Sunday: Why the Resurrection?

Jesus-Resurrection-Pictures-07Scripture is clear: if Christ was not raised from the dead, the Christian faith is worthless.

And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! (1 Corinthians 15:17, NKJV).

What does the resurrection of Christ accomplish that his cross didn’t? Continue reading

Wednesday: What is Christ’s Death Worth?

Mary-Magdalene-Anointing-Jesus-stained-glassOn Wednesday of Jesus’ last week, he again told his disciples he would be crucified: “You know that after two days is the Passover, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.” (Matthew 26:2, NKJV). They didn’t get it, or if they got it, they didn’t like it.

Two equal & opposite events immediately happened, side by side:

1. A woman anointed Jesus for burial from an expensive alabaster flask. The disciples were offended: “But when His disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, ‘Why this waste [loss]? “For this fragrant oil might have been sold for much and given to the poor.'” (Matthew 26:8, 9, NKJV). Jesus correct them, saying she had done a “good work” for him.

2. Judas bargained with the chief priests to betray Jesus. They settled on the standard price of a slave, 30 pieces of silver. And said, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?” And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver. (Matthew 26:15, NKJV).

What is Christ’s death worth? Continue reading

Fundamental #4: Christ’s Resurrection

jesus2.jpgI believe in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. I believe it literally happened. He rose again, in his body, and presented himself alive to the world. Christ’s literal, bodily resurrection has always been a central article of historic, biblical Christianity. It’s one of those dividing lines. Some doctrines leave a lot of latitude. Reasonable Christians, reasonably interpreting the Bible, can disagree, and still be faithful to God, Jesus, and the Scriptures.

Other doctrines, like these fundamentals, are non-negotiable. We won’t hate those who disagree. We won’t slander, gossip, or act in any unloving way. But we will disagree, and though we can be friends, we can’t have the deep fellowship of co-followers of Jesus — followers who are “like minded” and “of one mind” on the definitional stuff about Christianity (Phil. 2:2). “In essentials, unity!” declared Augustine. And the resurrection is an essential. I have a zero tolerance policy for diversity on this one, sorry. We take our stand on a literal, physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

jesuswalkingonwatercartdotcomYou might ask, “Is there any other kind of resurrection?”

That’s just the problem. Some, within the church, now assert that Jesus rose spiritually, but not bodily, from the dead. They say his resurrection was a spiritual, psychological event for his followers, who then  enhanced the story when they wrote our Scriptures. It didn’t matter, the argument goes, that Jesus’ body lay rotting in the grave. What mattered was that his followers felt him to be alive in their hearts, and they preserved that feeling in the stories (myths)  they wrote down.

Taking the lead in this spiritual resurrection theory is a group calling itself the Jesus Seminar. A group of scholars founded by Marcus Borg and popularized by John Dominic Crossan and Elaine Pagels and others have done their best to preach the gospel that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, and that if we knew where to look, we just might find his bones.

The seeds of this denial are as old as doubting Thomas. Our generation saw the publication of The Myth of God Incarnate (1977), a small booklet urging a “demythologized” Jesus upon the world. Remove the supernatural. Uproot the miraculous. Overturn the unscientific. Extirpate the narrow-minded. Edit out those things in Scripture which are unworthy of Scripture, and we will come to a kernel of truth, the original truth of Jesus, minus the barnacles of mythology that have grown on him over the centuries.

Ahemmmm.  Exactly who sits in judgment on these doctrines? Who gets to decide what is unworthy of Jesus? of Scripture?

[Here’s a paragraph from my upcoming book, Four Letter Words. Subscribe to the email newsletter and I’ll let you know when it’s out.]

Thomas Jefferson gave this bandwagon a shove. He stitched together his own Bible by literally using scissors to cut out verses from the gospels that were miraculous or “unworthy” of Jesus. He said that the true history and sayings of Jesus shined out from the false, “like diamonds on a dung heap.” He left the “nonsense” behind, and pasted up a 48-page Bible. It told the story of Jesus from his birth (minus angels and a virginal mother) to his burial (minus a resurrection).

Every Easter and every Christmas, the major TV networks trot out “scholars” to talk about the beauties of an “Easter message” without a resurrection, and a “Christmas spirit” without an divine incarnation. You should know that most of these scholars are members of the Jesus Seminar.

Not to demonize these people, just to disagree with them. And to know where they’re coming from:  a naturalistic premise.

Premises are everything.

pantokratorIf we believe that there is a God who transcends the created order, and is at liberty to intervene in that order… if we believe he can — and does and has and will — temporarily suspend the laws of physics and nature to effect what we call a miracle… then it makes perfect sense to believe the simple story that Christ rose from the dead. Indeed, we must press further and say with the Apostle Paul…

“And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.” 1 Corinthians 15:14, NKJV.

