Reasons for Believing in Christ and the Resurrection

  • friends, there is no doubt this morning that Jesus Christ existed
  • hardly anyone questions the fact that Jesus Christ is a historical figure who walked this earth and taught and died
  • if you look up the Encyclopedia Britannica, under Jesus Christ there will be an entry describing his date of birth, the fact that he's the founder of Christianity, and so on
  • it's grounded and rooted in history
  • some of you have been to his birthplace just outside Jerusalem
  • you can see the town he grew up in, the river in which he was baptized, the mountainside he gave the Sermon on the Mount from, the courtyard where he was put on trial, and you can stand on the hill on which he was crucified
  • it's all a matter of the historical record
  • non-religious historians reference the life and activities of Jesus
  • what really is at stake is whether or not he is the Son of God
  • I could give you many evidences for the divinity of Jesus Christ
  • we could talk about Jesus' claims to be God
  • that we claimed to be Yahweh (John 8:58) and the Messiah (Mark 14:61-64), claimed equality with God (John 5:18) and equal authority with God (Matthew 28:18), that he accepted worship (Matthew 28:17), and that he commanded us to pray in his name (John 14:13-14)
  • we could talk about the claims that the disciples made about Jesus
  • that they gave him the titles of deity (Revelation 1:17), called him the Messiah (Philippians 2:10), prayed to him (Acts 7:59), and called him God (Titus 2:13)
  • we could look at the miracles Jesus performed to validate that He is God, or the fact that He fulfilled dozens of Old Testament prophecies, or at his sinless life
  • one of the greatest minds of this century, C.S. Lewis, wrote:
    • I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish things that people often say about him: "I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God." That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of thing Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would rather be a lunatic - on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg - Or else he would be the Devil of Hell.
  • Paul Little has pointed out that Jesus could only be one of three things: a liar, a lunatic, or he was telling the truth
  • the evidence points to the fact that he was telling the truth
  • friends, I could spend an entire morning on any one of these points
  • entire books have been written
  • instead I'm going to look at the strongest proof that Jesus is indeed the Son of God
  • and this supreme proof is the fact that He rose from the dead
  • it would be difficult for me to overemphasize the importance of the resurrection
  • I agree with the apostle Paul who said in 1 Corinthians 15:4 that the whole of the Christian faith rests on the resurrection of Jesus Christ
  • no resurrection, no Christianity
  • in fact, the Bible says that if Jesus didn't rise from the dead, we're all wasting our time this morning
  • it's also important to believe in the resurrection because the Bible is very clear that your eternal destiny rests on what you believe about Jesus
  • in Acts 17:30-31, the apostle Paul says:
  • (Acts 17:30) In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.
  • (Acts 17:31) For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead."
  • what you believe about Jesus, and especially about the resurrection, will determine your eternal destiny
  • so let's honestly examine the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ
  • throughout history, Christians have maintained that there is enough evidence to convince rational, unbiased people that Jesus Christ did in fact rise from the dead
  • cynics hold that the evidence is insufficient
  • let's look at the evidence
  • I'm going to use an acrostic that spells "He Arose"
  • if you take the first letter from each point and line it up, it will spell "He Arose"
  • before you conclude that I'm really clever - don't worry, I stole the idea
  • seven evidences for the fact that Christ really rose from the dead:

  • ONE: He was Dead
  • you might have heard some say Jesus really didn't die on the cross
  • some Muslims are taught that Jesus only appeared to die on the cross
  • this has come to be known as the swoon theory
  • it holds that Jesus really fainted on the cross, and when he was taken to the tomb, after a while the cool air revived him
  • sounds like it makes a little bit of sense at first
  • but let's think about what happened
  • John 19:33 tells us that the Roman soldiers did not break Jesus' legs, because they "saw that he was already dead"
  • later on, when soldiers plunged a spear into Jesus' side, water and blood spilled out
  • medical experts testify that if Jesus were not already dead, this in itself would have killed him
  • later on, Joseph of Arimathea asked for Jesus' body so that he could bury it
  • before Pontius Pilate released the body, he ordered a centurion to verify that Jesus was dead
  • you can make sure that an officer of the Roman army would not make a mistake in an important matter like this in his report to a high official like Pilate
  • when Joseph and Nicodemus buried the body, surely they would have noticed any sign of life as they wrapped his body and anointed it
  • medical doctors have testified in great detail that nobody could suffer through the crucifixion and come down from the cross alive or fainted
  • but you don't have to be a medical doctor to know he didn't come down from that cross alive
  • let's suppose he was alive, and somehow managed to get off his grave clothes, roll away the tomb, sneak past soldiers
  • what would his appearance have been like?
  • would have been monstrous, wouldn't have been inspiring, would have taken him to a doctor
  • wouldn't have inspired the confidence that started the church, that would want a resurrection body like that
  • scholars don't even hold to this theory anymore
  • there is no doubt this morning that the swoon theory has been discredited
  • so let's look at a second evidence this morning for the resurrection

