Archive for April, 2015

The Importance of the Resurrection

April 15, 2015

Title: The Importance of the Resurrection
Text: 1 Corinthians 15:3-4
Time: April 10th, 2015

Every year the Easter season comes and goes, and while it is celebrated around the world, I often get the feeling that people don’t really get the point and purpose of it, even though they know it has some profound meaning. There really is confusion today, perhaps more so than at any other time in church history, as to the basic meaning of such important things like the death of Christ on the cross, his burial and finally the resurrection. What do these things mean? What did they mean and what do they mean today? We know in fact that these things had a profound effect on the people of the first century because of the rapid growth of the Christian church. And we know historically they had a great effect on the development of the Western World, including all of Europe and also our own nation the United States. So there is no question that the life of Jesus, and in particular his death, burial and resurrection changed the course of world history. But why don’t these profound and earth shacking events have much of a powerful influence today? Yes, they do have some impact on people today, but it doesn’t seem that they grip the human soul the way they used to thousands of years ago, or even hundreds of years ago. It seems like in modern times their impact has lessened to the point that our culture celebrates Easter more out of historical remembrance than profound personal experience. How many people attending an Easter church service are truly gripped with the reality of the risen Christ today? I would guess that a majority is not; maybe even a vast majority is not. Why not? How can things that meant so much in earlier times mean so little to people today? One of the contributing factors is that people are largely ignorant of the true and profound meaning of the Easter events as they occurred two thousand years ago. They just haven’t been taught properly from the pulpits. Pastors and church leaders over the last twenty or thirty years have so emphasized “practical” Christianity – having the proper positive mental attitude, teaching principals of “success” from the Bible, and generally appealing to the practicality of Christianity over the theological or doctrine or moral aspects of the faith. The result is that most people today, even those who attend church regularly, don’t know the basic and essential theological teachings of the church, and if they do, they often don’t know them very profoundly. This must be corrected before it’s too late. So let me delve into some of the important theological reasons why Christ rose from the dead, and why the resurrection is so important for – or should be important for us – today. I’ll use as my text, “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,” 1 Corinthians 15:3-4. (more…)

Jesus Prophesies Concerning His Resurrection (Revisited)

April 15, 2015

Title: Jesus Prophesies Concerning His Resurrection (Revisited)
Text: Matthew 12:40, 16:21, 17:22-23, 20:18-19, 26:32; Mark 8:31; Luke 9:22, 24:6-8; John 2:19-22
Time: April 8th, 2015

Last time I stated that I believe the disciples weren’t thinking about the resurrection after Jesus was arrested, tried, crucified and buried. What prompted my comments on the subject was the made-for-television mini-series “A.D. The Bible Continues” on NBC, that depicted the disciples and Mary the mother of Jesus discussing the prophecy of Jesus about him rising from the dead after three days. They were hiding in Jerusalem in the days that followed the death of Christ and talking between themselves. Some seemed to remember and believe the resurrection prophecy, while others couldn’t believe it. Clearly the TV presentation depicts the disciples keenly aware of the third day prophecy. But as I stated before, the Bible actually doesn’t present things as if the disciples had this in mind at all. It depicts them rather as discouraged and defeated, without hope. Now I can understand why the writers, directors and producers of the TV program might want to show the disciples anticipating the prophecy of Jesus rising from the dead after three days, because after all, the gospel accounts are full of the Lord repeating the prophecy over and over in the course of his ministry. So why wouldn’t the disciples remember and hope in the prophecy of resurrection? It seems logical that they would. But the problem once again is that the Bible doesn’t say anything about them hoping in the resurrection after Christ died. Does the Bible need to say anything about it? Can’t we just assume they did pay attention to it and move on? Not really, at least, to be faithful to the New Testament accounts. If they were full of faith in the prophecy of Jesus to rising to life after three days the gospel accounts probably would have said so. But why wouldn’t they remember and believe the prophecy, especially since it was repeated over and over again by Jesus? Maybe because the arrest, torture and crucifixion of Christ was so horrible, so terrible that it took all their faith out of them. After all, the Messiah, the Lord, the Savior had been taken and killed by the Jews and the Romans. To the disciples way of thinking that wasn’t supposed to happen. So if that happened when it wasn’t supposed to happen of the Messiah, to their way of thinking, they might have given up all hope in anything else happening as they might hope or expect, including the resurrection prophecy. But these are issues that need to be explored further. That’s why I’d like to take a whole message and look at the gospel reference to the resurrection prophecy spoken by Jesus, starting in Matthew, and then Mark, Luke and finally John. As we’ll see, Jesus told his disciples many times he’d die and rise to life afterwards. They heard him, but did it really sink in. That’s the question we must face today. (more…)

Were the Disciples Expecting Jesus to Rise From the Dead?

