Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

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.

What About Conversion?

Posted: January 18, 2012 by Nathan in What About...
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Conversion is an event that takes place when you become a Christian. It is the act of turning a belief in God into a trust or a faith in Him. One of the most dramatic conversions is recorded in the book of Acts .

 

        Acts 9

Saul’s Conversion

Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

                        “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

The men travelling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.

In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”

“Yes, Lord,” he answered.

The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”

“Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

 

Saul went, in the blink of an eye, from Christianity’s fiercest opponent to its greatest proponent. It was quite some turnaround. However, although we now talk about people’s “Damascus Road” experiences (their conversions) it is more unusual than usual for people to be converted in this manner.  Many people will know the date that they decided to follow Jesus. They may have wrestled with the idea for many years, they may have taken a winding road that led them to the decision but will finally have taken the plunge and made the decision to turn from their old ways and put their trust in God. However, there are also people who have been converted over many years and can’t put their finger on a date or time when they decided to follow Jesus.  All people have different journeys towards God.  St. Paul’s was quick and dramatic but if you look at the disciples of Jesus in the Gospels they seem to have all gradually come to trust and believe in Jesus over a period of a few years. There is no right or wrong way to approach conversion.

 

However, a decision does need to be made! Whether we’ve had a dramatic experience of God or whether we have been exploring for years, there comes a time when we need to decide one way or the other. Are we going to believe and trust in God or are we going to reject Him? If we make no decision it is the same as rejecting Him. Unfortunately with Christianity you simply can’t just sit on the fence.

What will you do?

 

If you still have questions that need to be answered before you feel comfortable in making a decision please do ask me in a comment below and I will do my very best to answer them. We all need to make a decision to either trust God and His saving grace, mercy and love or reject Him. Please don’t leave it longer than you need to. As a friend of mine says “To Not Decide is to Decide”.

Some people see Christians as thinking they have all the answers.  With some Christians this reputation is well deserved. However, the truth of the matter is that as Christians we know very little. By this I don’t mean that we are all uneducated, half-brained, blind sheep following aimlessly but just that there is so much to know and so little that as humans we can comprehend.  Becoming a Christian doesn’t suddenly give you all the answers and you certainly don’t have to have all the answers before you become a Christian.  Let’s face it if we had all the answers there would be no need for faith.

When it comes to God who is infinite we will only ever know a minute part of what there is to know. So, when do I know if I have enough information to make a wise decision?  Becoming a Christian is not the end of your journey into faith but almost the beginning. Once you become a Christian you will continue to learn and grow in your faith. Just as in deciding to marry someone or even to start going out with someone you don’t have all the answers before you set out on the relationship together. Becoming a Christian is, simply put, entering into a relationship with God. We don’t need to know everything about him in order to start that relationship.

 

So what do I need to know or understand?  I would say that the only things you need to understand or trust in before becoming a Christian are these 5 points

 

  1. That God exists
  2. That we do wrong
  3. That our wrongdoing separates us from God
  4. That Jesus died to reconcile us back to God
  5. That we need to ask Jesus to be our personal saviour (i.e. saving us from the results of our wrongdoing)

Now, I’m not saying that this is a perfect list (and I’ll be interested to hear other people’s opinions of it) but I hope it shows that the things we need to understand in order to become a Christian are not that complicated. If we can understand these 5 thing we can then wisely start our Christian journey. There is so much more that we will learn and struggle to understand but let us not complicate the beginning of our journey more than we need to.

 

The Christian faith is a lot to do with relationship and as we all know human relationship can get very complicated. However, the premise for a relationship is very simple. Two people meet, they communicate and the relationship is formed – it’s a very simplistic view but the reality is, at its very basic level, that is what relationship is about.  God wants to meet with us and to communicate with us. He does this in various ways one of which is through the Bible. The Bible is a mysterious collection of stories about God communicating with man. It’s complicated stuff but if you had to sum it up in one sentence you would probable quote John 3: 16.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

We don’t need to know all the answers before becoming a Christian, just as we don’t need to know how an engine works in order to drive a car. We need to know a little and be willing to continue to learn and discover and grow. You will never have all the answers but we were never meant to. God, in His infinite wisdom, knows that we will never know it all, even when we think that we do!!

