Christian Competition

Run in such a way as to get the prize.  (1 Corinthians 9:24)

Competition is a fact of life. It starts at the earliest age in our homes, impacts us both in and out of the classroom during our school years, and follows us throughout our adult lives. We compete for jobs. We compete for relationships. We compete for acclaim, award, and approval. One business leader sagely observed that, “Competition brings out the best in products and the worst in people.”

The apostle Paul wrote to people who were quite familiar with competition. The sporting event known as the Isthmian Games was similar to our present-day Olympic Games. All the athletes in the competition and those who watched from the stands knew two things: First, only one contestant would be declared the winner of the event and receive the prize; second, the prize was perishable and would eventually decay into something of little or no value. With this understanding established in the minds of Paul’s audience, he set forth the concept of a cosmic competition of faith that will, in the end, result in a prize of eternal value.

Notice what Paul said:

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. (1 Corinthians 9:25)

Paul was telling his audience then and you and me today that we should indeed compete, but not against others. Rather, we compete against ourselves, with the goal of growing and maturing in our faith. In essence, our goal should be God’s goal for our lives: to be conformed to the likeness of Christ, from salvation to glorification. Paul added:

I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. (1 Corinthians 9:26-27)

You can see that Paul was serious and intentional about this competition. Running the Christian race was not something he took lightly or engaged in halfheartedly; he was rigorous in his self-discipline.

It is important to point out that this “strict training” was not done out of fear. When Paul spoke of being “disqualified for the prize,” he was in no way speaking about anything related to salvation. Paul made it crystal clear in Romans 8:38-39, Philippians 1:6, and elsewhere that all who are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ are eternally secure in their salvation. No, when Paul spoke of “disqualification,” he was speaking of service; his eye was on his message and his ministry and whether or not he would continue practicing what he preached.

Who have you been competing against lately? Is your eye on the prize the Lord has for you? Or are you focused on the other people running in the race? When we are running our race, the race God has called us to run for His glory and the good of others, we will fix our eyes on Jesus, not those running alongside us, knowing that He who began a good work in us will bring it to completion when we cross the finish line and enter into our eternal rest.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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The Only Opinion That Matters

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  (Galatians 5:1)

We all have a tendency to be controlled by the opinion of others. We often seek the applause of man rather than the approval of God. Today I want to remind you that the only opinion that truly matters is God’s.

Puritan Samuel Bolton put a sharp point on this truth:

Let us never surrender our judgments or our consciences to be at the disposal and opinions of others, and to be subjected to the sentences and determinations of men . . .

The church is full of people who will tell you how to live your Christian life. They talk about God’s plan for your life, and then proceed to put all the pieces together for you. They insist that you live according to their opinions. Their weapons of choice are “guilt trips” . . . condemnation . . . rejection . . . gossip . . . punitive silence. Such people must be resisted if we are going to live the freedom we have been given in Christ. The casualties inside the church resulting from the effects of this legalism infecting the body of Christ are legion.

I have talked here before about what freedom looks like in the life of the Christian. It is not freedom to do as we please, but rather freedom to do as God pleases in our lives. We live by grace in view of God’s mercies, and we live that grace in the way God has called us to live it.

There is a paradox in freedom that we must understand: Only to the extent we are in bondage and slavery to our Savior are we truly free. It is only the opinion of Jesus that matters in our lives. The the more closely we walk with Christ, the better we will understand His plan and purpose for our lives.

In our verse for today, Paul was addressing some very legalistic and opinionated Galatians. They believed that in order to become a “real” Christian, believers must be circumcised and obey the Law of Moses. If they did not, these Galatians maintained, the uncircumcised lawbreakers were not saved. Paul urgently and vehemently condemned this false, works-based gospel, saying “Even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned” (Galatians 1:8).

If Paul were speaking to the church today, he would tell us that any and all man-made rules and traditions are not to stifle the saints of God. Paul made it crystal clear in his letter to the Galatians where we are direct our focus:

Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10)

How is it with you? Whose opinion have you been most concerned with lately? Have you been seeking the applause of man? Or the approval of God? We must remember that our Christianity is in no way tied to compliance to any “rules” and “regulations.” You see, God already completely approves of you because of His Son. You cannot earn His favor or cause Him to frown. You are completely loved in the Beloved. So go live like it, Christian, looking only to the One who says to you, “This is my beloved child, in whom I am well pleased.”

