Craig Smith - The Problem of God and The Bible
Good morning. Welcome to Mission Hills. So glad you are with us. Before we get to our message today, let me just do a couple of quick things. First, I want to remind you — or maybe this is the first time you are hearing this, but I want to let you know the purpose of this series we are in right now, “The Problem of God”, the thing I want you to hear, hopefully again, is that the arguments that we are talking about in this series, the arguments we are giving aren’t weapons, they are medicine, okay?
What we are doing, we are looking at problems people have with God, questions people have with God, and the goal of this is to give you arguments and answers to the questions people have to help them get unstuck, but what I don’t want anybody to do is walk away from this going, I’ve got it now, and I know who I’m going to use this one against. These are not to be used against anybody. Our goal isn’t to stick it to anyone. Our goal is to help people get unstuck, because the reality is that people can get stuck in their journey of faith, and that’s true whether you are a person who would say, I have faith, or a person who says, I’m still figuring out whether or not I’m going to have faith, no matter where we are in that process, we can get stuck if we don’t get answers to the questions we have, and so the goal of the series is to give you answers to help you get unstuck. They are not weapons. They are medicine. So, so, so important.
The second thing I want to let you know about is a resource that I want to encourage you to get a hold of, and that is a book called “The Problem of God.” I actually ran across this book a couple of years ago. Mark Clark, a pastor out in Vancouver did this great book where he deals with some of the problems people have with God. I liked his approach so much that when we decided to do this series, I wanted to honor him by including his title in our series title. In fact, we got permission to use the graphic from the cover of his book in our series graphic. I want to do that as a way of honoring him and point you toward that book. Just so you know, I’m not actually teaching the book, and the content I’m giving is quite a bit different than his, but it’s a great, great supplement to the series and deals with some questions we are not going to get to, so I really strongly encourage you to pick up a copy of that book and have it on hand.
Last thing I want to tell you before we get to our message is that next weekend is a really special weekend. We have a guest speaker with us. His name is Dr. Steven Meyer. Steven Meyer works with the Discovery Institute, which is probably the leading organization exploring what we call intelligent design, which is scientific evidence for the existence of God. In fact, what Steven is going to be sharing, what is going on in biological sciences right now is so astounding that he’s going to argue that faith in God is not only reasonable when we look at the evidence, it is actually required by the evidence in science. He will be speaking on the topic of the problem with God and science. It’s going to be a great, great weekend to invite some of your unbelieving friends and family to, especially if they have questions about whether or not believing in God makes sense given what science teaches us.
So Steven Meyer is a scientist. He’s respected by scientists. He’s going to say, yeah, yeah, it makes sense honestly, as I said, believing in God is not just reasonable when we look at the evidence in science, it’s required by the evidence that science gives us, so really looking forward to having him here next weekend. Make sure you take advantage of that.
Alright. So our content today — the topic for today is “The Problem of God and the Bible”. Now I’m going to be honest with you, I didn’t grow up having any problem with the Bible. I grew up in a Christian home. It was a Bible believing church that we always attended, and so I really didn’t have any problem with the Bible. I was taught a couple of things growing up. Number one, I was taught that the Bible is inspired. How many of you have ever heard that? The Bible is inspired by God. It just means that it came from God. That God was ultimately behind the production of the Bible so that it was what He wanted. I heard that growing up. I also heard the Bible is inerrant, meaning it doesn’t have any errors in it. It doesn’t have any mistakes in it. There are no inaccuracies in it. How many of you have heard that? Yeah, honestly, that’s what I heard growing up. I never had a problem with that in part because I realized pretty early on, if I did what the Bible said, if I lived according to what the Bible taught, my life was always better. When I wasn’t living according to what the Bible said, my life was always harder, so I didn’t really struggle with the idea that the Bible was inspired and inerrant.
Then, I got to college. Yeah. I went to a very secular college. It was Kent State University, Northeastern Ohio — very liberal. I had Christians in my life that said, hey, hey — you are moving into hostile territory here, okay? You are going to get there, and the professors are going to try to destroy your faith. Oh, okay. That’s scary, but okay. I remember I walked into my very first class, first week freshman year. It was an English class and the TA handed out a list of the books we were going to read, and I was looking through it, and I realize one of the books is the Gospel of John. We are studying the Gospel of John, how bad could this be? And then my professor walked in. He was this kind of round guy with this huge white beard, and this shock of white hair. I was like, I have scored Santa Claus for my college English teacher.
