And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. – 1 Corinthians 15:17
Paul is quite right… If Jesus had not been raised to life, then our faith is useless… or to put it another way:
If Jesus is dead then Christianity is dead.
It’s pointless… worthless…
You see without the Resurrection of Christ, there is no saviour or salvation, no forgiveness and no Resurrection hope for a life in eternity.
You see the resurrection of Christ is one of the foundations that Christianity stands on. Without this Christians are just fools who are putting their trust in a dead man.
Now some people might think… that explains Christians PERFECTLY, fools worshiping a legend or folk hero however there are a few things that set Jesus apart.
One of the keys proofs for me of the authenticity of it (if you want to put it that way) is the reaction of the disciples.
You see after his death the disciples ran away, they hid… they fled and that makes sense, if they could kill Jesus what would it mean for the rest of them?
However that all changed after the resurrection… after the resurrection they were bold… they died for their faith.
What would it take for a group of scared and frightened men and woman to make a complete turn around and be willing for them to die for something?
They certainly wouldn’t be willing to die for something that they knew was a lie… and all but one of the disciples died for their faith in a resurrected Christ. If it was a lie (and they knew it was a lie) then it wouldn’t make sense for them ALL to be willing to go through some of the pain that the apostles did.
Mark died in Alexandria, Egypt, dragged by horses through the streets until he was dead.
John was boiled in a huge basin of boiling oil during a wave of persecution in Rome. However, he miraculously survived. The Apostle John put into prison was later freed and returned to serve as a bishop in modern Turkey. He died an old man, the only Apostle to die peacefully.
Peter, was crucified upside down on an x-shaped cross, according to Church tradition, because he told his tormentors that he felt unworthy to die the same way that Jesus Christ had died.
You see there was a cost.
For me the biggest thing to convince me was the transformation of Jesus’ brother James… he went from someone who was so totally skeptical of Jesus, but after the resurrection become a firm believer.
This is astounding for a number of reasons.
- What would it take to convince you that your brother was the son of God?
- Would the turn around be worth dying for (James was thrown of the highest point of a temple and then was also beaten to death when it was shown that he survived the fall)
It seems to me that the resurrection did something to the early believers… it seemed to transform them… change them.
And the great news is that the same resurrecting power does the same change in us.
Just like a caterpillar thinks it’s the end of the world… it then is transformed into something new… something different… a new creation.
The old life is gone… the skin is just a shell… a new life has been born again… and we see the beauty in the butterfly.
That’s why I love it when I see a butterfly… it reminds me that there is more to come… it reminds me to have faith in what I can’t see or know or understand fully… because this is just one chapter.
Death isn’t the end… it’s not the ultimate enemy… death to your old life for Christians is just the beginning of new life.
A new chapter has begun… and it ends with eternity.
The thing I love about Easter is that it’s ingrained in history… it’s not just some story that we pass on.
The pain of the crucifixion was real too.
Crucifixion was used as early as 330-ish BC and used by Alexander the Great to help spread rumours of fear and dread throughout the ancient lands. Often the stories played more on the minds of his enemies than the armies he commanded.
When the Romans starting using it they decided it was time to perfect the tool. Roman soldiers was known to try and out-do each other and experimented with techniques to try and prolong the agony and intensify the pain. The pain was so great that words like “excruciating” were used to explain it… for the record excruciating derives from the phrase “From the cross”.
The pain of the nails were only part of the agony… the pain of the crucifixion was mainly due to the fact that it was just another way to prolong death by asphyxiation, as the person struggled to breath while laboring under the weight of their own body.
Ancient historians like Josephus called it “the most wretched of deaths”… as the pain and agony of it was then added to the mockery and torment that went with it. Often people would be crucified at eye level so that people could mock and spit and cuss at the people hanging on the cross.
We often see pictures of a clean Jesus hanging on the cross and we think “wow that must have hurt” however that doesn’t even come close to describing what happened… skin was hanging of his body with the beating (as well as 30 lashes) that he had earlier that day… and even that doesn’t come close to describing the weight of all our sin on him… not just what we had done… but what we were still going to do.