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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Gathering Grace

The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. (Exodus 16:4)

The title for today’s word of encouragement might seem a bit strange. What does the phrase “gathering grace” mean, when we know that the grace of God is a gift that He bestows on us freely? But when we think about gathering grace in the context of the Israelites gathering manna in the wilderness for forty years, we will be on the right track.

Here are a few things to remember about the manna:

  • God provided it.
  • God provided it daily.
  • God provided the same amount for all His people.
  • God’s people had to gather it for themselves.

Here is a simple way to remember this gift of manna: God placed the manna within easy reach of His people, but He did not put it in their mouths. Yes, the manna was a miraculous example of God’s amazing grace, but the people were not entirely passive recipients of God’s provision. They still had to go out and gather the manna in order to eat.

This is the same way we ought to understand the grace we receive. To gather grace is to appropriate it — to take possession of the provision we have already received by grace through God’s ordained means. Now, I want to make it clear that God, in His sovereign purpose and plan for our lives, does use His Holy Spirit to work in our lives apart from any appropriating activity on our part, most notably in the work of giving us saving faith, which is entirely His work and not ours, as Ephesians 2:8-9 clearly says. Yet God has made it clear that we are to be actively engaged in the means He has made available to us so that we can play our role in rightly responding to His grace.

Here are three means for us to appropriate God’s grace:

PRAYER – When the Bible tells us to “Ask and you shall receive,” it is instructing us that the first step in gathering grace is to ask for it in prayer. “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

BIBLE INTAKE – Whether reading through the Word or receiving it in the sermons we hear, we gather grace every time we grow more acquainted with Scripture. “For The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

CHURCH ATTENDANCE – Inasmuch as we are all saved individually, we are saved to community, and that community is His church. We know that the church does not save us, but God surely has ordained His family of faith to be used in sanctifying us as we grow and mature in our faith. Therefore, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing” (Hebrews 10:25).

Remember, every aspect of the Christian life is lived by grace, through faith. But we are commanded to play our role in gathering grace for the race God has called us to run.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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Slaying Self-Sufficiency

When you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God. (Genesis 3:5)

There is much to be understood about the first temptation that the devil delivered to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. There are many layers to Satan’s lies, but the very root of the temptation was self-sufficiency. Made by God for God, Adam and Eve were created to live in total and utter dependence upon God. Scripture tells us plainly that “In him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). It was God’s divine design for mankind to live in conscious, consistent dependence on Him.

In this first temptation of self-sufficiency, the devil tempted man to live in autonomy, independent from the Almighty — a state of self-governing self-sufficiency. So alluring was this temptation presented by the devil that Eve, followed by Adam, “saw the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, took some and ate it” (Genesis 3:6). The results were catastrophic for all humanity, but the good news of the Gospel appeared immediately, when God pursued the two rebels on the run, promised to send a Savior, and then graciously worked in the lives of His people to cause them to realize their total dependence upon Him. That is the summary of the entire story line of God’s people, Israel.

Here is how Moses described it:

Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. (Deuteronomy 8:2-3)

When they were hungry, God fed them. When they were thirsty, God gave them water to drink. You would think that after forty years in the desert the Israelites would not need any reminders of their total dependence on God and how He had met their every need. But they did . . . and so do we. Regardless of where we live and where this message finds us, we are every bit as dependent on God to meet our needs as the Israelites were in their wilderness experience.

How instructive to read that God was “causing you to hunger and then feeding you.” Regardless of our need, God has promised to meet it according to His glorious riches in Jesus Christ (Philippians 4:19).

Here is a fabulous verse to help us remember just how dependent we are on the Lord God Almighty: “What do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). Everything we have comes to us from God; and the more we have, the more we are in debt to the One who has given it to us.

What you and I receive from the hand of God may not seem as miraculous as the food and water He provided for the people of Israel in the desert; He most often displays His providential care through ordinary and mundane means. But His great grace and care are no less miraculous than passing through the Red Sea on dry land. We are to see His care for us as a miracle, and that sense of wonder and awe will slay the sin of self-sufficiency.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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Ask Jesus To Get The Door

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:24)

There is a great little story that speaks to conquering sin in our lives. A young boy was struggling with a variety of temptations, so his parents asked their pastor to come and speak with him. After the young boy described some of the devil’s temptations, the pastor responded, “The next time the devil comes knocking, just ask Jesus to get the door.”

Here is what we must remember when it comes to sin. Sin still remains in the life of the child of God. Just read through the seventh chapter of Romans if you have any doubts that sin smears the life of even the most godly believer after salvation. Yes, sin still remains in the life of the believer, but sin no longer reigns in that life. The power of sin was broken on the cross when Jesus paid the penalty for our sins — all our sins, past, present, and future.

