4 Ways to be Confident in the Resurrection

Celtic CrossEaster makes Good Friday good. Without the resurrection, that Friday would’ve been the most terrible Friday in human history. The only thing that could compete would be if Adam and Eve ate from the tree (Genesis 3) on a Friday – but that must’ve happened on a Monday, because what good ever happens on a Monday?!

What would happen to your faith if Jesus never rose from the dead?

Some people may be tempted to say, “Well, I’d still believe. Jesus’ teachings are still worth following, and he did die for our sins even if he didn’t rise from the dead.”

The Apostle Paul says this,

“For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:16-17)

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LWAYG: Navigating Willful Roadblocks

One of my favorite passages in the Bible having to do with evangelism is Acts 26:28-29, “Then Agrippa said to Paul, ‘Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?’ Paul replied, ‘Short time or long—I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.'”  Paul got it… he knew what it would cost King Agrippa to believe in Jesus Christ and become a Christian.  Paul understood that it would take two main things, and I believe those are two things we don’t prioritize as much as we should in evangelism: Prayer and Time.

Some people put up “Willful Roadblocks,” refusing the claims of Christ because they simply aren’t convinced that Christ is worth the sacrifice they’d have to pay.  Really, I think more of us should count the cost so intentionally.  Many people who have this roadblock holding them back from believing in the Gospel have three main objections, adressed below.

1. “I just don’t believe in God.”

Obviously there’s way more written about this than I have the time (or desire) to write about in this one blog post.  I simply point to the Evidence of Design, which says ” purpose, order, design, and structure point to a designer.”  As the band, Switchfoot, says, “The shadow proves the sunshine.”  There’s a reason why pretty much every culture’s traditions revolve around some form of worship – whether it’s polytheistic or not – there’s just something inside of us that knows there was a creator.

There are a lot of people who are atheists/agnostics because they don’t want to believe in God.  A lot of them have experienced tragedies and simply don’t understand how a good and loving and all-powerful God could have allowed that tragedy to happen, and so they dismiss belief in God.  I get it… and I don’t want this to come off wrong or insensitively, but God’s existence shouldn’t simply be dismissed and rejected because I don’t understand suffering.

We need to take suffering and good, hard, intelligent questions seriously.  But we also need to be asking ourselves whether or not someone is disagreeing with us about who Jesus is and what difference He makes because they have real objections or if they simply don’t want to believe and use science or philosophy or whatever as a way to keep on living however they want to live without needing to answer to God.

2. “Jesus is Not God”

As C.S. Lewis famously wrote in Mere Christianity:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. … Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.”

In summary of Lewis, Jesus is either “Lord, Lunatic, or a Liar.”  He cannot be viewed as just another Rabbi who taught good ethical things.

3. “Christianity Would Cramp My Style, Because Christians Can’t Have Fun.”

Alright, now that you’re done laughing I really want you to think about this one seriously.  A lot of people do believe this… and for good reason, because much of the time that’s the impression we give!  Jesus came to give us “abundant life,” to make us whole and complete, to fill us with joy and peace that passes all understanding.  The promises of God are overwhelming.

The problem here is that we don’t really hold onto His promises and we try to live with half our hearts given to Christ (for eternal life) and half our hearts given to this world (for life now).  Instead, we need to remember that God created our world and everything in it and He wants us to really trust that His ways really are best.

That means that we will refuse to do some things that others would consider “fun” like getting drunk, doing drugs, having sex with people we aren’t married to, and just generally making stupid and dangerous decisions.  Honestly, some of the most “fun” people I know are Christians (granted, I’m biased).

There’s really no “argument” here for you to have with people to convince them of this other than your life.  Simply put, “Let your light shine that people may see your good deeds and praise your Father who is in Heaven” (Matthew 5:16).  Live fully for Christ, and He will strengthen you to have joy even in the midst of suffering and trials.

When you’re talking with a friend or family member or someone else who seems to have a “Willful Roadblock,” learn from Paul’s example with Felix: Give it Prayer & Give it Time.

LWAYG: Apologetics & Roadblocks

Ever feel like this when talking about your faith with others?

I don’t know too many people who are completely confident in talking about their faith with those who believe differently.  It’s true: if you want to get into an argument with someone, just bring up either politics or religion!  But shouldn’t we be able to discuss such things with gentleness and respect… and conviction, because we really believe our faith is important and true?

1 Peter 3:15 says, “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”  There are a few important things to notice here:

  • Our lives should look differently from those who have not set apart Christ as Lord.
  • This difference will cause others to come to us in order to find out why we’re hopeful in seemingly hopeless situations.
  • We should be prepared with our response rather than stammering through it (“umm, well, ah, I’m, like, a Christian… so, ya know..”)
  • We should respond honestly that we have hope because of Christ, but we should be gentle and respectful in our conviction.  This doesn’t mean we don’t say “Jesus is the only way to God,” but it does mean we that we say it with gentleness and respect.

