I know the resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me. How? Because 12 men testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years, never once denying it. Every one was beaten, tortured, stoned and put in prison. They would not have endured that if it weren’t true. Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world – and they couldn’t keep a lie for three weeks. You’re telling me 12 apostles could keep a lie for 40 years? Absolutely impossible.
Personal condition does not prohibit you from coming to Christ. The sad condition of those who, in Luke 14, became guests did not disqualify them from the supper. Some were poor and doubtless miserable and shabby. They did not have a penny to their names. Charles H. Spurgeon writes:
“A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ (Luke 14:16-21 ESV)
Where the Lord has been pleased to touch the will so that man has a desire towards Christ, where the heart really hungers and thirsts after righteousness, that is all the readiness which is wanted. All the fitness he requires is that first you feel your need of him (and that he gives you), and that secondly, in feeling your need of him you are willing to come to him. Willingness to come is everything. A readiness to believe in Jesus, a willingness to cast the soul on him, a preparedness to accept him just as he is, because you feel that he is just the Savior that you need – that is all: there was no other readiness, there could have been none, in the case of those who were poor and blind, and lame and maimed, yet came to the feast. The text does not say, “You are ready, therefore come”; that is a legal way of putting the gospel; but it says, “All things are ready, the gospel is ready, therefore you are to come.” As for your readiness, all the readiness that is possibly wanted is a readiness which the Spirit gives us – namely, willingness to come to Jesus.
Now notice that the unreadiness of those who were asked arose out of their possessions and out of their abilities. One would not come because he had bought a piece of land. What a great heap Satan casts up between the soul and the Savior! With worldly possessions and good deeds he builds an earthwork of huge dimensions between the sinner and his Lord. Some gentlemen have too many acres ever to come to Christ: they think too much of the world to think much of him. Many have too many fields of good works in which they are growing crops on which they pride themselves, and these cause them to feel that they are persons of great importance. Many a man cannot come to Christ for all things because he has so much already.
Others could not come because they had so much to do, and could do it well-one had bought five yoke of oxen and he was going to prove them. He was a strong man well able to plow; the reason why he did not come was because he had so much ability. Thousands are kept away from grace by what they have and by what they can do. Emptiness is more preparatory to a feast than fullness. How often does it happen that poverty and inability help to lead the soul to Christ? When a man thinks he is rich he will not come to the Savior. When a man dreams that he is able at any time to repent and believe, and to do everything for himself that is wanted, he is not likely to come and by simple faith repose in Christ. It is not what you have not, but what you have that keeps many of you from Christ. Sinful Self is a devil, but Righteous Self is seven devils. The man who feels himself guilty may for a while be kept away by his guilt, but the man who is self-righteous will never come; until the Lord has taken his pride away from him he will still refuse the feast of free grace. The possession of abilities and honors and riches keeps men from coming to the Redeemer. (Advice for Seekers)
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, (1 Peter 3:18 ESV)
Why is the cross so important? Today is Good Friday and a good day to reflect on Jesus’ death.
The cross shows us the depth of the problem we humans have with sin. It shows us God’s forgiveness of sin. The cross also leads us to the resurrection, which demonstrates that sin may be overcome. The way of the cross teaches us that it was necessary for God to save us from sin by allowing Jesus to die on the cross for our sin. The resurrection of Jesus reveals His victory over sin and death on our behalf. The cross says something important to us about us.
God desires us to see our sins for what they are – rebellion against Him. We, of course, wish to stay blind to our sins. In the cross of Jesus Christ, God is trying to show us the consequences of our sin and the only way to peace with God. Therefore, in the cross, God shows us righteousness. It is a righteousness that comes through the faith of Jesus when He went to the cross trusting in God who would raise Him on the third day in order that we might begin to live with that same faith in a God.
The cross is our sin meeting God’s unconditional love, and forgiveness. The violence of the cross teaches us about sin and its cost. At the same time, the cross demonstrates God’s justice, love and forgiveness. The cross is God’s answer to sin. It is the result of the work of Jesus Christ to earn our salvation.
John Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople:
Let no one grieve at his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again; for forgiveness has risen from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free. He has destroyed it by enduring it.
The evidence for our Lord’s life and death and resurrection … has been shown to be satisfactory; it is good according to the common rules for distinguishing good evidence from bad. Thousands and tens of thousands of persons have gone through it piece by piece as carefully as every judge summing upon a most important case. I have myself done it many times over, not to persuade others but to satisfy myself. I have been used for many years to study the histories of other times and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer, than the great sign which God hath given us that Christ died and rose again from the dead.
Sinclair B. Ferguson:
We must never forget – if we are to grow in grace, and therefore grow like Christ – that the One we trust, love, and serve is a crucified Savior. To follow Him means taking up the cross, as well as denying ourselves. It means a crucified life. (Grow in Grace)
Grace is not a ‘thing’. It is not a substance that can be measured or a commodity to be distributed. It is the ‘grace of the Lord Jesus Christ’. In essence, it is Jesus Himself.
The truth of the resurrection gives life to every other area of gospel truth. The resurrection is the pivot on which all of Christianity turns and without which none of the other truths would much matter. Without the resurrection, Christianity would be so much wishful thinking, taking its place alongside all other human philosophy and religious speculation.
It was this same Jesus, the Christ who, among many other remarkable things, who said and repeated something which, proceeding from any other being would have condemned him at once as either a bloated egotist or a dangerously unbalanced person. When He said He himself would rise again from the dead, the third day after He was crucified, He said something that only a fool would dare say, if he expected longer the devotion of any disciples—unless He was sure He was going to rise. No founder of any world religion known to men ever dared say a thing like that!
How you view God determines the quality and style of your Christian experience. Many Christians spend much of their lives paralyzed because, although they have trusted Christ as Savior, they have never really seen what His sacrifice teaches us about the character of God. He gave His Son; He sent His Son; He “handed over” His Son because He loves us. (A Heart for God)
It is useless to say you trust in Jesus Christ without believing His message. Trust in Christ is personal and can only be entered into by way of the theology of the Cross. J. Gresham Machen writes:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:21-23 ESV)
Even the disciples, to whom the teaching of Jesus was first addressed, knew well that they needed more than guidance in the way that they should go. … They did not yet know fully how Jesus could make them children of God; but they did know that He could do it and He alone. And in that trust all the theology of the great Christian creeds was in expectation contained.
At this point, an objection may arise. May we not—the modern liberal will say— may we not now return to that simple trust of the disciples? May we not cease to ask how Jesus saves; may we not simply leave the way to Him? … Should not our trust be in a Person rather than in a message; in Jesus, rather than in what Jesus did; in Jesus’ character rather than in Jesus’ death?
Plausible words these are—plausible, and pitifully vain. Can we really return to Galilee; are we really in the same situation as those who came to Jesus when He was on earth? Can we hear Him say to us, ‘Thy sins are forgiven thee’? These are serious questions, and they cannot possibly be ignored. … But we are separated by nineteen centuries from the One who alone could give us aid. How can we bridge the gulf of time that separates us from Jesus?
Some persons would bridge the gulf by the mere use of the historical imagination. ‘Jesus is not dead,’ we are told, ‘but lives on through His recorded words and deeds; we do not need even to believe it all; even a part is sufficient; the wonderful personality of Jesus shines out clear from the Gospel story. Jesus, in other words, may still be known; let us simply—without theology, without controversy, without inquiry about miracles—abandon ourselves to His spell, and He will heal us.’ …
Certainly the Jesus of the Gospels is a real, a living Person. But that is not the only question. We are going forward far too fast. Jesus lives in the Gospels—so much may freely be admitted—but we of the twentieth century, how may we come into vital relation to Him? He died nineteen hundred years ago. . . .
