It is the foundational claim of Christianity: Christ died on a Cross and was raised back to life. It is also the claim many skeptics of Christianity find so difficult to process.
I am going to present a 5-part series of messages on this topic—“I can know Jesus is A.L.I.V.E. because of…” and then I’m going to give evidence for each of the five letters of “ALIVE.”
These messages are specifically designed for those skeptical of the claims of Christianity. The evidence won’t be a bunch of “churchy” platitudes, but court-room-level evidence that will attempt to make the case for what Christians believe about the death and resurrection of Jesus.
If you fall into that skeptical group, I would be honored to have you join me either in person at our church or on Facebook Live at 10:30am for the next five Sundays (March 18-April 15). I’m excited to present this evidence and I am looking forward to interacting with you!
We have already looked at “A is for Apologetics” which you can check out by clicking here.
This is a recap from Pastor Craig on the first message in our new series.
This is part 1 of a 5-part series with a simple premise: “I can know Jesus is A.L.I.V.E. because of…” and then I am presenting evidence for each of the five letters. This is a look at the letter “A” for Apologetics for the resurrection of Jesus.
I would ask you to weigh the evidence for three possibilities concerning the claims of Christians regarding the death and resurrection of Jesus.
(1) Jesus didn’t actually die.
The Romans didn’t invent crucifixion, but they perfected it to be one of the most gruesome forms of tortuous death that history has ever known. This leads one to wonder how could anyone go through the torture Jesus did and survive?
A team of medical examiners, after examining the historical account of Jesus’ death concluded: “The difficulty surrounding exhalation leads to a slow form of suffocation. Carbon dioxide builds up in the blood, resulting in a high level of carbonic acid in the blood. The body responds instinctively, triggering the desire to breathe. At the same time, the heart beats faster to circulate available oxygen. The decreased oxygen (due to the difficulty in exhaling) causes damage to the tissues and the capillaries begin leaking watery fluid from the blood into the tissues. This results in a build-up of fluid around the heart (pericardial effusion) and lungs (pleural effusion). The collapsing lungs, failing heart, dehydration, and the inability to get sufficient oxygen to the tissues essentially suffocate the victim. The decreased oxygen also damages the heart itself (myocardial infarction) which leads to cardiac arrest. In severe cases of cardiac stress, the heart can even burst, a process known as cardiac rupture. Jesus most likely died of a heart attack.”
Besides that, the dead body of Jesus was also thoroughly examined by both the Romans who conducted the crucifixion (see Mark 15:43-45) and His friends who prepared His body for burial (John 19:38-40). In addition, two contemporary historians who aren’t friendly to the cause of Christianity (Tacitus and Josephus) both attested to Christ’s death by crucifixion.
(2) Jesus didn’t actually rise from the dead.
Some say the disciples were delusional from their intense grief. But Jesus was seen on more than one occasion, sometimes by one person, sometimes by twos, and several times by large groups (see 1 Corinthians 15:3-8). Some of Jesus’ closest friends weren’t convinced by second-hand testimony but had to see Jesus for themselves (John 20:19-20, 24-28). All four biblical accounts record women seeing the resurrected Jesus. This is significant because women were not allowed to serve as “legal witnesses,” so this wouldn’t have helped the “delusional” disciples at all.
Some say the disciples stole the body of Jesus. But this is problematic because of the armed guards at the tomb of Jesus (Matthew 27:62-66; 28:11-15).
(3) Jesus was crucified and resurrected.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes said, “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” So after looking at the shortcomings and difficulties of the first two options, let’s consider this third possibility: that it happened just as the historical records in the Bible indicate.
Cold-case detective J. Warner Wallace said of this third possibility, “The last explanation (although it is a miraculous, supernatural explanation) suffers from the least number of liabilities and deficiencies. If we simply enter into the investigation without a pre-existing bias against anything supernatural, the final explanation accounts for all of the evidence without any difficulty. The final explanation accounts for the evidence most simply and most exhaustively, and it is logically consistent…. The final explanation is also superior to all other accounts (given that it does not suffer from all the problems we see with the other explanations).”