That weight is something that makes the cross pale in comparison.
You see we can’t remove our own sin… there is nothing that we can do that even gets us close to wiping the slate clean… there is nothing we can do.
Paul says this :I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. - 1 Corinthians 15:3-4
You see it was FOR our sins… for the benefit of our sins… because of our sins.
OUR sins… HIS death… that’s why it’s good news.
Scripture says over and over again that Jesus dies for our sins…
In research done by the Barna group in the USA showed that only 27% of church going school kids had some sort of prayer or devotion at home… this number is REALLY low.
However what’s the most alarming is that if you take out grace at dinner time… the number drops to between 10-12%
So that means that almost 90% of church going school kids never get any kind of devotion…
Now parents in Christian homes tell me that they want their kids to discover a relationship in Christ… so the question has to be asked…
How are they expecting that to happen osmosis?
John Piper writes: “If there is one memory that our children should have of our families and of our church it is this; they should remember God. god was first. God was central”
The Bible tells us to get the Bible message inside our children…
Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder; inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates.
Kids need and long to hear from us…
Our Testimonies… Our Experiences… Our personal encounters with God.
You see they want to know that what you believe isn’t just real but life changing.
Here’s the thing if parents don’t start to impress these on our children… you can bet that the enemy of souls will… in a subtle… but very real way.
Our kids are FAR TO VALUABLE to just to hand over to the enemy without a fight!
If you have children under the age of 12… and really would like resources for the home to help give your children EVERY opportunity to discover the amazing adventure God has in store for them. I would recommend Faith box.
For more information click on the link here!
and even better… I would strongly recommend you purchase it!
According to research from the Barna group in the U.S.
60-90% of Church going School kids will not carry their faith with them into young adulthood – they just let it go.
When asked “why?”, by far the largest reason was “hypocrisy”.
You see what they heard at church and what they saw at home wasn’t the same thing.
There was never the God conversations, between their parents… they never saw how the parents faith impacted their lives.
We talk about how important it is for our kids to grow up in a Christian environment yet we’re treating church like a drop of zone for them to get their weekly ‘Jesus dose’ – but we wouldn’t not feed our kids Monday to Saturday and only feed them on Sunday would we?
So why do we do that to ourselves and our relationship with Christ?
Just as importantly why would we do it to our kids and jeopardize them having a lasting relationship with God?
Why would you, a parent do that to your child?
Why wouldn’t you give them the opportunity to discover the amazing adventure Christ has in store for them?
Start children off on the way they should go,
and even when they are old they will not turn from it
Our kids need and long to hear from us as parents…
OUR testimonies… this is what God has done for me
Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. 1 Peter 3:15
Are you ready to talk to your kids about your Christian hope?
OUR experiences… This is the adventure God took me on
OUR personal encounters with the living God… God changed me, I once was this and now I’m this.
The bottom line is this… if we want our kids to have the faith that influences the way they live their lives then in our homes we need to be modelling faith through a personal relationship with Christ…
I’m not talking about just putting on some Christian music in your house every now and then
I’m not talking about saying grace before you eat your dinner
I’m not talking about saying prayers before bed.
What I’m talking about is this: how does your faith… and your relationship with Christ impact your life and those around you?
You see it has to do with not just teaching faith… but journeying with your children.
FAITH starts at home… is faith at your home?
I’m secure in my man-hood when I say… I like butterflies, they are beautiful, colourful, and they float through the soft warm air of your summer.
I especially like how they were once one thing… but now they are something totally different.
It’s like us really as Christians… We are born a caterpillar.
There’s nothing wrong with a caterpillar, they spend there day roaming around and they eat leaves I would have to assume that it’s a pretty cool life… sure there is the odd bird or other enemies that are there to attack you, but ‘hey’ that’s life in any world.
They are something else… not only can they walk and do most of the things that caterpillars can do but they’re free from having to walk… they can fly, they can float from leaf to leaf… branch to branch.
Romans 6:3-14 tells us that we, as Christians are dead to our old life… and alive in Christ (we have been ‘reborn’)…
So… if this is the case, why do we spend our time crawling around like the caterpillars that we once were… when we can soar and fly above the fields we fought through?