Before Jesus came into our lives, all we could do was sin. Even our best actions sprang from sinful, selfish motivations. But after Jesus raises us from death to life and gives us the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, we have the ability, for the very first time, not to sin. Here is how Paul explained this powerful truth.

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13).   

Here are a few truths to encourage you from Paul’s words to the Corinthians. First, everyone is tempted and temptation is not a sin. Scripture tells us that Jesus Christ was “tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Second, never feel like you have been singled out when wrong desires rear their ugly heads in your life. Others have resisted temptation, and you can too; we all have been given the same Spirit and the same power to fight against the slings and arrows of the devil. God has promised that he will always make a way out for all of us, if we are willing to walk in it.

Is there any particular struggle you are facing in your life right now? Something in your personal life . . . your professional life . . . your family life? Just remember, when the devil comes knocking with his many and varied temptations, just ask Jesus to get the door. I promise you that He will make sure that particular temptation will not overtake you.

Let me close with a word of caution for all of us. We should never try and answer the door ourselves. None of us are strong enough! We simply need to ask Jesus to answer the door of temptation, and we will receive our deliverance.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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Shoulder Strength

Carry each other’s burdens. (Galatians 6:2)

Your first glance at this title might cause you to think that I will be sharing some tips from our sport training ministry to help build your upper body strength. And it certainly is true that I enjoy this aspect of our church ministry, having spent most of my life coaching and training athletes in sports and the martial arts. But the “shoulder strength” I am talking about here has nothing to do with weight lifting, but rather lifting weight.

Regardless of your age, athletic experience, physical ability, or station in life, as a child of God you have been given supernatural strength to help others in a variety of different ways. As Christians, we are called to bear one another’s burdens — to come alongside others and let them lean on us when they are not strong and to offer them a shoulder to cry on. We all have the perfect amount of shoulder strength to be a blessing to others in their time of need. It is God who has ordained the church to be His shoulders to help strengthen others in their times of need. It is only when the entire body of Christ is engaged and working together that we will be what God in Christ died to make us — His body.

So how has God been using your shoulders lately? Please keep in mind that this has nothing to do with ability; it has everything to do with availability. God gives all of His children the ability to be a source of strength to others. But it is up to us to make ourselves available to be used by God for His glory and the good of others.

Think back to the last time you needed a shoulder to cry on or when someone came alongside of you to help you bear a particular burden. We really do need each other, because God will work no needless miracle to ease a burden when He has already ordained for His children to be His shoulder strength.

Take some time today to consider those closest to you and how you might be able to meet some particular need. Ask God to show you how He wants to use you in the life of someone who needs your strength, and you will be blessed beyond measure. “And in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).

One last thought: Don’t forget that when you are helping carry someone else’s burden, Jesus is carrying you every step of the way. For God has promised to meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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Resurrection: Fact or Fiction? More Enemy Evidence

“If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” (1 Corinthians 15:14)

On Monday we took a look at the “embarrassing” evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ in the testimony of the women and on Wednesday we unpacked the “enemy” evidence provided by the religious leaders. Today we will look at Saul of Tarsus, who described himself as “a Pharisee of Pharisees,” and who was a true enemy of Jesus and the Gospel.

For more than two thousand years, no skeptic has ever been able to explain in any reasonable and plausible fashion how or why Saul, the savage persecutor of the church, became Paul, the pastor, preacher, and disciple of Jesus Christ, who penned much of the New Testament.

Saul of Tarsus was greatly feared among the first-century church. He was relentless in his persecution of the followers of Jesus, and he testified to that fact in several of his epistles (1 Corinthians 15:9; Galatians 1:13; 1 Timothy 1:13), frankly admitting his great zeal in persecuting the church (Philippians 3:5). Along with his epistles, the book of Acts records Saul’s efforts to destroy the church. Then something happened on the road to Damascus.

Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” (Acts 9:1-6).

There may very well have been no greater enemy of the early church than Saul of Tarsus. Scripture reports that he held the coats of those who stoned godly Stephen to death, giving his full approval to their actions (Acts 7:58, 8:1). Saul was blinded by his self-righteous, false religion, and he did everything in his power to extinguish the light of the Gospel . . . but to no avail. The resurrected Jesus showed up and transformed Saul the persecutor into Paul the preacher.

How do we explain this incredible transformation? There is only one way; it happened just as the Scriptures say it happened. Time and time again, an honest reading of the Bible and of history confirms that the Scriptures are historically true and accurate.

