can sinful men be saved? In one way only. Only if a substitute is provided who shall pay for them the just penalty of God’s law.

The Bible teaches that such a substitute has a matter of fact been provided. The substitute is Jesus Christ. The law’s demands of penalty must be satisfied. There is no escaping that. But Jesus Christ satisfied those demands for us when He died instead of us on the cross. (The Doctrine of the Atonement: Three Lectures, Machen)

"I am the resurrection and the Life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die." - John 11:25

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Gospel Story

From Pastor Tullian...

My friend Steve Brown tells a story about a time his daughter Robin found herself in a very difficult English Literature course that she desperately wanted to get out of.

She sat there on her first day and thought, “If I don’t transfer out of this class, I’m going to fail. The other people in this class are much smarter than me. I can’t do this.” She came home and with tears in her eyes begged her dad to help her get out of the class so she could take a regular English course. Steve said, “Of course.”

So the next day he took her down to the school and went to the head of the English department, who was a Jewish woman and a great teacher. Steve remembers the event in these words:

She (the head of the English department) looked up and saw me standing there by my daughter and could tell that Robin was about to cry. There were some students standing around and, because the teacher didn’t want Robin to be embarrassed, she dismissed the students saying, “I want to talk to these people alone.” As soon as the students left and the door was closed, Robin began to cry. I said, “I’m here to get my daughter out of that English class. It’s too difficult for her. The problem with my daughter is that she’s too conscientious. So, can you put her into a regular English class?” The teacher said, “Mr. Brown, I understand.” Then she looked at Robin and said, “Can I talk to Robin for a minute?” I said, “Sure.” She said, “Robin, I know how you feel. What if I promised you and A no matter what you did in the class? If I gave you an A before you even started, would you be willing to take the class?” My daughter is not dumb! She started sniffling and said, “Well, I think I could do that.” The teacher said, “I’m going to give you and A in the class. You already have an A, so you can go to class.”

Later the teacher explained to Steve what she had done. She explained how she took away the threat of a bad grade so that Robin could learn English. Robin ended up making straight A‘s on her own in that class.

That’s how God deals with us. Because we are, right now, under the completely sufficient imputed righteousness of Christ, Christians already have an A. The threat of failure, judgment, and condemnation has been removed. We’re in–forever! Nothing we do will make our grade better and nothing we do will make our grade worse. We’ve been set free.

Knowing that God’s love for you and approval of you will never be determined by your performance for Jesus but Jesus’ performance for you will actually make you perform more and better, not less and worse.


Take some time and really think about the following...

God’s love for you and approval of you will never be determined by your performance for Jesus but Jesus’ performance for you.

What kinds of feelings does that cause to stir within you? If you are like me, and are being honest, you might have reactions that are both positive and negative.