Archive for March, 2010

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

March 29, 2010

Title: The Resurrection of Jesus

Text: 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, Mark 16:6-7, 1 Corinthians 15:14-20

Time: March 23rd, 2010

Today is Easter Sunday and I’ll present the resurrection of Jesus. If you remember, last week I talked about the death of Jesus, the week before I examined the trial of Jesus. I noted that today in our modern, secular world the meaning of Christ’s death is almost entirely lost because people don’t normally think in terms of sin, judgment, atonement, forgiveness and salvation. Instead, we normally think about things like money, possessions, work, comfort, health, entertainment, recreation, security, happiness, fulfillment, pleasure – and other creaturely things. That’s because we basically gauge our lives around our temporary existence on earth without much thought of eternity, God or the after-life. That’s why the age we live in is called secular. The problem is when we think about spiritual holidays, like Christmas and Easter, we bring our earthly, worldly temporal, secular thinking into the church – for many people this is about the only time they visit a church, for still others not even the two major holidays can get them to church – we find that the biblical message is hardly comprehensible. We know we should understand and find meaningful the Easter message of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, but because it requires spiritual thinking we have a hard time. At least for a lot of people it’s hard to think spiritually. So last week I laid down a challenge to all secular people who can’t figure out what’s so important about Jesus’ death and why should it matter to people today – examine the resurrection of Jesus and work backwards from there. What I meant was, if you don’t understand why Jesus needed to die on the cross and why that is supposed to mean a lot to us today, start with the resurrection of Jesus and work backwards from there step-by-step. If the resurrection is true – if Jesus really rose from the dead after three days in the grave – then his other teachings and activities need to be carefully examined. Why? Because he’s credible, he’s someone to look into, he’s not somebody you can ignore. If Jesus could rise from the dead, then he could probably do anything. If Jesus really rose from the dead, then we’d better learn up on what else he said he could do, because if he could perform a miracle of the magnitude of resurrection, his credibility to speak on almost anything is high! That’s what I meant by my challenge to skeptical people today in our secular world – start with the resurrection claims of Jesus Christ, because if it be true that Jesus really did rise from the dead, then we need to look into all the other things he said and did because if he speaks the truth about his ability to overcome death, whatever else he speaks and does is probably also true. And that would have a huge impact on all of our lives. So with that, let me try to outline a way a secular, modern person might come to faith in Jesus. (more…)

My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?

March 28, 2010

Title: My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?

Text: Matthew 27:47-49, Psalm 22

Time: March 24th, 2010

Because it’s only a few weeks before Easter, we are once again examining the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Today, I’d like to examine the cry of Jesus on the cross, “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?” People always ask about this cry, particularly as to what it means. Matthew 27:43-50 states, “From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ – which means, ‘My God, My God, why have your forsaken me?’ When some of those standing there heard this, they said, ‘he’s calling Elijah.’ Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, ‘Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.’ And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.” Now the question is, was he crying out for himself or for another or others? This is the question I will try to answer today along with a couple other questions about the death of Christ. These things matter because they help us understand the events of Easter, and it important for us to understand the meaning of the Easter events because this is our faith, what we trust. Any time we can better understand the meaning and purpose of Christ’s death on the cross on our behalf the more meaning and purpose our lives have, most importantly. Now it’s common in our culture today, a culture that once claimed Christianity as its faith but no longer, it’s common today for millions of people to not attend any type of Easter observance in church, neither Good Friday services nor Easter Sunday itself. For a growing number of persons in the United States, Easter is just another weekend, another time to read the paper, scratch around on the lawn, go out for breakfast, take a walk in the park, go for a drive, enjoy a picnic – or any number of recreational or entertainment activities. No reference to Jesus or the cross or salvation or forgiveness. The biblical account of Christ’s death or resurrection has no meaning for these people. Understanding what Jesus suffered or how he suffered means nothing to these people. Theology – or simply, thinking about godly things and trying to understand them, is pointless to many secular people. Like British biologist Richard Dawkins says, “Theology is nonsense. Theologians, what have they ever done? What have they ever created or produced? Nothing as far as I can see.” So we wouldn’t expect him in church on Easter Sunday. But for Christians, any time we can explore some aspect of our faith, we are helped because it gives us a greater appreciation for just how much God loves us and is willing to show that love towards us. So today, let’s look at Jesus on the cross and let’s hear what he says. What does what he said mean? (more…)

The Trial of Jesus

March 22, 2010

Title: The Trial of Jesus

Text: Matthew 26:57-67, Isaiah 53:10

Time: March 21st, 2010

Because it’s only a few weeks before Easter, I’d like to interrupt our sermon series on the Book of Genesis and cover some three topics related to the final days of the life of Jesus: first, the trial of Jesus; second, the death of Jesus; third, the resurrection of Jesus. We’ll take some time away from the Book of Genesis and give our minds a rest in thinking about the Creation account and all the related issues we’ve been dealing with since the first of the New Year. It’s a good time to take a break from that because it’s been a pretty intellectual series so far, maybe a little too intellectual for regular sermons. But I’ve wanted to not only cover the biblical material, but also equip you for interacting in the world of modern science and scholarship. We live in a world that mostly rejects the biblical message of Creation, so it’s important that we grapple with the issues of faith and science in order to not only understand our own faith better but also in order to communicate our faith to the outside world. Some people have the idea that there is no connection between faith and reason, or between the Bible and science, but if “all truth is God’s truth,’ then we should expect that when we read the Bible correctly and when we observe and understand nature correctly, the two should line up. They do, but it’s not always possible to see how they do in our present fallen, limited condition. We’ll return to Genesis after Easter. But for now, I’d like to jump into the sequence of events leading up to and including the resurrection of the Lord Jesus in the weeks ahead. Today, I’ll focus on what happened during the trial of Christ before the Jewish leaders – and why they happened. It’s important for us to understand what and why things happened the way they did in the life of the Lord Jesus because this is our faith, this is what is most important to us – or should be most important to us. In our modern, secular world it’s easy to think that money and material possessions are most important. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that work and play and eating and sleeping and recreation and entertainment are most important. Many people live out their lives, maybe even most people, thinking that these earthly, worldly things are most important. But they fail to stop and realize that these things in and of themselves don’t give live meaning. Only higher spiritual things, things over and above our typical mundane activities can give these very activities meaning and purpose. The Bible gives meaning and purpose to our lives because it explains important spiritual events that cast light on everything else. The death, burial and resurrection sequence of Jesus – taken together — is such a spiritual event. The more we learn and reflect on its meaning, the more meaning and purpose our lives have. So let’s look at these events, today, the trial of Jesus. I’ll mention three things today about the trial. (more…)

