The High Cost of Reconciliation

The High Cost Of Reconciliation

Chapter Nine

The High Cost Of Reconciliation
Universal But Not Automatic Reconciliation 122 "Much More Then" 126
Man May Know The Warmth Of God's Love! 123 Sweet Peace — The Gift Of God's Love! 127
Time Does Not Erase Sin! 124 Discussion Questions 128
Reconciliation In The Present Tense! 125 Discussion Questions (continued) 129

2 Corinthians 5:11-21, Romans 5:6-11

Universal But Not Automatic Reconciliation

What more can God do than what He has done to save mankind from the penalty of sin–eternal death? God sent His Son to earth to live a sacrificial life, to die a substitionary death, and to conquer death through the resurrection. God has spared His wrath and extended His mercy to every person–all because of what Christ has done! God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should be saved!

God has highly exalted Christ and given Him a name which is above every name! Christ is the King!

As a result of Christ's life, death, resurrection, and Kingly reign, God is prepared to save all mankind. God's plan for man's salvation has been accomplished in Christ! The sacrifice of a loving God has made possible the glory of a reconciled sinner!

Christ's death for helpless, despising sinners (Romans 5:6-8), results in Christ's reconciliation of sinful man with the sinless God. (Romans 5:9)

The New Testament uses the word 'Reconciliation' to describe the changed relations between God and man which are the result of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In our study of Romans, we have looked carefully at the 'Finished Work' of Christ on the Cross and in the Resurrection. Now we must look at the benefits which that 'Finished Work' has for mankind. Romans 5:9 says, "And since by his blood he did all this for us sinners, how much more will he do for us now that he has declared us not guilty? Now he will save us from all of God's wrath to come". (Living Bible)

Notice the past, present, and future aspects of reconciliation, as related in this verse.

First, look at reconciliation as a past, objective accomplishment. "He did" reconcile us. By the shedding of Christ's blood in the death of the cross, a universal atonement has been provided for the sins of all men. "Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins." (Hebrews 9:22) As a result of Christ's historic death, sin's penalty for all man- kind has been paid. The righteousness of God has been vindicated and the justice of God has been satisfied. By the one decisive act of Christ's death, all men are delivered from a condition of estrangement and restored to fellowship with God–not automatically but potentially, dependent upon each individual's personal appropriation of the purchased gift of grace. Reconciliation is universal as far as God is concerned, but not automatic as far as man is concerned.

"O God, because of the 'Finished Work' of the Cross, you are at peace with all the world! All enmity is gone and all walls are destroyed! I come, not to a God of wrath, but to a God of peace! Wonderful!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The deep wounds of suffering revealed in the open hands of the Crucified Saviour are for the healing of my deep wounds of sin!

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Colossians 1:21-23, John 19:30

Man May Know The Warmth Of God's Love!

We are looking at Reconciliation as a past objective accomplishment. Says Leon Mooris, "Reconciliation is not something in which we have the decisive part. It is worked out by Christ, and we enter into it by our repentance and faith. But it is his work first and foremost. This is the main thrust of New Testament teaching on reconciliation". (Christianity Today, January 17, 1969, p.4)

In his book 'The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross', Leon Maoris says, "First of all there is an aspect of reconciliation which is outside man, an objective element. We are said to have received the reconciliation, which therefore, is in some sense independent of us. Obviously reconciliation must be personal to be effective, and we must enter into a state of being reconciled; but nevertheless, there is a sense in which a reconciliation can be said to be proffered to us. In other words the New Testament view is that reconciliation was wrought on the cross before there was anything in man's heart to correspond. There is an objective aspect to reconciliation, and this may well be held to imply that there is a sense in which God can be said to be reconciled to man". (p.225-226) In a footnote in his book, Mooris quotes P.T. Forsyth as saying, "Reconciliation was finished in Christ's death. Paul did not preach a gradual reconciliation. He preached what the old divines used to call the finished work… He preached something done once for all–a reconciliation which is the base of every soul's reconciliation, not an invitation only". (p. 226)

That means that if Christ had not died on the cross, then reconciliation would have been totally impossible. God can treat man differently now that Christ has died! Wrote Paul, "But now, through the blood of Christ, you who were once outside the pale are with us inside the circle of God's love in Christ Jesus. For Christ is our living peace". (Ephesians 2:13, Ephesians 2:14 a)

Says P.T. Forsyth, "God's feeling toward us never needed to be changed. But God's treatment of us, God's practical relation to us–that had to change". (Ibid, 247) Leon Mooris then comments, "His (God's) love is consistent and does not alter; but we cannot reason from that that the expression of that love is always the same. Love may be likened to a flame. Without Changing its essential nature it may give warmth and light or it may sear and burn. All that sinful men can see of a holy God is that aspect that we call the wrath of God. But when the Son of God himself has dealt with that wrath, then men may know the warmth of His love". (Ibid, 248)

"It is not the wrath of Your justice, but the warmth of Your love, which I now feel! I am not seared, but soothed by the light of Your holiness! 'Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me'!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The cross allows God's love to be expressed in tender forgiveness, not in terrible justice!

