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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Embarking on Ephesians: Life in Christ

Last month I went to the National Pastor's Conference where I got to see a number of incredible Christian speakers and thinkers. One of the highlights for me was seeing Charles Colson speak. You may know of Colson from his incredible ministry to people in prison called Prison Fellowship. He got started in that ministry after going to prison himself after taking part in President Nixon's Watergate scandal. He was one of Nixon's top advisors at that time. He has since become a profound Christian thinker and author. He gave a very impassioned speech at this conference in which he talked about some devastating developments in our current church culture. Specifically, he said, people don't know what they believe anymore. We have become a Biblically illiterate society and we are beginning to forget what we believe and why we believe it. Whereas, throughout the history of the church Christians were willing to die for the truth of their faith, in our day and age people just write off Biblical doctrine as "divisive" and "close-minded" and don't take the time to learn what they believe. People have started to believe that it is not what you believe that is important, but it is how you live that matters. The phrase that gets tossed around is that the church should be more concerned with deeds not creeds.

But, as Colson points out (and I agree) this is a false dichotomy. He asked the pointed question, "How can we live the faith if we don't know the faith?" The Bible never talks about good works apart from what is believed. It is the faith of the Christian that leads to the deeds. And nowhere is this made more clear to us than in the letters of St. Paul, the author of the majority of the New Testament (he wrote all the books between Romans and Philemon). Time and time again Paul demonstrates that we can only live the Christian life (do the deeds) because of what God has done for us and to us in Christ (because of the creeds, that is, what we believe).

We have discussed how disciples are to sit, study, and serve. It is incumbent upon us to make sure that we are doing what we can in all three areas. I fear that all too often the "study" gets left behind. When that happens, the sitting and serving are less fruitful. So, for the next few months, we are going to be taking a closer look at our faith and life in Christ by examining Paul's letter to the Ephesians. We will learn who we are because of Christ and what that means for our life. We will see how who we are effects what we do. We will get a better picture of what we believe and why we believe it. It is my prayer that this look at Ephesians will enrich your faith in Jesus and strengthen your walk with Him!

Pastor Bob

Speaking of Jesus: The Resurrection

According to the Bible, our faith hangs on one central fact of history, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In I Corinthians 15:17, St. Paul says, "And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins." That is, if Jesus is dead, there is no reason to be a Christian, there is no reason to go to church, the whole thing is a wash. Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die! But Paul goes on in verse 20, "But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead!" We are no longer in our sins because Jesus has been raised. Clearly, this is an important issue.

There are a lot of arguments against the resurrection. It is important for us as Christians to be able to explain why we believe in the resurrection. There are a lot of arguments against the resurrection that require us to be able to say why we believe Jesus rose. In this article I want to give you a few good defenses of our faith, so that you can demonstrate to your friends that Jesus has, in fact, been raised, and our sins are forgiven.

There are two facts that must be explained when we deal with the resurrection: the empty tomb and the appearances of Jesus after his death. In this article we will deal with the empty tomb, and next month we will examine the post-resurrection appearances. The fact that the tomb was empty has to be explained. Christians claim Jesus was resurrected, but non-Christians may argue one of the following things:

1. The disciples came and stole the body. This is the earliest explanation. Matthew 28:11-15 even records that this was come up with by the Jewish religious leaders to cover their tracks and make Pilate happy. The soldiers were to say that the body was stolen while they slept. But, if they were asleep, how do they know what happened? Furthermore, the disciples were in no place to steal the body. They were hiding after Jesus' death. They were afraid of the same fate for themselves. Why would a bunch of wimps who were scarred of the Romans on Thursday suddenly get gutsy and set out to take them on that Saturday night in front of the tomb? It is inconceivable from what we know of the disciples that they would have stolen the body.

2. The Jewish leaders or the Romans stole the body. But why? They all wanted Jesus dead. What would they gain from moving the body? Further, when the disciples began to preach the resurrection, all these two parties would have had to do to prove them wrong would have been to show everyone where the body was.

3. The women went to the wrong tomb on Sunday. Some claim the tomb was empty because the women arrived at the wrong tomb. Therefore, what they said was false and if they had gone to the right tomb, everyone could have seen the dead Jesus. But no one ever did that. Why? Because the women, who saw where Jesus was buried, returned to the same spot. If the women had gone to the wrong tomb, to prove the resurrection claims wrong, someone just had to go to the right tomb.

4. Jesus didn't die on the cross, he just passed-out, woke up the next Sunday, and walked out of the tomb. This is called the swoon theory. This theory doesn't show up until the Eighteenth Century, most likely because no one around the time of Christ would have conceived of a survival after the beating Jesus had taken. The Romans were killing experts who didn't fail too often. But, let's say for the sake of argument that he didn't die on the cross. How likely is it that Jesus could have been beaten nearly to death, hung on a cross, left for dead in a tomb with no food, water, or care given to him, and then, on Sunday, push a big stone away and walk out of the grave? Not very likely. His feet may have hurt from the holes.

Certainly, there are more arguments out there, but these are the most popular. Our salvation rests on the sure fact that Jesus actually came back to life on the third day after his death on the cross! What a blessing this Easter reality is for us Christians! Remember to tell your friends that Jesus is risen for their salvation! He is risen, indeed!

Book Recommendation:
Paul E Little, Know Why You Believe. Victor Publishing, Colorado Springs, CO. 2003. This book is brilliant in dealing with arguments for the Christian faith!

Pastor Bob


Faith Lutheran Church • 123 Park Lane • Moorpark, CA 93021 • (805) 532 1049 • Send Email