If, however, you do have unanswered questions that you feel are a block to you understanding the Christian faith please do ask away in the comments box below and I am very happy to try, in my inadequate way, to answer them.

Not too many people would argue against the existence of Jesus. There seems to be reasonable evidence outside of the teaching of the Bible to prove that He existed in the time frame that the Bible suggests that He did. Even the Islamic faith acknowledges His existence and they regard Him as an important prophet. Even many agnostics and atheists acknowledge his existence and even go as far as to say that He was a good moral teacher. However, this makes no sense to me. Of all the things that you could accuse Jesus of, just being a good moral teacher just doesn’t add up. That is not to say that I don’t believe that Jesus taught good morals and gave us good ways to live our lives but what if He were just a good moral teacher. To my mind you either have to accept the whole package or reject it. I don’t believe that Jesus left us with any middle ground. Either Jesus was God, performed miracles, healed the sick, was perfect, was a good moral teacher, died on the cross for the sins of all people and rose again conquering death or He didn’t. You can’t just pull out the good moral teacher bit and run with that. Either Jesus was who he said He was or He wasn’t. Either Jesus was who He said He was or He was a complete mad man who should be completely discredited. If someone rode into town today and started giving out a new moral code but took drugs, slept around outside his marriage, stole, raped and was generally offensive he wouldn’t get the reputation of a good moral teacher. His actions would over-ride his teachings. If the people who knew Jesus best didn’t truly believe that Jesus was who He said He was His actions would soon discredit His teachings.

 

Now, you might say that it is easy to fool a few people and therefore create a hype that might spread. Yes, you would be right. We only have to look at the effects that cults have on a small number of people who have been taken in, brain-washed or deceived. So, could this have been what happened. Well, I guess anything is possible but it’s pretty unlikely. Jesus grew up and lived amongst the people who eventually followed Him. Mary, His own mother believed in what He taught. She knew everything about Him. She knew His character, His history, she saw Him every step of the way. His brothers knew Him well, some thought that He was mad to start with but then things added up and they too believed. He could have fooled His 12 disciples but what about the 500 close believers, what about the 3000 men and then 5000 men who followed Him? You also have to remember that Jesus was being scrutinised by a whole host of Religious people who were just waiting for Him to slip up. They couldn’t wait for His actions and His teaching to contradict. They waited for His disciples to claim a healing or miracle that hadn’t happened and they were ready to spread the news like wildfire. Jesus taught in a cynical and sceptical arena. Everything He said and did was tested and scrutinised. Someone may have been able to fool a few people but on the scale Jesus did? It is very unlikely!

 

So, were the disciples in on it as well? Did this group of thirteen con-artists set out to create this new-religion, this mass following? Together they could have put together quite a case. They could have convinced friends and family of what Jesus has said and done. If they has all stuck to the same story they could have made quite a case – caused quite a stir. It is possible that mass hysteria could have been created and used to draw people into their circle of belief. Now, it is possible. It’s amazing what people can achieve when they work together. However, here are a few questions that would need to be asked. Why would they do it? They didn’t gain financially by doing it, although they could have done if they had been after money. They didn’t really gain fame in the short term and in fact got a lot on negative, presumably, undesirable attention from many quarters. If it was all just a made up new religion they wouldn’t have been prepared to die for it. People will die for that which they are passionate about, but not if they know it to be a lie. Of these 13 people 12 ended up dying for this fabrication? It doesn’t make sense. How would they have kept the whole charade going when the miracles always failed to work, no-one got healed and when their main-man Jesus failed to come back to life following the resurrection.

 

For hundreds of years it was thought that the gospels were written by people in the 2nd Century. They were accounts that had been passed down through families or churches or groups of people. They were thought to be very much second hand accounts. It was thought that when they were written down the people that had been involved in the events were long since dead. You couldn’t have gone to them to verify the facts. You couldn’t have proved or disproved what was being written. However outrageous it seemed there was no proof to be had, no-one to argue against it. No-one to say, hand on a second I was there and it didn’t happen like that!! However, later research suggests that the gospels were all very likely written before the year A.D.70. So it also seems likely that they were first hand accounts of what happened. It seems very likely that it was the disciples themselves that wrote down the accounts that took place. Many of the first people to read these accounts would have known the people involved and may well have been at the events that were written about. They could have checked out if the stories were true. The writers wouldn’t have been able to pull the wool over the eyes of people that had been around at the time. If the Bible were written within the lifetime of the events it would soon have become obvious if they were no more than lies or exaggerations. People would not have been prepared to suffer and die for what others were calling blatant lies. The whole idea of Christianity would have been extinguished before it even got started. There are no accounts of people calling into question the reliability of the Gospel accounts.