I thought, I’m going to be taught the Gospel of John by Santa Claus. How bad can this be? The answer is really bad, actually, because what it turns out, the reason we are studying the Gospel of John so that he could say how full of inaccuracies and contradictions and historical errors and problems it was so at the end of the course what he basically said, at the end of our study of the Gospel of John, what he basically said is, if you think that you can put your faith in the story that this book tells, you are an idiot. I had never heard anything like that. I would be lying to you if I didn’t tell you that it kind of rocked my world. I found myself asking the question, is what I learned about the Bible growing up – that it’s accurate, that it’s reliable, that it’s trustworthy – is that right? Or is it what my professor is teaching me, that it is inaccurate and unreliable and untrustworthy, is that right?
It was really the first question that I began to ask about the Bible or really anything about faith at that point, and honestly, I’m so glad that I began to ask that question, not only in my own heart, but to ask other people that question because I began to learn something there that I say it constantly these days, which is, if we don’t ask the questions we have, we won’t get the answers that we need. Honestly, I believe that asking those questions is one of the things that God used to set me on the path that I’m still on today, and a lot of what God has done in my life and through my life really goes back to a path that I began by asking those questions, but I’m going to be honest with you, when I asked the questions, I didn’t get great answers.
When I started asking Christians I knew, how do we know that the Bible is inspired? How do we know that it’s reliable and trustworthy, how do we know that? Here’s the first answer I got. Well, you just have to believe. I was like, well, I want to believe, but I’m looking maybe for some help in that. They said, well you just need to believe harder. I was like, I don’t know what that means. Okay, like, I’ll try. No, I’m still struggling. And so I continued to ask questions. I had another Christian who heard my question and said, I’ll give you everything you need, and so he picked up a Bible. He said let me just read you something. This is going to give you everything you need. If you want to follow along with me, I’ll read from the Book of II Timothy 3:14.
I was asking my question about whether or not the Bible could be trusted, and he said this, this is what you need to know. He says, But as for you — and he kind of looked at me like — for you — continue in what you have learned. Didn’t you learn that the Bible is trustworthy? Didn’t you hear that growing up? I said, well, yeah. Well, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of. And I said, well, that’s what my question is. Like I would like to move from what I learned to what I’m convinced of. Can you help me? He said, yeah, yeah, yeah. Here’s what you need. You can move there because you have known these things because you know those from whom you have learned it. He said, didn’t your pastor teach you this? I said, well, yeah. Didn’t your parents teach you this? Well, yeah. He said, well, there you go.
He said, and from how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. I remember thinking, well, that’s really my question, can I really trust the Bible to lead me to salvation? Is the story it tells me true? Because, if it’s not true, if it’s not trustworthy, I don’t know that it’s going to lead me to salvation. That’s what my question is. He said, well here’s what you need to know. Verse 16, All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. He said all scripture is inspired by God. It’s breathed out by God, therefore, it’s trustworthy. It’s true. I remember thinking, but how do you know that? Because that’s really my question, because there’s no point in — like, you know, believing that if that’s not reliable, if that’s not true, and that’s what my question was.
I was pretty frustrated by the answers that I got, so I drove myself to the library. I sat down in the library, and I thought to myself, well, okay, how can I move myself from what I learned to what I’m convinced of? What would it take for me to do that? I thought, what I need to do, I think, is I need to prove that the Bible is inspired. I thought, I don’t think I can do that. I don’t think that I can prove that the Bible is inspired. In order to prove that the Bible came from God, I would have to be on the mountain when God handed Moses the Ten Commandments on those tablets. I would have to be there, and I wasn’t there, so I can’t really prove that, that happened. I would have to be there and hear the voice of God dictating words that He wanted the prophets to write down, and I wasn’t there, so I can’t really prove that, that happened. In some cases, I would have to be in the minds of the authors like Luke or Paul, and somehow be able to perceive that the Holy Spirit was guiding their thoughts to write what He wanted written.