The Bible and Science

March 7, 2010

Title: The Bible and Science

Text: Proverbs 3:5-6, 1 Corinthians 13:12, 1 Thessalonians 5:21

Time: March 8th, 2010

For the past few months I’ve talked a lot about the Genesis creation account and the modern scientific theory of evolution, but I haven’t talked much about the general relationship between the Bible and science. I don’t have to tell anyone that there obviously are points of tension between the biblical Christian faith and modern science. I say “points of tension” because I don’t want to state that all of modern science is at odds with the Christian faith, or that even most of science is at war with the Bible, it isn’t. For example, probably most areas of modern science today are completely compatible and pose no problem for Christians working in these areas. I think, for example, in the field of physics, most Christians working in this field would find themselves completely at home with the other scientists, say for example working at NASA in the space program, to mention a well known area. Only the most radical and speculative fields within physics might cause a Christian any problems. And it’s probably that way in most areas of science. But then, on the other hand, there are fields of science that are filled with controversy and conflicts for Christians, biology being the most specific example. If Darwinian evolution is the heart and soul of most biology programs – and it is – then it would be difficult for a true Bible-believing Christian to function in that environment without great conflict, unless he or she were working in some narrowly-defined specific area of biology that didn’t require assent and affirmation of Darwin’s theory. In that case it would work. But unfortunately in our modern world today, it’s almost impossible to live and work in any field today without running into evolution. It’s hard to simply live in the 21st century without running in Darwin in big and small ways all the time. For example, for myself, I like to watch television documentaries on the History Channel or Discovery Channel or National Geographic, but it’s difficult to watch these cable channels for any period of time without being presented with the theory of evolution in one form or another. PBS is another television network committed to propagating the teachings of evolution, along with all the other major networks like ABC, NBC and CBS. And these outlets don’t seem to mind that they run roughshod right over the teachings and sensibilities of Christians. So there can be no getting around it – the modern world and its many communications outlets are at odds with biblical Christian faith much of the time. Modern science, in this particular area, is at odds with Christianity. So then how does a Christian come to terms with science today? Can a true Christian come to terms with science? How are we to relate our Christian faith to science? I’d like to try to answer these and other questions today, so that we can approach this important aspect of our modern world with confidence and conviction. I’ll use Proverbs 3:5-6 as my text, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him and he shall direct your path.” (more…)

In the Image of God He Created Them — Male and Female

March 7, 2010

Title: In the Image of God He Created Them – Male and Female

Text: Genesis 1:26-27, 2:7, 21-23

Time: March 7th, 2010

So far, 2010 has been a year of exploring origins – the creation of all things by God in the early chapters of the Book of Genesis. I’m still working my way through the first and second chapters of Genesis, dealing with such topics as creation vs. evolution, literal “days” vs. day-ages, fixed vs. mutable species, and the relationship between faith and science. Today I’d like to examine more closely the biblical teaching on men and women created in the image of God. “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them,” Genesis 1:26-27. The plain sense meaning of the biblical text just mentioned is that men and women are special – set apart from all other creation by God. In contrast to all other life forms, such as plants or all other living organisms including bacteria, fish, amphibians, reptiles, insects, birds, mammals – man is specially created by God to bear his very image. What is God’s image? What does it mean for mankind to be made in the image of God? A lot of ink has been used in writing on this complicated subject. Not only entire books, but entire shelves, entire sections of libraries have been devoted to exploring this vast subject, so I won’t presume to answer the question, “What is the image of God created in man?” But I will list a few common sense features that probably capture the essence of what the biblical author – in this case, Moses, who we presume was inspired by God himself – meant to communicate. Certainly, what sets man apart from the rest of God’s creation, what makes man unique in all of the created order, and thus provides us with a clue as to the meaning of “created in the image of God” is his moral and reasoning ability. God, as we learn from the Bible, is an infinite intellectual being and also is an infinite moral being. God is intelligent, he can think and reason, and most important, he is self-conscious or self-aware. In the similar way, although in a lesser way, men and women made in God’s image are intelligent and can also consciously think about themselves, others, God and the world. God also makes moral value judgments, grounded in his own perfection, and can make decisions about what is right and wrong. So also men and women made in his image have the ability to make value judgments about what is right and wrong, but their standard is the character of God. Thus, man made in God’s image has always been seen as special, at least in the Judeo-Christian tradition. But in the mid-19th century Darwin’s theory of evolution challenged this understanding of man’s place in the created order. Darwin raised the possibility that man is just another animal, different in no way other than evolutionary development. Modern science with mapping of the human genome confirms further how similar we are with apes. Does this confirm the theory of evolution? Does this prove that there is nothing special about man? Does this mean that we aren’t created in God’s image after all? Let me take a few minutes to explain what the Bible says on this important subject, because it has a lot to do with how we view each other and ourselves. (more…)