 

So, either Jesus was who he claimed to be or He was a lair, con-artist or lunatic. There really is no middle ground. So, if Jesus was a liar, even a very good one would his lies not have eventually have been exposed? Could he really have convinced all these people that He was God without any evidence. Convinced them to the extent that thousands of them would have been persecuted and killed rather than renounce their faith? If Jesus were a lunatic, again, how would He have convinced people to such an extent? Even if he were so convinced Himself that He were God how could he possibly convince so many people and why would some of these people then go on to make up stories that they knew were false and then get away with it when thousands of others would know the truth.

 

So, over to you – what conclusion can be drawn? Is it not highly likely that Jesus was who he claimed to be? If not how were so many early Christians convinced to the point of death? What explanations that I haven’t explored could there be?

The disciples of Jesus asked Him how they should pray, in His reply He teaches them what we now know as the Lords Prayer. So, what is this teaching all about? These disciples ask Jesus how to pray and what they get in return is one prayer? Or do they get a template on how to pray? So what do we have? He had been in close communion with His Father and he knew the right way to approach and communicate with Him. The Lord’s prayer is a template on how to commune with the Father. So, let’s have a look…

Our Father

Approach Him with respect recognising the right relationship between God and us.

In heaven

Let’s make no mistake who we’re talking to here, we are approaching the creator God of Heaven who made all that exists. Heaven is out of sight, and a world of spirits, therefore our conversation with God in prayer must be spiritual; it is on high, therefore in prayer we must rise above the world, and lift up our hearts.

Hallowed be your name

Hallowed – to make holy. Holy be your name, Holy is your name. A statement of Worship and statement of Praise. Psalm 100 tells us that we

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. “

Basically worship, praise, thanksgiving draws us into the presence of God. If we want to get God’s attention there is no better way than to praise Him.

Let Your Kingdom come

Let your rule, your reign, commence. Have your way with me. I am your servant. I am willing to be submissive to all you want to do in and through me. I acknowledge you are the King and ruler of my life.

Let your will be done

Not my will Lord, not my agenda, but yours. I want to know your will. I want to pray that Your will in all situations, whether I like it or not, be done. Now, I think this is a massively important point and one we continually pass over. We are so busy telling God what we want Him to do for us and those we know we miss what He might be wanting to do. We come with our shopping lists asking God to heal this person and help that person and give this person money and that person a job etc. etc. and we don’t stop to ask God what he would like to do in any given situation. We need to step back, say God this is the situation, what do YOU want to do in it? Seek God for His will and then ask Him to do it. When we find God’s will and then pray that into a situation we suddenly find God answers. Funny that!!

On Earth as it is in Heaven

We long for Christ to return and for God’s perfect rule to begin. Until then we are told that the Kingdom of God is at hand and we want to experience as much of that reality as possible. We are in the world but not of the world. We live here but are not under its rule. We want to usher in the Kingdom of God, we believe it starts in the here and now and we want that Kingdom on earth to expand.

Give us today our daily bread

So much can be taken from this one little line, in fact you can take it word by word.

Give

We are asking for the kindness of God. We’re not asking for a loan or for something we deserve or have earned we are asking for an unmerited gift from God.

Us

It is a term of inclusion. We’re not just asking for ourselves but for those around us. For those we love and care for.

Today

Here is our sense of urgency. As a new day is upon us we recognise the need for God’s provision. We need God’s provision for each day of our lives whether we recognise it or not.

Our

Here we recognise that we want God’s provision for us – we do not want the bread coming from others or due for others. We acknowledge that there is enough to go round and we don‘t want more than our share. We’re asking God to help us not to be selfish or greedy but to want what God wants to give us.