  • TWO: An Empty Tomb
  • what about the second area of criticism, the empty tomb?
  • we know that Jesus was placed in the tomb, but on Easter Sunday morning, as Jesus' friends came to visit his burial sight, they saw the stone had been moved
  • how can we account for this?
  • it is interesting that no serious scholar argues that fact that the tomb was empty
  • all of our ancient sources say that the tomb was empty
  • if we want to talk about Christian and non-Christian sources, we of course have all four gospels, the book of Acts, and 1 Corinthians 15, all testifying that the tomb was empty
  • from unbelievers, though, we basically have the same report
  • the empty tomb is not contested by anyone
  • Paul Althus writes, "The resurrection proclamation could not have been maintained in Jerusalem for a single day, for a single hour, if the emptiness of the tomb had not been established as fact"
  • what we do have is a charge that the disciples stole the body
  • the real issue is not whether the tomb was empty, but why the tomb was empty
  • what caused the body to be gone? what caused the cave, the tomb, to be empty?
  • did everyone go to the wrong tomb by mistake?
  • that could have happened, but then whose grave-clothes did they find?
  • what was an angel doing at someone else's gravesite?
  • and how is it possible that they all forgot their directions at one time?
  • why didn't the Roman authorities counter their claims by finding the right tomb?
  • when Peter heard that the tomb was empty, he wasn't content with a long-distance view, he charged right into the tomb and saw the linen wrappings and the face cloth lying undisturbed and neatly arranged
  • did someone steal the body?
  • why would the Romans or Jews want to take this body?
  • they sentenced Jesus to death
  • why would the Jews want to take the body
  • they wanted Him to stay dead
  • some people say that the disciples stole the body
  • let's think about that
  • why would the disciples steal the body?
  • an even bigger question is how did they sneak past the guards?
  • even if the guards were sleeping, how would they ever manage to move the stone and steal the body without waking the guards?
  • why would the angel who appeared to the women lie about Jesus being risen?
  • and since 515 people saw Jesus in his risen form, how do you account for that if the body was stolen?
  • so we've established two facts so far that are generally not disputed
  • one: Jesus died and was buried
  • two: within a short time, his tomb became empty
  • the question remains: where was Jesus?
  • that leads us to our next evidence:

  • THREE: The Appearances of Jesus
  • you have to remember that Jesus' disciples did not believe he would rise again
  • they were discouraged and scattered, and the last thing they ever expected to see was Jesus alive again
  • and yet see him they did!
  • first at the tomb
  • later on the dusty road to Emmaus
  • then in the upper room
  • for 40 days, Jesus made his appearance throughout the land
  • in total, he appeared 12 different times to more than 515 people
  • Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:
    • he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
  • is it possible that these appearances were hallucinations?
  • only problem is hallucinations are individual events, that happen in our own brain, not shared with other individuals
  • that would be like me asking you, "how did you like the dream I had last night?"
  • one expert says that if 500 people had the same hallucination at the same time, that would be a greater miracle than the resurrection itself
  • how can people drag out hallucinations over many weeks, in many locations, under various circumstances?
  • Josephus, the 1st century historian, records, "For Jesus appeared to them the third day alive again, as the holy prophets had predicted"
  • the evidence was clear
  • let's pretend we had a courtroom
  • we were going to call to the stand everyone who saw the resurrected Jesus
  • we were going to question them, cross-examine them
  • were going to spend 15 minutes with each individual
  • we were going to do it around the clock, day and night
  • you know how long it would take
  • all the rest of today, tonight, Monday, Monday night, Tuesday, Tuesday night, Wednesday, Wednesday night, Thursday, Thursday night, Friday, 8:00 Friday night we'd still be here listening to eyewitness accounts
  • I wonder how many people after listening to 128 hours straight of eyewitness testimony could possibly walk away unconvinced
  • next we have

  • FOUR: The Reactions of the Officials
  • a Roman soldier was no coward
  • he was a specially trained, tough-minded, well equipped warrior
  • yet notice the reaction of the soldiers who were protecting Jesus' tomb when they felt the earth move and an angel roll back the stone
  • (Matthew 28:4) The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
  • the guards were probably afraid of the angels, but also much more
  • as I already mentioned, keeping watch was an important commission
  • they knew that various punishments were handed out to soldiers who couldn't stay awake on guard duty
  • sometimes they were beaten; other times they were set afire, but most of the time they were just executed
  • these brave, well-armed men had no way to stop the angel, so they had more than one reason to be afraid
  • do you know what they did?
  • they turned themselves in
  • in Matthew 28:3, we read that the officials, realizing that sending Jesus to his death had not accomplished their purpose, decided to concoct a story
  • they bribed the soldiers to spread the story that "His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept"
  • (Matthew 28:15) 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.
  • but think about it
  • if the disciples had been able to steal the body of Jesus, how would the guards have known it was they who had stolen it if they were asleep?
  • how could a group of men sneak up on highly trained soldiers, move a stone, unwrap 100 pounds of grave-cloths, fold them neatly, lift the body, and carry it away while the soldiers slept?
  • the reaction of the officials proves that Jesus rose again
  • next we have another telling evidence

