apologetics Posts

Did the Resurrection of Jesus really happen? – by Sam Holm

Death.  When we contemplate our own mortality or experience a loved one’s death, we must come face to face with death.   For the Christian and non-Christian alike, death brings pain.  However, the Christian has a different perspective.  Jesus gives us hope in a better life now and after death.  Why?  Because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Did the Resurrection of Jesus really happen?

The reality of the resurrection can be examined and scrutinized.  Our faith in Christ is not only built on theology.  It is based on history.  In John 14:6, Jesus proclaimed, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” Now, this is not a provable fact in the same way that His resurrection is provable, but it is nevertheless either true or false. It cannot be true that Jesus is the only way while at the same time it is also true that other religions can also offer salvation. If salvation comes through Jesus, then it is because He is the Son of God and it cannot come through any other means. As we have studied, if there are other ways to be saved, then Jesus is a liar and a fraud and He offers no salvation at all.

In 1 Corinthians chapter 15, Paul addresses doubt about the resurrection.  He makes several strong statements.  “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain… And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”  At least some in the church in Corinth doubted whether or not they would be raised.  Paul addresses their doubt head on by listing many who saw the resurrected Christ and were still alive at the time of the writing.  “(Jesus in resurrected form) appeared to Cephas (Peter), and then to the Twelve.  After that, He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all He appeared to me.”  He seems to say, look at all of the eyewitnesses.  Jesus rose again.

However, many of us still doubt about the Resurrection.  Let’s address several of the primary questions of doubt.

Did Jesus die?   - Yes.  The Roman Historian Tacitus wrote in his final work Annals 116AD (assessing blame on Christians for the fire that destroyed Rome in 64AD): “Christus, from whom the name (Christians) had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of . . . Pontius Pilatus..”  What was the extreme penalty?  Crucifixion.  The Romans were experts at executing and wanted to be sure He was dead.  They publically killed him.  He did not pass out.  When he was seen on Sunday, he was in full health.  If he had suffered on the cross and somehow escaped death, he would not have been worshiped as a resurrected Lord two days later.  He would have needed someone to nurse him back to health.  Jesus died on the cross.

Was the tomb empty?  – Yes.  Gary Habermas writes that “75% of historical scholars accept the historicity of the empty tomb.”  Even early critics like Justin Martyr and Tertullian say it was empty.  Jewish writers never refute it, they just try to explain it away.  In addition, the resurrection was first preached in Jerusalem.  If the tomb was not empty, the body would have been produced by the government and religious leaders.

Was the body stolen?  – No.  The Jews and Romans would have shown everyone if they had it.  The body would have squashed the Christian revolution.  The disciples were terrified and had no motive.  Just a few days prior they deserted Christ in his greatest time of need.  They would not have stolen the body knowing they would end up dying for what they said they believed.

Was it a group hallucination?  – No.  500+ people at the same time?  That’s funny.

Was the story made up?  - No.  Nothing looks fictional in the way it is presented.  The resurrection appearances suddenly stopped (at Ascension with the exception of Paul).  Women were the first witnesses in the gospel narratives and they were not given a voice in court.  You would not choose a woman to prove your story was true.  Witnesses were alive when the NT was written.  “500+ people – they are alive today.  Go ask them.”  What is the motive?  Suddenly, this group is ready to suffer and die for their faith.  No one would do this for something they made up.

Josephus in Antiquities of the Jews wrote around 93AD “About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he . . . wrought surprising feats. . . . He was the Christ. When Pilate . . .condemned him to be crucified, those who had . . . come to love him did not give up their affection for him. On the third day he appeared . . . restored to life. . . . And the tribe of Christians . . . has . . . not disappeared.”

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, “I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.  For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…”

Jerry Vines says: “Gospel not a catch word for man made theology.  Nor a code word for man-made methodology.  But a clear word of divinely directed history.”

In verse 11 of 1 Corinthians 15, Paul says “His grace toward me was not in vain (NIV – Without effect… NLT – God poured out his special favor on me-and not without results…).  The transformation of thousands of lives and the explosion of the early church is the primary reason we know this story was not made up.  What happened to those who believed in the resurrection?  James, the brother of Jesus, was openly skeptical that Jesus was the Messiah. Later James became a courageous leader of the Jerusalem church, even being stoned to death for his faith. Paul, possibly the PRIMARY biblical example, was persecuting the church and then his life transformed?  Why?  He saw the resurrected Lord.  Faith in the resurrected Christ totally transformed the lives of all who saw him.