Daily

Thinking not of tomorrow, but trusting God for that, we ask for what is needed for today. We are aligning ourselves with our parts of the Bible that urge us not to worry about tomorrow but to stay focused on the here and now.

Bread

Here we are asking God for what is needed. Nothing fancy, simply bread. Yes, food to sustain us but also other everyday needs. God knows what we need and He is more than willing to provide that – we don’t need to spell out all our needs we simply need to acknowledge our need of God’s provision.

Forgive us our debts

An acknowledgement of our fallen, sinful nature; that we can be forgiven, redeemed and that God is the one who can forgive us. Taken in conjunction with the previous section the implication being that this is a daily request to continuously and constantly be forgiven. When this is prayed our slate is wiped clean once again.

As we also have forgiven our debtors

A call to duty. What good is it for us if we are forgiven but cannot forgive those who have wronged us? It is a great call to hope that if we can find it in our hearts to forgive those that have done wrong to us – how much more will God, whose forgiveness is perfect, readily forgive us.

And lead us not into temptation

We’ve admitted our sin, asked and received forgiveness and so it is natural that having a clean slate we ask for God’s help to keep it clean and not to err again. We are not saying that we believe God leads us into temptation but acknowledging the guiding hand and power of the spirit to lead us away from situations that may cause us to sin.

But deliver us from evil

We’ve asked for God to guide us away from situations that may cause us to sin. Now we are asking Him for His protection from the one who hounds us, the devil and all his agents. We are also asking for his deliverance from sin itself.

For thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory forever and ever Amen

And so we return to praise and adoration. Telling God what He has already told us. Affirming our hope that God can do all that we have asked of Him and so much more besides.

So Jesus was asked by His disciples how to pray and he gave them the Lord’s prayer. Now I don’t for one minute think that this was something that he came up with on the spare of the moment. We’re not told but my guess is that Jesus had been perfecting this prayer for years. Moulding it, perfecting it and using it as His own.

If you look at each petition they are all petitions that will receive a YES from God. Does God want to give us what we need – YES. Does God want to forgive us – YES. Does God want to deliver us for the devil – YES. God will always answer our prayers. However He will not always answer them in the way we would want. God will usually answer with a yes, a no or a wait! The Bible teaches us that God will give us what we need and whatever we ask, according to His will He will give us. Now, many people translate this as God will give us whatever we ask. So when they pray for a Ferrari and don’t get one they become disappointed and disillusioned. Their translation misses out the important part “according to His will”. The Lord’s prayer gives us a template to use in prayer helping us to pray according to the will of God. When we sincerely pray the Lord’s Prayer God will answer us in the affirmative. God is a God who provides for our needs but not necessarily for our desires. So when we pray we need to bear in mind our needs, not our wants and also have in mind what God may will for a situation.

In any situation that we face, in any situation that we pray about it is always worth praying first to try and discover God’s will for that situation. It is all too easy for us to try to force our will on God when His will is what really matters. If we can discover God’s will for a situation we can then go on to pray with confidence and certainty that He will answer us in the affirmative. Next week we’ll look at this in a little more depth but I just want to leave you with an example to help illustrate what I’m talking about…

 Your best friend gets very ill. Now, it’s our natural reaction to pray for healing. However, God knows the end from the beginning. He knows what is going to happen and what He wants to do in this situation. If it is not God’s will to heal your friend no amount of prayer for healing is going to change his mind. Therefore, it is better to seek God’s will for your friend and pray accordingly. It might be that God will is for your friend to learn something through this experience before God heals Him. Our prayers can help our friend learn that thing quicker and then God can bring about his healing. It may be for some reason or other that healing won’t take place immediately and what your friend really needs are prayers for patience, energy, peace etc. and not prayers for healing. It may be that God, in His wisdom, knows that your friend will not be healed and will in fact die (let’s face it we all die sometime). God’s will may be for you to pray for a strengthening of their faith or for a peace of mind or for their family in this difficult time. There is no point in us continuing to pray for healing when it is not God’s intention to heal. We are just banging our head against a wall which will never move. All it will serve to do is make us disappointed and disillusioned with God. However, if we can discover His will and pray accordingly we will see wonderful results and be encouraged and strengthened in our faith.

What if God isn’t who you think He is?