  • FIVE: The Outlook of the Disciples
  • look at the historical record
  • at the time of his death, Jesus' disciples were despondent, they were afraid, they fled, they thought it was all over
  • a short time later, suddenly these same disciples are out, boldly proclaiming that Jesus is alive
  • once cowardly men are suddenly going to their death proclaiming that He lives
  • almost all of them were put to death for it
  • 10 of the 11 were put to death for their belief, 6 of them by crucifixion
  • yet none disavowed their faith
  • friends, nobody willingly dies for something they know is a lie
  • if this were a charade, at least one of the disciples would have cracked up under pressure and told the truth
  • Charles Colson was a counsel to President Nixon, and one of the White House staff who tried to cover up Watergate
  • listen to what he says:
    • Here we were, the twelve most powerful men in the United States. All the power of the government was at our fingertips, but we could not keep a lie together for 3 weeks. The most powerful men in the world could not hold onto a lie. So weak is a man that we couldn't do it.
    • Are you going to tell me that those powerless apostles who were beaten in their own land could be stoned, persecuted, and beaten, some for 40 years, never once denying that Jesus was raised from the dead? Impossible, humanly impossible - unless they had seen the risen Christ face to face.
    • Nothing less than a witness as awesome as the resurrected Christ could have caused those men to maintain to their dying whispers that Jesus is alive.
  • two last evidences we'll consider quickly

  • SIX: The Start of the Church
  • on the basis of Jesus' life and teachings, the church began two months after Jesus' death and has continued for over 2,000 years
  • in Acts 2, Peter preached a great sermon proclaiming the risen Christ, and over 3,000 people believed and were baptized that very day
  • even when Peter faced the wrath of the religious leaders, he stood by his story that "the God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree" (Acts 5:30)
  • Peter was not founding a religion based on a creed or philosophy
  • he was telling people that Jesus Christ is alive
  • that is the essence of his message, and it is the only thing that can account for the spread of the church over 2,000 years
  • and lastly we have

  • SEVEN: the Expectation of Christ's Return
  • as you read the New Testament, you have a dramatic sense that the first-century believers were eagerly awaiting Jesus' return
  • they could not have believed in his second coming without first knowing that he was alive
  • otherwise, how would he be able to come back?
  • no one would dare predict such an event as Jesus' return if He were in fact lying in a tomb, or if his body had been taken away and hidden
  • their expectation of his return is proof of their belief in the resurrection
  • this is it
  • if you have a hunger for more, I have a book that records a debate between a believer and a skeptic, as well as a tape of a mock debate that I'll be happy to lend you
  • here we have Jesus pronounced dead by trained executioners
  • completely wrapped in bandages weighing 100 pounds because they were soaked with spices
  • placed in a tomb and a huge rock was rolled in front of it
  • this rock, according to one source, was so large that 20 men couldn't move it
  • then the tomb was guarded by highly disciplined soldiers
  • yet death couldn't hold him in the grave
  • one of the great legal minds of our time, John Singleton Cauthway, who was three times the high chancellor of England, he said he knows pretty well what evidence is, and such evidence as there is for the resurrection has never broken down yet
  • but where do you stand?
  • you can't stay neutral; there is no middle ground
  • I can't argue you into believing
  • but the facts speak for themselves
  • I've reached a verdict
  • the case for Christ is powerful and persuasive
  • I am convinced to the core that Jesus Christ is the unique Son of God, and I've trusted him with my life
  • the choice is yours
  • you're going to have one remaining question, "So what?" what does it mean to you
  • come back one more week
  • my message is going to be the impact of these facts on your life

Reasons to Believe in the Bible

  • if you ever want to make an elevator ride more interesting, here's an idea
  • turn around and casually ask your fellow elevator riders what they think of the Bible
  • and then hope you're in a tall building, because it seems that everyone has an opinion on the Bible
  • the range of opinions is just incredible
  • some people believe it's a flat-out pack of lies
  • and then other people call it the hope of the world
  • I guess I would be interested in knowing what your opinion is this morning
  • what do you really think about the Bible?
  • how seriously do you take it in your life?
  • is it just nice to have around? Or do you read it and obey its teaching?
  • is it a guide in your life, a compass?
  • how impressed are you by its wisdom?
  • I'll bet there's a wide range of responses in this church this morning
  • no matter what you feel about the Bible, you have to admit that it is unique
  • that's not a subjective statement
  • let the facts speak for themselves
  • the Bible is unique in its COMPOSITION
  • it was written over a 1,600 year time span by some 40 different authors from very different cultures and backgrounds
  • it was written in three languages on three continents
  • and yet it carries an unmistakable thread of continuity within its pages
  • it's unique in its composition
  • the Bible is unique in its CIRCULATION
  • it is without question the single most published book in the world
  • billions of copies have been printed and purchased over the years
  • tens of millions continue to be sold and circulated year after year after year
  • just show me another book that has stayed at the top of the bestseller list for two or three hundred years
  • most authors dream of writing a book that would top the bestseller list for a week or two
  • the Bible is unique in its TRANSLATIONS
  • it is the most translated book in the world
  • even though it's already been translated into over 1,200 languages, a literal army of full-time translators is working today, making it available to more people groups
  • and the Bible is unique in its DURABILITY
  • it has survived bans and burnings
  • it has survived ridicule and criticism
  • countless kings and rulers have tried to eradicate it
  • but it lives on and its influence continues to spread
  • it has outlived its cruelest opponents
  • and the Bible is unique in the EFFECTS people claim it has had on their lives
  • people read books all the time
  • most of the time when they finish a book, they stuff it into the closet and begin reading another book
  • but it's different with serious Bible readers
  • they never seem to finish the book
  • and when they do, they just begin reading it all over again
  • this morning millions of people are gathered at this very hour to, among other things, read and study the Bible
  • millions of people give testimony to the fact that the information they've learned from the Bible transformed their lives and altered their view of the world
  • not many books seem to have that affect on people's lives, wouldn't you agree?
  • so you say, "Okay, I'll admit the Bible is unique, but let's go on to some bigger questions"

