Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Resurrection and the Growth of Christianity

By My Anonymous Friend

Why are dogs named Caesar or Nero?   And why do we name our children Peter, Thomas, James, John, and Mary?

Today is Resurrection Sunday. I have tried to give special thought to the significance of this entire week, sometimes known as Holy Week or Passion Week. Last Sunday we reminded ourselves of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem Jesus experienced. Throughout the week I thought of what happened to Jesus after that great and ironic entry. There was a trial and the humiliation of it. There was the agony in Gethsemane where what was about to come to Jesus was so overwhelming to Him. On Friday we attended a very meaningful service here which really brought home to me the horror of crucifixion, the darkness and the despair that characterized that day. All this served to prepare my spirit for today. What an incredible contrast to Friday!!  Scripture says when the disciples first heard that the tomb was empty they considered it nonsense. Who can blame them?  Peter however, the ever impetuous man that he was, ran to the tomb to see for himself. And yes, indeed it was empty!  I would love to know what that day was like for eyewitnesses.

Let’s get back to the dogs we name Caesar and Nero now. Historians estimate that by roughly AD 40 there might have been around 5,000 followers of Jesus in the Roman Empire. However, by AD 350 it is estimated there were about 33,000,000. What accounts for such fantastic growth?  I would suggest the resurrection had everything to do with the growth of Christianity. The Roman Empire declined over the years while Christianity flourished. That is why I suppose we name our dogs Caesar or Nero! (This idea is not unique with me. I heard it in a sermon this morning). The explosive growth of Christianity is one reason why Scripture speaks of the power of the resurrection. It transforms. It is the basis and foundation of our faith. It provides hope!  It is the basis for preaching. I have long believed that if a pastor cannot preach at Easter time, he cannot preach at all. The resurrection is the single most significant event in the entire history of the world.

So I wish you a very meaningful celebration of Resurrection Sunday. May you experience a renewed sense of hope and life itself today.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Most Significant Event

In the single most significant event in all of history, the Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead three days after He was crucified. This made the salvation of all believers totally and permanently secure. Nothing and no one can ever change that. Satan, sin, and death are defeated foes that are only temporarily present. They cannot ultimately do us any harm.

The skeptics often claim the Resurrection is a hoax, but it is, in fact, a historical fact of absolute status. It is more provable and demonstrable, even outside of the realm of faith, than a very large percentage of other historical facts. This single fact vindicates the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. It proves who He is, and it proves what He did. It proves the Bible to be true from cover to cover, from the literal creation of the universe and all it contains, to the ultimate judgment of all of all humans and the culmination of all temporal things into eternity future.
This fact of the Resurrection totally validates the sinfulness of man, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the need in the heart of all people for the salvation that only He can provide. It makes foolish all the arguments of ungodly men and challenges them with the haunting question of the Roman Governor, Pilate, who asked the crowd, “What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” (Matthew 27:22, NKJV). Every human being must personally answer this question. There will be no exceptions.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Arrogance of Man

“…When many unite as one, we can achieve anything. Together, we’re powerful.” These are some of the words from a recently-run radio spot encouraging us to unite to stop “global warming” and as some have said, to “save the planet.” This sounds amazingly like the historical account recorded in Genesis 11.

“Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words. It came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. They said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly.’ And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar. They said, ‘Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth’” (Genesis 11:1-4, NASB).

This action by humans was not a noble idea of self-preservation. Rather, it was an action of direct defiance of the command of God, found in Genesis 9:7 and other places. “As for you, be fruitful and multiply. Populate the earth abundantly and multiply in it” (NASB). Rather than obey God’s command to go out and fill the earth, men decided instead to stay together in one place and make themselves “a name.”

When men attempt to defy God, the ultimate result is always judgment, and in the end, His will is done regardless of the efforts of man. When men, in their rebellion, choose to disobey God, He most certainly has the power and the right to overwhelm their disobedience.

“The LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. The LORD said, ‘Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another's speech.’ So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 9:5-9, NASB).

Evidence of the arrogance of man abounds. We could all think of many examples, and I offer just a few in no particular order.

Many people operate as if the street is their trash can. How many times have we witnessed someone roll down their window and throw out a bag full of fast food wrappers? I once witnessed a father say to his little son, “Just throw it down. You don’t have to put it in the trash. They have people to do that.” Such inconsiderate behavior always makes me think about the fact that many people believe they are too good to pick up their own trash. “Let the janitor do it.” This is nothing but arrogance.

Once when I was on our school campus after hours, there were three young teenagers, not students at our school, out on the parking lot riding their skateboards. I went out and politely pointed out the posted sign that reflected our policy of no skateboards on campus. One of them decided to be the little smart mouth he had obviously, by a lack of discipline, been trained to be. “I’ve been on this earth for fourteen years, and I know my rights. I have a right to be here, and I have a right to ride my board anywhere I want to.” I resisted the impulse to say what I was thinking. Instead I pointed out that they were on private property and were in violation of our rules for those who came on campus. Only after they threatened to bash me with their skateboards and I mentioned calling the sheriff did they reluctantly leave, shouting insults and making obscene gestures as they went.

These three young “men” demonstrated an arrogance that is all too common among many young people today. This well could be a factor of a statistic I recently heard. While the United States is near the bottom in education compared to the rest of the world, we rank number one in “self esteem” and self confidence. We are training many of our young people to know nothing but to feel very good about it and to stand up for their rights when they should be learning to stand up for what is right.

Environmental extremists have been pushing “global warming” for a variety of reasons, many of which are suspect. When someone points out that back in the 70’s, scientists were warning us about “global cooling” based on the same rationale being used today to promote global warming, they are ridiculed because, after all, that premise was wrong, and we have no right to bring it up. Never mind that it was the same groups of people who promoted the one as are now promoting the other. When someone makes a remark about extremely cold weather, assuming it to be evidence against “global warming,” the global warming extremists will even say that cold weather is caused by global warming.

As a last resort, such extremists have begun referring to “global cooling” and/or “global warming” as “climate change.” This would imply that somehow humans, or at least the elite among us, know what is the best and most appropriate temperature for the earth to be. This is arrogant enough, but then we come to the idea that humans can actually make a difference in the climate. We humans are weaklings when compared to the power of God and the power of what is so often called “nature.” Someday, some scientist with no agenda will figure out that the earth gets its heat from the sun, and the cycles of the sun have more to do with the cycles of warmer and cooler here on earth than any other factor.

Ever since 1859 Charles Darwin published his book, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, the idea of human evolution has been pushed as a foundational principle to all of science and necessary to a well-rounded education. Darwin did not think of the idea of evolution. He only popularized it.

Actually, the first evolutionist was Satan himself, when he was known as Lucifer. He believed he, as a created being, could “evolve” into God and take over the universe. He has been telling that lie to others ever since he first told it to himself. He told Eve in the Garden of Eden that she could be like God. Biological evolution is no less preposterous than Satan’s lie, and if the scientific community were truly unbiased and honest, evolution would be exposed as the greatest hoax ever perpetrated. Refusing to accept what God has said about the origins of the universe, all of life, and the human race is further evidence of the arrogance of man.

I could go on and on, but there I am not trying to write a book. My purpose is to simply illustrate that men continue to operate in defiance of God. Puny, weak little men shake their fists in the face of God, but it never pays off. “Why are the nations in an uproar and the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand, and the rulers take counsel together against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, ‘Let us tear their fetters apart And cast away their cords from us!’ He who sits in the heavens laughs. The Lord scoffs at them. Then He will speak to them in His anger and terrify them in His fury…” (Psalm 2:1-5, NASB).