It doesn’t make sense does it?
But here’s the really cool part… the rebirth process is only the start… it’s only a down payment… it’s an echo of what is to come.
You see we still get aches and pains… we still get our hearts broken… we live in a fallen world.
But 1 Corinthians 15:35-39 tells us that when we get to heaven… we’ll be given a new body… the right type of body for all eternity… no pain… no suffering… no heart ache… no regrets.
‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” - Revelation 21:4
As my Pastor Murray Talbot put it “He will wipe away the tear on your cheek right now, the tears and hurt from your past, and the tears you will give to others… will all be wiped away”
Isn’t that cool…
I like butterflies… they are beautiful, they are colourful…
But what is in store for us is much much much better… don’t you think?
Isn’t it so easy these days to not engage with anyone… or you might engage but on a really small shallow level…
I was thinking about the things that influenced me the most… and it was two things.
Things that made me happy… and things that made me sad
Do you remember the things that your parents said to you when they said something like “You must always remember this…” – it’s great if you do… but I certainly don’t… the things I remember are the times that someone gave me encouragement, lifted me up… a parent telling me that they were proud of me… a friend giving me an ‘atta-boy’ at going a good job… it’s those things that stick…
On the flip side however it’s the things that often hurt the most that stay in your mind too… the time when you felt betrayed, shamed or guilty…. these things when held onto can hold back and cripple someone.
My thought is… if the things that impact us the most are so influenced by the people who are part of our lives, and if we are filled with the Holy Spirit and different from the rest of the world… then why don’t we encourage each other more and help take away those negative thoughts???
“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.”
We’re to ENCOURAGE each other… lift each other up… motivate each other.
“By acts of love and good works…”
It seems to me that when we are being counter cultural to the norm and we start to show our love for others… and do things for these people… it makes a real impact. The world expects people to take advantage of them, to use them when they are weak, and to hold a grudge… what are we doing to counter that?
Notice however it does not say “just saying nice things”... but it’s “doing” nice things… it’s putting your money where your mouth is… it’s walking the talk!
After all LOVE is a verb.
And what starts to happen when we start to do things for other people and love them how Christ loved us (which is unconditionally – after all he died for us when we were still sinners) then not only do we see those around us change… but we start to change too.
You see we’re called to spur each other on… but how do you even start that??
We need to make sure that we’re taking our cues from the Holy Spirit… just ask if there is anyone in mind that he thinks you should ‘spur’ on… or maybe there is someone that comes to your mind straight away… how are you going to make them feel encouraged?
However here’s the thing…
Spurs often hurt… sometimes you need to give the person that you are trying to encourage a bit of a ‘dig’…
Wounds from a sincere friend
are better than many kisses from an enemy.
Sometimes you have to say the ‘hard word’ to a friend… sometimes you have to give your friend a reality check… and it can be hard and it can be painful… however if your friend knows that you’re saying it from a sincere place… and if you feel that you’re saying it as a prompting from the Holy Spirit… it may be the things that sets them free from some of the pain that they have been holding onto for sometime.
So are you encouraging your friends?
Are you spurring them on?
What are you doing to change the life of your friends?
Because isn’t it easier to be right… than it is to love someone?
Lets not choose the easy option!
One of my best friends ‘Ren’ last week got me thinking about if I was ‘normal’ or not… in fact she actually asked the question “So what is ‘normal’?”
As it turns out I’m not ‘normal’ (which really wasn’t a surprise to anyone really!)… however being weird is the normal God designed us to be… so as Christians being ‘normal’ isn’t really an option.
But it got me thinking a bit more about what defines me?… and maybe more importantly how do we see ourselves?
In a way only God can plan, as I was thinking about this another good friend and mentor of mine Hamish spoke about “What defines us…” at our church today… sometimes God doesn’t let you off the hook that easily!
Something that really stood out for me was the main things define us and it was a simple list of 4 topics:
Now I had known this for a while… however it was really hammered home when I realised that 3 of the 4 things in the list are changeable…
So What are the forces that shape us as people?
What should shape us?