I would somehow have to do that, and I don’t have that experience, and I don’t have that ability, so I can’t actually prove that the Bible is inspired. That doesn’t mean it’s not, but I can’t come to that level or verification of proof. So the next thing I thought, I’ll prove that the Bible is inerrant. I’ll have to prove that the Bible has no mistakes no errors in it. I realized, I don’t think I can do that either, because — well, basically because of this, some of what the Bible says is verifiable, and some is not. Some of what the Bible says is verifiable and some is not. Meaning, some of what the Bible says, you can find other evidence to confirm what it says, but some of what the Bible says you can’t verify. That’s not just true of the Bible. That’s true of any group of claims, any collection of claims has some of what is verifiable and some that’s not.
If I told you that last Wednesday I left the church at 4:00 p.m., and I traveled south on I-25, and I got off at the Castle Rock Outlet Mall exit, and somebody cut me off, but I was good, and in my head I thought, “that was bold.” There’s a group of claims there. Some of it you can verify, honestly, you can talk to some of the staff. They’ll go, yeah, yeah, yeah, Craig left at 4:00. And I hope you know this, but your cellphone? It gets tracked. Like the cell towers, they pay attention, and you can get a hold of those records and find out, yeah, yeah, he did actually travel south on I-25. Maybe there’s some dash cams or traffic cams that confirm that there was a guy who cut me off, but you’re never going to verify that I thought in my head,” bold “as opposed to another four-letter word, right?
That’s an unverifiable claim, so any group of claims, some of it can be verified and some of it can’t. When it comes to the Bible, some of what it says is verifiable, and some is not. Maybe we’ll find Noah’s Ark, right? Maybe we’ll find it, and we’ll prove that he really did build a huge boat, but we can’t verify it. We can’t prove that two of every kind of animal got on it. What would that even look like? It’s not like they are going to find Noah’s Ark and be like, yeah, yeah, we found it, and there are a whole bunch of skeletons inside it, right? That would be super creepy, right? The animals aren’t still there. We can’t prove that he put two of every kind of animal on it. It’s not verifiable. Understand, that doesn’t mean it’s not true, or it doesn’t mean it’s wrong. It just means we can’t verify it.
I sat there, and I realized, I can’t prove that the Bible is inerrant. Understand, this is really important, the Bible makes thousands of claims that are verifiable. Thousands. There are names and dates and facts and figures and times and places — thousands of verifiable claims. The truth is that the track record the Bible has when it comes to verifiable claims is spotless. In fact, I’m going to make a big statement, but I believe it’s true. A lot of other people have come to the same conclusion, and that is, there is not a single verifiable claim in the Bible that has been proven false. There’s not a single verifiable claim in the Bible that has been proven false. There’s debates about things. Sometimes there’s debates about, what is the Bible really saying? What is the interpretation of this? Sometimes there’s debates about how the historical evidence is supposed to be understood, and how it lines up.
There’s places of debate, but there is not a single, verifiable claim of the Bible that has been proven false. The track record is unbelievable, but that is not the same thing as saying the Bible is inerrant and having proved that. I just realized, I can’t quite prove that, so I sat there in the library at Kent State University, and I thought, well, what if — what if I can prove that the most important thing in the Bible is true? What if I can prove that the most important thing in the Bible is true? What is the most important thing? I thought, well, that’s easy. The most important thing is the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus. See the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus is the heart and soul of Christianity, right? That’s really the middle of the whole thing, isn’t it?
If you are standing at the edge of a pond and it’s frozen over, and you’re really kind of feeling, I would like to walk out in the middle of that pond. I would like to feel what it’s like out there in the middle, but I’m not quite sure if the ice is thick enough. I don’t know if it’s reliable. I don’t know if it’s trustworthy, how would you go about figuring out if you could stand in the middle? The easiest thing would be, well, you can take core samples and find out how thick the ice is, right? Yeah, I mean if the ice is thick enough, you know it’s going to hold me up, but where would you want to take the sample? You can take samples from around the shore, but all you would show you is it’s reliable, there, there, there, there. If you want to stand in the middle, what you really want to know is if it’s trustworthy in the middle, right? Because the middle is what matters most, right? That’s actually kind of fun to say.