Check out the video where I discuss all of these points in more detail, and join me either in person or on Facebook Live for the next four Sundays as we continue looking at the evidence supporting the resurrection of Jesus.
It’s no secret that when a Christian says, “This is what I believe,” or “This is what the Bible says,” or even something as simple as, “I believe in God,” that there will be people who disagree. Sometimes their disagreement may even become an outright attack.
How are Christians to respond?
Here are five ways I’ve found to be effective and Christ-honoring—
1. Don’t argue. Arguments tend to create an “I don’t want to lose” feeling in the other person, which makes them unable to truly hear what you’re saying. Solomon wrote, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself” (Proverbs 26:4).
2. Ask questions. Jesus was a master at this. Look through the Gospels and you will see Jesus asking questions to clarify others’ positions. Questions stimulate further conversation, while statements tend to shut down the conversation. Questions develop a relationship, while definitive statements make you seem superior to the other person.
3. Don’t argue. Yes, this is good enough to repeat! Paul’s advice to Timothy was, “Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives’ tales” (1 Timothy 4:7).
4. Pray for mercy. Remember that if you are really speaking truths from the Bible, the person arguing against those truths is arguing with God, not with you.
5. Pray for light. Paul said that the “god of this age” has blinded people (see 2 Corinthians 4:2-4), so we should pray that the Holy Spirit would grant them light to see the truth.
“Oh, the unmitigated curse of controversy! Oh, the detestable passions that corrections and contradictions kindle up to fury in the proud heart of man! Eschew controversy, my brethren, as you would eschew the entrance to hell itself. Let them have it their way; let them talk; let them write; let them correct to you; let them traduce you; let them judge and condemn you; let them slay you. Rather let the truth of God suffer itself, than that love suffer. You have not enough of the divine nature in you to be a controversialist.” —Dr. Alexander Whyte
Let’s be passionate for people, not passionate to win an argument!
Pastor Craig recaps his message from Sunday morning. You can also watch the full video below…
I’ve had a good friend recommend a musical artist to me and I haven’t enjoyed the music.
I’ve had a good friend take me to a restaurant I haven’t liked.
I’ve had a good friend tell me how wonderful a certain movie was, and I thought it was a dud.
And I’m sure some of my good friends could say the same thing about my recommendations.
But you know what? All of these folks are still my friends.
I’ve never had one person say to me, “Your restaurant suggestion was awful. I’m unfriending you on Facebook and blocking your number from my phone. I never want to see or hear from you again!”
Yet sometimes I think church-going Christians feel like this might happen if they invite a friend to come to their church.
Let’s consider the odds—
How likely is it that if you invite a friend to church and they say “no” that they are also going to say, “Get out of my life forever”?
If they do accept your invitation, but find that your church wasn’t a good fit for them, how likely is it that they’re going to say, “We can never hang out again”?
I think you would agree with me that both of these responses are highly unlikely!
But consider the other side—what if you invite them to your church and they say “yes”? What if after attending your church they like it? And what if by attending your church they enter into a personal relationship with Jesus?
If that happens, you’ve changed the course of their eternal destiny!
Instead of focusing on the worst-case scenarios (which seem highly unlikely), we should be focusing on the best-case scenario!
If you’re still uneasy about inviting someone to your church, or even trying to have a conversation with them about your personal faith, here is a simple phrase to consider: Come and see.
Invite them to come and see your lifestyle that seeks to glorify Jesus (see Matthew 5:16). Let them see that you live your life like Jesus: doing good (Acts 10:38).
Invite them to come and see the Creator behind the creation (see Psalm 66:5). Whenever there is a discussion about the weather, or nature, or a medical science breakthrough, ask them, “Have you ever thought that if there is such a beautiful design there must also be an intelligent Designer?”
Christian, you have the best news ever! Don’t keep it to yourself. Invite those around you to come and see what a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is all about. Who knows? You may be a part of changing someone’s eternal destiny.
Survey after survey, and personal interview after personal interview all report the same indisputable truth—the #1 reason unchurched people don’t come to church is no one has invited them!