“And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!” 1 Corinthians 15:17, NKJV.

It all depends on your premise. Supernaturalistic or naturalistic/materialistic.

The Jesus Seminar people operate from a materialistic premise, i.e., all that happens is explainable by science, physics, or psychology. Such scholars are essentially Deist, or perhaps Atheist, or maybe even Buddhist (indifferent) in their thinking about God. In any event, God does not intervene in the laws of nature… and so the miracles of the Bible must be explained away in scientific terms. All things are made of energy and matter (hence the term, materialist), and whatever laws govern energy and matter governed the resurrection of Jesus.  His body decayed. His soul dissipated into nothingness when his brain ceased functioning. All that remains are our memories of his teaching and love and personality and spirituality… and through those memories we keep him alive forever… a spiritualistic kind of resurrection.

That faith, says Paul, is in vain. I agree.

No resurrection, no salvation. No salvation, no sin to save us from and/or no holy God to condemn that sin. Deny the literal resurrection, and the whole cloth of Christianity unravels. Deny the resurrection (which ONLY God can do) and you invent a salvation not worthy of the name (something ONLY humans can do). Deny the resurrection, and our faith is in vain.

For anyone who has ever been bitten by the Jesus Seminar bug, might I recommend a wonderful little innoculation I stumbled upon some years ago.  Written in response to The Myth of God Incarnate, this booklet is called The Truth of God Incarnate, and it’s worth finding (click here). Edited by Michael Green, this book wonderfully answers the objections of the first book, and leaves the reader with a great appreciation for the Scriptural premise that God reigns on high and that he reaches his hands into the affairs of earth.

I love G.K. Chesterton’s comments on the result of materialistic premises:

Now it is the charge against the main deductions of the materialist that, right or wrong, they gradually destroy his humanity; I do not mean only kindness, I mean hope, courage, poetry, initiative, all that is human. For instance, when materialism leads men to complete fatalism (as it generally does), it is quite idle to pretend that it is in any sense a liberating force. It is absurd to say that you are especially advancing freedom when you only use free thought to destroy free will. The determinists come to bind , not to loose . They may well call their law the “chain” of causation. It is the worst chain that ever fettered a human being.

Yes, Jesus lives within my heart. Yes, I keep alive the memories of his words and life as described in Scripture. And yes, his resurrection is spiritual… but that’s not all. It is also literal, physical, and bodily. In a body, Jesus died. In a body, Jesus was buried. In a body, Jesus rose again. In a body, he ascended to heaven. In a body, he sat down at the right hand of God. In a body, he will come again.

The body of the God-man is an essential part of his humanness. To deny him a body in his resurection is to deny his humanity, post-Calvary. It is to deny the exaltation of one of our own to the throne of the cosmos. To deny Jesus a future is to deny all humanity a future. To deny Jesus an afterlife is to deny me an afterlife. Don’t sugar coat this denial with platitudes about Jesus’ love  and wonderful teachings, and how he inspires hope, and how his message (once we’ve skimmed off the supernaturalistic dross) contributes to the moral improvement of mankind. Don’t give me neo-Gnosticism. I’ve read the DaVinci Code, and guess what…IT’S FICTION.

Give me that old time religion. Christ died. Christ is risen. Christ is coming again.

jesuspower


Easter Sunday

eastercrowd1

I am blown away by an indescribable feeling of excitement and joy generated by our incredible team for our Easter Services. It can only echo how those earliest disciples felt when they heard rumors of the Risen Savior. I’m still pumped.

In my opinion, a correct response to the Resurrection of Jesus should be LOUD, EXCITED, EXUBERANT, AND OVER THE TOP. Our team made that happen, and I’m still flying high. Please address complaints to me!!!!!!

At the risk of forgetting some names (after all, it’s 5:30 a.m.), which I’ll pick up in a follow-up post, here are some people I am extra thankful for today:

  • eastermusicJon Lepinski… Awesome worship leader. You brought that moment in history to LIFE through the words, the enthusiasm, the joy, the beauty, the excellence, the corporateness of the music you led us through. I’m so glad God brought you and your beautiful family to Redding.
  • Ron Largent… Amazing job leading the worship choir, and bringing out the energy of the Resurrection.
  • Jackie Martin… Smooth-flowing guest services from the Usher Cafe to helping the crowds find seats to taking care of all the details of welcoming and greeting thousands of worshippers.
  • Rachelle Busby and Ben Gurczynski… phenomenal job with the kids ministries. An incredible amount of set-up and materials movement to reset our kids’ stuff in a rented auditorium.  Great job.
  • Les Faires and Scott Davis… Fist bump on the technical stuff and program flow. You assembled a wonderful team.
  • Drew VanderWerf… fantastic audio mix, and humble spirit throughout a really tough weekend.
  • Dinah Vaughn and the BryanBakers (one word)… Loved the stage set and lighting… really set the tone for the worship.
  • Jennifer Beaver… picnic by the river?  Egg hunt?  Excellent idea and way to pull it off!  Tell your kids I say thank you for filling 2,000 eggs. Ha!
  • Bob and the Staff at Redding Convention Center… you guys were amazing hosts, and really dedicated to making our even a success.  Thank you for your amazing expertise and for going above and beyond the call of duty.
  • My bride, Margi… for holding down the fort during a long weekend. Love you babe. LOVED the prime rib…
  • Everyone who prayed and served… Thank you. God sees.