Say it with me, the middle’s what matters most, so I sat there and I thought, I wonder if I could prove what the Bible says about the middle, the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, that’s the heart and the soul, so I wonder if I can prove what the Bible says about that? Because here’s the thing, and I discovered this not only there at Kent State University, but I have seen it time and time again since then, is that we can get caught up on the periphery. We can get caught up on the outside borders, and never really get around to talking about the middle, and I always want to drive people to that middle. People say, I don’t know if I can become a Christian. I don’t know if I can trust in the story of Jesus because I just don’t believe what the Bible says about Noah’s Ark. I don’t know that I can believe that this guy built a big boat and two of every animal went on it, and my response to that is, okay. I don’t care.
Can we talk about the evidence for what the Bible says about the life, the death and the Resurrection of Jesus. Somebody says, I don’t know if I can become a Christian. I don’t know if I can put my faith in that because I really struggle with this idea that the Bible says Moses parted the Red Sea, and they walked through it. And I go, okay. I don’t really care. Are you willing to look at the evidence for what the Bible says about the life, the death and the Resurrection of Jesus? Somebody says, no, no, no. I’m not sure if I can follow Jesus. I don’t know if I can become a Christian because I read the Old Testament, and it seems like the God of the Old Testament is really different from the God of the New Testament. I just don’t get that. Okay. I don’t really care. Are you willing to look at what the Bible says, and what the evidence that it says about the life, the death and the Resurrection of Jesus?
See that’s the middle, and the middle’s what matters most. Now, please understand — I don’t want to walk out of here going, Craig doesn’t believe in Noah’s Ark or those kinds of things. Let me be really clear here. I believe in the inspiration and the inerrancy of Scripture. I believe that as Paul says in II Timothy, all Scripture. is God breathed. It all comes from God. I believe in the inspiration of Scripture. I also believe in the inerrancy of Scripture. I believe that it’s philosophical, theological, psychological, historical. All of the things that it asserts, that it claims, I believe they are all accurate. I believe they are all true. I believe that. I just don’t care if you do. Not at first. Not at first. The middle is what matters most, and that’s where I always want to drive this conversation, because here’s the thing, and please — if I am wrong about this, I would love for somebody to come up to me afterwards and go, you missed a verse in the Bible, and tell me what the verse is, because here’s the thing — I don’t know of a single verse anywhere in the Bible that says, in order to be saved, you must believe that Noah put two of every kind of animal on the ark.
I can’t find that verse. I believe it happened, but I don’t know a verse that says you have to believe that to be saved. I don’t know of a single verse that says in order to have a relationship with God that goes on for all of eternity, you must believe that David killed a giant with a slingshot. I don’t know of a verse that says you have to believe that — not to be saved. Here is what I do know the Bible says, Romans 10:9. If you declare with your mouth Jesus is Lord — that he is who he says he is, and you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. That’s the middle. So the question I began to ask as I sat there in the library at Kent State University was, can I prove what the Bible says about the life, the death and the Resurrection of Jesus?
Because my English professor told me, we don’t even know if Jesus was a real person. Like we don’t even know if he actually existed. He could easily have just been a myth because the only thing we know about Jesus comes from the Bible itself. I thought, let’s find out if that’s true. You know what I found out? Santa Claus wasn’t even close. Not even close. In fact, what the Bible says about the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus can be confirmed without the Bible. Let me show you what I mean. I’m going to share quotes from ancient historians. What I want you to understand, these ancient historians are not Christians, for the most part. They are not pro Christianity. They are not looking to advance the cause of Christ. In fact, in most cases, these historians were part of a group that was anti-Christian. They had every reason to want to stomp the whole thing out.
