The Power of the Resurrection

Easter is all about the triumphant resurrection of Jesus from the tomb! The resurrection is what sets Christianity apart from all other world religions or spiritual systems of thought or philosophy. This reality has always been under attack by people who do not believe that Jesus could actually rise from the dead.

Allow me to present three major objections to the resurrection given by those who deny its historical reality.

Number ONE: The falsehood theory: The disciples snuck past the Roman guards, rolled the stone away, stole Jesus body, and then went around telling everyone He had risen. Not only would Roman soldiers lose their jobs or get severely reprimanded for not guarding the post, why would the disciples die as martyrs for a belief that was simply a lie?

Peter was crucified upside down. Paul was beheaded. James the brother of John was beheaded. Philip was scourged, beaten and crucified. James the leader of the church in Jerusalem who wrote James was beaten, stoned, and was bludgeoned to death with a bat. Andrew the brother of Peter was crucified. Mark was dragged to death. Jude was crucified. Thomas was speared to death. Luke was hanged on an olive tree.

Number TWO: The swoon theory: Jesus did not really die on the cross, but simply fainted. The spear in his side didn’t kill him. The cat of nine tails didn’t rip his flesh apart, nor did the torture of crucifixion. He simply fainted. So being in the tomb without food and water, had enough strength to roll the stone away from the inside, physically overcome an armed Roman guard while walking on pierced feet to Jerusalem.

Number THREE: The vision or delusion theory: In their excited states of mind the disciples were thinking so much about Jesus and the possibility of His return that they hallucinated and had visions of seeing him. They only thought he had actually risen from the dead, and then circulated this story to convince people to believe them.

Now what does the Bible say about the resurrection after the fact? 1 Corinthians 15:3–7 says, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.” Jesus appeared to more than 500 people at the same time.

Also, Josephus, a secular, non-believing Jewish historian wrote this “On the third day he appeared to them restored to life, for the prophets of God had prophesied these and countless other marvelous things about him.” A secular historian even recorded the event as actual history.

So historically, the resurrection is a fact with countless eyewitnesses. This was a historical reality that truly happened. So Jesus is alive in heaven with a resurrected body with visible nail scars in His hands and feet. This is what sets Christianity apart from every other world religion. No otherworld religion leaders have an empty tomb.

You can go to the city of Medina in Saudi Arabia today and see the mosque of Mohammed’s tomb. He died and never rose again. Siddhartha Gautama was the founder of Buddhism. He died and was cremated and his remains are in relics all throughout the Far East. He never rose from the grave. Confucius the Chinese philosopher was buried in his hometown of Qfu, China, and thousands of Chinese visit his grave and temple every year. He never rose from the dead.

Over 2000 years ago, Jesus Christ literally and historically and physically rose from the dead. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:13–14: “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.”

So if there were no literal resurrection in the past, we would have a useless faith. Christianity would mean nothing! As you prepare for Easter this 2015, would you be both amazed and convinced of the historical bona-fide reality of the empty tomb and our risen and reigning Savior King Jesus!

amazed and convinced of the historical bona-fide reality of the empty tomb and our risen and reigning Savior King Jesus!

What is Genuine Faith?

What is authentic Christian faith? What kind of faith truly pleases God? Is it this nebulous fuzzy new age pluralistic type of faith that is celebrated in our culture of tolerance? While the Bible gives many answers to this question, we find a very emphatic and concise definition in Hebrews 11:6 which states: “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” Two answers to our question regarding authentic Christian faith emerge from this text.

First of all, authentic Christian faith is a faith placed in the right God. The writer of Hebrews tells us that we must believe that God exists? James 2:19 says, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe- and shudder!” It seems that everyone believes in a generic “god” to some degree or another. Muslims believe in Allah as their “god”. Unless you are a hardcore atheist, most Americans believe in “god”—whatever that may mean.

But the original language of this verse gives us great insight into what it means to have faith in the right God. The word for “exists” is literally translated “I AM”. In other words, true faith believes in the “I AM” God. This terminology reminds us of how God revealed Himself to Moses in Exodus 3:14: “God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” This is the very personal covenant name of God Himself. It’s not a generic God but the God who has most clearly revealed Himself in His Son Jesus Christ.

Jesus gives seven “I AM” statements in the Gospel of John that clearly show that He is the fulfillment and the embodiment of God Himself. Our faith is not just in a generic “god” but in Jesus Christ Himself. If you are not believing in Jesus Christ as the one who said in John 14:6 “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”, then you are only worshipping a “god” of your imagination.

This faith is more than just a fuzzy belief in God—it is a belief in Jesus Christ as God. So what kind of faith truly pleases God? A faith that is placed in none other than Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Any other type of faith out there is first of all not only not pleasing to God but will damn you forever in hell if you don’t place your faith in Christ.