Highlights for me:

  • In Christ Alone! What a hymn… No power of hell / No scheme of man / Can ever pluck me / From his hand… Hallelujah!
  • What a Day! Awesome solo vocal w/choir by Jon L.  Brings me to tears.
  • easterkidsYou are the Light of the World… our beautiful children’s choir… featuring my two fantastic kids. Thanks guys for leading us in worship. Loved the glow sticks.
  • People… Watching thousands of people worship God, and express their love to him… a beautiful thing.
  • Salvations… seeing hands go up all over that auditorium of people who prayed to receive Jesus….

“Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.” Romans 8:33, 34, NKJV.

I copied these pictures from Donny Pauling’s iPhone blog. Visit there for a couple more pictures of the service…

Easter and Our Church

The air was electric at Neighborhood Church this Easter Sunday. Over 3,000 people filled the Redding Convention Center (twice!).

Here we are on the evening news (I’m in a salmon colored shirt outside, and then again preaching).

Highlights:

  • A powerful worship time led by our new Worship Pastor, Jon Lepinski. Jon has an anointing to bring people together in worship. We received awesome comments from all ages–young and old.
  • The two musical highlights: the Choir leading us in “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” and a solo/with choir & band, led by Jon, called “What a Day.” That song talks about that day we meet Jesus. It gave me goose bumps.
  • Two different Redding Convention Center employees commented to two different people from our church that we were the most organized, clean, and purposeful groups ever to use the convention center. That was really important to us, because our testimony in the community is so important. It also showed the fantastic job our team did: kid’s ministry, ushers, greeters, worship, info table, choir, band, technical, audio, video… Everybody rose to the occasion.
  • The focus was on the Resurrection of Jesus. And how his resurrection frees us from the “tyranny of performance.”
  • I’ll put up more pictures and links as soon as I get them.

Here are some emails we received:

  • It was an awesome morning, and you all had it planned to perfection! If there was any problem, it did not show. What a great bunch of leaders we have at Neighborhood church. We are so encouraged and blessed to know all of you.
  • I loved your Easter Message. I grew up in a similar church background and I think one of my Inner Mess personas loves to whisper to me that I haven’t done enough/am not good enough and it’s my fault too. Anyway the visual of my sins being shredded was very uplifting.
  • Sunday’s Easter Worship services were Glorious.
    Glorious in that Christ was lifted up! Our guests were elated with what they heard and saw that morning.
    As a traditional couple in our 60’s, we are open to music of all types.
    Our personal preference is Southern Gospel or traditional church music, as well as any other that
    points us toward Jesus.
    We are deliriously happy with your leadership in worship.

My sermon was based on Matt 23 and was the 4th in a series upliftingly called “Woe to You? Silencing the Voices that Crush Your Spirit.”

I’ll post a link when it’s available. I used a prop–I won’t give it away–all I can say is it didn’t work. For some strange reason, our church loves it when stuff I do doesn’t work. Just like God, right?

Here’s the link for the Easter Sermons online…

Happy Easter

woepic.jpg“Never forget that Jesus Christ was a man born into King David’s family and that he was raised from the dead. This is the Good News I preach.” 2Ti 2:8.

If you’re in the Redding, CA area, I’d like to invite you to join our Easter Worship services.  We will not be in our regular location.  Here are the details:

  • Date:  Sunday, March 23.  Sorry, no Saturday service this weekend.
  • Place:  The Redding Convention Center (seats 2,000!) (click here for a map)
  • Times:  9:00 and 11:00 a.m.  (2 identical services)
  • Childcare:  A special program for kids thru kindergarten on the lower level.  Kids older than that will join their parents in the auditorium;  we’ll have an activity pack for each one.
  • Dress: casual.  Whatever makes you comfortable. We’re happy however you come, just join us.

I’ll be preaching the last message in a series called:

Woe to You?  Silencing the Voices that Crush Your Spirit.

It’s based on Matt. 23 and the day Jesus really nailed the Pharisees.  I hope to see you there; BRING A FRIEND!  Join us to worship our risen Jesus!  And if you can’t make it here, I hope you can join a church in your area.