But what they say about Jesus just confirms the facts about Jesus that we find in scripture. Let’s start with a Jewish historian. His name is Josephus. Josephus in his book “Antiquities,” wrote this. Now there arose at this time a source of further trouble in one Jesus. I just got to say, that is my favorite description of Jesus of all time, right? He’s a troublemaker. I love that, because he is, kind of, isn’t he? Anyone else find out that Jesus messed up your life? In a really good way, but he messes with our priorities and our plans and all of these kinds of things. I love it. He is a source of further trouble. He was a wise man who performed surprising works. Now, what do you think he might be talking about? We call them miracles.
Now, I want you to notice Josephus doesn’t say, “he claimed to.” But he did. Pretty widespread agreement. No, he actually did these things. He was a teacher of men who gladly welcomed strange things. He led away many Jews and also many of the Gentiles. His followers weren’t restricted to the Jewish community. Gentiles began to follow this Jewish Messiah. He was the so-called Christ. Now, when Pilate acting on information supplied by the chief men around us, condemned him to the cross — he was executed on the cross under Pilate, which is exactly what we find in scripture. Now remember, Josephus is not looking to advance the cause of Christ at all. Not at all.
Yet, he confirms an awful lot of what the Bible says about the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus. Here’s another quote from Josephus. He writes, so he assembled the Sanhedrin of judges, that’s the Jewish ruling counsel, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James. The Bible tells us that Jesus had a brother, or technically half-brother, named James. He became the leader of the church in Jerusalem after the Resurrection. Josephus says, yeah, yeah, we know about James, and he was brought before the leading council, ruling council.
I’m going to give you another quick one. There are several we could look at, but let me give you one more Jewish source that says this. On the eve of Passover they hung Jeshua, the Nazarene. And the crier went forth before him saying, he hath practiced magic. What word might we want to reinsert there? Miracles. Done miracles. Not claims to, but he’s done them, and he’s deceived and led Israel astray. Meaning, large groups of people, this was not a small band of followers. Huge numbers of people were following him. Let’s talk about Roman historians. Let’s start with Tacitus. Tacitus writing toward the close of the first century writing that Christus — Roman version of Christ, he suffered the extreme penalty, which would be — crucifixion. He suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius Caesar — which is exactly when the Bible says. Tiberius is mentioned in the Bible. At the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, the Roman version of Pontius Pilate, and a most mischievous superstition — I love that word. What mischievous superstition do you think he’s talking about?
It’s the Resurrection. It’s what the Romans called the Resurrection story. I love it because they use the word mischievous. You know why they used that word? Because it was causing them trouble. The story of the Resurrection was causing them trouble because what was happening was, you had a bunch of people saying, I have a Savior whom the Romans killed and he rose from the dead. I have a Risen Savior. Who gives a rip about Rome? Who cares about the Roman Empire? Who cares about loyalty to a human empire when I have a Savior who rose from the dead, and so what was beginning to happen, the story of the Resurrection was getting in the way of the Roman agenda. It was causing a loss of loyalty and those kinds of things. It was messing up things, so they called a mischievous superstition. So a mischievous superstition broke out not only in Judea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome.
The story of the Resurrection spread all the way to Rome. I think that’s significant because one of the things I was told, was that even if Jesus was a real human being, even if he was a real historical figure, the story of the Resurrection, that wasn’t part of Jesus’ original whole deal. That was something that Christians added on later, like hundreds of years later people like added on to the story of the Resurrection and kind of wrote it backwards, but no, no, no. What this historian is proving is that the story of the Resurrection was at the center of the story of Jesus from the very, very beginning.
The Resurrection of Jesus was always inextricable from the story of Jesus. Suetonius, another historian Roman historian writes this, punishment was inflicted on the Christians, a class of men given to a new and mischievous superstition. Here’s what I love about that. He’s defining Christians as people who believe in the new and mischievous superstition, the Resurrection. It’s not one of the things they believe. It’s the core of the whole thing. He said that’s how we define them. They are a class of people defined by their belief in the Resurrection of Jesus.
This is Julius Africanus. He’s writing a little bit later, and he says some really interesting things. On the whole world there pressed a most fearful darkness, and the rocks were rent by an earthquake and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down. This darkness Thallus — Thallus is another Roman historian, so now we have two Roman historians talking about this. This darkness Thallus in the third book of his history calls, as appears to me without reason, an eclipse of the sun. What we have right now is to Roman historians talking about a period of time when a great darkness spread during the middle of the day, and an earthquake happened.