  • well, let's ask some hard questions about the Bible
  • IS IT ACCURATE?
  • more than a few people spout off about this issue, don't they?
  • you've heard them
  • "Of course it's not accurate! It's riddled with mistakes and contradictions"
  • "It has nothing to do with historical fact"
  • have you heard these things said about the Bible?
  • if you have, you should know the truth
  • the Bible passes the historicity test with flying colors
  • that's impressive, because the Bible makes hundreds of references to historical events and places and people, so there's plenty of opportunity for contradiction with the historical record
  • but for the most part, there is remarkable agreement between the historical record and the biblical account
  • in the few cases where there are contradictions between the historical records and biblical account, archeological records have tended to prove that the biblical account is the more accurate account
  • for example, the Old Testament makes frequent reference to an enemy nation of the Israelites called the Hittites
  • historians have never been able to come up with any trace of evidence of the existence of the Hittite nation
  • of course, they criticized the Bible for making reference to this nation called the Hittites
  • but in 1906, an archeological dig confirmed the existence of the Hittite nation, and archeologists even unearthed their capital city and 40 other cities that comprised their empire
  • the Biblical account was the more accurate account
  • in Daniel 5, the Bible references a man named Belshazzar, the king of Babylon in that day
  • the historical record has held that Nabonidus was the king of Babylon at that time
  • a clear-cut contradiction
  • historians said, obviously the Bible is wrong
  • it's an open and shut case
  • we have proof that Nabonidus was the king
  • but in 1956, archeologists unearthed 3 stones that contained the inscribed information that solved the problem
  • it seems that Nabonidus decided to lead his armies out to battle at a faraway battlefield
  • and so he installed his son as king in his absence
  • and his son's name was Belshazzar
  • once again, it was determined that the Biblical account passed the test of historicity
  • in fact, in the last 100 years, scores of archeological finds solved what once seemed to be unexplainable contradictions between the historical accounts and the biblical record
  • the renowned Jewish archeological expert Nelson Glueck once said, "It may be categorically stated that no archeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference, not even once."
  • incidentally, the Book of Mormon, when it is subject to the test of historicity, fails horribly
  • the Book of Mormon contains the story of a vast civilization that supposedly existed in the Americas between approximately 600 BC and 400 AD
  • it records the name of tribes and cities and mountains and rivers and coinages of that civilization
  • and most Mormons believe that book lock, stock, and barrel
  • and yet not one single historian inside or outside of the Mormon church has ever been able to produce a single piece of artifact or evidence that would substantiate any of the claims of the Book of Mormon
  • the historical record cannot substantiate a single city, river, tribe, or mountain mentioned in the book
  • friends, this is devastating
  • it suggests to many including myself that the whole work may very well be a hoax
  • thank God that the Bible has no trouble passing the historicity test
  • in the handful of remaining conflicts between history and Scripture, the jury is still out
  • one can fully expect, though, that the Bible's track record of accuracy will still stand
  • when all the evidence is finally in, when all the digs are finally completed, the Bible will no doubt retain its historical respectability
  • now, beyond the historical accuracy, I've found that most Bible critics have no idea how much manuscript evidence there is backing up the Bible's credibility
  • here's what I mean
  • in university, the professor assigns Homer's Iliad or Julius Caesar's Gallic Wars
  • their writings have had an enormous impact on society over the years
  • they are some of the most famous books of ancient Greece
  • nobody questions the content of their works - their reliability or historicity
  • nobody says that errors have crept into their manuscripts in transmission over the centuries
  • they are just basically accepted at face value as being accurate representations of what the authors originally wrote
  • but did you know that there are ten existing copies of the ancient manuscripts of Caesar's Gallic Wars?
  • less than ten to study and compare in order to determine accuracy in transmission throughout the years
  • with Homer's Iliad, there are only 643 copies
  • now, take a guess how many copies of the New Testament are still in existence, to be compared and studied for the purpose of determining if they have been passed down accurately
  • the New Testament, what do you think?
  • wouldn't it be great if there were 1,000?
  • or 2,000? That way we could say it's 3 to 1 more manuscript evidence than Homer's Iliad
  • friends, there are about 5,366 existing manuscripts that help us study and make sure that the information in the New Testament has come to us accurately over the years
  • manuscripts that were hand-copied have been found in Palestine, Syria and Egypt, and there is strong agreement among them no matter where they're found
  • you might have heard of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were found in a cave near the Dead Sea in 1947
  • they contained two copies of the book of Isaiah from the Old Testament that date back 1,000 years before the second oldest manuscripts
  • do you know what they found?
  • the copies "proved to be word for word identical with our standard Hebrew Bible in more than 95 percent of the text. The 5 percent of variation consisted chiefly of obvious slips of the pen and variations in spelling"
  • we can confidently say of the Old Testament that there has been no substantial change in the text of the Old Testament in the last 2,000 years, and very little change before that
  • no wonder it is said that the Bible is the single most documented piece of literature there is
  • simply put, there is no equal with respect to manuscript documentation
  • for you trivia buffs, of the 184,590 words in the New Testament, how many words have been put on the questionable list?
  • words that are on the disputed list, which means there is some question about the grammatical sense or their meaning or interpretation
  • of 184,590 words, guess how many are on the disputed list, that scholars are still working on?
  • 400
  • and none of the 400 make any difference on any major teaching or doctrine
  • but that is a fraction of one percent
  • incredible accuracy in manuscript evidence!
  • Norman Geisler writes, "We have 100 percent of the New Testament and we are sure about 99.5 percent of it. But if we did not have such good manuscript evidence, we could actually reconstruct almost the entire New Testament from quotations in the church fathers of the second and third centuries. Only eleven verses are missing" from their writings
  • even if all the copies of the New Testament had been burned at the end of the third century, we could have known virtually all of it by studying these writings