Let us not deceive ourselves. A Jewish teacher of the first century can never satisfy the longing of our souls. Clothe Him with all the art of modern research, throw upon Him the warm, deceptive calcium-light of modern sentimentality; and despite it all common sense will come to its rights again, and for our brief hour of self-deception— as though we had been with Jesus—will wreak upon us the revenge of hopeless disillusionment.
But, says the modern preacher, are we not, in being satisfied with the ‘historical’ Jesus, the great teacher who proclaimed the Kingdom of God, merely restoring the simplicity of the primitive gospel? No, we answer, you are not, but, temporally at least, you are not so very far wrong. You are really returning to a very primitive stage in the life of the Church. Only, that stage is not the Galilean springtime. For in Galilee men had a living Savior. There was one time and one time only when the disciples lived, like you, merely on the memory of Jesus. When was it? It was a gloomy, desperate time. It was the three sad days after the crucifixion. Then and then only did Jesus’ disciples regard Him merely as a blessed memory. ‘We trusted,’ they said, ‘that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel. . . .’
What was it that within a few days transformed a band of mourners into the spiritual conquerors of the world? It was not the memory of Jesus’ life; it was not the inspiration which came from past contact with Him. But it was the message, ‘He is risen.’ That message alone gave to the disciples a living Savior. It and it alone can give to us a living Savior today. We shall never have vital contact with Jesus if we attend to His person and neglect the message; for it is the message which makes Him ours. (Christianity and Liberalism)
What reason have you that you would think that you can suddenly change the inclination of your heart and actions, and become a new man? The odds are surely a million to one and greater that as you sinned before you will sin again. Charles H. Spurgeon writes:
If you think about it, God’s value of heaven and yours are very different things. His salvation, when he set a price upon it, was to be brought to men only through the death of his Son. But you think that your good works can win the heaven which Jesus Christ, the Son of God, procured at the cost of his own blood! Do you dare to put your miserable life in comparison with the life of God’s obedient Son, who gave himself even to death? Does it not strike you that you are insulting God? If there is a way to heaven by works, why did he put his dear Son to all that pain and grief? Why the scenes of Gethsemane? Why the tragedy on Golgotha, when the thing could be done so easily another way? You insult the wisdom of God and the love of God.
There is no attribute of God which self-righteousness does not impugn. It debases the eternal perfections which the blessed Savior magnified, in order to exalt the pretensions of the creature which the Almighty spurns as vain and worthless. The trader may barter his gold for your trinkets and glass beads, but if you give all that you have to God it would be utterly rejected. He will bestow the milk and the honey of his mercy without money and without price, but if you come to him trying to bargain for it, it is all over for you; God will not give you choice provisions of his love that you do not know how to appreciate.
The great things you propose to do, these works of yours, what comparison do they bear to the blessing which you hope to obtain? I suppose by these works you hope to obtain the favor of God and procure a place in heaven. What is it, then you propose to offer? What could you bring to God? Would you bring him rivers of oil, or the fat of ten thousand animals? Count up all the treasures that lie beneath the surface of the earth; if you brought them all, what would they be to God? If you could pile up all the gold reaching from the depths of the earth to the highest heavens, what would it be to him? How could all this enrich his coffers or buy your salvation? Can he be affected by anything you do to augment the sum of his happiness, or to increase the glory of his kingdom? If he were hungry he would not tell you. “The cattle upon ten thousand hills are mine,” he says (Psa 50:10). Your goodness may please your fellow-creatures, and your charity may make them grateful, but will God owe anything to you for your gifts, or be in debt to you for your influence? Absurd questions! When you have done everything, what will you be but a poor, unworthy, unprofitable servant? You will not have done what you ought; much less will there be any balance in your favor to make atonement for sin, or to purchase for you an inheritance in the realms of light. (Advice for Seekers)
Sinclair B. Ferguson:
Yes, apostasy happens. Sometimes the catalyst is flagrant sin. The pain of conviction and repentance is refused, and the only alternative to it is wholesale rejection of Christ. But sometimes the catalyst is a thorn growing quietly in the heart, an indifference to the way of the Cross, a drifting that is not reversed by the knowledge of biblical warnings.
