Useless Faith

It all stands or falls on this. There’s no middle ground. Jesus’ life isn’t simply an object lesson on living well.

The faith of many millions over centuries hinges on the resurrection that Christians celebrate on Easter Sunday (and throughout the year). If that one moment in history didn’t happen then our faith is a complete farce.

In a letter that he wrote to the church at Corinth a couple of thousand years ago, the Apostle Paul claims that if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then the whole Christian faith is useless and all the world’s Christians are poor suckers who should be pitied.

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if 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, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.

For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 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. – 1 Corinthians 15:12-19

Paul’s saying that the idea of Jesus being a good teacher who said some interesting things isn’t an option. He’s telling us that the whole Christian belief rests on the crucifixion and resurrection being historical fact.

For many, that’s too much of a stretch to believe. How can it be true that someone could be brutally killed yet return to life three days later?

But imagine for a moment that it is true. That would mean that death doesn’t have to be the end because it has been beaten at its own game.

We’ve all been inspired by the lives of others, even knowing that they have died or will at some stage die. Once they’re gone the story of their life, their trials and triumphs continue to influence and motivate us. Surely the story of someone who even triumphed over death itself should give rise to even greater admiration and inspiration … but of course only if the story of them defeating death is true.

When we look at the evidence, the truth of the resurrection emerges very clearly as the best explanation. There is no other theory that even come close to accounting for the evidence. Therefore, there is solid historical grounds for the truth that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. – Matt Perman

In his article, Historical Evidence for the Resurrection, Matt Perman takes a brief look at some of the reasons that many people over the past two thousand years have believed that Jesus rising from the dead isn’t just a nice story, it’s fact.

I don’t have time for a useless faith.

I’m not prepared to believe fairy tales and so while many will scoff and think I must be crazy, I will say that I believe that death has lost its sting because God raised his son Jesus from the dead.

That’s what I’ll be celebrating today and for all eternity.

I pray that you’ll take time to consider the significance of the Easter story this Resurrection Sunday.

The good news is that God, out of His love, became man in Jesus Christ in order to pay the penalty for sinners. On the cross, Jesus died in the place of those who would come to believe in Him. He took upon Himself the very death that we deserve. The apostle Paul says “He was delivered up because of our sins.” But the apostle Paul goes on to say “He was raised to life because of our justification.” Paul is saying that Christ’s resurrection proves that His mission to conquer sin was successful. His resurrection proves that He is a Savior who is not only willing, but also able, to deliver us from the wrath of God that is coming on the day of judgment. The forgiveness that Jesus died and rose to provide is given to those who trust in Him for salvation and a happy future. – Matt Perman

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Betrayed

We’ve all been let down. People close to us have hurt us. We’ve been disappointed by those we thought we could depend upon.

Have you ever come to a moment of great need and found yourself alone? Have you had to face trials on your own while those who have previously pledged their friendship and loyalty have scattered?

That’s the kind of thing we remember on Good Friday. Imagine facing the following scenario on your own.

So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.

And the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters), and they called together the whole battalion. And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him. – Mark 15:15-20

The most amazing thing in all of this is that amidst the torture, the pain, the horror of a barbaric death, Jesus was thinking of others. He even prayed for forgiveness for those who had caused his pain. I don’t know about you but I tend to get angry when someone causes me pain or discomfort. I can forgive them later, but at the time I can get pretty annoyed. Jesus was still in the middle of being tortured to death while he was offering forgiveness. Makes the ‘injustices’ I suffer seem fairly inconsequential.

Incredibly, he even promised forgiveness to a common criminal who was suffering the same fate that he was. There were two criminals being slaughtered alongside Jesus. One hurled insults. One asked to be remembered by Jesus. The one who asked to be remembered could see beyond the grave. He could see that death was not the end. He talked about Christ entering his kingdom. Jesus promised him a direct trip to paradise.

A lot of pictures that depict the life of Jesus show him as an otherworldly kind of figure, detached from the worries of our day to day lives. It’s good to remind ourselves that he knew what it was like to suffer pain and betrayal of the worst possible kind.

Even if you’re the kind of person who really can’t identify with Jesus, it may help you to remember that he can certainly identify with us and everything we’re facing.

The greatest news is that the betrayal and suffering of Good Friday was not the end. Sunday was coming; a day that would change our world forever.

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Who is the Jesus of Easter?

This is a post that I repeat in the lead up to Easter each year. While most people around us are talking about rabbits and chocolate I think it’s worth taking a little time to look at the true story of Easter. The closest most of us get to the original Easter story is eating hot cross buns.

The bigger story is about the barbaric killing of a man who many millions of people throughout history believe defeated death and walked out of his tomb some days later. That’s extraordinary. Could such a story really be true or has the legend of this man, Jesus, grown over time?

Whether you’re a believer, apathetic or completely opposed to the person of Jesus, you’ve got to admit that his very existence has shaped much of the world. Whether you think that’s a good or bad thing, it’s simply fact.

With that in mind we really should decide for ourselves who Jesus is or was.

There’s an interesting exchange in the Bible about this very thing.

Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?”

They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.”

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “The Christ of God.”

I suppose that if we reset the scene in modern times it might look more like:

Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?”

They replied, “Some say you’re a good man; others say a teacher; others say a religious leader; others say a misunderstood man; others say a fictional character; others say an irrelevant historical figure; others say a prophet; others say a bigot; and still others, that you’re a guy who gives us a couple of days off each Easter and at the end of December.”

Then comes the question that should be directed to each one of us.