  • OKAY, YOU SAY, BUT WHAT ABOUT THE MIRACLES RECORDED IN THE BIBLE?
  • "I mean, whales, and floods, and walks on water, and resurrections - how can I believe in this?"
  • the only answer we can give here is to make sure that we distinguish between God and the record of the activities of God, the Bible
  • last week we discussed reasons for believing in God
  • we went through four arguments that build a strong case for the existence of God
  • by definition, we said that God would be non-contingent and all-powerful and eternal and limitless
  • not just capable of creating the world, but creating of causing extraordinary things within the world
  • fully capable of causing a flood or a famine or doing a healing or resurrection
  • for a limitless being, miracles are merely recreational activity
  • the Bible was assigned the task of recording the miraculous activities of God
  • just because it records them from time to time, doesn't mean that they are fantasies or fabrications made up by writers
  • besides, the miracles that the Bible records were almost all done in public places, and were witnessed by multitudes of people, Christian and non-Christian alike
  • had they been fabrications thought up by the writers, as soon as the writers circulated accounts of those miracles, there would have been a public outcry that demanded an apology and retraction
  • the New Testament documents were being circulated in a short enough time after the events took place that if it wasn't accurate, there would have been a huge outcry
  • the New Testament documents spread like wildfire after the birth of the early church, and no contest of the contents was launched, despite the fact that the documents contained many references to supernatural activity and miracles
  • friends, the Bible is unique
  • and it is accurate historically, from manuscript evidence
  • but maybe one more question is the most important one

  • IS THE BIBLE INSPIRED? IS IT THE BOOK THAT GOD WROTE?
  • or is it a collection of religious stories that man wrote?
  • which is it?
  • you should know that without apology, the Bible itself claims to be inspired
  • (2 Timothy 3:16) All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,
  • (2 Peter 1:21) For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
  • over 3,000 times in the Bible, the writers used the expression, "Thus says the Lord"
  • so let there be no mistake as to what the Bible claims
  • it boldly asserts that God guided the minds and hearts of men to record through their various personalities and styles exactly what he wanted to communicate in written form
  • people ask, is there an substantiating evidence to back up the Bible's claim to be inspired?
  • yes, there is
  • the first evidence would be fulfilled prophecy
  • because the Bible was written over a 1,600 year period, many of the earlier writers made bold predictions about what would happen in following centuries
  • you can build a strong case for the inspiration of the Bible on this point alone
  • the birth of Jesus Christ, for instance, was predicted several hundred years before his arrival
  • these prophecies were incredibly detailed, like saying what lineage he would descend from, what city he would be born in, his manner of birth, what his ministry would be like, how he would die
  • how can anyone account for these prophecies being filled to the letter several hundred years later apart from admitting that God must have played a part in authoring the prophecies?
  • let me cite another example
  • in the fifth century BC, there was a strong, vital city on the Mediterranean coast called the city of Tyre
  • the Bible prophet Ezekiel made the bold assertion that it would be utterly destroyed and that no city would ever be built on that site again
  • obviously, the people who heard that prophecy in that day thought he was deluded
  • it would be like me announcing this morning that Boston is living on borrowed time
  • but a few hundred years after the prophecy by Ezekiel, the prophecy was fulfilled in amazing detail
  • the city of Tyre was destroyed
  • if you go to Israel today, you can go to the flat rocks that once provided the foundation for that city
  • how do you count for the fulfillment of that plus hundreds of other fulfilled prophecies apart from the inspiration and authorship of God?
  • Jesus also stated repeatedly and categorically that the Scriptures are the word of God

