A life in Christ confidently proclaims the truth of God's Word.

Witness Well

What was the purpose of Jesus’ resurrection?

The resurrection of Jesus Christ goes against all human reason. When a person dies, they stay dead. Yet, the resurrection of Jesus is not only a historical fact, but remains the essence of the Christian faith.

Alternative explanations to the resurrection of Jesus simply do not make sense. Roman guards were posted to protect the tomb from robbers. If the body of Jesus were stolen, the guards would have been punished with their lives. After his resurrection, Jesus appears to hundreds of witnesses. His appearances occurred over a period of time and to groups of people, thereby eliminating the hallucination theory. But how does this explain the empty tomb? How does one contrive a death on the cross and the resurrection? Finally, how does this explain the disciples’ sudden transformation from frightened men to bold preachers? 

The question remains, “Why?”

Jesus and his resurrection is the first illustration of what humans are going to be and what God intends them to be. He is the first true, eternal human being. He is the first butterfly to come out of its cocoon. In a way, Jesus is the first “zygote”, a cell formed by the union of two sexual cells, to go full term and become a newborn baby. If we had never seen a newborn baby, we would have a serious problem believing that a zygote we see under a microscope will someday become a human baby. Yet, it happens every day! It has become an ordinary event! Is the resurrection of Jesus any different or more miraculous than the miracle of birth?

The resurrection certainly seems extraordinary right now, but soon, very soon, it will be the universal rule. We are all destined to be resurrected on the last day, but not all will be resurrected to the eternal life in heaven that God has always intended for us. Scripture makes it very clear that many people will be denied entrance to heaven on the day of judgement. Those who do not believe in Jesus will be resurrected and then condemned to an eternal life in hell.

To be “born again” now and in eternity with God means to trust in the means of birth provided only by God. The only umbilical cord we have with God is through Jesus Christ. When we cut ourselves off from this lifeline, we cause ourselves to be aborted from God’s plan for us. We become refuse and destined to eternal torment and anguish in hell.

I implore you to not cut yourself off from Jesus Christ. Don’t reject him. All that you were meant to be, all the longings of your heart, your need for love, hope, significance, and happiness are fulfilled in a relationship with God through Christ. You were created for this. God wants it for you! He suffered death on the cross so you might live!  

**This question and answer was inspired from the book, “Letters from a Skeptic” by Dr. Gregory A. Boyd and Edward K. Boyd, Chariot Victor Publishing, 1994.

How can you believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead?

Faith plays a part in accepting the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yet, faith can intersect with historical reasoning when it comes to the life and death of Jesus. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is probably the biggest obstacle for skeptics because it is the most critical issue of the Christian faith. Without the bodily resurrection of Jesus, there is no Christian faith. 

When we apply to the resurrection of Jesus the very same historical criteria as we do when we accept other noted events as fact, the results are startling. The evidence for this historical truth of the resurrection of Jesus becomes stronger than any other event in Jesus’ life. In fact, the evidence is stronger than many other historical events in the world that we have taken for granted. 

Please consider the following regarding the resurrection of Christ:

* Five independent sources have written testimony to the resurrection event, plus refer to numerous other sources as well. Their individual accounts are unique from each other and share common material, thereby validating themselves as truthful and reliable witnesses. No two witnesses will share the same story in exactly the same way.

The location of Jesus’ tomb was well known by all. Not only Jesus’ followers, but even his opponents all agreed that the tomb was indeed empty. 

The Christian church began several weeks after Jesus’ crucifixion. The explosive growth of the church was based on the message that Jesus was the promised Messiah as evidenced by his miracles and especially his resurrection.

* The resurrection accounts lack the characteristics common to legends. They contain details that would be considered irrelevant to the story line, plus named several prominent people who could have been easily cross-examined.

* The conversion of the Apostle Paul is unexplainable. This man was the leading persecutor of the early Christian Church, yet was converted in a moment. We can do nothing else but accept his testimony that he was personally confronted by the risen Lord.

* Paul gives us an early list of the resurrection appearances. Again, a large number of people could be cross-examined. 

* There was a huge difference in the disciples before the death of Jesus and after his death. One day they were hiding in fear, the next they are boldly preaching. This can only be attributed to their real experience of Jesus’ resurrection.

There is no motive for the disciples to fabricate this story.  The disciples had nothing to gain and everything to lose. 

The denial of the Resurrection based on historical evidence means that a person has to deny most of ancient history. The resurrection of Jesus Christ has to be considered as a valid, historical event. 