The resurrection of Jesus really happened.  The death of death.  Do you believe it? You can respond to the truth of the resurrection by responding to Christ Himself, as the Risen Lord.  You can receive salvation through believing in the resurrection.

Faith in the resurrection does not only transform the way you die, it transforms the way you live.  There is a member in our church.  I’ve asked permission to share his story.  He was a cultural Christian.  He grew up hearing the stories of Jesus, went to church on occasion and lived like the world.   Then, one Sunday he was faced with the truth of the God, Jesus and the resurrection.  Life totally changed.  He said when we were talking, “Suddenly, my faith was the most important thing to me.”  He read many books attacking and affirming the faith.  His conclusion.  The resurrection really happened. And his life is proof.

Jeff Warren’s father died last Monday.  In his obituary we read: “He was an active member at FBC Charlotte where he was a deacon and loved teaching Sunday school. Following retirement he became the Assistant to the Pastor (Dr. Charles Page) in the area of evangelism. Gene had a passion for sharing Christ with anyone who would listen.”  If Jeff’s father were here today, do you know what I think he would say?  The resurrection of Jesus happened!  And his life is proof.

Is your life proof that the resurrection of Jesus really happened?

 

 

Is Jesus who He claimed to be?

“I believe; help me with my unbelief!” Mark 9:24

In previous posts below we explored the reliability of the Bible and the audacious claim that it is actually “God-breathed”. We looked at evidences for the existence of God and noted that perhaps the main evidence for God’s existence is that He came here in Person and told us He exists and showed us exactly who He is. Few doubt that Jesus lived and that He is arguably the greatest and most influential person who has ever lived. It seems logical to believe that a man named Jesus lived but was He really God in the flesh? Are the outrageous claims that He made of Himself true? How can I know?

Perhaps you have wrestled with this question of doubt. It’s critical that we wrestle with this one because it is at the center of the Christian belief, indeed (if it’s true) at the center of LIFE itself. As we approach this question, we need to realize that at the center of Christ’s teaching, His mission, His Message, His life, was His IDENTITY. The central theme or truth of His teaching was not a set of principles or commands; it wasn’t love or grace, per se. At the core of His teaching was His identity. Think about it: Jesus was ultimately crucified not because He talked about love or serving others or caring for the poor. No, His enemies crucified Him because of Who He claimed to be. And it is His identity that continues to be at the center of discussion, debate, belief and unbelief- and heaven and hell. We can’t overstate the importance of this question.

Luke 7:18-23 John asks, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” If there is anyone in the Bible that we would think did not doubt Jesus’ identity, it was John the Baptist. He was the foretold prophet and his role was to announce who Jesus was. In John 1:29, seeing Jesus, John said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the Word.” Here in Luke 7 (also told in Matthew 11) John finds himself in prison, about to be beheaded and he’s questioning the true identity of Jesus. Notice how the Bible never hides doubt, sin, failure, brokenness. It simply describes real people wrestling real faith issues.

Who did Jesus claim to be? He said He was the Messiah, the long-awaited “Liberating King”, the Lord God in the flesh, the Son of the Most High, the now-seen Holy God.

Jesus answers saying, “tell John what you’ve SEEN (His works) & HEARD (his words)”.

1. His works prove He is Lord. What evidence do we have that Jesus Is Lord? We have what the Bible calls “signs” Jesus’ works (these “signs” were prophesied. The Gospels record 35 miracles that Jesus performed: 23 were healing miracles, 9 were miracles showing power over nature, and 3 were miracles of raising the dead. He had power over nature, He calmed the storm, turned water into wine, fed 5,000 people from 5 loaves and 2 fish, raised people from the dead. He performed miracles of physical healing, and He reports back to John that “many people of diseases, the lame walked, lepers were cleansed, & the deaf could hear..” He provided physical and spiritual healing, defeating evil spirits as well. He says,  “Go and tell… the blind receive their sight, the dead are raised up…” These were all signs of the kingdom of God, a New Order that Jesus came to usher in. His miracles proclaimed the nature of the kingdom- that is, blindness, brokenness, death do not reign and rule in the kingdom of God. He reverses the order of this fallen and broken world.