Now, the Bible describes that’s exactly what happened during the Crucifixion of Jesus. That everything got dark, and there was an earthquake. Julius is talking about it. He’s also talking to Thallus. Thallus has tried to explain it. Well, I think it was an eclipse of the sun, and Julius goes, no, it wasn’t. What are you smoking, dude? No. That’s not a good reason. It’s not a good explanation. They were able to predict solar eclipses back then with huge precision, and there wasn’t one predicted for that day, so he goes, I don’t think that explanation works.
Phlegon is another Roman historian. Phlegon records that in the time of Tiberius Caesar, at the time of the full moon — which is Passover time, there was a full eclipse of the sun from the sixth hour to the ninth. Manifestly, that one of which we speak, which is exactly when the Bible says that, that happened, when Jesus was hanging on the cross. Interesting, right? Let me give you one more. This one is really fun. Can you throw that picture up here?
This is what we call the Jesus Bowl, super creative name, right? Let me see if I can try to explain this. This is a fairly new discovery. A few years ago this was pulled up off of the coast of Alexandria, Egypt. The bowl that we are looking at here is a soothsayer bowl. It was used by fortunetellers and magicians to try to tell the future, that kind of a thing. It’s been dated to possibly early as 200 B.C., but it has some writing on it. The writing is not original to it. It was actually scratched into the bowl after the bowl had been fired in a kiln, and that’s actually really helpful because while we can sort of date the bowl to around 200 B.C., when they scratched it, it allowed things like pollen and mold and other kind of spores to get in there and we can date when the writing happened, and the writing dates to somewhere around 50 A.D. So what we have here is a 250-year-old bowl that somebody decided to add some words to.
Now, I don’t know about you, but it’s a little hard for me to imagine scratching something into something 250 years old. Anybody own anything that’s more than a hundred years old? Couple? Can you imagine having something that’s 250 years old and going, I think I’ll just scratch some new stuff here — pretty it up a little bit, right? Not only was it an old, venerated object, but it’s what they considered a magical object. If it lasted that long, they would have thought this has a lot of power. This is a very powerful, magical object. Why on Earth would you deface it with writing? The answer is, the only reason you would ever do that is because you thought you were making it more powerful. You thought you were increasing the potential of this object. So what exactly did they scratch into it 250 years later? The answer is, they wrote “through Christ the magician.”
Now, this is added about 50 A.D. What you need to understand is, the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John — the stories of Jesus, hadn’t really been written at that point. Mark might have been in progress, but it certainly hadn’t spread to Egypt, so even without the Gospel, they had heard about Jesus, and what had they heard about him? They heard about his miracles, and probably his Resurrection. So convinced because the people they heard it from were so convinced, maybe eyewitnesses, that they believed they were improving the power of this magical bowl by adding the name of Jesus to it. Interesting. Very interesting.
So what does this show us? Well, okay, it shows us that even if you want to set the Bible aside, the existence of Jesus — confirmed. The existence of his brother James, confirmed. His fame as a teacher, confirmed. His reputation for performing miracles, confirmed. His Crucifixion on Passover, during the reign of Tiberius Caesar under the authority of Pontius Pilate, confirmed. Earthquake and darkness surrounding his Crucifixion, confirmed. Immediate, widespread belief in his Resurrection, confirmed. You don’t need the Bible for any of that. These are not matters of faith. These are facts of history. Let me say that again. These are not matters of faith. These are facts of history. These things happened.
You go, okay, well, so have we proven that the Resurrection of Jesus happened? What do you think? Have we proven that Jesus has risen from the dead? Weird head motions going on. Some of you are yeah. Some of you are going, no. Honestly, if you are going, no, you are actually right. We haven’t proven that Jesus rose from the dead, okay? We have not proven it. What we have proven is that the evidence points there, but we haven’t proven that he rose from the dead. I don’t know how you would do that, but we have proven that the evidence has gone there, and we haven’t even considered all of the evidence. Here’s what we know. We know that belief in his Resurrection appeared immediately, wasn’t something that came on later. It appeared immediately, spread wildly and did so within the lifetime of eyewitnesses.