Posted: April 13, 2011 by Nathan in What If...
Tags: , , ,

No-one can have perfect idea of who God is? Much as we would like to we can’t put God in a box and know everything about him. However, when we dig a little we can know quite a lot about His personality and His nature.

History, myth, art and the church have painted us many pictures of God but how accurate are those pictures? We have the picture of God in human form, flowing white hair, white beard and full-length white robes. He’s sitting on a cloud with angels all around him playing harps.

Then there’s the picture of God sitting as judge sending people to hell whilst letting a chosen few into heaven.

There’s God as the law maker and fun stopper. Making rules to keep us in check and to tell us how bad we are. Don’t do this or that or the other.

There is God who is disinterested. He may have created the world. But now He has given up. How could he still be involved when so many people suffer, wars abound, crime is rife, disease kills millions and natural disasters continue to bring death and misery.

Then there’s God as a Father. For many people this is an image that works well. However, what if your Dad wasn’t that great. What if he beat you, abused you, left you, let you down? The word “father” doesn’t conjure up the best of images for everyone. Though this image can be redeemed a little. I heard someone speak years ago and they said that you should think of the best things about your dad, God is a thousand times better than that. Now think of the worst attributes of your dad – God is the complete opposite of those!

So what is God really like – how would I describe him? If I were to paint a word picture of God based on the Bible, my experience of Him and the experience of other believers what would it look like?

Holy, love, all powerful, all knowing, merciful, giving, kind, protecting, truthful, creative, grace filled, caring, abounding in blessing, strong, righteous, generous, compassionate, understanding, forgiving, trustworthy, dependable, ever present, unchanging, ever listening, mighty, approachable, saving, providing, unselfish, humble, peaceable, just, fair, capable, sociable, fun-loving, humorous, passionate, interesting, indefinable, complex, faithful, intelligent, incorruptible, reliable, peace-loving, trusting, healing, informed, qualified, close, accepting, open, wise.

Now isn’t that the kind of person you’d like to get to know?

 

Many people are happy with their lives. They may like to change one or two things but on the whole they are content with their lot. They have their routines and they like them it gives them security and structure to their lives. They know they are not perfect but they’ve never killed anyone and anyway they like their little forays into the world of doing wrong. It can be exciting, freeing and helps them to fit in to a world where, let’s face it, nobody is perfect. We’re not talking major crimes here just the odd time of drinking a little too much, the late night puff of weed, the bit of bitchiness at the school gate or flirting just a little too much at the office party – you know the kind of thing. These things can be fun, no-one gets hurt and they add a little bit of vitality to life. Why should they change? In fact they don’t want to change? However, if they became a Christian they would have to change!! Become all straight laced and high and mighty! They would have to change the things in their lives that they like doing and that is just not going to happen!! They may believe there is a God; they may even believe in Jesus and what he taught; they may even go to church once in a blue moon; but diving headlong into this thing they call Christianity? No! Too much would have to change.

 

But now let’s look at the other end of the spectrum. Many people are unhappy with their lives. Life has not been good to them. Perhaps that late night puff of weed developed into a full blown addiction and not just to weed but to much harder drugs. Perhaps in the struggle to make ends meet they felt like they had no option but to turn to crime. They might be trapped by all sorts of other addictions that have such a grip on their lives that the idea of change just can’t be comprehended. Their lives started on a slippery slope and the downward spiral has taken them to a place of seemingly no return. It seems to them that it would be impossible to change and become a Christian. They simply wouldn’t be able to. It would take too much and they don’t even have anything. Again too much would have to change and this time it’s not that they don;t want to it’s just that they don’t believe that they can!

 

Now, of course, none of this applies to us, because our lives are perfect! We are all sorted – we never do anything wrong – we have no addictions – we are happy all the time – our lives need no extra excitement – we are the all singing all dancing perfect person. We come from a perfect family and we have a perfect family. In fact we have no need whatsoever to change because we have it all! It’s about now that I wake up, the dream is over, the bubble has burst and I come well and truly back to reality!! When it comes to being perfect we are all in the same boat!! Some of us might like think that we’re in the first class cabins and some of us may feel we’ve stowed away and don’t even deserve to be there – but let’s face it when the boat goes down we’re all in the water. When it come to being perfect we are all a long way off. Whether someone has been a Christian for 70 years or one day – whether they’re from middle class respectability or gang culture – whether they have a criminal record as long as your arm or none whatsoever they all need to change. We all need to change.

