Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Easter Believer - Easter Sunday 2011

EASTER 2011
April 24, 2011

The Easter Believer


“Alleluia! The Lord is Risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia”

Around the world for the past 19 hours, most of the services of worship around the world have begun with these words. In hundreds of languages, for thousands of tribes, and now billions of believers, around the world, this day marks the event that changed history - It changed our story into His Story, and with the words that John utters at the tomb, “I believe!” and the words of Mary to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord” – our story began, and we today, stand in a very, very long line – a grand processional -- of faith in Jesus, the only begotten Son of God.

In an Easter ad in the Centennial paper yesterday, I saw the question, “What if it’s all true?” That’s why we are here isn’t it? Because with the billions around the world and down through the ages, we BELIEVE… IT’S ALL TRUE! All the “stories” of the Bible – All the tales of triumph and glory – all the flubs and failures – all the promises of a hope and a future – all the things Jesus said and did, from his virgin birth to the glorious resurrection and ascension to the Father’s right hand:
IT’S ALL TRUE!

ALLELUIA! The Lord is risen! The Lord is risen indeed! ALLELUIA!

And if we believe that it’s all true, then what? We’ve been five weeks, considering the question Jesus asked of his own disciples who were walking along beside of him:
“If you believe that I am Lord [ that I am risen ] then why don’t you do what I say?” Jesus faced his own disciples with the “So What?” question, just as we have to face it ourselves – Jesus asks us, and I believe its worth our considering: so what?


So Why? … So What?

I think we first have to deal with the heart of the matter here: The question we’ve been dealing with in our Truth Project class for many weeks now: “Do you really believe that what you believe is really real?” Most of the time, our default setting is materialism: I “believe” in what I can taste, touch, smell, feel or see. In our culture we have that which is “real” (can be scientifically proven) and that which is “based on faith.” Anything that you have to “take by faith” isn’t really real. It isn’t provable by scientific methods or standards. AND in our culture any “faith” will do because our politically-correct environment requires a pluralistic approach to faith, based on the underlying assumptions of materialism, that our faith is “personal” but not really based on verifiable “fact.”

Well let’s look at some facts:
FACT: As far as history goes, the Bible is the best attested work of history by hundreds if not thousands of times. If the graph showing the differential were two buildings, the difference between the Bible and the rest of historical writing from that time (that’s all accepted as 100% credible), would be like comparing a dog house to the Empire State building.

FACT: The life and ministry, the death AND the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, is equally well attested! The question is, “What standards of proof are you going to require?” If we take the standards of proof that are required in every law court in the land from our municipal courts to the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. – if we take that standard of proof “beyond a reasonable doubt” – then the resurrection of Jesus Christ, “passes the bar.” By every standard of proof that can be applied, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, is a fact of history, as certain as the existence of Napoleon or Julius Caesar. How so?

Eyewitness accounts: If the Biblical accounts are allowed to stand on their own, then the proof is there – John, the one who ran to the tomb and believed, said later in his life:

1-2From the very first day, we were there, taking it all in—we heard it with our own ears, saw it with our own eyes, verified it with our own hands. The Word of Life appeared right before our eyes; we saw it happen! And now we're telling you in most sober prose that what we witnessed was, incredibly, this: The infinite Life of God himself took shape before us.
3-4We saw it, we heard it, and now we're telling you so you can experience it along with us, this experience of communion with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. (1 Jn 1: 1-4 The Message)

Or from Peter in our reading in Acts 10 this morning,
or this in a later letter from him:
16 For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes 17 when he received honor and glory from God the Father. The voice from the majestic glory of God said to him, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”[f] 18 We ourselves heard that voice from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain.
19 Because of that experience, we have even greater confidence in the message proclaimed by the prophets. You must pay close attention to what they wrote, for their words are like a lamp shining in a dark place—until the Day dawns, and Christ the Morning Star shines[g] in your hearts. 20 Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding,[h] 21 or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.
(2 Peter 1: 16-21 New Living)

The witness of the apostles and the early church stands as testimony to the truth and power of what we place “faith” in today. The scriptures are trustworthy in what they testify too and are, in Paul’s words “useful for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting and for training in righteousness.” In short they are an absolute guide book for our life – an owners manual – better yet, a repair manual!

The crisis in our country isn’t about what we do or say today… its about what we do and say tomorrow, in the light of today.

So Why?... So What?

What NOW?
The disciples probably had the same questions as we do? They sat and fished and ate and walked with Jesus for three years, and most of them didn’t have a clue about the force and the direction that this was taking – until after his resurrection, and even then – even after all that – at the last moment of Jesus time on earth, in Matt 28, at his ascension from the Mt of Olives – it says, “…some doubted!”
Lord, will we ever “get it?” The disciples did.

10 days later.

Not because of their great human wisdom or insight. Not because they actually figured it out as they were locked behind the doors in prayer (though that couldn’t have hurt!). Not because they were super devout or super smart.

The disciples “got it” when they were given “it.” The Holy Spirit, that is… not really an “it” – rather a person, a relationship that they entered into, on a day-by-day, moment-by-moment basis with the Third Person of the Holy Trinity – God’s Spirit, poured out by the Father and the Son, upon the church – every believer. Point to yourself and say, “That’s me!”

Now, how many of you said that whole-heartedly?

It’s hard for us to spot faith in ourselves I think. Because we know all the junk inside of us, don’t we? We know our doubts. We know our wondering thoughts. We know our struggle to believe. We know our fears of what others might think. And yes they WILL think that!! Jesus didn’t say it was going to be a walk in the park, did he? No! Here’s another FACT for you:

The Christian religion has been the most persecuted, analyzed, divided, shot-at, hammered on, criticized, and opposed religion in the world. There are more attempts to corrupt it, confuse it, condemn it or otherwise dismiss it today than ever before, yet: More people have died in the last century for their Christian faith than all centuries previously -- combined.

The things we take on faith are everywhere, from sitting down on a chair to going up in a plane – faith is a part of our every day experience, yet we separate out our faith in GOD and in JESUS and make it need to be SUPER LOGICAL and require SUPER PROOF. SUPER FAITH!

How about some SIMPLE FAITH?
It’s out of simple faith that children believe that when they jump their dad or mom will catch them.
It’s out of simple faith that people see good in others and respond.
It’s out of simple faith that people believe that a dollar given can make a difference in a place like Japan or Pakistan or New Orleans.
It’s out of simple faith that we are enabled to respond to the call of God to believe in Jesus, His Son and begin to live our lives from a different place – a different center.
To live our lives in a different way – the way Jesus lived His life – both naturally and supernaturally – 100% of both.
It’s out of simple faith, that we say… We Believe!
It’s out of simple faith that we act on that faith.
It’s because of simple faith that the world will be a different place tomorrow.

Amen.

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