Of course, the ultimate demonstration of His Lordship was the resurrection (much more on that next week). BUT historically, how do you explain what happened 2000 years ago if Jesus did not rise again? Scholars have noted that within five weeks after the resurrection not just one but over 10,000 Jews in Jerusalem (including many Pharisees, the ruling priests of the day) who were willing to give up their social and religious beliefs that they had rigidly observed since childhood to follow Jesus.

2. His words prove He is the Lord. He said tell John about my works and tell him about my words- the truth that He spoke- and again namely the truth about WHO He was. Jesus didn’t simply walk around doing good things. He walked around making the audacious claim that He was the Messiah, knowing that it was blasphemous. He even challenged hostile, even violent skeptics to examine Him, watch Him, and prove that He wasn’t. I’ve talked to people who claim, “Jesus never really claimed to be God.” Just listen to His first hearers: “This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because not only was He breaking the Sabbath, but He was even calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.” John 5:18

John 10:24-31 “So the Jews gathered around Him and said to Him, ‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.’ Jesus answered them, ‘I told you, and you do not believe (WORDS). The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me (WORKS), but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, & they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.’ The Jews picked up stones again to stone him.” He is clearly claiming to be the Messiah and everyone knew it.

Note (back to Luke 7) that John the Baptist wanted to believe, the Pharisees did not.  And to answer John the prophet, Jesus looked at the Old Testament, the signs of the foretold Messiah. As He answered the Pharisees (theologians) Jesus gave a very theological and logical response. But again, faith precedes reason. Even with the works of Jesus, we still find ourselves doubting. One of the ways to come to a clear conclusion is to eliminate the possibilities. For some this will offer a very clear response:

 

Four Possible Options for Jesus’ Identity:

1. Legend This option would say that the story of Jesus claiming to be God is a legend; it never even happened. Most people believe Jesus lived. The problem with Jesus as legend is that modern archaeology shows that the four biographies of Christ were written within the lifetime of Christ’s contemporaries. Most scholars agree that by 70 – 80 AD the Gospels were written. People knew Jesus personally. They saw Him. They could have refuted the claims about Him. See Dr. Luke’s purpose in writing His account of Jesus in Luke 1:1-4.

Consider this: President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963. Imagine, if over the past 50 years, and over the past 15 years in particular, people claimed J.F.K. was the Messiah. What if people began saying that he rose form the dead? What would happen? Those who knew Him would refute those claims immediately. If Jesus was not a real person, how do you explain what happened on the in the Southwest region of the Mediterranean Sea? How do explain the emergence of the most transforming movement of history 2000 years ago? For some, the most impressive of all historical sources are the numerous ancient non-biblical sources that refer to the life and Person of Jesus, including the writings of Tacitus (considered the most famous Roman historian of Antiquity) and Josephus (a famous First Century Jewish historian, who was not a Christian), both of whom were born within 25 years after the death of Jesus. Within 150 years there are more extra-biblical sources that mention Jesus than who mention Tiberius (the Roman emperor at the time of Jesus). In the First and Second Century there are numerous sources that document historically that Jesus lived, died, and was crucified, that His disciples claimed to have seen Him alive after His death, that the empty tomb was commonly accepted and not disputed even by the enemies of Jesus, that the number of believers spread rapidly and widely after the claimed resurrection appearances, and that believers from the very beginning worshipped Jesus as God. This is why most people believed a man named Jesus lived. If He is not a legend, then perhaps He was a…

2. Liar – This option would argue that Jesus knew He was not God but lied and said He was. Few if any, take this option seriously because Jesus was such a great moral teacher. But how could He be a great moral teacher if He lied about the most crucial point of His teaching: His identity. And of course, what do you do with the miracles, the resurrection? Jesus consistently answered His skeptics, namely the Pharisees, with, “I AM” statements, to the questions concerning His identity. “I AM” was the name of God, YHWH, in the Old Testament. Revealing again that it was His identity that was the focal point of His teaching. Consider these amazing claims he made:

  • To know Him was to know God. (John 8:19)
  • To see Him was to see God. (John 12:45,14:4)
  • To believe Him was to believe in God. (John 12:44)
  • To receive Him was to receive God. (Mk. 9:37)
  • To hate Him was to hate God. (John. 15:23)

To honor Him was to honor God. (John 5:23) As if to say: “Prove that I’m lying”