One more thing. It is beyond contestation that Paul was martyred under the emperor Nero for his faith in Jesus. The early church fathers, Polycarp, Tertullian, and Clement of Rome all testify to this truth. The only way anyone could go from killing Christians to being killed for being a Christian is because of a heart-altering encounter with the risen and resurrected Lord. From embarrassing testimony to enemy attestation, God has given us powerful, plausible proof for the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

So the question is: Do you believe He is risen? He is risen! He is risen indeed!

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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Resurrection: Fact or Fiction? Enemy Evidence

“You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away.’” (Matthew 28:13)

On Monday we took a look at the “embarrassing” evidence given by the testimony of the women regarding the Resurrection. Today and Friday we will look at the “enemy” evidence — that is, confirmation of the truth of the Resurrection that comes from the enemies of Christ and the Gospel.

The Religious Leaders

Everyone on both sides of the debate over the historical truth of the Resurrection agrees that enemy attestation is a powerful proposition regarding the proof of the Resurrection. The enemies of Jesus hated Him and schemed to have Him put to death. The Jewish religious leaders and the Roman government had absolutely nothing to gain and everything to lose in making any statement would help to prove the truth of the Resurrection. And yet we see that they did indeed make such statements.

Now, in order to have a resurrection, you first need an empty tomb. Do you know who was the first group to testify to the tomb of Jesus being empty? You might think that the witness of the women that we looked at on Monday would be the first testimony to the Resurrection, but you would be wrong. Look at the following passage:

While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, ”You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day. (Matthew 28:11-15 emphasis added)

While the women were still hurrying to share the glorious good news of the Resurrection, the guards were already reporting that it had occurred. Some skeptics argue that those who testified to the empty tomb did so because they had gone to the wrong tomb. The facts decimate this argument. First, the location of the tomb was known. This is called “the Jerusalem Factor” — Jesus was publicly executed and put into a known tomb, which belonged to Joseph of Arimathea. Two men, who were themselves Pharisees, buried Jesus: Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. All this points to the fact that there could have been no confusing the precise location of Jesus’ burial site.

Even if it was possible that some people had gone to the wrong tomb, and if the guards had inexplicably become confused about which tomb they were supposed to be guarding, if the real tomb was not empty, the religious leaders would simply have gone to the correct tomb — again, the location of that tomb was widely known — and produced the dead, decaying corpse of Jesus Christ and paraded it around Jerusalem for all the world to see. The reason they could not do so was because Jesus was no longer in the tomb. He had risen bodily from the grave.  

Remember, if someone has any kind of bias against someone else, what reason would the first person have for saying anything positive or helpful about the other person? There would be no reason, except for the fact that it must be true! The only story the enemies of Jesus could come up with for the tomb being empty was that the disciples had stolen the body.

In order to even consider that theory, one must believe that someone came to Jesus’ tomb and broke the Roman seal that stood for the authority and power of the Roman Empire. To do such a thing was punishable by death. And remember that if these audacious grave robbers were Jesus’ disciples, that notion doesn’t square with what Scripture frankly reports—that the terrified disciples had scattered and hid for fear they would meet with the same agonizing death as Jesus.

Next, these daring individuals rolled away a two-ton stone without being detected by the guards . . . or, even more unbelievably, they overpowered the guards and subdued them. The Bible doesn’t specifically identify who had been stationed to secure the tomb—either Roman soldiers or Temple guards—but both groups were trained killers who would have been held harshly accountable for such an incredible blunder. Are we really to believe that Jesus’ ragtag group of disciples, untrained civilians who had two swords between them (Luke 22:38), somehow rediscovered their courage and carried out a daring, commando-style raid to steal the body of Jesus? The very idea, even upon first blush, is preposterous.

As with the witness of the women, the enemy attestation to the Resurrection is there to encourage you and strengthen your faith. As Peter wrote, we are not following “cleverly invented stories” about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. No, we are trusting in the true, eyewitness accounts of those who were there, accounts from those who loved Him and those who hated and feared Him.

On Friday, we will look at the most powerful “enemy” testimony of all, that of the Pharisee Saul.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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Resurrection: Fact or Fiction? Embarrassing Evidence

The women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. (Matthew 28:8)

We have arrived at Holy Week, and I would like to share with you three minimal facts that confirm the truth of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Minimal facts are regarded as historically accurate, having passed the standard historical criteria, and agreed upon by a broad spectrum of scholars—including skeptics—who have written on the Resurrection from 1975 to the present. Dr. Gary Habermas, Distinguished Research Professor of Apologetics and Philosophy at Liberty University, has stated that most of these minimal facts are confirmed by ten or more historical considerations each. 