  • CAN I SAY ONE MORE THING ABOUT THE ACCURACY OF THE BIBLE?
  • this is more subjective
  • I have found the Bible to be penetratingly accurate in what it says about me
  • painfully, penetratingly accurate in what it says about me
  • it speaks truthfully about who I really am
  • about what my human tendencies are, about what my nature as a man is
  • you'll never read a book that cuts through the veneer as the Bible does, that gets to the root issues
  • to be candid, I suspect that many people know just enough about the Bible to have developed a vested interest in avoiding it
  • because they know that if they read it, it is going to speak truthfully to them, and they'll have to change
  • a woman named Joan Olsen was an agnostic, although her parents were Christians
  • they had many discussions about the Bible, until Joan and her husband agreed to study Christianity
  • listen to what they found:
  • Dr. Olsen writes:
    • I implied that our study would be honest and objective, a sincere search for truth. But our agnostic bias made us begin the search in a diabolically clever way. We would prove that the Bible is not the Word of God...
    • "First," I said [to Joan], "we will review all the agnostic arguments we heard during university and medical college years. Second, we will pick out and list the scientific mistakes in the Bible. These mistakes will prove it to be the word of men, not the Word of some infallible Creator"
  • after an intense study, listen to the conclusions of these agnostics:
    • The Bible...represents God, motivated by an eternal love, reaching down to tell us about Himself and His plan for us...We also noted the remarkable unity and consistency evident in the Christian Scriptures...
    • Contrary to our previous understanding, we found the Bible to be historically accurate. To the science of archeology the Bible owes its vindication in the matter of historical accuracy...
    • Then there is the remarkable scientific accuracy of the Bible. Here was the exact target of the attack Joan and I had launched to disprove Christianity and Christ...We encountered great difficulty, however, in finding scientific mistakes in the Bible. Again and again we were forced to cancel out seeming mistakes because of more up-to-date evidence or information.
  • after months of serious questioning, Dr. and Mrs. Olsen concluded that the Bible is indeed God's message to mankind
  • based on this belief, they both accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior
  • later, the journeyed to East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) where they have served as missionaries since 1962
  • (Isaiah 40:8) The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever."
  • friends, the Bible is accurate, it is reliable, it is the very Word of God
  • I guess I would ask you the questions I began with this morning:
  • what do you really think about the Bible?
  • how seriously do you take it in your life?
  • is it just nice to have around? Or do you read it and obey its teaching?
  • is it a guide in your life, a compass?
adapted from a message by Bill Hybels

Reasons for Believing in God

  • now, in a court case, a panel of jurors is carefully selected and charged with the duty of weighing all the evidence brought before it
  • and then to render a guilty or a not-guilty verdict
  • interestingly, the judge in these cases never asks the prosecuting attorneys to prove their cases beyond a shadow of a doubt
  • what is the standard phrase used?
  • the judge reminds the jury that the prosecution must present sufficient evidence to convince the jury beyond what? Beyond a reasonable doubt
  • to expect any prosecuting attorney to present enough evidence in a trial to convince all the jurors beyond a shadow of a doubt is deemed in our judicial system to be an unrealistic expectation

  • if you think about it in everyday life, we all make decisions based on reasonable probability
  • seldom on absolute certainty
  • when we're about to board an airliner, we don't know with absolute certainty that once it leaves Toronto it will land in Los Angeles
  • there's a high probability it will, but absolute certainty, no
  • next payday you'll probably drive to your local bank, and deposit your paycheck there
  • you aren't absolutely certain that the bank computers won't crash and forget your account details, but you figure there's a pretty good chance they won't, so you deposit your check and leave

  • the point I'm making except in the field of math and formal logic, almost all of life must be negotiated on the basis of probability factors
  • seldom do we have the luxury of making decisions based on enough evidence to move out with absolute certainty
  • you weren't absolutely certain about your spouse on your wedding day
  • some of you are less certain now
  • you aren't absolutely certain that you'll have a job tomorrow morning
  • or that the meal you'll eat after this service hasn't been tainted
  • all of us learn to live with a measure of uncertainty, and we grow accustomed to weighing evidence, considering data, and finally making decisions based on high probability factors

  • now, I bring this up because it is extremely important to realize this with the subject matter at hand
  • as you know, for four weeks we're in a segment called Faith Has Its Reasons
  • and today we're looking at reasons for believing in God
  • it must be said at the outset that insistence on absolute proof of the existence of God is an unreasonable and unrealistic demand for someone to make
  • as discussed, life just doesn't operate that way
  • we don't even place that kind of evidential burden on the judicial system
  • what is a reasonable request for a person to make is that enough evidence or arguments for the existence of God be presented to tip the scales of probability to the point where one can say, "I am now convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that there is in fact a God"
  • or "I am sufficiently compelled by the evidence and moved by the arguments to the point where I must be true to my mind, and conclude that there is a God"

  • now with the time that remains in this first session, I want to give you an overview of four classical arguments that have stood the test of time and debate in building a case for the existence of God
  • I obviously don't have the time to go into each of these arguments in the detail that they deserve
  • but Christian bookstores have shelves full of material that can increase your understanding of these types of evidences if you're so inclined
  • most of my research will be coming from two sources
  • this morning's message is almost taken wholly from a series preached in Chicago in 1989 by Bill Hybels
  • and there are other excellent books such as one called When Skeptics Ask by Norman Geisler and Ron Brooks

  • but let me begin by explaining what has been known historically as the cosmological argument for the existence of God
  • this is basically an argument from Creation
  • and don't let the word cosmological scare you
  • it comes from two Greek words, logos, which has many meanings, one of them being reason, and cosmos, which means world
  • put the two together and cosmological means the reason for the world
  • or the explanation for the world
  • there are many variations of this particular argument
  • the one I'm going to put forward contains three notions
  • three kinds of rationale
  • the first of which is called the principle of sufficient reason
  • look outside for even a second
  • lo and behold, you will observe by looking outside that some things exist
  • you see trees and grass and water and flowers and the sun
  • the first notion in the cosmological argument is the question, why do these things exist?
  • what is the reason?

  • now, suppose for just a moment that nothing existed
  • would nothingness require and explanation?
  • some of you are saying, "We're entering the Twilight Zone"
  • would nothingness require and explanation?
  • certainly not
  • the split second something, anything exists, the cry goes out, "Why does it exist?"
  • what is its sufficient reason for existing?