There were all kinds of people around that said, no, that’s not what happened. It was this, as well as people that said, no, I saw what happened. It was this. The belief in the Resurrection wasn’t added on later. It spread wildly from the beginning, during the lifetime of the eyewitnesses. We know that those who claimed that Jesus had risen from the dead were changed by their belief. We also know that. Peter. Peter went from cowardice to courage. He was a man who ran when they came to arrest Jesus. He claimed he didn’t even know who he was when he was asked. He cursed a girl out who said, I think you were with him. He said no, no, no. He cursed. Trying to get attention off of that. That’s cowardice. He became one of the most boldly out spoken followers of Jesus. He ended up being executed for his belief in who Jesus was.
How do you make that move from cowardice to courage? He claims it’s because he met the risen Jesus. Or Paul, right? Paul, he began his career as a Christian bounty hunter. His job was to hunt down Christians and bring them to trial and execution, and he became probably the greatest Christian evangelist the world has ever seen. God used him to write most of the New Testament in the Bible. How do you go from hunting down Christians to not only being one of them, but maybe being the foremost of them. He says it’s because he met the resurrected Jesus. We know that the people who believed in the Resurrection, it fundamentally changed them. We also know that those who claim that Jesus had risen from the dead, they were willing to die for that belief. They were willing to die for it.
Peter was executed. Steven was described in the Book of Acts as the very first one that was executed for his belief in the Resurrection. In fact most of the 12 apostles were executed, and most were given an opportunity, history records, to just recant. Take it back. Say it didn’t happen. Say the Resurrection is a lie. They said, I can’t do that. It happened. If you have to kill me, then go ahead and kill me, but it happened. They were willing to die for that belief. What this means, let’s be very clear, what this means is that the Bible is proven reliable when it comes to the most important part of the Christian faith. The life, the death, and the Resurrection of Jesus. You may not believe. That’s okay. You may not believe the Resurrection happened. That’s okay. But I want to ask you — I want to challenge you, if you say, I don’t believe that Jesus rose from the dead, I want to challenge you to be intellectually honest about it.
Which means that you have to recognize that if you choose not to believe in the Resurrection, you are doing so against all of the evidence. You are swimming against the current of all of the evidence. There is literally no evidence that I had did not happen, and there is a ton of evidence that it did. If you choose not to believe, that’s okay. I’m not casting judgment. I’m not implying any kind of irritation or frustration with you, but I would challenge you to wrestle with the idea that if you choose not to believe in the Resurrection, you are doing so against the evidence, not with it. The Bible is proven reliable when it come to the most important part of the Christian faith, the life, the death and the Resurrection of Jesus. So what do we do with this?
Let me give you a couple of questions. The first question, this is really for followers of Jesus, people who say, I have faith in Jesus. What you have shared today reinforces that, and that’s great. I love that, but here is the question I need to ask of you. Who do I know that I need to share this content with? Who do I need to share this content with? Because at Mission Hills, our whole goal is to become like Jesus and join him on what? On mission. Become like Jesus and join him on mission, and the reality is that when you are mission with Jesus, you are going to find yourself building relationships with people who are stuck. Stuck in the progress of their faith or stuck somehow before they have come to faith, and maybe this question is where they are stuck. If you are on mission with Jesus, you might need to share that information to help them get unstuck from that.
Who do I need to share this with? There are a couple of ways you can do it. One of the ways, we have heard a lot of content. You can get the notes on the website. You can get all of these citations. You can find them on the internet too. This is not secret information. It’s out there if you know where to look. The other thing you can do, and this may be an easy way to do it, you can share a link to this message, this podcast with somebody, and just share it with somebody and say, I listened to this kind of interesting message. I thought of you. I wonder if you would listen to the message, and then we could grab coffee. I would like to know what you thought about it?