When we let others shape us… we’re in danger of seeing things through not only our broken ‘life lens’ but theirs also.
You see often we don’t see things as they are… we see things as WE are.
Often others have their own agenda’s and own reasons for feeling a particular way…
How fickle are the opinion of others?
It really highlights how important it is that we have people who we really trust to speak into our lives…
Who have you got that you really trust to speak into your life?
Do you have anyone?
There are plenty of events in our lives we can look at that maybe have really been hard… separation/loss of job/scandal/natural disasters you could probably add your own ‘events’to this list…
Coming from Christchurch New Zealand I know how fast a major event can change things… but the question is are we going to let these events DEFINE who we are?
One of my earliest memories of seeing someone who refused to let an event define them was when I saw a friends Mum at a funeral… the funeral of her son and a friend of mine who had died in a major outdoor accident. Only a year before this tragic event this amazing lady was saying goodbye to her husband who died of cancer… she stood up and spoke of the pain she was feeling of such loss… it was heart wrenching… however she spoke of her faith in God… and I knew that this event although it was painful and would be hard to erase, wasn’t going to be the one thing in life that would define this woman… she knew who she was.
Then we come to ourselves… sometimes we’re our harshest critics aren’t we, we have low self esteem because we don’t value ourselves or we’re always comparing ourselves unfairly to others or we dwell on our past… but here is the thing… Moods change… people change… feelings change…
So why are we putting so much pressure on ourselves?
You see these three things… Others, Events and Self are all things that change… in a heart beat… they’re not consistent… so isn’t it funny that we have put so much time and effort into letting these things be the main things that mold us into who we are… the main things that we let define us???
But God… the creator of the world… is forever unchanging… he made you to be who you are!
And it never matters about our past… “God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” Romans 5:8 (NLT)…
You see… while we were still sinners… it wasn’t about the fittest or the best or the most popular… it was because you… are YOU… and God LOVED you that much!
You see we know how much God loves us… so why are we striving to let others define us?
Sometimes it’s almost like we’re trying to cheat God and do things our own way…
When we’re not cheating God… we’re cheating ourselves out of what HE has for US…
We’re just cheating ourselves!
Who are we kidding?
Lastly… Hamish came to this wonderful conclusion… maybe… just maybe our list of who defines us should look more like this?
You see when you’re putting your trust in God, you have to die to yourself… you have to deny yourself.
But here is the great thing about that… when you put God at your number one… it frees us from ALL the other stuff… there is no need to ‘perform’ we can relax and let God define us… and he calls us his ‘masterpiece’… he calls us ‘very good’… he calls us ‘sons and daughters’… he calls us ‘heirs’…
So what (or who) defines you?
Reading in Acts we see the start of the church… it was a movement, it was something that started off so small… but it grew into something that would change the World.
So where did it all go wrong?
Where did we lose our leverage in the World?
We went from something that people wanted to be part of… to something that people are now turned off by.
We went from something that we lived… to something that we had to say to prove who we were.
So what happened?
Looking historically you would have to say it was when we got power.
In Acts people from all walks of life were drawn to what the new believers were doing because they lived differently… they loved one another… they supported one another… and it was different… it was new and it was something that drew people in.
But then people in power became Christians and we started to use our power… our influence to force people to start to look to Christ… but it doesn’t work like that. You see it’s not power or influence that makes us different to the rest of the world it’s something different. In fact when we do look to those things we lose our leverage.
Now I’m not saying that if we are in a position of influence we shouldn’t use it to help others and use it for good… but the thing that made people take notice wasn’t power or position.
“Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” – John 13:35 NLT
People knew the Christians were different because they loved one another.
It wasn’t about judging others… it wasn’t about politics… it wasn’t about position… it was about showing LOVE.
You see sometimes I think we believe that it’s about forming political groups… or about online petitions…. but all these are just short term. They phase out… they die… they turn into something else.
But love is something we need to relearn… because it’s the thing that will draw others to us…
Because pretending that we have it all together’s not working!
Why do Christians see Easter as such an important part of the year… I would even go as far to say that Easter IS the most important part of the year for Christians and that it’s the one thing that everything revolves around for ALL people claiming to be Christians.
