All of Christianity hinges on the answer to this question. If there was no resurrection, there would be no Christianity. So what transformed 11 scared and dejected disciples into fearless ambassadors? It was Jesus’ return from the dead and subsequent ascension into heaven. There were over 500 witnesses to Jesus’ return to life after being crucified dead and buried.
Was he really dead? The Romans made no mistakes when they killed someone. They were experts at the art of death. So when a soldier wanted to hasten the death of a man who had already endured a terrible whipping and was bleeding from wounds in his hands and feet, an upward thrusting spear through a lung and into the heart would do the trick. So certain of his death were the soldiers that they didn’t break the legs of Jesus. That was the usual way Roman soldiers finished a crucifixion. They knew that once a man could no longer support himself with his legs, he would suffocate since he could no longer breathe. The soldiers also knew that Jesus wasn’t coming back to claim his robe, so they gambled to determine who would get it.
To ensure that Jesus would stay dead and that his disciples would not try to steal his body and claim he came back from the dead, the tomb was sealed and soldiers were tasked with guarding it. To fail to do so could result in their executions.
Yet, three days later, Jesus appeared to his disciples, to several women, to two men walking on the road to Emmaus, to a doubting Thomas and two others. Jesus was definitely dead and he was definitely resurrected.
His disciples witnessed his ascension into heaven. So yes, Jesus is definitely alive. It is his power and authority that holds every atom in the universe together. One day Jesus will return to earth just like he left it to rule and reign as King of kings. Given the events of these times, it could be soon. Are you ready? (see Matthew 25: 30-35)
Yes. Fear is part of the fallen human condition. When we are confronted with something that may alter our future, we become fearful. With the 24-hour news cycle reminding us of ever-increasing numbers of cases of COVID-19, blasting out stories of deaths and body bags, and reminding us of our dire financial straits, fear is inevitable. As the disease enters our communities and we hear of a friend or neighbor that has taken ill or died, we wonder if “I’m next.”
We’re also asking how this event will change the lives of our loved ones. And we’re probably wondering why God has let this happen. Contemplating these questions leads to anxiety and fear.
Fortunately, God knows us better than we know ourselves and wants us to turn our focus from our personal situation and our inward focus to an upward focus on Him and an outward focus on others.
So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
The Bible has a lot to say about fear. We read of great men of God who became fearful. And, we saw how God turned fear into Joy. When David was being pursued by men who wanted to kill him, he cried out to God. “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you,” he wrote in Psalm 56:3. From the many Psalms David wrote we see a man who was regularly afraid but knew that God was there for him, no matter the outcome.
The apostle Paul encountered many life-threatening situations and shared what he discovered with others. In his letter to the Church in the Greek City of Philippi he wrote: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
Paul knew that we all fear, but he wanted people to understand that fear did not have to control us. He reminded his disciple, Timothy: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
In 1 John 4:18, Jesus’ disciple, John, reminded readers “that perfect love drives out fear.” Here for what is translated as “perfect” John used the Greek word, teleios, a word that means complete, finished or fully grown. He is reminding Christians that when we refocus on God’s love, a love so great that He was willing to sacrifice his own son, that we might know peace in this life and a fear-free eternity with him. It’s a journey, not a destination.
As you meditate on scripture, sing songs of joy and hope, and seek ways to help those around you who are fearful and suffering, you will find your fears receding into God’s love. In a 100-year-old gospel hymn, we are reminded that “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through; My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.” COVID-19 is part of this world, not the next. It may make you sick. It may result in your financial ruin, and it might even cause your death. But don’t let fear paralyze you. Don’t be afraid to tell others of your fears and even seek professional help if necessary. But right now, stop and direct your thoughts to God. Tell him your fears, ask for his help and listen quietly for the Holy Spirit to begin guiding your thoughts.
Image by Med Ahabchane from Pixabay
Since the beginning of time, plagues have altered the course of history. Some were definitely by the hand of God to punish people for their sins and to bring about a change in behavior. (Exodus 7:14-11:10) Others have been through the natural course of a fallen world. Every living organism eventually dies. Our bodies are giant chemical factories that are continually destroying cells and replacing them with new ones.
Dangerous organisms continually test our body’s defenses. Viruses live within us all the time. Sometimes a virus mutates and our body struggles to recognize and defend itself from the mutating virus that may attack and destroy other cells. All these chemical and biological actions have been created by God. He designed them for good, and created mankind in his image so that he could commune with us. But man rebelled against God and that’s where the perfect harmony between man and God broke down. (Romans 5:12)
The resulting chaos on earth and the death that accompanies it are
the punishment for man’s sin. So, in that sense, the current COVID-19 crisis is
a result of God’s wrath. But God’s chief adversary, the devil, the embodiment
of evil, has been given temporary dominion over the earth. He is responsible
for the pain, loss and fear that billions of people are now experiencing.
People are suffering and dying from the virus, but people are also suffering and dying from other diseases, wars, famines, and accidents. Death will always be part of the human condition, but Jesus came to give life. (John 10:10) His death and resurrection opened the doors to a pain-free and death-free life everlasting with God.
Whether or not the Coronavirus is a direct punishment sent by God for the sinful action of men and women around the world, we know that through Jesus and the Holy Spirit, we can know peace in the midst of uncertainty and fear. (Isaiah 41:10 and John 14:27) As with plagues in the past, people are searching their hearts looking for answers. Many are calling out to God for His mercy. (Revelation 21:4) He stands ready to extend it to all who trust in Him. (Revelation 3:20)
Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay
The good news of Christmas dates back to the creation of the world by God and the creation of man who was made in God’s image. God intended that the man and woman he created, Adam and Eve, would live in perfect harmony with Him—enjoying perfect fellowship and being obedient to His commands thereby allowing them to experience perfect joy.