April 15, 2015

Title: Were the Disciples Expecting Jesus to Rise From the Dead?
Text: Mark 8:31-32, Luke 24:25, Mark 16:1-3
Time: April 7th, 2015

I mentioned last time that I’d just watched part one of the made-for-television series “A.D. The Bible Continues.” In it the disciples are shown talking about the prophecy of Jesus that he would rise from the dead after three days. It shows that Mary, mother of Jesus, did believe that it would happen. It also shows that Mary Magdalene was thinking that it might come to pass. But it mostly shows the disciples discouraged, depressed and anxious to leave Jerusalem out of fear of the Jews who might want to round them up and either jail or kill them to prevent them from spreading the teachings of Jesus. Peter is inclined, the presentation shows, to wait for at least three days to see what happens – to see if Jesus rises from the dead as he said, until he and the other disciples flee the city for their own safety. So the TV drama shows the disciples conscious and reflecting and pondering that Jesus might indeed rise from the dead. Now the only problem with this depiction is that it isn’t anywhere in the New Testament of the Bible. What the biblical record shows is that the enemies of Christ and his disciples – the Jewish leader and Pharisees in particular – were indeed thinking about the Jesus prophecy of resurrection after three days. We know this because they went to Pilate to ask for a Roman guard to seal and watch the tomb in order that nothing could happen that might give anyone the impression that Jesus had fulfilled prophecy by rising from the dead. They didn’t want anyone moving or stealing the body of Christ and then spreading the rumor that he had risen from the dead. So Pilate sent troops to seal and guard the tomb of Jesus as the Jews had requested. So we know from the Bible that the Jews were thinking about the resurrection prophecy, and we know that the Romans were now thinking about it due to the Jews bringing it up, but we don’t have any evidence – at least that I’m aware of – that the disciples were thinking or contemplating or expecting anything like Jesus rising from the dead. In “A.D. The Bible Continues” while some of the believers are hoping the prophecy comes true, others like Peter doubt it, as he says in one scene, “I’d give my right arm to believe that Jesus is coming back to life again, but I cannot.” Clearly the TV presentation shows the disciples considering it. But is this actually accurate? I think it’s a fascinating topic because we often don’t take the time to think through what it must have been like to live as a Christian believer during those dark days after the death and burial of Christ. Did they truly believe at that point? Were they expecting something to happen? Or were they downhearted, discouraged and depressed? Let’s investigate the matter a little closer. (more…)

Did Pilate Send Troops to Guard the Tomb of Jesus?

April 15, 2015

Title: Did Pilate Send Troops to Guard the Tomb?
Text: Matthew 27:62-66
Time: April 6th, 2015