Today we will focus on what is called “embarrassing” evidence for the Resurrection — evidence that, on first blush, would seem to diminish the force of the story and undermine its credibility, thus embarrassing those who argue for the truth of the Resurrection.

The Witness of the Women

To understand the power of this embarrassing piece of evidence, we must journey back in time to the first century. Women who lived in the first century were looked down upon by men as second-class citizens, and their testimony was considered untrustworthy. In our contemporary culture, what I am saying here doesn’t compute; but in the ancient world, it was an unfortunate fact of life. Women were not allowed to give testimony as public witnesses or public spokesmen, but they could testify in domestic and family matters. Also women were never counted among the men. You may remember that in the gospel accounts of Jesus feeding the 5,000, the story only records the 5,000 men, without giving any account of the women or children who surely were there (see, for example, Matthew 14:21).

I say all that to say this: If the gospel writers had been fabricating the story of the Resurrection, it is extremely unlikely that they would have used women as witnesses to the resurrection of the Christ; they would have picked a respected group of men, not women, to attest the the truth of the risen Savior.  

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.'” . . . So the woman hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them, “Greetings,” he said. (Matthew 28:1-8)

Why do we read of these “second-class citizens,” who were not allowed to give testimony in a court of law, as the first ones to see the risen Jesus? Because it is true! No one would make up a story that would be both embarrassing and counter-productive. In fact, it must have been hard for the gospel writers to write it this way. After hearing the report from the women, here is what they had to say: “Their words seemed . . . like nonsense” (Luke 24:11). Surely, the gospel writers would much have rather said it was Peter, James, and John who first saw the empty tomb and the risen Lord. This would have been a far more credible account for the first-century audience to accept. But it would not have been the truth. So we read exactly what God had planned in providing a powerful proof for the resurrection in the witness of the women.

A second-century critic of Christianity, Greek Philosopher Celsus, mocked and ridiculed the witness of the women, saying Mary Magdalene was a “hysterical female . . . deluded by sorcery.” If you were going to make up the story of the resurrection to get anyone to believe it, you would never use the witness of the women. But God did use it to encourage you and strengthen your faith.

E. M. Blaiklock, Professor of Classics at Auckland University, wrote this:

I claim to be an historian. My approach to Classics is historical. And I tell you that the evidence for the life, the death, and the resurrection of Christ is better authenticated than most of the facts of ancient history.

On Wednesday and Friday, we will look at enemy attestation as our second powerful proof of the resurrection.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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Skeptics Sought

“Can anything good come from Nazareth?” (John 1:46)

Nathaniel was a skeptic. Philip went looking for Nathaniel and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote — Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

“Nazareth!” Nathaniel scoffed. “Can anything good come from there?” The Jewish people despised Nazareth because a Roman army garrison was stationed there, making the entire location unclean in their minds.

Philip’s reply is instructive for all of us when we encounter a skeptic. He simply told Nathaniel, “Come and see!” We were all like Nathaniel before Jesus showed up. We were skeptics until someone invited us to “Come and see” the One the prophets wrote about.

It is greatly encouraging to see that Jesus did not rebuke Nathaniel for his unbelief.  

When Jesus saw Nathaniel approaching, he said of him, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.” (John 1:47)

Jesus knew Nathaniel was a skeptic, but He refused to see Nathaniel as he currently was. Rather, Jesus saw him for what He had determined to make him. This is the way Jesus sees all of us who were once blind but now see the Truth. Jesus always sees us for what we will become as believers in Him. This is how He sees the skeptic. The key for us to understand in our encounters with skeptics is that Jesus is seeking them — He came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10) — and it is our job to invite the skeptic to come with us and see Jesus. We bring skeptics to Jesus with our words and with our works . . . in our declaration and our demonstration of the truths of the Gospel.

Think about it this way: How much do you know about the disciple Philip? Not much. Scripture does not tell us a great deal about him. But he is known for being the one who brought Nathaniel to Jesus. A few years later, God used Philip to open the Scriptures for the Ethiopian eunuch, who went on his way rejoicing after seeing Christ in the inspired writings of Isaiah (Acts 8:26-39).

If we are going to be known for anything, let it be for bringing others to Jesus. Because skeptics are sought by our Savior, we also must seek them out and invite them to meet Jesus. It is true that the deepest need of every human heart is forgiveness, but the deepest desire is to experience a love that will last. Make it your passion to show the lost the Savior’s love in word and deed, and God will supply the increase.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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