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Thanks for joining me today for "A Little Walk with God." I'm your host Richard Agee.
Paul gives us an interesting observation as he writes to the congregation in Corinth. Near the end of his letter, in what is now chapter 15, he tells us the importance of Jesus’ resurrection. Here are his words, inspired by God.
12 Now if we have told you about the Christ (how He has risen from the dead and appeared to us fully alive), then how can you stand there andsay there is no such thing as resurrection from death? 13 Friends,if there is no resurrection of the dead, then even Christ hasn’t been raised; 14 if that is so, then all our preaching has been for nothing and your faith in the messageis worthless. 15 And what’s worse, all of us who have been preaching the gospelare now guilty of misrepresenting God because we have been spreading the news that He raised Jesus from the dead (which must be a lie if what you are saying about the dead not being raised is the truth). 16 Please listen.If you say, “the dead are not raised,” then what you are telling me is thatJesus has not been raised. Friends, 17 if Jesus has not been raised from the dead, then your faith is worth less than yesterday’s garbage, you are all doomed in your sins, 18 and all the dearlydeparted who trusted in His liberation are left decaying in the ground. 19 If what we have hoped for in Christ doesn’t take us beyond this life, then we are world-class fools, deserving everyone’s pity.
20 But Jesus was raised from death’s slumber and is the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep in death.
Sometimes it’s good for us to stop and remember the story. Sometimes we need to understand how important the truth of these words. Sometimes we need to stop in the business of our lives and think about what we believe and be ready to believe it regardless how foolish it may sound to an unbelieving world.
Without faith in what happened at a place called Golgotha, in that pivotal city of Jerusalem, and the then the events over the next several days, Christians certainly would be certifiably crazy. You probably know the story well. You probably heard it or versions of it most of your life. Whatever religion you might have been exposed to in your childhood, you probably at least heard rumors about this story of a man called Jesus.
A man whose followers proclaimed he was not just a religious person able to perform miracles, but a man they proclaimed he was the son of God. In fact, they went so far as to say he was God incarnate. God in the flesh. He preached and taught throughout the region for just over three years, radically altering what many believed about what God expected of us. He taught that God wanted a personal, intimate relationship with each of us. He would forgive anyone who believed he came to live with us in the person of this man Jesus. All who asked for forgiveness and followed him would find forgiveness.
The story says this man Jesus became an enemy of his own religious leaders and an enemy of the Roman state. The tried him in a kangaroo court and crucified him. Then the story becomes an impossible one without faith. This man, Jesus, whom the Romans executed on a cross, died there. Romans knew how to execute people. If they said he died, he died. In fact, if the biblical account if accurate, it’s a miracle Jesus even made it to the site of the crucifixion after the beatings and flogging he endured. But he did and he hung on the cross and he died.
From an unbeliever’s perspective, the fairy tale gets better. The dead guy lays in a tomb for three days in the heat of the middle eastern sun and then he appears alive to two women who come to finish the burial ritual they couldn’t finish the day he died because of the rapid approach of the sabbath. Then he appears to two men walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus, unrecognized until he sits down to eat with them. Then he appears behind a locked door to ten of his disciples. A week later he appears to all eleven of his disciples, again, behind locked doors. For forty days after his resurrection, he appeared off and on to different people around the city until his ascension where nearly 500 of his followers saw him lift off the ground in a cloud.
Without faith in the truth of the story, wouldn’t that make a great fairy tale? Without the assurance of the truth because of God’s spirit prompting us and helping us realize how much he wants to have a relationship with him, doesn’t that sound like some far off fantasy? How could anyone believe such nonsense? Who would ever fall for such a fantastic story? What would make people die for such a ridiculous story?
That’s what the scoffers say. That’s how the unbelievers think. That’s the reaction you get from the average man on the street, today. But what about you? What evidence can you propose to get to the truth and know that the story is real? How do you know the Bible is true?
It is an interesting question and one that deserves some answers. C.S. Lewis is a famous Christian author who set out to prove the story was so much trash. What he discovered was the truth. The evidence that shouts at us to show us the Bible is true and what it says can be trusted and believed. He has a series of books whose titles begin “The Case for…” and give the evidence of the truth behind the Bible, the crucifixion, Easter, Christmas, and many other topics. He painstakingly researched each and discovered evidence you could take to court.
Just start with the canon itself. Many unbelievers touted scripture must be the fiction of some religious leaders, but look at how it has come into our hands. Just the quality of artifacts from antiquity bears witness to the Bible’s authenticity. Scholars talk about the Iliad and Odyssey as ancient with a dozen or so fragments of the text from the fifth and sixth centuries surviving. But with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls and other fragments, we have more than 5,000 fragments and whole letters dating from three and four hundred BCE. And all the copies are nearly identical. In fact, the differences are not in the text, but in the marginal notes.
The Bible is and has been the number one seller for so long that none of the publishers, sellers, and analysts list it among the books sold anymore. Not because it doesn’t sell, but because it sells so far above the number two selling book that the numbers of books sold make everything embarrassing by comparison. Millions of copies are distributed every year. The top selling books sometimes reach a million copies in a year. Not often, but sometimes in a year. The Bible? Millions, plural, year after year after year. And as of October 2017 the full Bible has been translated into 670 languages, the New Testament has been translated into 1,521 languages. No other book has ever achieved such a global outreach. Impossible, right? Not if the living God is behind it.
So that explains the written word just a little. It must be more than a fairy tale if it continues to circulate like that from the beginning of its writing. But how about those willing to give their lives for their belief? Today we see handfuls of terrorists blowing themselves up to attain their 72 virgins in heaven. Not sure that will happen for them, but that’s a different podcast. It’s interesting that the vast majority of those willing to do so are under the age of 25. I don’t want to be disparaging of young people, but the medical community tells us that our brain isn’t fully developed until about age 25. So quite frankly, I’m more than a little concerned about the training those young folks are getting. You never seem to see the imams or clerics or older wiser men strapping explosive to themselves.
But in Christian circles, we don’t see dozens of people strapping explosives to themselves. We see people spreading Jesus’ legacy of peace he left with us. As a result, Christians are hated. We are persecuted. In many areas of the world, we are executed for our faith. Over the last ten years, different organizations have determined that more than a million Christians lost their lives because of their faith. They refuse to renounce their faith. They refuse to let go of their belief in the one who forgives sin. The story for them is very real. They are willing to give their lives before they change their belief.
Why would that many people willingly give up their lives for something that wasn’t true? Why would so many people willingly follow a fairy tale? The answer is, they wouldn’t. No one would give up as much as Christians have if the story were not true. If it were just a story, the truth would have come out long ago and the martyrdom would have stopped. People would agree with the majority of the world and let the story go. No one would accept the sacrifices Christians accept if the story were not true.
But Paul was right. “... if there is no resurrection of the dead, then even Christ hasn’t been raised; 14 if that is so, then all our preaching has been for nothing and your faith in the messageis worthless… But Jesus was raised from death’s slumber and is the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep in death.” We can believe because the story is not just a story. Jesus, the son of God, lived, died, was buried, and rose again.
So what will you do today because the story is not just a story, it is the truth upon which we stand?
You can find me at richardagee.com. I also invite you to join us at San Antonio First Church of the Nazarene on West Avenue in San Antonio to hear more Bible based teaching. You can find out more about my church at SAF.church. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed it, tell a friend. If you didn't, send me an email and let me know how better to reach out to those around you. Until next week, may God richly bless you as you venture into His story each day.