The third day He rose again from the dead

(This is part nine of a multi-entry blog series exploring the Apostles’ Creed.)

This post will examine the most important event in human history. After Jesus died and was buried He stayed in the grave during the Sabbath (interesting) but

“The third day He rose again from the dead”

A couple entries ago I mentioned that Christ’s death on the cross was the second most important event in human history. His resurrection is the single most important event in human history. I was once told that, as an aspiring preacher, the only thing I should preach is the cross. That’s foolishness because there is far more to Jesus than his death on the cross! For example, His death on the cross would not have achieved the forgiveness of sins if He had not been divine, nor if He had sinned, etc. So while His death on the cross is very, very important, it’s not the only thing that is worth mentioning.

It would be impossible for me to overstate the importance of Jesus’ resurrection. But one secondary detail I think is worth addressing first. Some people will argue that Jesus was only in the grave for one day. They’ll say something like, “He died and was buried on Friday, He was in the tomb on Saturday, and then Sunday He rose from the dead. He was only dead one day!” That’s a very Western way of counting the days. The Eastern Jews of Jesus’ day would have counted Friday evening, all day Saturday, and Sunday morning as three days, which is why they said He was in the grave for three days.

But back to my main point: the significance of the resurrection. Why do I say this is the greatest event in human history? Well, I’ll give you three reasons.

First, the resurrection is proof that God found Jesus to be a worthy sacrifice for our sins and that we have been forgiven. Romans 4:25 says plainly that Jesus “was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” The NIV translates Romans 4:25 as, “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” So we see that Christ died for our sins, but was resurrected for our justification. This may seem like a fine distinction, or even hair-splitting, but Romans 4:25 emphasizes the importance of Christ’s resurrection. Wayne Grudem puts it this way in Systematic Theology: “When Christ was raised from the dead, it was God’s declaration of approval of Christ’s work of redemption.”

Second, the resurrection gives us power to live a new life. We find that Jesus’ closest followers deserted Him once He was arrested (Matthew 26:56, Mark 14:50, John 16:32). In fact, one of His followers is so scared he runs off naked (Mark 14:51-52)! Peter, His most outspoken and devoted disciple follows Him “from a distance” after He’s been arrested (Matthew 26:58, Mark 14:54, Luke 22:54). Next Peter denies Jesus three times; once to a servant girl (Matthew 26:69-70, Mark 14:66-71, Luke 22:56-57, John 18:17). But at the beginning of Acts, we find this same Peter bold and outspoken (Acts 2:14). Peter is even arrested for preaching about Jesus and appears before the high priest and his council and refuses to stop sharing the Gospel (Acts 5:27-29). What caused this change in Peter? The resurrection! Peter encountered the Risen Christ and was never the same. Peter testifies to this in his own letter when he writes, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…” (1 Peter 1:3). We are born again through the resurrection of Jesus. Romans 6:4 tells us that “we too might walk in newness of life.” That is the power of the resurrection.

Finally, Jesus’ resurrection gives us hope for our resurrection in the future. Jesus’ resurrection gives us hope that we will be united with Him through our death to sin, and resurrected like Him after we die (Romans 6:5). In fact, the resurrection is the only reason it makes sense to be a Christian (1 Corinthians 15:17). Paul goes so far as to say that Christians should be pitied if Jesus did not resurrect (1 Corinthians 15:19). Some people would say that, even if Jesus never really existed or was not really God, the way of Jesus is still the best way to life. Paul disagrees! Paul says we are to be pitied more than all men! That hardly sounds like Paul would agree with that teaching. Fortunately, Jesus did resurrect and we can have the hope that we will be raised in glory, just as Christ rose from the dead in glory (1 Corinthians 15:42-44). This is the kind of hope that gives us “glorious and inexpressible joy” (1 Peter 1:8). This is the kind of hope that gives a married couple the strength to face terminal brain cancer; the kind of hope that keeps a single mom going when it feels like the weight of the world is about to crush her; the kind of hope that saves marriages; the kind of hope that heals soldiers with PTSD; the kind of hope that keeps Christians faithful in the face of temptations, suffering, and persecution; the kind of hope that can change the world. Praise God for the hope that He gives us through His Son!