 

Now, nobody likes change. It is seen as unsettling, awkward, a hassle, difficult, uncomfortable, abnormal, you name it, it never seems good. Change is big business. People are paid big bucks to “manage” change. However, let’s not blow “change” out of proportion. We change and adapt every hour we’re awake. It really is no big deal. When we first fell in love did we focus on the changes that we may have had to make? When we got rid of our old banger and bought a brand new car did we constantly bemoan the fact that lots of things were different? When we moved out of the slum and into a house did the change seem bad then? How we look at change depends on how we cope with change. Do we look at all the negatives or do we focus on the positives? When we go on holiday do we look at the hassle of packing, the nervousness of getting a plane, the uncomfortableness of the first night in a new bed, the pain of having to put on suntan lotion, the removal of sand from between our toes after a swim in the sea etc. etc. No we look at all the wonderful aspects of the holiday – the fresh air, time with family, the sun on our skin, the beauty around us, the wonderful food, the cultural spectaculars, the rest if gives us, the places of interest, the break from work and the list could go on and on. When it comes to Christianity the benefits far outweigh the changes that need to be made. More than that – in Christ we have the greatest manager of change that there ever has been. Why? Because Jesus loves you just the way you are! You don’t have to change to merit his love. It is 100% unconditional! Even though we might detest God, hold things against Him, curse Him – he still loves us! Now, that doesn’t mean that he wants us to stay that way. He wants the best for us – just as we want the best for our children, family, friends. Do we want those who we love to do things that hurt us, no! Do we stop loving them until they stop doing things that hurt us, no! The same is true with God. I love this phrase that holds a lot of truth – “There is nothing that we can do to make God love us more. There is nothing that we can do that can make God love us less.” God’s love for us is constant – never changing – unconditional. He accepts us exactly as we are.

 

When you start a relationship with someone they love you for who you are. In many ways there is no need for you to change your ways, your habits or your activities. However, in time the likelihood is that you will want to change. You will find out more about each other, what each other likes and dislikes. You will want to spend more time with each other – so you’ll willingly give up that Monday evening art class to spend the time with each other. You may discover that your smoking sets off their asthma and will see that as a great incentive to give up. All the freedoms you enjoyed as a single person suddenly don’t seem so important any more and you’ll gladly give them up. The same is true with becoming a Christian. God will not force you to change in any way at all. However, it is likely that you will find, as you get to know Him more, that you will want to change. You will see some things in your life as more important and some things as less. Jesus will only help you change your life for the better, on your terms, at your pace, on your say so. Let’s face it there aren’t many people who give up smoking and wish they hadn’t or kicked an addiction and long to go back to it. All change with Christianity is change for the good – no pressure – no arm twisting – and also no regrets.

 

Change doesn’t have to be bad, daunting and difficult. If it is managed well it can be freeing, liberating, exhilarating, life enhancing, fulfilling and affirming. Don’t let anyone look down on you because they think they’re in first class and you’re in cattle class – remind them we’re all in the same boat and that Jesus loves us all, just the way we are!! Then gently remind them that Jesus doesn’t necessarily want them to remain that way!!

 

So let’s start at the very beginning and clarify what we are talking about in terms of Prophecy. The Cambridge dictionary tells us that Prophecy “is a statement that says what is going to happen in the future, especially one which is based on what you believe about a particular matter rather than existing facts”. So for me to say that tomorrow the sun will rise is not prophecy but for me to say that the world will end tomorrow would be prophecy (unfulfilled prophecy but you get the gist). In a Christian sense it is a prophet (someone used by God as a channel for others) passing on from God something about the future (or sometimes the present or past) that they couldn’t humanly know.

Old Testament Prophecies fulfilled in the person of Jesus.

There are over 300 prophecies in the Old Testament which were fulfilled by Jesus. These prophecies were written at the very latest 425 years before Jesus was born. Below I will list just a fraction of the prophecies recorded about Jesus in the Old Testament and their fulfilment as recorded in the New Testament.

Prophecy

Isaiah 7: 14

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give     birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel

Fulfilment

Luke 1: 26-35

God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.