3. Lunatic – This argument says that Jesus really thought He was God and though He was sincere, He was self- deceived. He was crazy; He was a lunatic. Is there any evidence of abnormality or imbalance as we look at Jesus’ life?  No, he did not behave like a madman. Again, you must deal with miracles, the resurrection, and the prophecies. Consider the prophesies: Mathematician Peter Stoner took just eight of the Old Testament prophecies about Jesus and calculated that the odds of them being fulfilled by any one person in history to be 1 in 10 to the 17th power- this 1 with 17 zeros behind it. To understand how incredibly unlikely that is, Stoner says you should take 100,000,000,000,000,000 silver dollars “and lay them on the face of Texas.  They will cover all of the entire state two feet deep. Now mark ONE of these silver dollars and stir the whole mass thoroughly, all over the state. Blindfold a man and tell him he can travel as far as he wishes, but he must pick up one silver dollar and say that this is the right one. What chance would he have of getting the right one?  The same chance that the prophets would have had of writing these eight prophecies and having them all come true in any one man, from their day to the present time…” (see page 167 of Evidence that Demands a Verdict: Historical Evidences for the Christian Faith, Volume I, by Josh McDowell). Consider too that most of the prophecies were outside the control of Jesus (not self-fulfilling)- family lineage, date of death, born in Bethlehem, preceded by a messenger, rejected by His own people, betrayed for 30 pieces of silver, scourged, death with hands and feet pierced, crucified with thieves, no bones broken, soldiers gambling for clothes, suffer thirst during death, buried in rich man’s tomb.

4. Lord - If none of the other options is true, the only option is that Jesus was and is Lord. He knew who He was and He spoke the truth boldly. Jesus wanted everyone to check out His claims to see if He could back up what He was saying (John 10:38).

In his famous quote in Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis writes: “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic- on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg- or else He would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. Now it seems to me- obvious- that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.”

Who do you believe Jesus is?

Jesus is the whole truth about God, God as God is, rather than whom we supposed God to be.” In Matthew 16, Jesus asked, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the living God.”

Who do you believe Jesus is?   

 

Eight Evidences for the Existence of God (part 2)

Here we continue the “Eight Evidences for the Existence of God”. Our last post presented the first four.

5. The Moral Argument

C.S. Lewis was among those who have said that people everywhere have a sense of what’s right and wrong. Somehow (the Bible says because we are image-bearers of God), we know inside of us what we ought to do. God has put a moral law within all of us that governs the universe. If there is no God how do you explain that?

6. Love and Emotion

If there is no God, what is love? Again, the Bible offers answers for the theist: 1 John 4:8 says, “God is love.” Is the Author of love and all love ultimately springs forth from God. If there is no God what are our options? A chemical reaction? A biological drive? An animal instinct? If God doesn’t exist then love is reduced to an evolved emotion that comes only from matter and energy. Is this possible? The Bible teaches that Jesus revealed that reality is bigger than matter and energy. Reality includes a supernatural God who is love and created us with an innate ability to love and have emotion. The moral argument for the existence of God appeals to the existence of moral laws as evidence of God’s existence. According to this argument, there couldn’t be such a thing as morality without God. To use the words that Sartre attributed to Dostoyevsky, “If there is no God, then everything is permissible.” Because there are moral laws, then, (that not everything is permissible) proves that God exists. In Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis wrote, “The Moral Law tells us the tune we have to play; our instincts are merely the keys.” The Bible tells us that we have “suppressed the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18) and have rebelled against the greater tune that we are to play and desire only to play our own tune. Even still, God has given us a sense within us that there is right and there is wrong. He has placed this Moral Law within us, as a gift, so that we would respond to the Giver of it all.

7. Jesus Christ

The Ultimate proof of God and His existence is that He, Himself, came here and told us that He exists. He showed us who He is and what He is like. Hebrews 1:1-3 says,

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.”

God has taken initiative throughout history to communicate with man. Christ is the final proof of, not only the existence of God, but of the exact character of God. Jesus was God in the flesh (John 1:1-4, 14) reconciling the world to Himself.

 8.  Changed Lives

Another proof that God exists is His clear presence in the lives of people today and throughout history. Millions have been changed by His transforming power through a relationship with Jesus Christ. We’ve noted that you are the best argument for the existence of God because you exist and you are also the best argument for the existence of the God of the Bible because of your changed life. If you were to give “changed lives” as evidence for God’s existence, what personal evidence would you be able to offer?

 Of the eight evidences presented above, choose three that would be most helpful with your friends and family. Discuss in your small group, your family, or with a friend.

 

 

How can I know God exists? (part one)

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”  Hebrews 11:1

Immediately we’re challenged by the verse. Why did God “set it up” this way- that we must come to Him by way of faith? If we think about it, this actually the great gift that god has given us. If He is truly God- infinite in all His qualities and eternal in time- how else would we come to Him? We cannot think our way to God any more than we can work our way to God. So it is by faith that we come to God.

Popular thought in our day, is the idea that fi you faith in something then it doesn’t matter so much what you believe as long as you are sincere. Really? You believe you can fly? Sincerely jump out of a plane without a parachute. People who are “sincere” can be sincerely wrong. It is the Object of your faith that matters. Biblical faith is not simply a leap in the dark but faith in a historical Person and a historical event- namely Jesus Christ- His perfect life, death, and resurrection.

How can I know that God exists? Recent surveys continue to show that 90% of all Americans believe in God. 80% said, “I never doubt the existence of God”. But can the Christian show that the God of the Bible truly is the only God- the One everyone must believe in- the One who claims He is the one and only God above all other gods (Exodus 20:1-5)?  We must be clear from the start that it is impossible to put God in a test tube or prove Him by science. In order for something to be proven by science it must be repeatable. History by its very nature is non-repeatable. You can’t prove a lot of things scientifically: How the world began; whether or not George Washington ever lived; what you did yesterday… but there is clear evidence that points directly to the existence of God.

Let’s check out eight arguments for the existence of the God of the Bible. Be ready pick the three that you think are the best arguments for the existence of God.

Eight Evidences for the Existence of God (part one- 1-4)

1. The Search for Something More

We all possess a need for God. Blaise Pascal, the great 17th century mathematician described this as the “God shaped vacuum” in every person. We all intuitively know that there is something more, something outside of us. This comes at us in many ways. We know we our world is broken, something is wrong. The challenge in the affluent West is that we live relatively comfortable lives and we have the ability to run to so many diversions, in order to medicate our pain. But now and then the fog is lifted when something happens that we cannot deny- a baby dies, we get cancer, someone opens fire in an elementary school or a theater and we think, “Wow, our world is broken! This is a mess.” But then we run back to our diversions. But they never last for long. We run to a new and improved self, we run to others, we run to the good things of the world, and we run to religion but none of it ends our search for something more. And here’s why: the solution to our problem is not found in us. It is something that comes from completely outside of us. It is Someone who is completely outside of us and it’s not another person. It’s not another girl or another guy. Men and women: it’s not your spouse. Parents: your child may be “student of the year” but your child makes a lousy god. If you’re running to them for purpose and meaning you will ultimately crush them. Do you believe that every person has an empty place that they are seeking to fill? Romans 1:18-22 affirms all of this.

 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools..” Romans 1:18-22

We know that God exists and if we do not embrace this truth it means that, “that by our unrighteousness we suppress the truth”. God placed within us a kind of homing device that calls us to Him. There is grace in this longing for something more and it should drive us to the Answer! Ecclesiastes 3:11 says God, “set eternity in the hearts of men”.

 2. Cause and Effect

This train of thought is simple Aristotelian logic based on the work of the great philospher, Aristotle and his foundational laws of logic. The Law of Cause and Effect is simple (note- “law” not a theory): No effect can be produced without a cause. We, humans, and the universe itself are effects that must have a cause. You eventually come to the “Uncaused Cause”- God. The fact that you exist is a great argument for the existence of God.

The context out of which atheistic evolutionary thought arose was the theological vacuum of the mid to late 1800s. The prevailing theological view at that time (particularly in western Europe) was summarized by Nietzche when he wrote, “God is dead.” – Nietzsche, 1883

Nietzche meant we had killed the concept of God, that He was “dead” to us in regard to His influence in our lives. Many theologians agreed that the concept of transcendence had lost any meaningful place in modern thought. God was no longer in the equation. So, with that prevailing thought already dominant in Europe in particular, we see the emergence of scientists and thought leaders who had eliminated God from their thought and work. So, by the mid to late 1800s scientists, like Charles Darwin began asking the ultimate questions of life: “Where did we come from?” (the question of origin), “What are we doing here?” (the question purpose), and “Where are we going”- (the question destiny). They came to the first question. “Where did we come from?” Well, not God because God is dead. God does not exist. So, they eliminated the answer before asking the question. “There is no God” So then, where did we come from? Let me suggest that when you eliminate the answer before you ask the question it will always lead to absurdity. It would be like eliminated the number 4 and then asking what is 2 + 2? 3.8? 5-ish? Absurd. Where did we come from? The response: Not God, we came from nothing! But, alas, that’s scientifically impossible. You can’t something from nothing and you can’t get living matter from non-living matter. But the dominant “scientific” position became that there is no God, so we came from nothing. Absurd. Impossible. Of course, someone noted: “Nietzsche is dead.” – God, 1900