Building a Life Worth Living: Building off of the Maker’s Designs

Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails. –Proverbs 19:21
And we come to it…planning.  I consider myself a “do-er”; that is, a person who must always be moving.  ALWAYS.  Especially now facing all the constant struggles that I do, I’m always looking, listening, analyzing…PLANNING.
“If X happens, then I’ll do Y, or if X doesn’t happen, then I’ll do B.”  It’s exhausting and it feels almost like manipulation.  
Life, according to the world, is nothing but a series of plans to be made and executed with all the fervor and efficiency our humanity has to offer. And we love to plan, don’t we? Even as believers, we get very motivated and focused on the plan; the road that leads us to the end of the task; the accomplishment of a mission that satisfies some deeply rooted need to succeed and be counted; to make our mark. And while this, in itself, may produce a well-intended work that bears good fruit, we are keenly aware and reminded of our particular failings as people – EVEN WHEN WE SUCCEED. We love to follow plans and we are good at it, but whose plan are we following exactly?
How many of us have had good plans; Even plans for ministry?  I am talking about intense, call-of-God type plans that compel us to action in various ways, sometimes life-altering and always purposeful. Ever have those?
How many of us, once the plan is in motion, suddenly realize that we have decided to take the reigns and steer the direction of that plan? At some point, we forget where our purpose, and our help, comes from.  I’ve known for some time now, that my tenure in the U.S. Air force is coming to a close.  The timing of that is still in question, but it is much sooner than I expected.  So, being the man in perpetual motion, I started to take action to secure my future!  I pursued a position in the secular community – for profit, for comfort, for security.  Then, despite a phenomenal interview and all signs pointing towards a safe and secure job…I was turned down – kind of…
So, after much prayer and a gentle reminding of my call to ministry, I re-vectored and am back on that unsecure, SCARY path that the Living God has called me to.  The hard road.  But, it’s in that uncertainty that I find hope, it is in that uncertainty that I find peace, it is in that uncertainty that I find my place!

Jeremiah 29:11 Says, “For I know the PLANS i have for you, says the Lord, plans for a future and a hope…”
If you notice that what MORGAN has planned is nowhere in that statement from the Almighty…not anywhere.
Ok, Ok, I get it, He has my best interests in mind…but what does that mean, why am I still tortured by a past I cannot forget…
1st Peter 1:5-9 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Remember, that for each of us out there who knows him, there are many others who do not. He has his heart set on those people; those who suffer in hopelessness. So how do we know that our plan is also God’s plan? Well, that is the question isn’t it? I am not sure there is a perfect answer apart from the generic ‘pray about it’ answer you might find in the coffee area of church on Sunday. I do know one thing though: If our plan is focused more on serving the lost and suffering and less on serving ourselves and our ambitions, well then it is probably mostly God.
The funny thing is, God will let us carry out our own plans until we see that His way really is the ONLY way!  Funny how he does that, isn’t it!?

"He’ll never become a Christian…"

This is part eight of a multi-entry blog series titled “Lessons I Learned in the Desert.”

I love hearing people’s testimonies. A lot of people really surprise me. For example, the below testimony of Brian “Head” Welch:

During his musical career, it would’ve been easy for Christians to dismiss Brian. It would’ve been easy to say something like, “Look at that sinner, he’s too far gone to ever become a Christian.” It would’ve been easy, but it would’ve been sinful. It would’ve been judgemental. Those Christians need to learn something about love and have obviously never taken Eph 2:1-5 to heart. In that passage, Paul is talking to Christians about who they used to be before they were saved. More than anything, those Christians would’ve been dead wrong. Like I said yesterday, God will surprise you! Now, Brian is a Jesus-loving Christian with a powerful testimony!

There’s a multi-century debate among Christians about free will vs. predestination (also called election).
Does God choose who gets saved or does man? This is one of the great dividing lines in Christianity: Calvinism and Arminianism. First and foremost, I’ll say that you can fall on either side of this debate and still love Jesus. Romans 14:1, while talking specifically about food, makes it clear that there are disputable matters; that is, there are certain things that Christians can disagree about. Free-will vs. predestination is a disputable matter.

That being said, I used to be a big advocate of free-will. I believed in choice. I did not want to believe in predestination so I ignored certain Bible verses (like, oh, I don’t know… Rom 8:29-30, Eph 1:3-12, 1 Thess 1:4, 2 Thess 2:13, Matt 22:14, John 13:18, John 15:16, John 15:19, etc.) and logically explained how I would do it if I were God. After reading the predestination chapter in Religion Saves and praying for God to reveal the truth to me, I have completely changed my stance.

(One big thing for me is this:  I’m not concerned with winning theological debates; I want to know and share truth. That only happens if you’re willing to swallow your pride, put aside your personal opinions, and look at what Scripture teaches. Once you know for sure what the truth is though, you should certainly defend it!)

After realizing that God chooses who gets saved and who doesn’t, and knowing that God is a loving God, I’ve realized that you never know who will get saved. Brian was a very, very unlikely candidate. I’ve met plenty of people who changed dramatically after getting saved. Isn’t that what’s supposed to happen? I’ve seen it first-hand during my deployment.

I now know that God can save anyone, regadless of who they are and regardless of what type of past they have. You just never know who God will choose to save, therefore we must love our neighbors and share the Gospel with all!

(For anyone interested in learning more about free-will vs. predestination, check out the Religion Saves book by Mark Driscoll or watch the sermon below.)

