Categories
Theology

Why should I believe Jesus rose from the dead?

What is the meaning of Easter and how was it understood by the early Christians? What are some reasons people should believe in the resurrection of Jesus? John Dickson, an Australian scholar, talks a bit about this:

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HT: Centre for Public Christianity

Categories
Life Theology

I’m not sure Jesus is God! What do I do?

“I’m not sure Jesus is God! What do I do?” Perhaps you have heard this from a friend, or even said it yourself. It’s a legitimate concern and question that deserves a legitimate answer. It does no good to answer, “Well, the Bible says so, so you better believe it.”

If we’re honest, there are a lot more people inside our churches who deal with this than we want to believe. How can we help others (or ourselves!) when this issue comes up?

This past week, I preached from Luke 22:66-71. The passage centers on the beginning of Jesus’ trial with the Jews. Is Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God (and consequently God in the flesh)? That’s what the Jews want to know. But they weren’t looking for information. They wanted incriminating evidence. The Jews didn’t want to acknowledge Jesus’ divinity and messiahship because he wasn’t the kind of God and Messiah they wanted. Jesus flips the table and turns the Jews’ accusation into an unwitting confession. So, what’s really going on is that Luke (and ultimately the Holy Spirit) wants us to see that it’s the Jews who are on trial, not Jesus. And it’s Jesus who is the Judge, not the Jews.

After the sermon, a visiting college student came up to me and asked what he can do in his struggle to figure out whether or not Jesus is God. He said he’s been a Christian for a long time. He goes to a Christian college. Yet he identified with the Jews and said he feels like he’s been putting Jesus on trial. It was difficult for him, I’m sure, to come up to a pastor he had never met who is convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus is God. But I’m happy he did. It showed me that 1) God is working in his life; 2) he is humble enough to ask for help; and 3) he has a soft heart and wants to figure this out rather than take the easy road and dismiss Jesus’ divinity altogether.

So I told him to do four things (they’re a bit more refined here):

  • Acknowledge and embrace your doubts, but don’t settle there. Wrestle with them; work through them. It does you no good to suppress and ignore them. Anyone who says you should never have doubts is crazy. That’s not possible. You’re a sinful human! Use these doubts to get to the bottom of what’s going on in your heart in order to move closer to God. Doubts, like all trials, are meant to refine faith, not stifle it. Suppressing doubts, hiding behind them, or cradling them will only move you further from God.
  • Continually open up the Bible, read, and simply pray, “God help me see!” Ultimately, these answers are going to come from God. You have to have an open heart and plead with God to reveal reality through his word. Be honest with him, he knows your need.
  • Wrestle through the affectual aspect of this issue, not only the intellectual aspect. By that, I mean, look at what this has to do with your heart, not just your mind. It is one thing to cognitively grasp that Jesus is God. It’s another thing to grasp it with your heart (i.e. emotions, desires, etc.). If we think about the passage before in Luke, when Peter denied Jesus, it’s clear that Peter did not have a cognitive dilemma when he denied Jesus three times. He didn’t lack information about Jesus! His worldview was not the problem. What was the problem? Peter loved something more than Jesus in the moment. He desired something other than Jesus. It was not convenient for him to confess knowing Jesus in that courtyard. So when we come to the question of whether or not Jesus is God, getting the right information is important (we need that!), but this goes beyond information. We have to ask ourselves, “Why would I not want Jesus to be God? What is it about his divinity that threatens me? How would this reality inconvenience me? What do I love that is an obstacle to me loving and worshiping Jesus as God? What would I need to reject if he really was God?” More than likely, the core of the issue is an idolatry problem–a heart problem–not an intellectual problem.
  • Surround yourself with a community of people who worship Jesus as God and ask for their help and friendship. Don’t hang around Christians who say, “Don’t doubt! The Bible says so.” Find people who will embrace you and honestly address your concerns and love you through the process. This issue cannot be tackled alone. In fact, if you try to tackle it alone, chances are you will justify false conclusions, fuel skepticism, and settle in your doubt. It will take a lot of personal examination and private prayer, but you must also work this out in Christian community.

If you have similar doubts, or know someone who does, I hope this is helpful. What have you found to be beneficial as you’ve wrestled through doubts concerning Jesus’ divinity or helped others?

Categories
Theology

Why Is That Preacher So Skeptical?!

Many of us have read Ecclesiastes and have been blown away at how negative it is. Incredibly negative. Unbelievably negative. Depressingly negative.While the author of Ecclesiastes is skeptical, however, it’s clear from the book itself that “the Preacher” (Eccl. 1:1) is not on par with modern atheistic nihilists. A nihilist argues that nothing has meaning. The Preacher appears to argue that (cf. 1:2), but throughout the book, the Preacher actually believes life has meaning, for God is real, true, and trustworthy. He even states that the whole point of life is to fear God and obey him, for God is the final judge of everyone (12:13-14). That implies, beyond a doubt, there is meaning and purpose to reality.

Graeme Goldsworthy has provided a view of Ecclesiastes that I have found helpful. He does not think that the Preacher is writing a polemic against secularism or fleshly indulgence. Rather, “[The Preacher’s] main attack is directed at a form of Israelite wisdom that found a few simple answers to the question of our existence in the world. The friends of Job gave one expression of this dogmatic wisdom, which operated on a perceptible rule of retribution.”[1] Other scholars agree: “[The Preacher] protested against the easy generalizations with which his fellow teachers taught their pupils to be successful.”[2] The Preacher rebukes those who use proverbial wisdom as timeless rules. In other words, wisdom has its limits, but God is unsearchable and sovereign over the entire universe (cf. 3:1-8). Therefore, in the face of life’s uncertainties, the point is that the sovereign God is the one worthy of trust, not “wisdom.”

With this in mind, Ecclesiastes’ tone is not negative about God or even life in general, but rather, it’s skeptical of a trite use of wisdom which turns life into a composition of simplistic formulas: do this and you’ll get that; avoid this and enjoy the benefits; invest here and relish the returns. The truth is that life is complex, and it does not always work out the way we imagine, whether we are righteous or unrighteous. The author (whoever it is) makes it clear that he doesn’t want any part of that kind of wisdom.

As a Christian message, Ecclesiastes provides a silver lining. The Preacher hammers home the point that life is hard and death is certain (e.g. 2:16; 3:19; 6:12). The same ends waits for everyone. But there is hope in Jesus, the righteous sufferer par excellence. Only in light of Jesus’ suffering and crucifixion does Ecclesiastes begin to make sense. Jesus is the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:24, 30), and in him are found all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3). Though his suffering and death is foolishness to the world, it is the way of redemption for those who believe, and these believers willingly suffer with him in hope of greater inheritance than this world and its pithy wisdom can offer.

With his own unique touch, the Preacher challenged the overconfidence of the prevailing wisdom of his day and paved the way for one “greater than Solomon” (Matt. 12:42).[3]


[1] Graeme Goldsworthy, Gospel and Wisdom, in The Goldsworthy Trilogy (Carlisle: Paternoster Press, 2001), 455.
[2] William S. Lasor, David A. Hubbard, Frederic W. Bush, Old Testament Survey: The Message, Form, and Background of the Old Testament, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 1996), 500.
[3] Ibid., 509.