Because it’s more that just a story it’s HISTORICAL… you can read in the Bible about real life encounters with people who were there.
The Apostle Paul (who spent a lot of his early carrier bashing Christians and killing them) said in 1 Cornithians 15:14
“And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless.”
and then later in 15:17
“And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins”
EVERYTHING hinges on this…
It wasn’t just Jesus’ teaching that was great the Bible is FULL of people who brought the word of God…
It wasn’t Jesus’ death that made people take notice… thousands of people have died for their faith…
The one thing that changed everything for the whole world is the fact that Jesus Christ came back to life!!!
He rose again… RESURRECTION
In the book of Acts… the main reason thousands of people became Christians, wasn’t because of just good preaching… wasn’t because of a death… it was to do with the resurrection.
It was like “hey remember seeing that Jesus guy get crucified? – He came back to life again….”
And it wasn’t months ago or years ago… it was just a matter of weeks.
They all knew about it… and it was local…
It turned a bunch of sniffling disciples who were hiding… and turn them into followers of Christ… and for most of them that lead to their own death…
These stories are unchanged for centuries… it’s authentic… told by people who were there… passed on by people who knew them… in towns close to where it all happened…
Sometimes it feels like God is hunting me down with a message that he wants me to get… not just in my head… not just in my heart… but deep down into the deepest crevices of my soul… so I thought I would stop, and listen.
You see I wonder if we have it all wrong as Christ followers.
Do we really want people to become Christians?
If we do… what does one look like?
I’ve seen bitter custody battles over children by two people who claim to be Christians…
I’ve read books about wars between two Nations who claim to have God on their side… Is our God schizophrenic?
I’ve worked with people who said they are Christian… but their behaviour would seem they are far from that.
The reality is you can ask 5 different people “What is a Christian?” and you will most likely get 5 different answers… or at least views on the subject.
And here is why I think that… because there is nothing to define what a Christian is!
Hold on… what does the Bible say about the matter… surely the Bible would solve this who argument for us…
You would think so right?
You see the Bible mentions Christians 3 times (to save you the trouble Acts 11:26, Acts 26:28 and 1 Peter 4:16) and for the most part it is used as a derogatory name… it was other people calling Jesus followers ‘Christians’… and when Peter (in 1Peter) uses the word it is in reference to what people where calling them. It was almost as if people were actually saying “look at that bunch of Jesus FREAKS… those… CHRIST-ians”
And this brings me to where I seem to be getting chased… hunted… pursued. It seems that every sermon I hear or Christian book I read a word is haunting me… the word ‘disciple’. Even our own Church HPCC discussed ‘being a disciple’ at our evening church last night!
Christ never called us to be Christians… I mean what is that?
Christ called us his DISCIPLES.
“Go into all the world and make disciples” Matthew 28:19
Not make Christians…
The world is sick of Christians… and that’s OK because that is not what we were called to be… we were called to be disciples of Christ.
Even our churches are filled with people who call themselves Christians but do little more than turn up on Sunday and sing a few songs… they do just enough to bring it up in an arguement “Oh no… I wouldn’t do THAT… I’m a Christian”
Now imagine if our churches were full of Disciples?
People who were students of Jesus?
The word ‘disciple’ appears over 200 times… and it starts to paint a really clear picture of what it means to be a disciple.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my disciple (follower), you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.” Matthew 16:24 (NLT)
“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:34-35 (NLT)
You see it makes it very clear… we are to love one another… we are to turn from our selfish ways… we are to humble ourselves.
You see it’s not about us… it never is about us… it is about reflecting everything back to God.
But being a disciple is hard work… it is dedication.
No wonder people opt to be called Christian rather than a disciple of Christ… because being a disciple means you have to live like one.
Being a Christian means you can live however you want whenever you want… why?
Because being a ‘Christian’ isn’t defined… as far as the world is concerned it’s about being good.
But you will never be good enough until you surrender your life fully to Christ Jesus and become a disciple.
As my pastor in Queenstown Shar Davis used to say “Simple but not Easy”