Simply put: If Jesus didnt rise from the dead then neither will you. If He died and decomposed like everyone else then His cross did not pay for our sins and His teachings are false, because, after all, He repeatedly assured us He would rise, and said if we believed in Him we would too. He wasnt one of those religious leaders who sets up a system about how to live. He wasnt merely a prophet telling us how to relate to a distant god. He claimed to be Gods divine Son, uniquely qualified to die for the sins of all humanity. He preached Himself. He told people to believe in Him (Jn 6:40). So He doesnt give us the luxury of putting Him in a relatively safe category like teacher or prophet. There are only two options for people like Him: Hes either crazy or its true. And how would we know? He answered that question for us
many times. He said youll know what Ive told you is true because after they crucify Me, just as the prophets have said, I will come back to life on the third day. God will prove that I am who I say I am and that my death is payment in full for the sins of the world. When I have overcome death you will know for certain. And He did!
Reasons to believe
Nearly 2,000 years have passed and we cant be in that upper room and touch His scars or watch Him eat a piece of fish (Lk 24:36-43). So how can we be certain that what the Bible records really happened? Id like to share with you why I believe.
1) The existence of the Church
Somebody believed and told others who believed. In the midst of a very hostile culture that contained plenty of other religions, faith in Jesus exploded, even among Jewish priests (Ac 6:7). It took off and grew so rapidly that it became the dominant religion of the Roman empire in 300 years. If He hadnt risen, if it was merely a myth believed by a few superstitious people, what caused so many to sacrifice everything and die violent deaths trying to convince others? Why would a dead rabbi ignite such a flame? But if He really rose from the dead and people really saw Him, it all makes sense.
2) The genuine encounters and transformation that people experience today.
When He ascended into heaven He promised He would send the Holy Spirit and that by the Spirit He would personally be with us. We would experience Him, not just live on faith. And people do. Yes, I know, there are lots of nominal religious folk who call themselves Christians and even go to church, but whose lives are just as selfish and unloving as everyone else. But I have to admit, there are others who are profoundly changed. When they said they met Jesus some thought it was a fad and theyd get over it. It would fade with time, but it hasnt and I can see a light in their eyes and His presence at work in them. They sacrifice at personal levels that amaze me.
3) My own encounter
When I was 12 years old, the only child of a divorced mother, the power of God came over me (and her) uninvited. I didnt find God, He found me. No one talked me into something, but the most real thing Ive ever experienced burst into my life and left me with the option of driving Him out or surrendering. I met this risen Savior, and Hes been with me ever since. Ive now spent most of a lifetime studying the Bible because Im still hungry to know Him better. I long to see Him face to face. I could never honestly deny Him. I know Hes there.
4. Undeniable miracles
Even with all God has done in my life, I admit Im pretty skeptical. Its not that I doubt He does miracles but Ive learned to be cautious. Did it really happen that way? Am I hearing the whole story? Yet, Ive seen miracles with my own eyes. I know people who have been healed from the most severe sorts of disease
without relapsing. Ive seen and had words of knowledge for which there is no natural explanation. And such miracles continue to happen, and theyre all associated with the name of Jesus. Ive watched tangible demonic presence leave because of that name. Virtually every week scores of people are prayed for, and I admit not everyone is healed, delivered or receives a quick answer, but many do, and I cant in good conscience deny that. This, of course, is what Jesus said would happen.
5) The Living Word
Theres one more reason Ill mention. Ive spent much of my lifetime studying the Bible, verses by verse, in the original languages (Im no scholar, but I am a persistent student), and as I study Im determined to be honest about what I find. If I come across contradictions or spiritual confusion, if what I find smacks of human invention, as so many religious documents do in my opinion, Ive promised myself Ill admit to it and have the courage to say its not a reliable book. But my experience has been just the opposite. The more I study, the more it makes sense. I find many things that correct and confront me, but when I do what the Bible says it works. When I obey, Im blessed. Theres absolutely no question, based on the way I was raised and my own negative temperament that I could never have had the family I have, I could never have had the physical or mental health I have, or been able to boldly engage other cultures or even other nations, or find freedom from my crippling depression, or been able to grow older without fearing death. These changes came because of the Holy Spirit working with the Bible. Ive lived enough years to test it and prove to myself it contains real wisdom and the power to change my heart.
So here we are Resurrection Day, 2011. We cant go back to that upper room to touch His scars to prove to ourselves Hes alive, but there are still a lot of reasons to confidently declare: He is risen indeed! Ive shared some of mine, but if you ask any sincere Christian theyll have reasons of their own. Heres someone else wholl tell you why she believes
Our confession (together)
Were here today to declare that Jesus is the Son of God who became a man and was crucified and buried. But on that Sunday morning He broke the grip of death and came back to life in a glorious, immortal body, never to suffer or die again. And He said if we repent of our independence and rebellion, and surrender to Him as Lord, and if we believe that He was punished for our sins but God raised Him from the dead, we will never die. When the time comes we will step through death into a place He called Paradise (Lk 23:43), and then at some future moment we will hear His voice call our name (Jn 5:25-29) and we will instantly put on immortal bodies and begin to live at a level beyond our comprehension.
Listen to what He told Thomas:
Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed ((Jn 20:19, 20, 24-29)
Listen to Paul:
if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed
for whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Ro 10:9-13).
1) If someone asked you, Why do you believe?, what would you say? Tell us one or two reasons you personally believe.
2) Have you ever seen a miracle that was so real you could not honestly doubt it? Please share it with us.