So, what does it mean for us?

We are confronted face to face with the question we all have to answer someday. Is Jesus Christ your Savior or not?   

 

**This question and answer was inspired from the book, “Letters from a Skeptic” by Dr. Gregory A. Boyd and Edward K. Boyd, Chariot Victor Publishing, 1994.         

Who really wrote the Gospels and when? How can we be sure that the Bible today has not been tampered?

The authorship of all four gospels was confirmed by the early Christian church at a time when they were being persecuted and martyred for its faith. Why would they lie? Tradition and the unique eyewitness perspectives further testify to their authorship. We are not absolutely 100% certain, but the burden of historical proof clearly lies on people who say the authors are somebody else.

There have been ongoing debates as to when the Gospels were actually recorded. A starting point of consideration begins with the book of Acts and the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Since the Book of Acts was written after the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) and does not mention the significant event of the fall of Jerusalem, we can safely assume that the Gospels were written before A.D. 70. Due to other historical benchmarks, the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke were written about 30 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (AD 60-65). The margin of time between Jesus’ life and death and the recording of the Gospels is very close by any historical standards. It is too close for those eyewitness accounts to be exaggerated or be considered “legends.” 

It is true that the Bible, the Word of God, was written by the hands of men. It is also true that we do not have the original manuscripts. What we do have are tens of thousands of ancient manuscripts that were painstakingly copied by human hands. As a result, human error (i.e. misspellings, misplaced words, repeated phrases, words left out) caused a few manuscripts to be slightly different than the others. The remarkable, even miraculous fact is that throughout the centuries the truth of God’s Word has been left perfectly intact. The thousands of ancient manuscripts verify the fact that we have today an authentic and accurate copy of the originals.    

To sum it up, we have reliable historical documents of a person, a small-town rabbi, who made divine claims about himself in a way that completely overturned the theology of the Jewish people. He changed the hearts and minds by convincing them that he was the Messiah, the promised Savior of the world. He did this not just by his teaching or his miracles, but by his resurrection. The question remains, “Who do we say Jesus is?” The truth of Christ is confirmed when the longings of our heart is comforted in the same fashion it answers the questions of the mind.  By faith, we know the good news of Jesus Christ to be true.  

 

** This question and answer was inspired from the book, “Letters from a Skeptic” by Dr. Gregory A Boyd and Edward K. Boyd, Chariot Victor Publishing, 1994.     

How can you proclaim the Bible as being inspired by God? Isn’t it full of contradictions?

There are many scholars who collectively deny the words of Christ. However, if we apply historical criteria to determine something authentic and reliable to the Bible, then we can safely conclude that the Bible is factual and true. I think today’s scholars are making claims based on human bias instead of a careful study of Biblical content.

In studying the Bible, we have to recognize that the Gospel writers utilized oral and written sources when they composed their accounts. One Gospel writer, a trained medical doctor, took great pains in making sure his account was accurate. He interviewed many witnesses of Jesus’ words and miracles. Since there are four accounts of the life and death of Jesus, there will be some differences. Each witness will give a varying degree of information. Yet, it is very important to note that the scriptures are not contradictory.

First of all, the information age had not yet arrived in first century Palestine. Our modern “snapshot-tape recording” criteria of literal accuracy was not the case two thousand years ago. Paraphrasing was widely accepted since most information was shared orally. The Gospel writers did not write to satisfy modern historical curiosity, but to save people by bringing them into a relationship with the Savior. Like a beautiful painting or vivid poetry, the Gospels serve to move our hearts and souls. The author and painter was God himself. The Bible is God speaking directly to us. His Word becomes so important, that he simply could not leave the process in human hands. He carefully guided and preserved each word that appears in the Gospels. 

There is a lot the Gospels don’t tell us which bothers our rational, historical mind. However, the Gospels tell us all that we need to know. Aside from accepting the Bible as a very reliable historical document there is another factor to consider and that is faith. The Gospels force us to look at Jesus Christ, the Savior, and ask, “Who is he? Was he a lunatic? Was he a liar? Was he just a legend? Or, was he the Lord his followers proclaimed him to be?”  

The evidence which addresses the mind, and the Spirit of God which addresses the heart, both point to the last of these alternatives as the only possible answer. We can take comfort in knowing that it is Jesus who will reveal himself as Lord based not on our human understanding, but by the transforming power of God’s Word. Our heart-knowledge will grasp the fact that God was in control of the writing of the Gospels and is still active in reaching the lost to an eternal, saving relationship with him. 