“But what about you? Who do you say I am?”

Jesus was very wise in the way he asked his question. (After all, he is Jesus.) He says to his disciples, “Firstly let’s clear up what everyone else is saying about me.” It can be very easy for us to parrot someone else’s idea of who Jesus was or is. There are so many options that we can easily pick one that sounds reasonable to us.

But Jesus doesn’t give the disciples that option. After clearing up the range of things that others were saying, he focuses in on the individuals in front of him and says, “But What about you? Who do you say I am?”

I believe he’s doing the same today.

We need to be aware that there are many ideas of who Jesus is but in the end we need to answer that second question for ourselves.

Jesus looks at us all saying “But What about you? Who do you say I am?” Not who do your parents say I am; not who do your workmates say I am; not who does Richard Dawkins say I am; not who do your philosophy books say I am; not who does your pastor say I am; not who does your church say I am, but “Who do you say I am?”

Whether we say we believe the Bible’s idea of who Jesus is or not, we can’t afford to just grab someone else’s ideas on this one. We need to be open enough to have our views challenged. We need to look at how we came to hold the views we do and decide if that’s a good enough reason to think that way.

All the arguments about what people believe about Christians and their views are secondary and irrelevant until we decide what Jesus is about.

If we truly look at the evidence for ourselves and decide that Jesus was just a man we’ve got nothing to lose but if he was who the Bible claims and we don’t acknowledge it, our life could be at stake.

I’m siding with Peter on this one when he answered, “Who do you say I am?” with “The Christ of God.” Exactly what that means for me and the way I live my life is something that I will continue to grapple with for the rest of my life.

Who do you say Jesus is?

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The Jesus Question

cross

Each year as we approach Easter we tend to hear some more ‘out there’ theories about who Jesus was and about the Easter story. There are lots of thoughts and ideas floating around but whether we consider Jesus to be someone of importance or a fairy tale, we need to make up our own mind over claims made about him.

I wrote this a few years ago when I’d been thinking about a few lines from the good book. They come from Luke’s account of what Jesus did when he walked the earth a couple of thousand years ago. In Luke 9, just before Jesus tells his disciples that he’s going to killed and then be raised back to life, which is the story of Easter, he asks them a couple of interesting questions.

Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?”

They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.”

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “The Christ of God.”

I suppose that if we reset the scene in modern times it might look more like:

Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?”

They replied, “Some say you’re a good man; others say a teacher; others say a religious leader; others say a misunderstood man; others say a fictional character; others say an irrelevant historical figure; others say a prophet; others say a bigot; and still others, that you’re a guy who gives us a couple of days off each Easter and at the end of December.”

Then comes the question that should be directed to each one of us.

“But what about you? Who do you say I am?”

Jesus was very wise in the way he asked his question. (After all, he is Jesus.) He says to his disciples, “Firstly let’s clear up what everyone else is saying about me.” It can be very easy for us to parrot someone else’s idea of who Jesus was or is. There are so many options that we can easily pick one that sounds reasonable to us.

But Jesus doesn’t give the disciples that option. After clearing up the range of things that others were saying, he focuses in on the individuals in front of him and says, “But What about you? Who do you say I am?”

I believe he’s doing the same today. We need to be aware that there are many ideas of who Jesus is but in the end we need to answer that second question for ourselves.

Jesus looks at us all saying “But What about you? Who do you say I am?” Not who do your parents say I am; not who do your workmates say I am; not who does Richard Dawkins say I am; not who do your philosophy books say I am; not who does your pastor say I am; not who does your church say I am, but “Who do you say I am?”

Whether we say we believe the Bible’s idea of who Jesus is or not, we can’t afford to just grab someone else’s ideas on this one. We need to be open enough to have our views challenged. We need to look at how we came to hold the views we do and decide if that’s a good enough reason to think that way.

All the arguments about what people believe about Christians and their views are secondary and irrelevant until we decide what Jesus is about.

If we truly look at the evidence for ourselves and decide that Jesus was just a man we’ve got nothing to lose but if he was who the Bible claims and we don’t acknowledge it, our life could be at stake.

I’m siding with Peter on this one when he answered, “Who do you say I am?” with “The Christ of God.” Exactly what that means for me and the way I live my life is something that I will continue to grapple with for the rest of my life.

Who do you say Jesus is?

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Evidence for the Resurrection

Evidence is not necessarily proof. Evidence simply helps us establish facts to help us reach a verdict.

Some evidence can be so compelling that it is serves as proof but other times the evidence is like the pieces in a jigsaw puzzle, giving us a clearer picture with every piece we manage to place correctly.

When we talk about the Easter story we can think that the idea of Jesus Christ dying then being raised from the dead is either something you blindly believe or something you reject out of hand. We may think that with the events in question being so long ago that there’s no evidence to review to make an informed decision.

The fact is that if we look at writings from the time and at the Biblical records we can find evidence that needs to be taken seriously.

My regular Wednesday morning guest on 98.5 Sonshine FM is Rev Dr Ross Clifford who is the Principal of Morling College in New South Wales. Each week we chat about a range of issues relating to spirituality and belief.

Yesterday we discussed five pieces of evidence that many Christians and sceptics agree need to be evaluated if we’re looking to come to a conclusion on the authenticity of the claims of Jesus’ resurrection.

If you’re serious about looking at the evidence just click the play button on the audio player below to hear our conversation.

[audio:http://mpegmedia.sonshinefm.ws/feeds/SPI120412_0927.mp3]
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