It’s a really, really easy way to share this content, but who is God calling you to be on mission with, with this content? The second question, this one, really, it’s probably aimed a little more at those who are listening who say I don’t know that I have faith in Jesus. Maybe, I’m intrigued. I’m kind of moving in that direction, but I’m stuck, I think. My question for you would be this, am I ready to take the next step toward the middle? Am I ready to take the next step toward the middle? Maybe you are going, well, I just — I’m struggling with the whole parting of the Red Sea and Noah’s Ark — okay, that’s fine, but that’s not the middle. Are you willing to take the next step toward the middle, the life, the death and the Resurrection of Jesus? Are you willing to take the next step toward trusting in Jesus?
The other stuff, we’ll take care of that later. We can take care of that as time goes by, but the middle is what matters most. So if you would say, I’m not a follower of Jesus, are you willing to take a step toward the middle, toward trusting in Jesus? Because honestly, maybe you are here today going, that was the place I’m stuck. That was the obstacle, the hurdle I was having a hard time getting over, and maybe, honestly, for you, the next step is all the way out to the middle. Or maybe it’s not. Maybe for you, the next step would be to say, I’m going to come back next week. Maybe that’s the next step. Come back next week, hear from Steven Meyer about the evidence for God from science. Maybe that’s your next step. Maybe your next step is the Discovering God series we do.
Great opportunity. We are going to be launching three different versions of them, midweek, Saturday and Sunday, coming up here toward the end of January. It’s a great environment where you can ask your questions with other people who are asking questions, and you are never going to be slapped down. We love the questions. If we don’t ask the questions we have, we are never going to get the answers that we need. So maybe that’s your next step, sign up for that and join that experience. But maybe — maybe that next step is to go, I think it’s time for me to head to the middle. I’m going to give you an opportunity to do that, but before we do that, I’m just going to ask everybody, would you just join me in prayer?
Father, as a follower of Jesus, as somebody who has put his faith in the life, the death and the Resurrection of Jesus, I want to speak on behalf of all of those others here that would say the same thing about themselves, we just want to say thank You. Thank You for the Bible. Thank You for the reliability of the Bible. Thank You that what it tells us is trustworthy and true. Lord, help us as followers of Jesus to live out that faith. The Bible tells us all kinds of things, not just about the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus, all kinds of things. And Lord, maybe some of those things we don’t pay as much attention to. We say we believe them, but we don’t put them into practice in our lives. Lord, forgive us for that, convict us of that, and help us to trust what the Bible teaches us in all of its areas. We thank You for the reliability of the Bible.
If you are a follower of Jesus, would you do me a favor? Would you begin praying for people around you, people listening online that may not know Jesus? Because I do believe that in all of our campuses, including Church Online, right now there are some people going, huh. That question whether or not I could really trust what the Bible says about Jesus, that was my sticking point. Maybe right now you are realizing, I’m not really stuck there anymore. That’s pretty convincing. That actually happened. Maybe right now if that’s you, you are beginning to think, maybe if the Bible says what happened is true, maybe it’s right about why it happened. Because the Bible is very clear. The Bible says what happened is because God loves you.
The Bible says for God so loved the world that he gave his one and only sin. The Bible says that the wages of sin is death. That our wrongdoing separates us from God, but that Jesus came and lived a perfect life. He went to the cross willingly to pay for our sin, to pay off the consequences of our wrongdoing. He rose from the dead to prove that he had succeeded at that, and to prove that he had new life and forgiveness to offer. Maybe right now you are listening, and you are thinking, well, I think I believe that what the Bible says happened, did. Maybe you are realizing for the first moment that the Bible can be trusted about why it says it happened, that he died for you, and that he’s offering you forgiveness and new life.
If that’s you, and you are ready to take a step out into the middle, to declare your faith in Jesus, to put your trust in him, to receive forgiveness and new life, if that’s you, would you just slip your hand up right now? That’s awesome. I see those hands. That’s fantastic. If you are watching online, just click the button below me. And right where you are, just say this to God, the first thing you do is just confess.
God, I believe that Jesus is Lord that he is who he says he is, that I believe who the Bible says he is. I believe. I believe he died on the cross for me. I believe he rose from the dead. I believe he’s offering me forgiveness and new life right now, and I accept it. Jesus, I put my trust in you. Come into my life. I’m yours, for now, forever. Amen.