Last week I watched the new made-for-television movie “Killing Jesus,” based on the book by talk show host Bill O’Reilly and writer Martin Dugard of the same title. I have to say I wasn’t very impressed with the movie because it departed so often from the biblical account in depicting the life and times of Jesus Christ. But it did cause me to think more closely about a number of different things concerning the gospel accounts. For example, the movie emphasized the fact that when Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane with his disciples and the solders came with Judas to arrest him it was pitch dark outside. This explains why Peter was able to strike one of the soldiers and cut off his ear, all the while not being attacked and killed by the soldiers there. Before Jesus healed the man’s ear there must have been great confusion being that it was so dark outside. Now the movie “Killing Jesus” didn’t show Jesus healing the soldier who was struck by Peter’s sword, which is strange because that fact is in the Bible and you’d think that because it is in there (and working under the assumption it’s important to use all available information because so many details are left out) you’d use it in the movie scene. But they didn’t show it in the movie, which left the impression to the viewer that it didn’t even occur. That’s an example of how the movie while it brilliantly portrays some things, like the darkness of the night in the Garden, also leaves out basic and essential information. The movie did that constantly. But there is another scene that got me thinking that I’d like to spend more time on – it’s the part of the gospel account where Jesus was being crucified and the Jewish leaders come to Pilate to ask him for soldiers to guard the tomb where Jesus is laid in order to assure that no one moves the body. Evidently these religious leaders feared someone might try to steal the body and then claim he had arisen from the dead, thus creating even more trouble for them. The movie “Killing Jesus” shows Pilate refusing to send soldiers to guard the tomb. Is this depiction flat-out wrong? Everything I’d ever read, heard or seen about the death, burial and resurrection account always describes Pilate as sending Roman soldiers to place a seal on the tomb and guard it. So the “Killing Jesus” movie caused me to return again to the Bible account, in the Book of Matthew 27:32-36, in order to reread it. What I found is pretty much what I’d always believed, that is, that indeed Pilate sends Roman soldiers to seal and guard the tomb. But what I also learned is that there is a little ambiguity as to what the verse actually says, enough so that I could see how one could misread it to describe Pilate as not sending any soldiers. I’ll explain. So let’s go on a little investigation this morning to find out what really happened: did Pilate send troops to the tomb of Jesus or not? It’s always good to dig deeper into the Bible because the end result is being better informed about our faith. So let’s do that today. (more…)

Cursed is Anyone Who is Hung on a Tree

April 15, 2015

Title: Cursed is Anyone Who is Hung on a Tree
Text: Deuteronomy 21:23
Time: April 5th, 2015

Recently, I was reading along in the Old Testament as part of my annual One Year Bible reading program and I stumbled upon a verse that had a very strong connection with Easter. And since we are in the Easter season I was naturally interested in exploring it further. Now when you read the One Year Bible, that is, the yearly Bible reading program that gives us verses from the Old Testament, New Testament and Psalms and Proverbs every day, with the goal of reading through the Bible in one year – during the most popular Christian holidays such as Christmas and Easter, the reading don’t particularly match up with the calendar. That means you’ll be reading nothing in particular in the Bible related to Christmas during that season, or during the Easter season you won’t be reading anything in particular relevant to that season either. But here I stumbled upon a verse that had direct relevancy in respect to Easter. Deuteronomy 21:22-23, “If a man guilty of a capital offense is put to death and his body is hung on a tree, you must not leave his body on the tree overnight. Be sure to bury him that same day, because anyone who is hung on a true is under God’s curse. You must not desecrate the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.” We can obviously see Jesus Christ in this passage, particularly at his crucifixion. And the New Testament Christians saw the same thing. The Apostle Paul in particular wrote in Galatians 3:13, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a cruse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.’” Here we have a clear and definite link between the New Testament and the Old Testament on the matter of Christ’s crucifixion, but that connection needs unpacking. That’s what I’d like to do this morning. But there’s another angle to this same topic, and that’s the Judas Iscariot angle. If you remember the disciple who betrayed Jesus, Judas, was also hanging from a tree, because, of course, he hung himself seeing that he’d betrayed innocent blood. What, if any, does this connection have to do with the Old Testament passage or Christ’s death on the cross? I’d like to explain further. What I’ll show is that the Old Testament passage claims that anyone hung on a tree is cursed of God, and so both Jesus and Judas were cursed of God, but for different reasons. Jesus was cursed by God the Father in our place, to bear our sins, to experience our punishment, and to win our salvation. Judas is cursed by God the Father for his own sins because he chose to bear the penalty for his own sins himself. Yes, he was cursed, just as we all deserve to be cursed for our sins. But through faith we can benefit from the curse God the Father laid on Jesus on our behalf. I hope this all makes sense as we go further in the message. (more…)

Refuting Gay Scripture Twisting 2

April 15, 2015

Title: Refuting Gay Scripture Twisting 2
Text: Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13, 1 Corinthians 6:8-10, 1 Timothy 1:9-10
Time: February 18th, 2015