Prophecy

Micah 5: 2

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”

Fulfilment

Mathew 2: 1-2

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

Prophecy

Zechariah 9: 9

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Fulfilment

Luke 19: 29-38

As he (Jesus) approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’” Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They replied, “The Lord needs it.”

They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road. When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

Prophecy

Isaiah 50: 6

I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting.

Fulfilment

Matthew 24:67-68

Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him and said, “Prophesy to us, Messiah. Who hit you?”

OK, so there are 4 – only 300 or so to go!! I’m sure if you “Google” Biblical Prophecy or Fulfilled Biblical Prophecy you will find web-sites that will list all of the Prophecies or at least the major ones. Hopefully this gives you a taster to show that the Old Testament is filled with signs pointing to the birth, life and death of Jesus Christ. These weren’t just written a few years before the events took place but mainly between 4 and 7 centuries before the actual events. You may argue that these were self fulfilling prophesies. That Jesus was a deluded man and set out to fulfil the prophesies that he had read about in Scripture. It is true, some could be explained away by saying that Jesus knew the Scriptures, after all Jesus did know the Scriptures extremely well, but all of them?

Could he have gotten himself…

Born in Bethlehem (Prophesied Micah 5: 2 Fulfilled Matthew 2: 1-6)

Born of a virgin (Prophesied Isaiah 7: 14 Fulfilled Mathew 1: 18-25)

Born of line of King David (Prophesied Jeremiah 23: 5 Fulfilled Luke 3: 31)

Born of Tribe of Judah (Prophesied Genesis 49: 10 Fulfilled Revelations 5: 5)

Preceded by a messenger (Prophesied Isaiah 40: 3 Fulfilled Matthew 3: 1-3)

Betrayed by a friend (Prophesied Psalm 40:9 Fulfilled John 13: 18-27)

Sold for 30 pieces of silver (Prophesied Zechariah 11:12 Fulfilled Matthew 26: 14-15)

Forsaken by his disciples (Prophesied Zechariah 13: 7 Fulfilled Mark 14:50)

Crucified with thieves (Prophesied Isaiah 53:12 Fulfilled Matthew 27:38)

Bones not broken (Prophesied Psalm 34: 20 Fulfilled John 19:32-36)

Buried in rich man’s tomb (Prophesied Isaiah 53: 9 Fulfilled Matthew 27:57-60)

Again these are but a handful among a whole host of prophesies that Jesus could not have brought about by himself. Many of them he couldn’t have orchestrated even with a whole band of willing volunteers. This really is the sort of stuff that just couldn’t be made up. This is evidence that demands to be taken seriously. Not only were these hundreds of prophecies written hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus Christ they were also written over a period of several hundreds of years by many different people.

Now, to finish and for those of you who like numbers and probabilities Peter Stoner in Science Speaks (Chicago: Moody Press, 1963) determines the probability of one man fulfilling just eight of the prophecies found in the Old Testament concerning the Messiah to be 1 chance in 10 to the 17th power or 1 chance in 100,000,000,000,000,000. Peter Stoner then works out the probability of one person fulfilling 48 of the prophecies by chance. Here the odds jump to 1 chance in 10 to the 157th power. That number would look like this:

1 chance out of

100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,

000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,

000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,

000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,

000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,

000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000

I hope this begins to show that the Bible is not a book full of mythical, made-up stories that can be discounted. It is indeed a valid historical document that contains wisdom, power and authority.

Contrary to what the media would have us believe the vast majority of people in this world are not mass murderers, sexual deviants, fraudsters, cheats, thieves and so on. Most of us are law abiding, charitable, good people who care for our families and friends and even keep an eye out for the elderly person next door! We’ve never been to prison, don’t beat our wives and don’t even speed that often. So why do we need a saviour when we’re not bad people?

 

Well let’s start by being really honest with ourselves. We may be pretty good most of the time but can we really say we never have our bad moments? Moments where our goodness takes a back seat and the little devil on our shoulder wins? We may not have murdered anyone but we have thought unkind thoughts about others. We may not have had an affair but we have mentally undressed someone that we shouldn’t have. Even when we get outside our heads we’ve done little things that we’re not proud of. We’ve said things that were hurtful, unhelpful and undeserved. We’ve done things that we hope people don’t find out about even if it’s just talking behind someone’s back. There are things in our lives that we have done that are wrong. We’re not going to get the police knocking our door down for them but they are still wrong. The Bible tells us in the book of Romans that “all have sinned”. We also read in 1 John that

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us”.

