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Thursday, 28 March 2013

The Resurrection of Jesus and Hope

A world without Hope

If we are alone in the universe, if there is no God, if there is nothing but matter and energy, then Richard Dawkins is probably right: 

"In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”

A world that shows us "pitiless indifference" is a world in which there is no hope. We are born, we die, we rot - and that's the end of it.  So Eat, Drink and be Merry, for Tomorrow we die. 

The Gospel - the Good News of Jesus Christ - teaches that because there is a God there is hope, and somehow this hope is centred on the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

Making the leap from Resurrection to Hope
But how does this work? How can the resurrection of one man 2000 years ago lead many to hope today? Here's the journey....  

#1: The Resurrection of Jesus proves that God intervenes in the world!
No other explanation for a man returning from the dead never to die again is there?  Does God ever intervene in our world? Is he at work in the world of men and women? Yes, declares the resurrection in a powerful way. And that one empty tomb signals a thousand and one other God-interventions.

#2: The Resurrection of Jesus gives authority to all of his other life-giving words
The greatest test of any man's authority lies in his predictions he makes about the future. If experts like the IBM chief predicted that the world would only need  about 5 computers and Bill Gates predicted that no-one would need more than 640K of memory space on a computer, what hope for the rest of us in predicting tomorrow?

But  Jesus predicted his resurrection and it happened, and so our confidence in all his other life-giving words of hope is secure. Life-giving words such as:

       "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry 
            and he who believes in me will never be thirsty"

       "Come to me all you who are weary and burdened 
             and I will give your rest"

        "I am the light of the world, whoever follows me will not walk in 
              darkness but have the light of life."

#3: The Resurrection of Jesus signals that our sins have been paid in full
Strange leap this one, you may think. But God's just punishment upon our wrongdoing is death. God in his love sent his Son to die that death for us, take that punishment for us. And so he dies. But how do we know when or if the sentence has come to an end? When he has un-died, when he has risen from the dead. And so the resurrection is the signal that all of our sins have been paid for in full and we are forgiven!

#4: The Resurrection of Jesus proves  that God can overturn evil for good
The cross was a wicked injustice. Jesus had done no wrong. The cross was a painful experience: the Romans knew how to kill a man efficiently with maximum pain. The cross was an embarrassment to the victim - naked and regraded as the lowest of the low (a Roman could not be crucified). The cross was excruciating sin-transference - Jesus blamed for sins we committed. Is God able to take such a painful experience and bring good out of it? Why yes he is! Jesus rises from the dead never to die again. Victor over the grave. Victor over sin. Victor over evil. Victor over injustice. 

Can God do that in your life? Yes he can. Whatever the valley.

#5: The Resurrection of Jesus is proof that there is life beyond the grave
OK you could argue, only for one man. But remember his words have been authenticated, and he said, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will never die." In other words, he says, what happened to him will happen to everyone who believes in him. So we should not say that the resurrection of Jesus is proof that there is life beyond the grave, we should say that it is the ticket to life beyond the grave!

The question is whether or not we will believe the Victor? 

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

The Folly of the World's Thinking

An easy mistake
It is an easy mistake  for a Christian to make: go to the library or a reliable secular website when they need a book on marriage, bringing up the kids, depression, whatever. We have been conditioned to seek information in this way.

But this is a fatal mistake for a Christian to make for one big reason......

The world has messed up its thinking 
According to Scripture, unbelievers can't think straight.  The moment a man or woman suppresses the knowledge of God, they mess up their mental apparatus. This is how it works. Out there in the world of creation there are numerous evidences for God. Complex things demand a Designer; beautiful things demand a Painter; immense things require a Power. Inside our heads we have been supplied with a mental apparatus which works out cause from effect, all very naturally. Put these two together and the mind inescapably comes to one conclusion:

    Evidence from Creation + Internal mental "cause and effect" reasoning => GOD

Today we are spoilt for choice when it comes to evidence from Creation, there is just so much of it.

Now, if a human mind suppresses this normal cause and effect  process, when it comes to creation and God, it messes up all the reasoning of that human mind.

This is not at all surprising - if a man makes such a big mistake in his reasoning at such an obvious point, how can he think right anywhere else? If he does the first button of his shirt wrongly, how can he expect the rest to be right?

This is what the apostle Paul teaches in Romans 1. The human mind that deliberately denies the massive and inexcusable evidence of God's existence simply can't think straight on anything else:

      "....their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened."

This, sadly, of course does not stop them from thinking they are wise:

     "Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools."

But this teaching of Paul's, that a mind which denies the existence of God knocks out all of its reasoning processes, has very large implications for all branches of human knowledge (I am here referring to secular studies).

Does that mean that everything an unbeliever says is wrong?
No, because 'common grace' teaches that God preserves some truth in the world (this world is not hell) so that Paul can quote from pagan thinkers in Acts 17, approvingly. The least 'corrupted' truth is likely to be found in hard subjects such as physics and chemistry where the subject is matter, rather than God, man or morality. 

Much truth will be distorted
But the moment the world begins to talk about God, morality, or human beings, we are to be completely suspect of all its teaching. Common grace means the world will sometimes stumble upon truths even in this area. John Gray in Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, for example, stumbles upon the fact that there are some real differences between men and women. But we could not trust secular thinking on the history or origin of the world, right and wrong, sexuality, the future, the supernatural, miracles, and so on. In all these areas its thinking will be foolish.

The Bible or Christian books
The place to go for all these matters is the Bible and to Christian authors. We must teach our churches and children to have a healthy mistrust of everything taught at school or university. It may appear wise, but it is, in point of fact, foolishness. And we must continually renew our own minds with God's truth:

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." (Romans 12:2)