Romans 1:20 and the tribes in Africa

“What about the tribe in Africa that’s never heard of Jesus?” I’ve had a handful of people ask me questions like this and I know a lot of people who have been asked similar questions. “Does a tribe in an isolated part of the world that’s never heard of Jesus go to hell for not accepting Him as their savior? That hardly sounds like a loving God!”

In short, people are only held accountable for what they know. The Bible says in Romans 1:19-20 that creation alone proclaims that it has a Maker. This is called God’s “general revelation.” Indeed, it is hard to look at the stars or a mountain landscape and not feel a sense of grandeur and realize that you are a very, very small speck. Psalm 19:1-6 says that the stars declare and proclaim God’s work; there is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. In other words, to some degree all creation reveals that there is a God and it has done so in all places, languages, and times in history.

Paul goes on in Romans 2:14-15 to say that when people who do not have God’s Law meet the requirements of that Law, they are showing that in their heart they know that things are supposed to be a certain way and they are trying to meet those requirements. C.S. Lewis calls this “oughtness” in Mere Christianity. This act alone demonstrates a conviction to do “the right thing” even though people fall short.

Although these African tribes may not know the specific requirements of God through head knowledge and even though they may have never heard the name Jesus, the “Law,” or a feeling of how they ought to behave, is written on their hearts. They know the difference between right and wrong. Thus when these hypothetical tribesmen violate their own understanding of what is right, they condemn themselves. Conversely, when they do what they know to be right, their own conscienes defend them. Their clean conscienses save them or their guilty consciences condemn them.

Some people ask this question out of genuine concern, and some ask this question as an excuse to reject God. Again, from Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis says, “if you are worried about the people outside, the most unreasonable thig you can do is to remain outside yourself.” His statement makes a lot of sense to me. If I were worried about people getting exposed to acid rain, would it make any sense for me to stay outside in the acid rain because others were unable to go inside? Of course not!

To the non-Christian I would just ask one thing. If, as we stated to start this discussion, you’re only held accountable for what you know, then the only question that remains is this: What will you do with the knowledge you have; will you accept or squander the gift that’s been freely offered to you?

To the Christian I say: What’s keeping you from making sure that everyone knows about the freedom that’s been offered to them?

Acts 17:26-27

From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

It was March 23rd and we were having our fourth meeting of the Forgotten God study series. A friend of mine named Kat was sharing that she had never, ever seen a miraculous work of God in her life. She seemed pretty bummed and discouraged about it. Kat’s very hard on herself…perhaps too hard. Three weeks later, we had our final study session. There was a new guy there named Andrew. It was a little weird for us to have a new guy at the last session, but the Spirit was telling me to just let him be part of the group. To be honest, I wanted to kindly ask Andrew to leave, because I was afraid that a new person would throw off the group dynamics the group has spent the last two months developing. It did. A few people didn’t even talk during the discussion time and I knew it was because of the “new guy.”

Afterwards, I talked to Andrew for a little bit. We had another study, Rob Bell’s Nooma Study Series, that a buddy of mine named Kalob was leading. Andrew showed up at Nooma a time or two. I didn’t really notice when he stopped going and he quietly slipped off the radar.

Fast forward about a month and a half. During that time, the chapel ordered several copies of The Naked Gospel and I am excited to be starting that small group in a few days. I think The Naked Gospel is a book that ALL Christians should read. It has helped me immensely and deepened my walk with Christ. I’m not sure what happened, but Andrew had a conversation with the local wing chaplain last Tuesday. The chaplain gave Andrew a copy of the book and said he should read it. Andrew didn’t get a chance to read it Wednesday, but he read almost 100 pages of the book that Thursday. That night, he went to the chaplain and accepted Christ as his savior!

I find it amazing that, through a simple conversation, Kat invited Andrew to the Bible study and opened the door for him to get involved at the chapel. A few weeks later, my books came in and the Chaplain gave him a copy. The Holy Spirit used the book to put a need on Andrew’s heart to get saved. Andrew accepted Christ.

The part that was truly amazing is that Kat was supposed to leave Wednesday, but her flight got delayed and delayed so that she wound up leaving on Friday night/Saturday morning. I literally found out about Andrew minutes before praying with her and then she left. God kept her here just long enough for her to find out that she had helped lead someone to Christ, and then within the same our, she was on her way home!

God chose to bring Kat to this place just so she could invite Andrew to the chapel so that he could get saved. God chooses who goes where and when so that His master plan of salvation can be worked out.

God put me in Alaska in 2005 so that I would meet the right people and get saved. God sent me to Afghanistan in 2008 to teach me how to rely on Him and to re-affirm my calling to ministry. God brought me here to meet some great people and to help lead a dear friend to Christ. God has put you where you are at right now for a reason. Seek to honor and glorify Him, and He will use you for his purposes and for His glory.

Kat left that night with tears in her eyes, because her prayers to see God work a miracle through her had been answered. All to God’s glory.

The Naked Gospel: The Truth You May Never Hear in ChurchForgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit