Archive for February, 2012

The death and subsequent resurrection of Jesus is not something to be taken lightly. It is not in the experience of most people to know of anyone who has died and then been brought back to life. A few of us may know people who have had near death experiences or even know of people whose heart have stopped and then been resuscitated, but not resurrected. So how do we get our minds around such a rare and hard to fathom event?

 

For me if Jesus did not rise from the dead there become a lot of unanswered questions. For me Jesus rising from the dead makes more sense of the situation than him not rising. Here is what I mean…

 

If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead then why was his body never found?  The Roman and religious authorities would have done all in their power to find the body. They hated this Christian uprising and to come up with a body would have put an end to it once and for all.

If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead did the disciples really steal the body from the tomb and if so how? How did eleven men get past at least 12 highly trained guards, move a two ton stone and remove the body of Jesus? The Roman authorities started a rumour that the disciples stole the body whilst the guards were sleeping. However, how did the guards know this if they were asleep? If this were true surely all the guards would have been killed by the Roman authorities and the disciples hunted down as well?

If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead perhaps he was not dead in the first place, revived in the cold tomb and escaped? The soldier guarding the cross pierced the side of Jesus and blood and water flowed out. It was only discovered centuries later that this only occurs after death, so we can be pretty certain that Jesus was dead. However, let’s suppose he did revive in the tomb. How would he have gotten out of His death clothes? How would this man that had just hung on a cross to an apparent death then roll a 2 ton stone away – there would have been no hand holds inside the tomb to aid him? Having miraculously moved the stone how did he then get past all the guards?

If Jesus did not rise from the dead what explains the sudden change in the disciples from cowering wrecks to emboldened preachers of the Gospel? Something happened to effect this change, what else could explain it? The disciples went from denying knowing Christ and hiding away in locked rooms to preaching in the market places and joyfully enduring tortured, imprisonment and being killed for the Gospel. How else would you explain it?

If Jesus did not rise from the dead how do you explain the hundreds of people who saw him alive after His crucifixion? Jesus appeared to His disciples but also to crowds of over 500 men. Was this mass hallucination the likes of which have never been seen before or since?

If Jesus did not rise from the dead why did the disciples (apart from one) all go to their deaths because of their belief that He did? They either saw him alive after the crucifixion or they didn’t. Would they have all been martyred for a lie or for a mistaken belief? All they would have had to do was say that He was never resurrected and all their lives would have been saved.

If Jesus did not rise from the dead would tens of thousands of Christians who would have had firsthand accounts of His resurrection believe in it enough to go to their deaths because of that belief? You’ve got to be pretty certain of your facts if you are willing to lay down your life for them. Do you believe that all these people went to their deaths because they had a vague belief that the resurrection had taken place?  No, they knew for certain!!

 

If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead how do you explain the incredible rise of Christianity? Something spectacular must have happened for people to be convinced in such huge numbers.

 

So, the fact of Jesus rising from the dead is difficult to comprehend – it is so far from our experience that it would be strange if we found it easy.  However, what is the alternative? Jesus prophesised that he would rise again. God is all powerful and therefore could do it. Jesus had already brought Lazarus back from the dead.  Is it such a huge jump to believe Jesus came back from the dead? That angels rolled the stone away? If you’re not convinced I’d really love to hear your answers to the above questions.

 

As always if you have any questions please do ask them in a comment below.

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What If I don’t have enough Faith to Believe?

Posted: February 8, 2012 by Nathan in What If...
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Many years ago I was leading a course in Christian basics.  It was with a small group of people who were new to the Christian faith. As we discussed the various issues it became clear that all of the group would call themselves Christian apart from one lady. She said that it was alright for the rest of the group, they had been blessed by God with the gift of Faith. However, she had not been given this gift and therefore there was very little she could do to get it. To be honest I had very little to say in response.  If God hadn’t given her the gift of Faith how was she to then believe?  After a few weeks of struggling with this in the context of the group she stopped coming. I wish I knew then what i know now!!

 

The Bible very clearly talks about the gift of faith.

1 Corinthians 12 states-

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

So, if faith is a gift from God if He doesn’t bless us with that gift what can we do about it? Well, if I had my time over again and could answer the lady in my group’s question this is what I would say.