Wow! Christians have the life-changing truth of what a personal relationship with Jesus Christ can do, and they are for the most part keeping it to themselves.
The Easter season is upon us, so we have a golden opportunity to reverse this stat. There is something about Easter and Christmas where even those that don’t normally attend a church service feel like this season might be a good time to do so.
I want to present a very simple way to invite people to hear about our Risen Savior, and it’s just three simple words:
Come and See
No pressure. No promises. No gimmicks. Just this: “Come and see for yourself what a relationship with Jesus is all about.”
Over the next two Sundays we’ll be looking at some obstacles we church people may have to overcome, and some excuses many unchurched people use. But all of this will help us to simply and clearly say to our friends, “Come and see!”
Throughout 2017 we have been reviewing our foundational truths. Here is Pastor Craig’s recap of his message covering our belief statements on the end times events.
Celebrating Advent means both looking back at Christ’s First Advent in Bethlehem and looking ahead to His Second Advent at the end of time. Faith in the First Advent fuels hope in the Second Advent. Let’s take a look at the events leading up to and surrounding Christ’s Second Advent to help us appreciate what was begun at His First Advent.
Overarching all of the end times events is a Christian’s blessed hope: “The resurrection of those who have fallen asleep in Christ and their translation together with those who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord is the imminent and blessed hope of the church.”
The word “rapture” doesn’t appear in Scripture, but we get this word from the Latin word raptu, which comes from the Greek word harpazo. We first see it when Philip is “caught away” from the Ethiopian’s presence in the desert (Acts 8:39). This is the same word Paul uses when he says that Christians will be “caught up” to meet Christ in the air (see 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17).
Note that the rapture of the Church is not the Second Coming of Christ. His Second Coming takes place at the end of the period known as the Tribulation when Jesus returns to earth as a conquering King and establishes His Millennial Reign on earth (Revelation 19:11-16; 20:1-4).
During Christ’s Millennial Reign, the devil and his cohorts are locked up until the end of the 1000-year reign and are allowed to tempt people one final time. The devil will succeed in tempting quite a few people, as he will once again muster a sizable army to attack Christ and His followers. This decisive battle will culminate in the final judgment.
“There will be a final judgment in which the wicked dead will be raised and judged according to their works. Whosoever is not found written in the Book of Life, together with the devil and his angels, the beast and the false prophet, will be consigned to the everlasting punishment in the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:11-15).
In light of Christ’s First Advent in Bethlehem, and His soon return (His Second Advent), how are Christians to live? In a word: HOPEFUL!
In all of these passages discussing the end times, hope-filled words are used—
therefore encourage each other with these words
wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior
stand firm … let nothing move you
Jesus says, I am coming soon! My reward is with Me
Jesus also pointed out that Heaven is a place “prepared for you since the creation of the world,” while Hell is “prepared for the devil and his angels.”GOD WANTS YOU WITH HIM IN HEAVEN!
As you rejoice in the First Advent, remember that Christ’s First Coming was to provide a way for you to have your sins forgiven and be able to spend eternity with Him. So as we look forward in hope to Christ’s Second Advent we say with the Apostle John, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”
God’s plan has always been for His leaders to organize and oversee His ministry.
The important thing for us to distinguish is “His.” It’s not a man or woman saying, “I will be a leader,” or even a God-appointed leader saying, “I am going to build up my ministry.”
The New Testament gives us a fourfold purpose for the Body of Christ:
Mobilizing for evangelism
Organizing for more meaningful ministry
Caring for one another
We see God’s leaders involved in all of these aspects—
Mobilizing for evangelism—Peter pointed out the need for an apostle to be appointed to replace Judas, thus returning their ranks to the 12 apostles just as Jesus had originally said (Acts 1:15-22).
Organizing for more meaningful ministry—Everywhere Paul founded a church, he also appointed leaders to oversee and shepherd that church.
Making disciple-makers—Paul tells us that God appointed five offices of leaders in the church who had the specific task of preparing church members to do the ministry of building maturity in the church (Ephesians 4:11-16).