Many people think of themselves a basically good but the Bible clearly tells us that we all fall short of the standard that God has for us.

 

When God created man they lived together in the Garden of Eden. We are told in Genesis that God walked in the garden with them. God and man were together, there was no separation. However, man did what God commanded him not to do and sin entered the world and into the relationship between man and God. God and man were separated by this sin. In 2 Corinthians we are reminded that

what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?”

God who is all good cannot be together with fallen people and therefore there became this gaping void between man and God caused by man’s wrongdoings. We cannot bridge that gap. However good we are or however hard we try we cannot reach God on our own. It doesn’t matter if we are Hitler or Mother Theresa. We can never be good enough. It’s like people trying to jump across the Grand Canyon. You could train for years and not even come close to making it. Some, of course, would jump further than others. Some would train for years and some just going for it but the end result would always be the same.

 

So there’s the bad news – None of us are good enough to reconcile ourselves back to God. However, at the other end of the scale none of us are bad enough to escape the next part!!! God doesn’t want any of us to be separated from Him. Our sin had done this but God wasn’t going to let that be the end of the story. Probably the best know Bible verse John 3: 16 states that

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

God sacrificed that which was most precious to him to bridge the gap between Him and us. No-one is beyond that love which caused God to give His son for us. No-one is good enough not to need the sacrifice that Jesus made and no-one is bad enough that their sins are not covered by that sacrifice.

 

If we believe that we are too good to need a saviour then we do not receive what God has done for us and Christ died in vain. If we believe we are too bad and are beyond saving we also do not receive what God did for us and Christ’s suffering and death was in vain. The price has already been paid to reconcile us with God the only thing we have to do is accept it or reject it. If we believe we are good and don’t need a saviour we don’t have to ask Christ to die for us because He has already done it. We just need to accept it. Why try and jump across the Grand canyon when someone has already hired a helicopter to take you over to the other side. It’s all paid for, the helicopters going anyway you just need to decide to get on board and enjoy the flight!

Imagine this…

It’s a Monday (we all know how much we love Mondays).

You wake up with a sore throat.

You go to the car to take your son to school and a tire is flat (and you have to drive several hours out of town in a couple of days for work).

After a conference call meeting for work discussing a huge project with its deadline being tomorrow and many things not being ready for the deadline, you get a phone call from school that your son is sick.

When you get him home, his temperature is very high (103.2 degrees Fahrenheit).

Between work conference call meetings, you drive him to the doctor and back and forth to the pharmacy for medicine.

Unexpected large bills come in the mail, just a few days after your PayPal account has been hacked and hundreds of dollars of money have been stolen from your bank account.

Are you getting a sense that I didn’t make any of this up?

I didn’t.

This has been my week.

So, where is God in all of this?

He is everywhere.  He is my Strength, my Hope, my Guide.  I was never promised a life of ease as a Christian, and neither are you.  Do all of these crazy, unexpected, seemingly unfair things mean that God doesn’t love us or even that He doesn’t exist.

No.  Not at all.  Throughout His Word we can see that His people struggled and we are even told we will struggle as well.  But, as my BSF Teaching Leader said when discussing our Isaiah Bible Study, “People who focus on God see everything else through Him;  those who focus on fear rarely see anything else.”

As Jesus says of His Word and all that He has told us, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Sometimes life seems unfair, but remember Jesus.  Remember what He willingly did for us by being brutally beaten and murdered and left to die on a cross so that He could shed His blood once, for all, to pay the price for our sin before we had even committed it.  And for us, this forgiveness and pardon and freedom is offered as a FREE gift.

Now THAT is unfair.

But I am so thankful that God doesn’t choose to be fair, but instead chooses love.

Will you accept that today if you haven’t already?  If you are running from Him, give up the fight.  Come back to Him.

We would be glad to help you with this if you have any questions.  Just go to our Contact Us page and send us an email…or just comment on this post if you would like.