  • the second notion in the cosmological argument is that when we carefully observe what we see, we conclude upon careful observation that all of it seems to be contingent
  • which simply means that everything we see seems to depend on something else for its existence
  • the tree needs air, the grass needs water, they both need the sun
  • nothing we observe around us appears to be utterly independent, self-caused, or self-reliant
  • rather, we conclude that everything we see around us did not even exist at one time and probably will not continue to exist forever
  • you're all aware of the Second Law of Thermodynamics which reminds us that everything in our universe is in a gradual state of entropy
  • slowly disintegrating
  • including human beings

  • so this second notion, the principle of contingency, that everything seems to depend on something else, and is not independent or self-caused or self-reliant, leads us to ask this third notion, the big question, which is:
  • if all that exists is indeed contingent, fragile, and fading, who or what is the explanation for all of these contingent objects and beings?
  • if they all sort of feed off each other and rely off each other, who is responsible for all of them as a total?
  • let me try to explain what I'm talking about by having you pull yourself out of the universe for a second
  • get way away from the universe for a second in your mind and draw a circle around everything that exists in the universe
  • all the galaxies, the worlds, the planets, draw a circle around it
  • now everything that exists in the universe exists within that circle
  • and as we already concluded, everything in that circle is contingent, or dependent on something else within that circle for its existence, and it's slowly headed for non-existence

  • the big question is, who or what caused all this contingent stuff within the circle to exist in the first place?
  • now, keeping this imaginary circle in mind, the answer must lie in one of two places
  • the ultimate cause of everything in that circle must be located either within that circle itself, or outside the circle
  • what explanation makes the best sense?
  • now if everything within the circle is contingent, dependent, and fragile, inter-reliant on other things within that circle, how rationale is it to locate the ultimate cause, the first cause of everything, inside the circle, where by definition nothing is self-caused, independent, self-reliant?
  • it doesn't make sense to locate the first cause within the circle
  • doesn't a thinking person have to conclude that the explanation for everything that lies within the circle must lie outside the circle?
  • and by definition, what lies outside that circle must be non-contingent, absolutely self-caused, self-reliant, independent
  • which would make it eternal, unlimited, and all-powerful
  • and those kinds of adjectives come dangerously close to a working definition of God
  • don't you agree?

  • friends, over hundreds of years, thousands of people have wrestled with this cosmological argument for the existence of God
  • people have studied it and dissected it and debated it and lost a lot of sleep over it
  • because it makes perfect, logical, rationale sense

  • many people have concluded that it is a powerful piece of evidence pointing to the existence of an eternal, all-powerful, non-contingent Being
  • and I would urge you to read more about this cosmological argument
  • there are many books that go into this argument in fuller form
  • it is a logically compelling evidence for the existence of an eternal, all-powerful, non-contingent Being

  • now, let's move on to a second classic argument for the existence of God
  • and that's referred to the teleological argument, or an argument from design
  • this argument points to the order and the design in the world around us
  • it asks the question, who is responsible for the intricacies and the symmetry and the purposefulness and the coordination of all that we see in the created realm?
  • one philosopher wrote, "There simply cannot be a design without a - designer. There cannot be contrivance without a contriver. There cannot be order without choice."
  • the teleological argument simply challenges the familiar theory that all we see around us came into existence by sheer chance
  • most of you know that for centuries people looked at the wonders and complexities of the created realm, and they simply assumed that there was a master designer behind it all
  • common sense told them that
  • this traditional supposition was basically unchallenged until the 18th century's age of reason, when scientists began postulating that the origins of the universe were scientifically explainable
  • in vogue today is the Big Bang theory, which says that a chance collision of floating gases in space set into motion a random series of events which over billions and billions of years, finally brought us to the complex state where we are today
  • you've all heard this theory; it's widely taught
  • yet no single scientist can confidently explain where the mysterious gases came from in the first place
  • and many blush outright at the mathematical probabilities of a chance collision of floating gases eventually producing even a single molecule, let alone a process as complex as photosynthesis, or as breath-taking as an eagle in flight

  • the teleological argument, or argument from design, says the complexity and order and design of the world is highly, highly, unlikely
  • it says that wherever and whenever there is order and purpose and design and structure, reasonable people know that someone was responsible for it

  • now, after the service, go home and take the back off your television set
  • look inside that thing, and notice the hundreds of tiny circuits
  • look at the wires leading here and there, and the switches and little connections
  • look at it very carefully
  • then go out in your backyard and sit under a tree, and think for a time, and ask yourself if that television set was designed and assembled by an intelligent human being, or if it was the result of a random explosion in a steel mill
  • now, if the evidence falls on the side of the intelligent designer, then you will have a new appreciation for the teleological argument for the existence of God
  • that argument says that God alone can account for the miracles and marvels that we witness all around us every day
  • Charles Darwin himself, the kingpin of evolutionary theory, in a chapter entitled Organs of Extreme Perfection and Complication, from his book The Origin of the Species, wrote, "To suppose that the eye, with so many parts working together, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree"
  • that portion of Darwin's writings I agree with wholeheartedly
  • it is absurd to think by random chance, by some kind of collision in space, that that all led to the complexities and the design and the order we see around us
  • only an intelligent design can explain the eye or the natural homing abilities of a pigeon, or the spinning abilities of a spider
  • and has been said by countless thinking people, much more faith is required to attribute the wonders of our world to a collision of floating gases than to accept the existence of an intelligent, eternal, all-powerful designer God
  • it takes more faith to believe the one than the other
  • in fact, one eminent scientist calculated the probability of a single protein molecule to happen once in 10243rd years
  • that's 10 with 243 zeroes behind it
  • that's billions of trillions of years for the creation of one single molecule
  • I just want to ask all of you to determine how honest you're really being with yourself and the evidence
  • how rational are your thinking patterns, really?
  • if the next time you hold a baby in your arms, you buy the line that something that magnificent and purposeful and complex is the result of a cosmic accident, please be careful
  • weigh the evidence