Last time I talked about the original created pattern for marriage given by God in Genesis 1 and 2. I also showed how certain gay activists try to twist these passages in order to somehow justify same sex relationships, to somehow legitimize what the Bible describes as sinful behavior. I showed how all attempts fail to justify sinful homosexuality when we consider God’s original intent for marriage as outlined in Genesis. But the gay activists aren’t finished. What can’t be justified in one portion of the Bible is attempted in another section. After reviewing the original teachings on marriage in Genesis of the Old Testament one might conclude that the case for homosexuality is done with, finished, futile, since if the Bible so clearly states the heterosexual nature of marriage in its very first pages, what’s left to discuss? Well, any reasonable person would conclude that trying to justify same sex relationships from the Bible is about as futile as freezing water in hell, but for these gay activists, it just presents another challenge that they seemingly never tire of trying to overcome. They move on to the next series of Bible passages that condemn homosexuality, Leviticus 18 and 20, and they try to explain these passages away. They readily admit that these Old Testament verses forbid homosexual activity. Leviticus 18:22, “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.” And Leviticus 20:13, “If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.” Now what gay activists try to do with these clear prohibitions against homosexuality is say that while these were binding laws for ancient Jews they no longer apply to us today. So instead of “messaging” the passages in order to twist them to fit the homosexual agenda for society and the church, these activists don’t even try to deny that in these instances the Bible clearly condemns homosexual activity. They concede that. But what they try to do is say these prohibitions don’t apply to Christians today. They say, “These were old laws for the ancient times. Nobody obeys these old laws today. Why pick laws against homosexuality and then permit other practices the same law code forbids?” So the argument is that it’s inconsistent to single out laws against gay sex and then allow for other things also prohibited in Leviticus. How do we answer such a charge? Are Christians being inconsistent when we don’t enforce some prohibitions while enforcing others? Do the gay activists have a point? No they don’t, but it will take some explaining to make this clear. So let’s look at Leviticus and try to make sense of the matter. (more…)

Refuting Gay Scripture Twisting 1

April 15, 2015

Title: Refuting Gay Scripture Twisting 1
Text: Thessalonians 5:21, Genesis 1:27-28, Genesis 2:18, 20-24, Matthew 19:4-6
Time: February 17th, 2015

For two nearly thousand years the question of homosexuality has been a settled issue within Christianity; add another thousand years on to that if you include Judaism. So for at least three thousand years of biblical tradition, homosexuality has always been seen as a sin, in fact, an abomination or really bad sin, for the faithful. This position is based on the clear and plain reading of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments. But recently, in the last few decades, there have arisen voices within the Christian community that challenge the biblical understanding of homosexuality. They claim the Bible really doesn’t talk about homosexuality per se, or if it does, it doesn’t present the blanket condemnation that we’ve always thought it did. So in an effort to reinterpret or revise the Bible’s teaching on the sinfulfulness of homosexuality, these new voices within Christianity have gone through each verse that speaks about homosexuality and gives a new spin. But here’s the problem – the reinterpretation of the Bible on this issue fails miserably; it just doesn’t work. In every instance that revisers try to put a new spin on the old sin of homosexuality in the Bible they fail, they fall flat on their faces. Why? Because the Bible is so obviously clear on the sinfulness of homosexuality that only a stubborn insistence that the Bible must ok gay sex motivates these people. For example, there’s the case of a so-called Christian scholar who for years and years advanced the traditional and straightforward interpretation of the Bible on the sinfulness of homosexuality, then, after his own son came out as gay, suddenly finds himself changing positions and advocating a “gay” reading of the Bible in favor of same sex relationships. Now why didn’t this so-called scholar read the Bible that way before his son announced himself to be gay? It’s obvious that this scholar is letting personal considerations interfere with his academic work. He’s plainly letting his emotions and feelings for his son obscure his scholarship. And this kind of thing is happening all the time within Christianity, as more and more people are basing these new interpretations on feelings and emotions rather than faith and reason. As Christians we must return to the Bible and let God speak from himself on this and every other topic. We are told in 1 Thessalonians 5:21, “Test everything. Hold on to the good.” We must test all things by the Word of God, not feelings, not emotions, not popular opinion or any other thing. So let’s now turn to God’s Word and test all the so-called “gay” reinterpretations of the Bible’s prohibition against homosexuality. Let’s examine Genesis 1 and 2. (more…)