But secondly, it must be faith in the rewarding God. God rewards those who seek Him.The word for “seek” here is a very strong word that means to hunt or search or diligently pursue. We see this beautifully captured in the Psalms. Psalm 105:3-4 says, Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice! Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually.” Jeremiah also captures this idea in 29:13 which states: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

The beauty of seeking God is that He longs to be found. He will be the Great Reward. Christ Himself will satisfy your deepest needs and in Him you will find your greatest joy. He is the reward. He is the Treasure. Let me give you a promise from Jesus Himself from John 6:37: “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.”

If you seek Jesus with all your heart, you will find Him. You will find Him today as the ultimate champion who can forgive all of your sins and make your life new.

The literal word for “rewards” in this passage is “paymaster”—God is the ultimate rewarder. In other words, it truly pays to seek Christ. Because when you find Him, He is the ultimate Reward. A.W. Tozer has a famous quote in the early pages of his book “The Pursuit of God” that captures this: “To have found God and still to pursue Him is the soul’s paradox of love.” Here’s the paradox. When we seek God we find Him. And it doesn’t just end there. We still keep seeking Him and we find out more and more about Him. And as we discover more and more about our Savior, our hearts burn with a passion to know Christ deeper and deeper and to continually seek Him.

So what kind of faith truly pleases God? A faith that is placed in the right God—Jesus Christ alone—and a faith placed in the rewarding God. God gave this promise to Abraham and it still rings true for us today: “After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” (Genesis 15:1)

What is God’s Will for your life in our sexually crazed culture??

We live in a sexually crazed culture of confusion and chaos. One of the symptoms of this comes in the recent release of the movie “Fifty Shades of Grey.” It’s nothing less than pornography for women. It celebrates male domination in how a powerful man seduces a younger woman and controls her and it’s very disturbing that women are actually enjoying this. Satan is having a field day with the younger generation who is growing up with a perverted, twisted view of human sexuality that has nothing to do with what the Bible commands.

What is God’s will concerning sexual morality and ethics according to the authority of the Bible? In 1 Thessalonians 4:3-6 Paul writes, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you.”

The Scripture clearly and adamantly teaches that God’s will is that we are holy—that is, we display lifestyles that are separate from the world around us. Paul then, gives us three specific ways we are to live holy lives according to God’s will.

First of all, the Bible commands us to abstain from sexual immorality. This means to “abstain”, “flee”, “totally avoid”. The word for sexual immorality in the original language is “porneia” which means any sexual expression, behavior, or relationship OUTSIDE a covenant marriage between one man and one woman. Therefore, sexual immorality includes sex before marriage, sleeping around, adultery, homosexual relationship, incest, bestiality, prostitution, pornography, sexting, sexual snapchatting, adult chat rooms and dating websites. 1 Corinthians 6:18–20 says, “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

Second, Paul commands us to control or master our lusts. Sexual immorality comes from inward desires and passions and attitudes and thoughts that turn into outward actions. There are “root” sins and “fruit” sins. The “fruit” sins are those outward actions that are sinful like pre-marital sex, adultery, looking at pornography, homosexual activities. But what lurks below the surface are the passionate lusts and evil desires that are deep in the heart that are “root” sins that eventually lead to the fruit sins.We are to control our lusts that are deep within our hearts. Listen to Jesus in Mark 7:21–23: “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

You feed your lusts by making provision for the flesh. It could be what you think about. It could be what you watch. What you fill your mind with. Where your heart goes when you’re bored or lonely or depressed. Instead of feeding your flesh, you need to kill it by putting on Jesus. That means to concentrate on Christ and His glory and think about the cross and think about the ugliness of sin and begin to dwell on who Jesus is and His love and His power and to consume your thoughts with Jesus until He becomes more glorious and powerful than what your flesh wants to do in gratifying your passions and lusts.

Thirdly, the Bible commands us to not cause other Christians to stumble sexually. In verse 6, Paul gives two commands: Don’t transgress or trespass your brother or sister and don’t wrong your brother or sister in Christ. The word “trespass” really means to cross or overstep the bounds. To cross ungodly boundaries. In other words, as a Christian you have no right to cross Biblical boundaries with another Christian. In doing so you actually “wrong” them. That word means to “exploit or defraud” or take advantage.

God gives a solemn warning here about His vengeance or wrath or righteous anger if you continue in unrepentant sexual sins as a habitual lifestyle. Colossians 3:5–6 reads, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which are idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming.”

Think about how strong a warning this really is. If you live in unrepentant, habitual sexual sin, it shows that you could care less about Jesus as Lord. If you live in unrepentant, habitual sexual sin, it shows that you are rejecting the clear commands of God in the Bible. If you live in unrepentant, habitual sexual sin, it shows that you don’t have the Holy Spirit in you and you’re living just like a lost person who doesn’t know God. And most terrifying of all….if you live in unrepentant, habitual sexual sin, it will bring God’s wrath and you will end up in hell. Again, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:9–10: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

So what is God’s will for you life? He commands you to live to please Him not to please yourself. He calls you to be holy, not necessarily happy. He calls you to flee, abstain, and run from sexual immorality. He calls you to control your lusts and not feed your flesh. He calls you to not take advantage or overstep boundaries with other Christians. He has called you to holiness and purity and to be distinctly different from the world around you. This message is counter-cultural and may seem weird, foreign, archaic, and unenlightened. But God has spoke in His authoritative Word and we have no choice as Christians but to obey!