** This question and answer was inspired from the book, “Letters from a Skeptic” by Dr. Gregory A Boyd and Edward K. Boyd, Chariot Victor Publishing, 1994.     

How can I trust the Bible stories about Jesus to be true?

It is true that almost all of our knowledge about Jesus comes from the gospels. Yet, we don’t have to take the truth out of “God’s Word”. If we look at the gospels solely as a historical document to determine if Jesus really existed or if he did what the Bible claims he did, we discover some interesting evidence. 

If we apply the same criteria that historians use to examine ancient documents, we discover that the Bible holds up remarkably well as a reliable, historical document. When the Bible tells us about the person of Jesus Christ, that God was present in Him and working through Him in a most significant way, we can fully trust the words as being historically accurate. 

Let’s see how the four Gospels measure up with the criteria historians use: 

1)      There must be eyewitness accounts.  John tells us he is an eyewitness; Mark uses the Apostle Peter’s account, Matthew is written from the perspective of an eyewitness, and Luke uses eyewitness sources.

2)     Does it include specific details?  The Gospels are full of seemingly irrelevant detail which typically accompanies eyewitness accounts.

3)     Does is it contain self-damaging material?  Women, who were not allowed to testify in court, are used as eyewitnesses. The disciples are consistently portrayed in a bad light.

4)     Is it self-consistent?  The Gospels present a consistent portrait of who Jesus is and what He did, as well as the events surrounding His life.

5)     Are there “larger than life” features?  The Gospels include supernatural acts, but the accounts don’t have any of the features of ancient mythology. 

6)     Do the authors have motives for lying?  What could the disciples gain from telling the story of Jesus? Nobody can doubt their sincerity.  In fact, they suffered for it. 

7)     Any outside sources to confirm material?  There are many secular sources written in the second century that back up some things about Jesus and his early disciples.

8)   Are there any archeological findings?  There are no conclusive archeological findings which refute any biblical account, yet many findings which substantiate the biblical account.

9)     Could contemporaries falsify the document?  There were many who would have loved to stamp out Christianity. It would have been easy if the “cult” had been based on myths and lies. Yet, Christianity has survived and exploded in growth. Even those opposed to Christianity could not deny the miracles or that the tomb was empty. 

Based on the historical criteria, we can treat the Gospels as reliable documents and are good sources for history. This can be claimed without even mentioning that the Bible is “inspired” or “God’s Word.”  Due to the evidence, we must decide whether to regard Jesus as a skilled magician who tricked his way into people’s hearts and got crucified for it, a liar, a complete lunatic, or as the Lord which he and his followers claimed him to be. Based on the historical evidence, we can safely conclude that Jesus is the promised Messiah as foretold in the Scriptures. To claim Jesus as our personal Savior, however, takes much more than historical evidence.   

** This question and answer was inspired from the book, “Letters from a Skeptic” by Dr. Gregory A Boyd and Edward K. Boyd, Chariot Victor Publishing, 1994. 

How does a Christian consistently walk in the Spirit?

There I go again, responding in way that I don’t want to be.

I know what is the best way to respond, but so often I fail. Frustration and guilt is an ongoing battle.  How can I be more consistent in living the way God created me and desires for me to live?

In the fifth chapter of Galatians, Paul encourages Christians new in the faith to stop following laws and customs to be right with God, but bask in the freedom we have in Christ. Not that we want to follow our sinful nature, but follow the life of the Spirit that dwells in us. In verse 25 it says,“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”

Note the phrase “keep in step”. In the original Greek, a better translation could be “walk in line with” or “walk in a straight line”. This word was used to describe military troops who were arranged behind one another in a formation. In the context of this verse, the word could very well suggest following in line with a pattern or possibly following a leader with whom we are in agreement with. 

There will always be a conflict between what we do (sinful nature) versus what we would like to be doing (God’s will). A great example is in rearing children. Do we have to teach children how to behave badly? Do we say, “Sarah, stop sharing so much. Next time, just take the toy and keep it for yourself.”  Or do we say, “Daniel, the next time your brother takes your toy without asking, just smack him in the mouth!”  No, kids learn these instinctively because it is part of their nature. Parents and teachers have to teach children the right way to respond which is contrary to our human nature.