Caring for one another—The First Church set the pace for providing care for all who were in need, including organizing leaders to oversee specific care ministries (Acts 6:1-5).
What about a church congregation’s responsibility to their leaders? I see five areas:
Hold them accountable to the Word (Acts 17:11). The Bible has to be THE standard to which leaders are held.
Give them your confidence and submission after they have shown accountability to their biblical mandate (Hebrews 13:17).
As we continued in our series looking at our Foundation Stones, here is a recap of the message Pastor Craig shared yesterday about the mission of the Church.
Before ascending back to Heaven, Jesus commissioned His followers. He gave them a mission which Christian often refer to as The Great Commission.
Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.”
There are several pictures in the New Testament of how the Church could live out this Great Commission, but one of the pictures that I find the most helpful is that of a Body.
The human body is an amazing creation! Just to accomplish the simple task of picking up something between our thumb and forefinger is a miracle in itself. The structure of bones and ligaments and tendons, the interaction of nerves in the fingers coordinating with the optical nerve, not to mention the enzymes and blood vessels that are all doing their part.
Yet if any part is not functioning properly, that simple action becomes more difficult. Maybe it even becomes impossible.
The Church is the same way. Every part of the Church Body has to be functioning in healthy order for the whole Body to be effective.
Here are four aspects of a healthy Church Body that the Apostle Paul lists in Ephesians 4:
Caring for one another
Mobilizing for evangelism
Helping organize for more meaningful ministry
If every part of the Body is doing its part, we’re Living out the Great Commission.
If some parts are missing or unhealthy, we’re Wallowing in the Great Omission.
It’s not about your church (small “c”) or my church. It’s about all Christian disciples being a part of one Church—one Body—going into all the world and making disciples of all peoples. That’s what the Church is supposed to be doing!
In our ongoing series looking at our foundational truths, Pastor Craig shared some insight into the concept of sanctification. Here is the recap he posted on his blog:
If I were to ask five different Christians to give me a definition of sanctification, I just might get five different definitions!
Part of this comes from incorrect either-or thinking. However, Jesus seems to tell us that sanctification requires a both-and thinking.
In Christ’s prayer for His followers in John 17, He uses the word sanctified three times (see verses 17-19). Although He is using the same Greek word each time, He uses a different “flavor” of the word to make it really clear what He means.
First of all, the Greek word for sanctified means the process of being made into a saint. So I sometimes I like to say the word this way: SAINT-ified.
Check out Christ’s prayer. First He says, “I sanctify Myself,” and then He says, “that they too may be truly sanctified.” Same Greek word, but each time is slightly tweaked.
Jesus uses a “flavor” of Greek which means sanctification is something that He has done completely and totally on His own once and for all. In other words, Christians are completely and totally sanctified at the very moment they surrender their life to Him.
But when He talks about His followers, the “flavor” of Greek means sanctification is something that is an ongoing process. In other words, we are being SAINT-ified.
So which is it? Sanctified once, or sanctified through an ongoing process?
It’s not either-or. It’s both-and!
Think about a married couple. From the moment the pastor says, “I now pronounce you husband and wife” they are married. It is done; fully completed. There is nothing the bride or groom can do to become more married.
However, the groom can begin to look at the marriage through his bride’s eyes. Then he can serve her in a way that helps her feel more joy, more satisfaction, and more fulfillment within the marriage. Neither of them becomes more married, but they can get more enjoyment within the marriage.
The same thing for Christians. At the moment we ask Jesus to be our Lord and Savior we are saved from the penalty of our sins. We can’t be more saved. But through the process of SANIT-ificiation we can experience more joy, more satisfaction, and more fulfillment within our relationship with Jesus.
My paraphrase of 1 Peter 1:15-16—But just as He who called you has paid for your once-for-allsaint-ification, sokeep on beingsaint-ifiedin all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
What about you? Are you satisfied with just being saved, or are you striving for a joy-filled, more fulfilling, increasingly satisfied relationship with Jesus Christ? It can truly be a wonderful both-and relationship!