I believe that too many Christians act like they’re only going to get one shot at evangelizing people, so they need to share every core biblical truth with the person they’re talking to.  That might sound like a good idea, but I’ve found that if you treat the conversation like the only one you’ll have with that person… you’ll probably be right!  We need to just be honest, gentle, and respectful in what we say and how we say it.

Apologetics is simply “the study and practice of defending biblical beliefs.”  As a Christian, I do not hold my beliefs with my eyes shut to reason or science.  Rather, I believe that reason and science affirm what Scripture teaches!  Over the next few youth group lessons we will be dealing with different objections that come up against Christian belief and I’ll be sharing different “apologetic responses” (note, this isn’t “I’m sorry” responses, but “defending my belief” responses).  Alex McFarland has some really helpful and simple articles for those who are new to apologetics at his website.

In all of these discussions about Apologetics, however, I believe it’s extremely important to keep a few things in mind:

  1. Apologetics is not designed to simply help you win arguments, but is a great tool for helping to dismantle roadblocks people have in the way between themselves and a saving faith in Jesus Christ.
  2. It’s not my job to convince anyone to become a Christian.  It’s my responsibility to be obedient to tell people, but it’s God’s job to convince them.
  3. Always remember 1 Peter 3:15’s emphasis on GENTLENESS and RESPECT.  You can win an argument, but completely turn people away from the love of God by being arrogant and mean-spirited.
  4. FINALLY, Remember that convincing people that evolution is wrong won’t make anyone a Christian if he still doesn’t know anything about Jesus!  Keep the main thing the main thing… the Gospel of Jesus Christ (God sent Jesus to live, die, and rise from the dead so that our sin would be forgiven and our relationship with God would be restored) is the main thing.

When I think back to all the spiritual conversations I had with my best friend in High School I wish I could take them back.  We talked about religion a lot since he was a Buddhist and I was a committed Christian, but most of our conversations revolved around creation/evolution.  I rarely turned the conversation to be about Jesus Christ.  In the end, I trust that God still used those conversations somehow and that someday my friend will become a Christian, but I suspect that I spent most of my time and efforts on a debate that is good but not the main thing.  I wish I could have those conversations back, and I hope you don’t make the same mistake with the opportunities you’re given.

Why It’s Important For Parents to Love God With Their Mind

I was listening to a lecture by Dinesh D’Souza this morning and in it he was talking about the blessing of Christian Apologetics.  He said that after speaking at a church a father came up to him and said, “I don’t know why you’re doing all this.  I have faith because I have faith, who needs all of this?”  Dinesh replied, “Good for you, if you have faith.  But what if your son or daughter comes up to you and says, ‘You know what Dad, how do you know that Jesus even existed?  I’ve been taking a lot of religion classes in college and a lot of religions are based on myth (like Greek religions).  Are we really basing everything on the testimony of four guys who didn’t have last names who might have seen each other’s work?  How do we know they didn’t make up the whole thing?'”

What would you say to your kids?  These aren’t abstract or marginal issues of our Christian faith… these are questions that cut right to the heart of the Gospel.  I’m not saying, “Parents, you need to check in to a seminary and start reading some heavy-duty apologetics books to teach to your kids.”  But I am encouraging you to be prepared to give an answer for the hope that’s within you (1 Pet. 3:15).

Very simply, I want to urge everyone to love God with all their mind (as well as with all your heart and soul).  I believe that many Christians today are pretty lazy when it comes to loving God with their mind.

Simply put, if dad and mom are Christians and take their kids to church every Sunday, but they don’t set the example in reading Scripture and really thinking about what the Bible says and asking hard questions (“How does the Trinity make sense?” “How can Jesus be fully God and fully human at the same time?” “Where is Heaven?”), when their son/daughter asks these questions to mom or dad they will be unprepared.

We agree that we want our kids to ask hard questions about Scripture and faith… so long as they ask the pastor!  As a youth pastor I love talking about these difficult questions, so I’m not complaining – but I do want to encourage parents to take the primary role in discipling their children.

I admire people who have the gift of faith (simply believe God because he “said so”), and I don’t want it to seem that I’m putting those blessed people down.  I want to encourage those who have an easy time believing God’s Word to occasionally pretend that they have a difficult time believing so that when they have opportunity to speak for Christ they have something to say other than quoting Scripture.  I also want to encourage those like myself who have the problem of “asking too many questions” to remember that we are not the ultimate judges who determine truth.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37)