3. Order and Design

No one would find a watch in the woods and their first thought be, “Wow, all these sticks and rocks, dirt and leaves must have come together and formed this thing, ticking away, keeping perfect time. No, the first thing we would think would be, “Someone has been here and someone made that watch. It didn’t just appear.” In fact, we would say that would be impossible. And yet, I look around in creation and I see things much more complex than a watch: the human eye that sees in 3-D and color, the heart that pumps on it’s own! Could a computer suddenly come into being without an intelligent designer? Could a monkey in a print shop randomly set Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address in type? Could an eye that sees in 3-D and color happen by accident? Could the universe or the human body come into being without a Supreme Creator? Looking at the universe we see that there is design. Look at plain water. Water has a high specific heat. This means that chemical reactions in the human body are kept rather stable. If water had a low specific heat, we would “boil over” with the least amount of activity. The ocean is the world’s thermostat. The ocean keeps the earth warm in the winter and cool in the summer! If the earth were much smaller an atmosphere would be impossible. If larger the atmosphere would contain free hydrogen (like Jupiter and Saturn) and life would be impossible on earth. The distance from the sun is perfect for life on earth. The smallest percentage of change would make it to hot or too cold for life. These examples (and a million more) have led prominent Princeton physicist Freeman Dyson: “In some sense, the Universe knew we were coming.” SomeONE knew we were coming and created it all and with that we see a purpose in all things. The Universe is not an accident. You are not an accident. God has placed you here on purpose.

4. Meaning and Purpose

Apart from order outside ourselves, we all long for order within. Men and women through the ages have asked: “Why am I here?”

“What is life for? To die?  To kill myself at once?  No, I am afraid. To wait for death till it comes?  I fear that even more.  Then I must live. But what for? To die? And I could not escape that circle.” – Leo Tolstoy

“Life is just a dirty trick, a short journey from nothingness to nothingness.” – Ernest Hemingway

“Vanity of vanities!  All is vanity!” Ecclesiastes 1:2- King Solomon (at the beginning of his search for meaning) It’s this pattern of thinking that led C.S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity, to say: “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”

“The conclusion, when all has been heard is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.”  Eccl. 12:13 – King Solomon (after his search for meaning) Our desire to live full and meaningful lives comes from God who made us for a purpose.

“Without God, what am I but a guide to my own destruction?” – St. Augustine

What will you do with the overwhelming evidence that points us to God? Winston Churchill said, “Men occasionally stumble over truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.” Will you embrace the truth and worship God today or will you run off as if nothing happened? Tomorrow we’ll explore four more evidences for the existence of God and look further into exactly what has happened.

What’s the Gospel?

At the core of our Message, our ministries, our lives, our hope, and life is the Gospel.  The longer I preach the more convinced I am that I (we) have but one message: the Gospel of Grace found only in Christ. Surely all of Scripture is inspired by God and all of the Bible is profitable for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness- but it is the Gospel that is central. I’ve heard Christians through the years express a desire to go “deeper” in the Word. Sometimes this is a true desire to get beyond the surface preaching that seems to come from many of our pulpits. But most of the time this is a desire for more knowledge (and not a desire nor evidence of obedience to what is already known- i.e. kindness, compassion, care for the poor, the marginalized, a lack of grace and purity, etc..).

I ask, “What’s deeper than the Gospel?” How can we ever tire of studying, scrutinizing, exploring, and- indeed- applying the Gospel to every aspect of life. The Gospel is the well that never runs dry. Jesus is eternal and the exploration of His majesty is never-ending. Let’s preach, teach, and apply the Gospel. It is (HE is) the Only hope of salvation for those who believe.

Here Tim Keller (who is always Gospel-centered) answers the question: “What is the Gospel?”

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w0g-s4Qhtyk&feature=youtu.be]