 

I believe that everyone has a choice to have faith or not. As Christians we complicate things that are really quite simple. As humans with a God given mind we have the ability to make decisions. We can choose to believe in fairies, ghosts, Santa Claus, Bigfoot etc. We can also choose to believe in God. We can look at the evidence, talk about the issues, test the reality and then we have a choice, to believe or not to believe.

Now, billions of people around the world believe in God. A much fewer number have faith in God. Faith in God is really just a development of belief in God.  As with any relationship it starts tentatively and grows through time, experience, shared interest, conversations etc. At the beginning of each relationship the levels of trust will be low and will grow only if that trust is not broken and can be shown to be reliable. The same is true with God – you don’t go from simply believing in Him one day to completely trusting Him the next – it is a process, a journey that takes time. As you walk with God he will show you that He is trustworthy and your faith in Him will grow.

 

So, how does that square with the Bible Passage above?  Well, there is a gift of Faith but that is not the whole story. The Bible also talks about the gifts of giving, teaching, serving, leading, administration, mercy, helping etc.  Now it is clear with all these gifts that they can be down without a special touch from God. Everyone if they put their mind to it can give or help. Each of us can teach others in one form or the other. So is true with faith – each of us can have faith. We may need to develop it – start small and grow. I believe that when the Bible talks about such gifts it is talking about having an extra measure. Everyone can teach but some people have been appointed and equipped by God to teach in excellent ways. Everyone can give but some have been touched by God to joyfully give an extra measure.  With faith it is no different all can have faith but some will be given the gift of faith to have more than most to encourage others and lift up those whose faith is weak or shaky.

 

I believe that as we look to grow our faith God does His part and strengthens it alongside us. We are told to eagerly desire the gifts that God has to offer – if we eagerly desire faith in God, He will provide us with that faith that we desire.

What Next? – Finding a good church.

Posted: February 1, 2012 by Nathan in What Next...
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One of the best ways to continue exploring the Christian faith is to find a good church to plug into. A good church will, in as many ways as possible, help you to find the answers that you continue to search for.  Each church is different but any church worth going to will bend over backwards to help you in a search for God.  Many churches put of courses such as ALPHA  http://uk-england.alpha.org/alpha/home or Christianity Explored http://www.christianityexplored.org/ which are specifically designed to help people who are exploring the various issues of faith. These courses are relaxed, informal settings where you can come with no faith, a shaky faith or even a strong faith and ask those questions that you have been wrestling with. Have a look on a church’s web-site and I’m sure you’ll find details of any such course they are running or if you live in the UK visit the websites above and search for courses running now.

 

So what is a good church?  Churches come in all shapes and sizes and vary enormously in terms of style, format, age range and feel.  What will suit one person will be a complete put off for another. So finding a good church is more than just finding a church with a good theology!  In many ways it can be a question of trial and error but we can rule a few things out first.  What would you be looking for in a church?  Churches in many respects fit the character of those that attend. Some people like to meet in small groups whilst others prefer larger gatherings.  Would you prefer to express thanks to God using modern songs or traditional hymns? Do you want to meet with just people your own age or a real mixture? There are enough churches out that to suit most people’s character.  The best way to find out what churches are like is to visit a web-site like http://www.findachurch.co.uk/home/home.php where you can see the churches in your area, visit their web-sites and even e-mail the vicar any questions you may have.

 

The beliefs of a good church. Below is a very short list that would form the basis of belief of all good churches.

  1. The Bible is the inspired Word of God.
  2. There is only one God.
  3. The doctrine of the Trinity that there is one God in three, eternal, and distinct persons.
  4. That Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary.
  5. The Deity of Christ, that Jesus Christ is both divine and human.
  6. That Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead.
  7. That salvation is by grace through faith alone.

 

If a church is based on the above beliefs then you can, at the very least, know that they start from a good foundation.  However, ask around – is the church a bit controversial or known for holding conflicting beliefs.

Other than that the main thing would be personal taste. Do you feel welcome? Do you connect with people there? Are there activities, courses etc. that are of interest to you?

 

I would encourage everyone to get linked into a good church and receive the support that a church can give.  Please do comment below if I can help in any way.