Friday, January 7, 2011

Do You Believe?

“Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that he died for your sins, was buried, and that God raised him from the dead on the third day?”

Do you?

I’ve heard this question asked hundreds, maybe thousands of times over the 34 ½ years that I’ve been a Christian. Usually, it was being asked of someone who was about to be baptized, as a means of publically confirming their faith. That makes sense, since it does encapsulate the basic tenets of Christianity.

I’ve never heard anyone answer this question by saying “no.”

I think if you walked into almost any Christianity-based church and asked the membership to answer that question, the overwhelming majority would quickly answer “yes!” After all, if you don’t believe the concepts contained in that question, why would you bother attending a Christian congregation at all? You might better spend your time at a movie, or working in the yard.

But, do we really think about what that question is asking? Have we really considered the ramifications? Let’s take a closer look. Here are the various factors of faith that the question is asking us to affirm:

1. Jesus is the Christ—He is the messiah. He is the anointed savior of the world.

2. Jesus is the Son of God—He is more than just an ordinary human citizen of the world, but rather He is a special offspring of the overriding Master, King, and Creator of all things.

3. Jesus IS the Son of God—It is not ‘WAS’ the Son of God, but rather He ‘IS’ the Son of God. He still is.

4. Jesus willingly placed himself in a position to die for YOU, and not just you, but all of humanity because He cared so much that He chose to sacrifice Himself.

5. Jesus DID die for you and me.

6. Jesus ROSE from the dead three days later.

The last one is the most amazing of all the concepts! Stop for a second and just consider it! As Christians, we commonly accept that Jesus was dead for three days, and then He came back to life! How simply far out and wild is that?!

Have you ever seen or heard any credible evidence of anyone else ever doing that in your lifetime or any other lifetime? Most of us have attended funerals or visitations at funeral homes. Has it ever occurred to you while you were standing around chatting with folks and the body is lying over there in the casket, that maybe he or she will just sit up and step out of the coffin?  Of course not.  It would be an obsurd thought.  If, however, that did happen, what do you think the reaction would be? What would be the reaction of the whole world if it could be documented as fact?

But, we believe that Jesus did it.

Or, do we?

It wouldn’t be too unusual if perhaps we doubted a bit. We would be in pretty good company. Consider the Apostle Thomas:

So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” John 20:25

One week later, he got his wish. Jesus told him to do exactly what he said it would take for him to believe.

Thomas’ reaction? “My Lord and my God!”

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:29

None of us have the luxury of having “seen,” and yet we claim to believe.

But, let me ask you these questions:

If you really believe, what DIFFERENCE is that belief making in how you are living your life?  How are you different than you would be otherwise?

The belief in that resurrection made all the difference in the world to those who first believed. Did you know that all but one of the twelve apostles were murdered for that faith, including Thomas? They gave up their very lives. How often do we fuss about sacrificing enough time to go to worship, or to bible class? “Oh, I want to sleep in.” “The service is too long!” With our human complaints, we disrespect the gift of mercy we have been given, and disregard the example of our forefathers in the faith.

Another time when the Apostles Peter and John had been arrested for sharing their faith in Jesus, they were ordered by the authorities of the time to “speak no longer to anyone in this name,” meaning Jesus. What was Peter and John’s reaction?

“Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” Acts 4:19

They couldn’t help it. They couldn’t contain it. It wasn’t socially acceptable. They were running opposed to popular culture. It didn’t matter because what they believed DROVE them to share it. There’s a common phrase today: “I don’t wear my faith on my sleeve.” Folks, the early Christians did. They couldn’t help it.

I look at myself and my fellow Christians, and I have to wonder if we really do believe in the power of God and in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. If we did, would we not be so blown away by all that God has done that we would be scared to death of His power, overwhelmed by His love, and compelled by the faith spawned in us by His resurrection to share it with everyone that crossed our path?

I’m asking myself this question, so I’ll ask you too…

Do you really believe?

In the words of a distraught father speaking to Jesus:  "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!"  Mark 9:24

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