The problem is that man rebelled against God, breaking the fellowship and learning that what they thought would be freedom, turned into slavery to sin. That brought all the negative consequences that humans experience today. Those include pain, suffering, broken relationships, lack of peace and death. God who is perfect could not be in fellowship with imperfect humans. Their sins separated them forever from God and ensured that they would suffer throughout eternity for their continued rebellion from God.
Through Jesus, His son, God provided a way for men and women to be rescued from the consequences of their sin. God let Jesus take on the sin of all mankind–a substitute sacrifice that was acceptable to God. Jesus laid down his life that those who willingly accepted this substitutionary sacrifice might have their relationship to God restored. That brought with it the promise of an eternal life free of the consequences of sin. That’s the good news of Christmas, because Christmas is the celebration of the arrival of Jesus on earth in the form of a human. It’s the celebration of a life that culminates in death on a cross where the sins of all men and women–past, present and future–are paid for by the shedding of Jesus’ blood allowing us to be redeemed through the subsequent resurrection of Jesus.
What does God expect us to do with this knowledge that Jesus died in our place so we can be saved from God’s wrath against our sins? He expects us to accept the sacrifice of His son Jesus, turn away from our sin, and have faith that we will experience peace in this life and an eternity of contentment with Him. Christmas is a celebration of this good news, “For unto you a Savior is born who is Christ the Lord.” The final question is, have you believed it and accepted Jesus as your Savior? It is the most important decision a person ever makes. Merry Christmas!
Jesus was with God when the universe was created. He was the instrument of creation of everything, including mankind, with whom he wanted to have a relationship, and on whom he could bestow his love and affection. However, man abused the relationship and rebelled and in the process became lost to God’s companionship and his love. God never stopped loving man, and prescribed a system of sacrifice by which man could atone for his rebellion, generally known as sin. The blood of an unblemished lamb was let each year for the forgiveness of sin, but it was a temporary measure that had to be performed annually, forever.
God decided to remedy that situation by sending his son, Jesus, earth to take the place of the lamb, shedding his blood once for all time. He could have showed up as an animal to be sacrificed, but he would have been unable to communicate with men and express his love for them.
He could have showed up as an adult but his sacrifice would have been less costly than to have lived as a baby, a boy, a teenager and a man. He became fully man while remaining fully God. He experienced the same kind of temptations that everyone experiences throughout a lifetime, but never sinned. He experienced all the emotions of the people he came to save.
Jesus was born into a family, the perfect setting for physical, emotional and spiritual growth. He taught with authority because he was seen as man with divine wisdom. ore He challenged the both the religious and secular authorities who lived lives that violated God’s laws, setting up the situation where those authorities thought they were executing a troublemaker. What they didn’t know was that it was not them who were taking a life, rather it was Jesus who was giving up his so that all who believed in him could be spared the eternal death they deserved.
How better for Jesus to become the perfect sacrifice than to be born in the lowliest of conditions taking the place of the unblemished lamb. God loved us so much that he sent Jesus in total humility to provide a pathway for the restoration of our relationship with Him.
That depends on who is defining Christianity. Basic Christianity is the understanding that a person cannot do anything, including good works or good deeds, to win a place in heaven. Christianity alone teaches that forgiveness of individual sin and the promise of eternal life with God are gifts offered to an individual by God. To receive these gifts of both forgiveness and eternal life, one only has to accept the gift by faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. So the question becomes, is Jesus true? Is what he says about himself truthful?
Jesus, the first-century teacher, is documented in the Bible and by historians of that period, Josephus and Tacitus. His teachings are among the best-preserved words from antiquity. His birth, life, teachings, miracles, death and resurrection were all prophesied more than 500 years before he was born. Only God, who exists beyond both time and space, could know the future.
Jesus’ miracles demonstrated his divine power. In his three and a half years of ministry, thousands were healed of all sorts of diseases and these events had many witnesses to testify to their authenticity. His death and resurrection are documented historical facts. After he rose from the dead Jesus was seen by more than 500 people, over a span of 40 days. Jesus’ ascension back into heaven had many witnesses proving again he was the Son of God. In addition, there are thousands of verified reports of Jesus appearing to people throughout the world, even to Muslims, who are accepting in great numbers the truth of Jesus as the human manifestation of God. They are recognizing that Jesus is the only path to an eternal relationship with God, the creator of the universe–the only entity who can bring true peace to the human soul and to the world.
Throughout history, many people have tried to hijack Christianity, to use the religion to advance their personal agendas. They have distorted the teachings of Jesus. They have killed and bullied and destroyed in the name of Jesus. However, even a casual reading of the Bible clearly demonstrates that Christians are called to love their enemies, to serve the poor, care for widows and orphans, and to reflect the love of Jesus in all they do. They are called into a life of service on behalf of God, not because God demands it, but because they are so thankful for what he has already done for them. This is the truth of Christianity. By contrast, all other religious systems are either unverifiable or irrational, thereby disqualifying them as being true. For these reasons alone you can know for certain that Christianity is true, but the question is, Do you believe it?
Every individual has the free will to receive God’s gift of salvation or reject it and pursue their own self-centered life. Heaven and Hell hang in the balance of this decision. All other religions propose a path to God. Unfortunately, the fact is these are all dead ends leading to eternal destruction. There is no path. There is only the Way of Jesus Christ because he is the Truth and he is God. (John 14:6)