(Apostasy: The abandonment or renunciation of a religious belief.)
Docetism and Christianity:
Docetism was a heresy that attracted interest in the third century. Docetists believed that there was one eternal father who was eternally transcendent and unable to experience any sort of human emotion of suffering. The belief that Jesus became human flesh and experienced life as a human was unthinkable.
The early orthodox church opposed Docetism. Irenaeus wrote a five-volume work against Valentinus (136 A.D. – 165 A.D.) who one of Docetism’s prominent teachers. Polycarp condemns the Docetists by saying that “everyone who does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is an anti-Christ,” echoing 1 John 4:2-3.
The Bible teaches us that Jesus experienced hunger (Matt. 4:2) and thirst (John 19:28), was sympathetic (Matt. 9:36), became weary (John 4:6), felt sorrow to the point of weeping (John 11:35), and grew in wisdom (Luke 2:52). Yet, His humanness never caused Him to sin (Heb. 4:15).
Docetism strikes at the heart of Christianity; as the author of Hebrews plainly teaches, Jesus “had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” (Hebrews 2:17 ESV)
The Bible teaches:
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (John 6:51 ESV)
“For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.” (2 John 1:7 ESV)
If I had the power to do it, how would I seek to refresh in your souls a sense of the fact that you are “bought with a price.”
There in the midnight hour, amidst the olives of Gethsemane, kneels Immanuel the Son of God; he groans, he pleads in prayer, he wrestles; see the beady drops stand on his brow, drops of sweat, but not of such sweat as pours from men when they earn the bread of life, but the sweat of him who is procuring life itself for us. It is blood, it is crimson blood; great gouts of it are falling to the ground.
O soul, your Savior speaks to you from out Gethsemane at this hour, and he says: “Here and thus I bought you with a price.”
Come, stand and view him in the agony of the olive garden, and understand at what a cost he procured your deliverance. Track him in all his path of shame and sorrow until you see him on the Pavement; mark how they bind his hands and fasten him to the whipping-post; see, they bring the scourges and the cruel Roman whips; they tear his flesh; the ploughers make deep furrows on his blessed body, and the blood gushes forth in streams, while rivulets from his temples, where the crown of thorns has pierced them, join to swell the purple stream. From beneath the scourges he speaks to you with accents soft and low, and he says, “My child, it is here and thus I bought you with a price.”
But see him on the cross itself when the consummation of all has come; his hands and feet are fountains of blood, his soul is full of anguish even to heartbreak; and there, before the soldier pierces his side with a spear, bowing down he whispers to you and to me, “It was here and thus, I bought you with a price.”
O by Gethsemane, by Gabbatha, by Golgotha, by every sacred name collected with the passion of our Lord, by sponge and vinegar, and nail and spear, and everything that helped the pang and increased the anguish of his death, I conjure you, my beloved brethren, to remember that you were “bought with a price,” and “are not your own.”
I push you to this; you either were or were not so bought; if you were, it is the grand fact of your life; if you were, it is the greatest fact that ever will occur to you: let it operate upon you, let it dominate your entire nature, let it govern your body, your soul, your spirit, and from this day let it be said of you not only that you are a man, a man of good morals and respectable conduct, but this, above all things, that you are a man filled with love to him who bought you, a man who lives for Christ, and knows no other passion.
O! that redemption would become the paramount influence, the lord of our soul, and dictator of our being; then were we indeed true to our obligations: short of this we are not what love and justice both demand.
“The suffering of the Christian or anyone else in this world is never ultimately an accident. All suffering is within the pale of divine sovereignty. All suffering comes within the broader context of the sovereignty of God.” (Reason to Believe: A Response to Common Objections to Christianity)