What Should You Expect from your Pastor?

I want to challenge you with a question you may have not asked:  What should you expect from your pastor? Does the Bible provided any expectations or roles or responsibilities of pastors? For the Scriptural qualifications, one can examine 1 Timothy 3, Titus, and 1 Peter 5:1-4. We also see a model in the apostle Paul’s ministry as evidenced in 1 Thessalonians Chapter 2.

From this text, you should expect six characteristics or attributes from your pastor. First of all, we see Paul’s ministry MESSAGE (v. 2.) You should expect your pastor to be bold in preaching the gospel. The word Paul uses for boldness here means, “to have courage in the face of danger or opposition” or that supernatural ability to speak freely and unashamedly about the gospel-even when it’s unpopular or there is the threat of attack!

Our culture needs men who will stand up in pulpits across American and preach the truth no matter what the cost. They need to be like Paul who was unmoved from preaching the gospel. That’s why your church’s pulpit needs to have the solid, consistent preaching of the Word, and not just little stories about your pastor’s life, or happy tips to give you a better life. The only thing that will sustain you and grow you and enliven you and empower you and mature is the steady diet of the preached Word from a man of God who preaches with authority and boldness and trusts that what He is saying is actually from the Lord and is the absolute truth.

Second, we see Paul’s ministry MOTIVE (vv 3-6) and thus, you should expect your pastor to have pure motives as one approved by God. Paul defends his ministry motive here from critics and those who were attacking his leadership. There may have been opponents who thought he was a charlatan or a false teacher or only in it for the money, power and glory. A pastor must have pure motives and a heart tested and approved by God. Pastors above all else must be trustworthy not only with doctrine but with their motives and lifestyles.

Third, we see Paul’s ministry ATTITUDE (vv 7-8) and so you should expect your pastor to deeply love his flock with tenderness. This is a very interesting metaphor that Paul uses. He says that they were “gentle” which really means “toddler like”—they were baby like. A nursing mother feeds and takes care of her little baby and that’s what a pastor really ought to do for the church. He and the elders are responsible for nurturing and feeding and cherishing the church so that it grows and this often requires tenderness and understanding and listening.

Fourth, we see Paul’s ministry CONDUCT (vv 9-12.) You should expect your pastor’s life to back up his challenges for you to live a godly life. Paul is very clear here: He worked hard. He labored and toiled. He didn’t play golf every afternoon. He put in long hours loving and leading and teaching the people. Sometimes deep into the night.

A pastor’s job is 24/7.

1 Timothy 5:17 reads, “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.” A pastor must work to the point of exhaustion in preaching, teaching, leading, loving, and counseling the flock. And his lifestyle needs to back up what he’s calling the congregation to do. In verse 10 Paul says, that his conduct—or lifestyle—was holy and righteous and blameless. You should expect your pastor’s life to back up his challenges for you to live a godly life.

Fifth, we see Paul’s ministry MODEL (vv 2, 14-16.) You should expect your pastor to be on the front lines of suffering for the gospel. In verse 2 Paul recounts what happened in Acts 16 when he and Silas were imprisoned for their faith in Philippi. They had suffered, they were shamefully treated, they had come to Thessalonica right after being imprisoned in Philippi and then had to leave because of a mob riot. We are heading for a time of suffering in America as Christians. Persecution in some form is coming and as a pastor, I can’t be afraid of this. I can’t run from it. I have to be on the front lines ready for it and being a model worth imitating. And so should yours.

Sixth, we see Paul’s ministry DESIRE (vv 17-19.) You should expect your pastor to have your growth and maturity as one of his greatest concerns and joy. In verse 18, he said Satan had hindered them from coming. In the life of ministry pastors will experience intense spiritual warfare where the enemy will want to thwart or stop or confuse the work of God. Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

But Paul’s ultimate desire is that this church is his pride and joy. We see this in verse 19. He wants to boast or brag on this church. This church is his crown. This church is his joy. Paul’s greatest joy is to see this church maturing and growing and being obedient in the midst of sever trial as they await the Second Coming of Jesus.

Do these qualities reflect your pastor? I want to issue a friendly word of warning: Please do not expect your pastor to be perfect. Don’t expect him to never have any problems or never disappoint you. He will because he is a sinful human just like all of us. I have disappointed my church many times. Here’s the challenge: Pray for your pastor. Undergird him with your support, encouragement, love, and blessing. Follow his godly leadership. Be excited about God’s vision for the church that lives under the absolute authority of the Word of God. Would you express thanks to your pastor in tangible, concrete ways this week?

As pastors we aren’t perfect, but we try to be humble, loving, bold, genuine, and godly examples of what it means to serve Christ and lead His people. Would you lift your pastor up in prayer this week!