  • so we've looked at the cosmological argument, or argument from creation, and the teleological argument, or the argument from design
  • now let's shift gears and look at the moral evidence for the existence of God
  • this is formally called the axiological argument
  • this argument asks a different type of question
  • it asks the question: how does one account for the fact that in human beings everywhere, there is a kind of moral code that provides human beings with a sense of moral oughtness
  • if human beings simply evolved from primeval gases, they are really only grown-up germs or recent improvements on the ape
  • how does one account for the fact, then, that on almost every culture on the planet, people value truth telling over deceitfulness, kindness over violence, and loyalty over back-stabbing?
  • how do you explain that?
  • who accounts for that?
  • are gases or germs or genes capable of creating a moral code of values, and planting them in the hearts and minds of people worldwide, a remarkably consistent code in the minds of billions of people?
  • did it happen by sheer chance, by accident, by coincidence?

  • it's amazing to see atheists campaigning to save the whales or to help the homeless
  • on the one hand, by theological definition, they're saying, "We are not created beings made in the image of God. We do not have a moral law stamped on our hearts from a supreme moral being"
  • on the other hand, this atheist is appealing to the universal code of oughtness in all of us to stop the savage extermination of whales and to help the plight of the homeless
  • the irony of it amazes me

  • I ask you to sit under that same tree in your backyard that you were thinking about the television set under, sit under that tree and ask yourself, "If this moral sense of oughtness that is in every heart did not come about from a supreme moral being, how do you explain it?"
  • what's your theory?
  • author C.S. Lewis explains the moral argument in his book Mere Christianity with such clarity and cogency that thousands of people have come to believe in Christ by that single book
  • it was this book that had the single greatest impact that led to the conversion of Charles Colson
  • the argument was absolutely compelling to Charles Colson

  • so we have the cosmological argument, the teleological argument , the axiological argument, and finally, let me just touch on the argument from religious experience
  • admittedly, this argument is far from being conclusive in and of itself
  • but according to philosopher William Alston, Christian experiences, such as feeling the presence of God, or receiving a sense of guidance from God, or feeling strengthened by God, Alston says that all of this combines to make us even more confident in our belief in God when we come to that conclusion
  • author Ron Nash goes so far to say that religious experiences must be taken very seriously as evidence of the existence of God, providing that the person making the experiential claim is widely known to be a trustworthy person
  • what he's driving at is that hundreds of millions of intelligent, well-adjusted people all over the world, including presidents and professors and economists and butchers and bakers and candlestick makers, claim that they are regularly experiencing a relationship with God, and they testify to feeling loved by God, and they have received forgiveness from God that have unshackled them from bondage
  • and millions of people would go so far to say that God has transformed their lives
  • Ron Nash says that should not and cannot be lightly dismissed

  • now no-one is arguing that once in a while a deluded and deceitful individual does not manufacture religious experience
  • but that shouldn't completely discount the testimony of someone with integrity who bares witness to the presence of God in his or her life
  • those who have experienced great tragedy in their lives, the loss of a loved one, can testify that at their lowest moment they experienced a strong sense of the presence of God in their lives at that point
  • Christians all over the world would gladly take polygraph tests to prove the reality of these unforgettable moments when God makes Himself known in our experience
  • when he receive an answer to prayer, guidance from above, support and strength and comfort and peace

  • the question is, how should we account for this?
  • are hundreds of millions of Christian people hallucinating? Are they lying? Is it a well-organized conspiracy, and for what purpose?
  • the argument from Christian experience simply says, "Look, when you consider the cosmological argument, the teleological argument, the moral argument, and tack on the end the fact that hundreds of millions of intelligent, non-delusive people are claiming to regularly talk to God - you have to put that on the scale as well - when you put it all on the scales of judgment, you're going to have to make up your mind"
  • every jury eventually has to come to the point where they make a verdict
  • one day, you will stand accountable for coming to a conclusion about these evidences for the existence of God
  • how can we explain all of this without acknowledging the obvious?
  • friends, there is a God
  • an eternal, powerful, creator God, author of the moral code, and He's calling out to you this morning
  • stop running
  • stop pretending you don't need Him
  • stop pretending He doesn't exist
  • open up your heart to Him just a bit
  • find out who He really is and what He's up to
  • find out what He can do in your life

  • to those of you who are Christians, you have no reason to be embarrassed or to shrink back from boldly proclaiming that you walk and talk with a God who is there
  • you have no reason to shrink back or cower when someone challenges your faith
  • because your faith is not based on shifting sand
  • it has a strong, rational foundation, a compelling foundation logically

  • weigh the evidence you've heard this morning
  • and when God visits next time to establish contact with you because of His love, simply say to Him, "I believe"
adapted from a message by Bill Hybels