We can even apply this concept to challenging employees who tend to behave like little children. How do we “walk in line with the Spirit” with them? I think it is recognizing the differences between our sinful nature and our life in the Spirit. Our acts of the sinful nature are things we can generate easily on our own. Doing what is right in God’s eyes does not come to us naturally. We need to be taught. We need to have an example. But, more importantly, they are fruit of the Spirit.  It is only the Holy Spirit that produces love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness in us and through us.  There is really no law that tells us that we have to do these things, but we do them because this is what God wants us to do. They are attitudes and actions that are a reflection of Christians who have completely conformed to God’s will and purpose in their lives.

Why would God allow Himself to suffer for creatures as insignificant as us?

Our society has a tendency to make the assumption that small is unimportant. We assume that if we are “small” in comparison to the universe, than we simply can’t be important in the spiritual things. God’s love for us is all the more magnified precisely because we are so small. 

God is not only a personal Lord, he is also personally interested in us. We must remember that God, our Creator, is the definition of what it is to be perfect. Nothing can be above him. The fact that we have moral convictions, love, and reason did not come by “accident”. Our imperfect personal characteristics are mere shadows of the existence of a perfect personal being. If we imperfect beings are morally outraged at all the injustices of the world, would not God be infinitely more outraged? Is he not more loving, more knowing, more caring than us? The enormity of the cosmos and our smallness in relation to it would only present a problem for God’s love and care if he were not behind the whole thing! 

His love and care for his creation is inexhaustible, so there is plenty left over for us “small” human beings. It is impossible, then, to say that God, our Creator, doesn’t personally care for us. 

What does this mean for us?  It means that God knows us perfectly, better than we know ourselves. He loves us perfectly, more than we love ourselves.  God cares about our suffering perfectly, more than we care about them ourselves.

So, what is God’s purpose?  What does he want from us?  He wants to reveal himself to us and desires a relationship with us through Jesus Christ. 

If God is the one perfect, loving, caring being, then it is safe to say that he would do everything possible to bring about the greatest possible good for his creatures. Anything less would be less than perfect. And Jesus Christ reveals that this is exactly what God did!  God himself became a man, one of us, and suffered a horrible death on the cross in order to rectify all we humans have inflicted on ourselves.He has done and is doing everything possible to have us humans be eternally with him.  

** This question and answer was inspired from the book, “Letters from a Skeptic” by Dr. Gregory A Boyd and Edward K. Boyd, Chariot Victor Publishing, 1994.   

If God is so all-knowing and all-powerful, why does he need our prayers?

The purpose of praying has little to do with asking God for things. We pray because God wants us to. Praying is a conversation with God. However, does God really need our prayers? God doesn’t need our prayers to bless us.   

Never underestimate the value of prayer when haring Christ with others.

God doesn’t need our prayers to bless us. If that’s the case then why does God want me to pray in the first place? 

Prayer is a means God gives us for us to build a trusting relationship with our Creator. Asking for things is just one minor aspect of our relationship with Him. He’s already as good, concerned, informed and powerful as He can be. Yet, since a loving relationship with Him is God’s highest concern for us, He constructs the order of things so that a loving relationship with him will be facilitated. Because of this, God seems to ordain that some things will only be done through prayer. 

If God doesn’t need our prayers, then is prayer truly effective? We need to remember that God commands us to pray for several reasons. First, prayer is a constant reminder for us that God is the only source for help and strength. When we truly slow down and examine our lives, during good times and bad, it is God that receives all credit and glory.

Second, we need to remember our relationship with God in our present fallen condition. We have all heard studies and testimonies on the healing power of prayer. However, God does not act like a cosmic vending machine. One does not make a request, pull a lever down and have our request granted. People are miraculously healed and people tragically die. What’s the difference? What did or did not work?   

There are billions of variables that go into God’s moment by moment interaction with the world. There is His overall plan for humankind and for the cosmos. There is His plan for each individual. There is the strategy of the spiritual battle with which He is involved. There is the degree to which He has ordained our prayer to have consequences in the world. To understand all of this would be like walking into a theater in the middle of a movie. Would you be able to explain the whole movie after only one minute of viewing? Or, would you be able to teach a chemistry class after reading one page of a textbook?

Prayer is a means to give us confidence and peace that God is working out all things for good, even when he says no to our prayers. Faith and trust becomes the critical element of being sure in what we hope and pray for and certain of what we do not see. 

** This question and answer was inspired from the book, “Letters from a Skeptic” by Dr. Gregory A Boyd and Edward K. Boyd, Chariot Victor Publishing, 1994.