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Hebrews 9:11-14, Hebrews 9:23-28

Time Does Not Erase Sin!

The great preacher, Charles Spurgeon one time said, about the preaching of the Gospel, "If I only had about a dozen words to speak and knew I must die, I would say, 'This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ came into the world to save sinners'".

Christ's death makes possible man's reconciliation. Reconciliation acknowledges that there is a barrier which has caused estrangement between God and man, and that that barrier must be removed. Christ alone can remove that barrier and forgive those sins which have caused enmity between God and man. Christ sacrificed His blood once-and-for-all to forgive sinners.

But man attempts to deal with his sins in his own way. Man suppresses his guilt and is glad to let bygones be bygones. As C.S. Lewis says, "We have a strange illusion that mere time cancels sin. I have heard others, and I have heard myself, recounting cruelties and falsehoods committed in boyhood as if they were no concern of the present speaker's, and even with laughter. But mere time does nothing either to the fact or to the guilt of a sin. The guilt is washed out not by time, but by repentance and the blood of Christ". No matter how much man attempts to suppress his guilt and hide his sins, and no matter how much time has elapsed since the transgression, still "God requireth that which is past". (Ecclesiastes 3:15) Says Lewis, "In our own affairs we never doubt that the past is important. When a student fails his exams, he cannot laugh it off and proceed to the next unit of his course as though nothing had happened. When a businessman finds his debts pressing, he cannot write them off and start afresh as though nothing had happened. In every area of life we recognize that our actions have consequences and that we are responsible. We cannot cut ourselves adrift from the past".

Man must face the fact of his estrangement and acknowledge that he can only be at one with God through faith and repentance. The object of man's faith is Christ who objectively accomplished man's reconciliation on the cross. Man must appropriate Christ's accomplished work of reconciliation, in order for man to be reconciled to God. The objective aspect of reconciliation is first and foremost; the subjective aspect of reconciliation is secondary and derivative. Man can only be reconciled to God because God has taken the initiative and made provision for man's reconciliation.

"O Christ, my sins are like an iceberg. My conscious mind–the tip of the iceberg–recalls only a small number of my total sins. Is there forgiveness for the large bulk of my remaining sins which are submerged in my sub-conscious mind? I dare to believe that you can forgive the sins I remember and the sins I don't remember!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will confess 'recalled sins' and 'repressed sins', in order to enjoy unlimited forgiveness!

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Hebrews 4:1-11

Reconciliation In The Present Tense!

We are looking at reconciliation, as described in Romans 5:9, which says, "And since by his blood he did all this for us sinners, how much more will he do for us now that he has declared us not guilty? Now he will save us from all of God's wrath to come". (Living Bible)

We have been looking at the fact that reconciliation is a past, objective accomplishment, made possible through Christ's historic death.

Secondly, reconciliation is a present, guiltless relationship. Romans 5:9 says that "He does" much more for us now!

Through the objective work of Christ on the cross, all men are put into a saveable relationship with God. Man's reconciliation with God is impossible without the cross. However, with the cross each man must respond to Christ's decisive accomplishment in order to make reconciliation real and personal and workable. Through Christ's death, God is once-and-for-all reconciled to lost humanity, but each individual member of that lost humanity must personally accept what has been universally accomplished by Christ. He who personally accepts what Christ has historically accomplished on the cross, is put into a right relationship with God. Personal faith appropriation of the finished work of the cross means personal enjoyment of the benefits of reconciliation.

He who is reconciled with God through Christ is he whose sins are forgiven and whose guilt is resolved. He is no longer at enmity with God. The dividing walls of hostility have been broken down. He enjoys friendship and fellowship with God. His sins are hidden in the 'sea of God's forgetfulness'. Those sins are removed, 'as far as the east is from the west'. He enjoys peace and rest (Hebrews 4:1-11) with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

He who is reconciled with God is he who is enjoying cleansing from sin's pollution. The blood that forgives sins is the blood which also cleanses from the pollution and stain of sin.

He who is reconciled with God is he who is increasingly enjoying victory over sin's power. The remaining harmful habits are being broken. Actions, attitudes, and relationships are progressively becoming Christianized. If any man is reconciled to God through Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold, all things are becoming new. (2 Corinthians 5:17) The power of sin is being broken in that man's life.

What does Christ do in His present reconciling ministry? He is saving us from the guilt of sin, the pollution of sin, and the power of sin.

"O Christ, I see that Your 'Finished Work' on the cross remains unfinished until I personally appropriate that 'Work' in my personal life! The past divine accomplishment must become the present human experience, through faith in Your shed blood! Help me to personalize the victory of the cross!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Christ died in vain for me unless I allow the Universal Atonement to become my personal atonement for my sins!

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Romans 5:9-11, 2 Thessalonians 1:5-12

"Much More Then"

Reconciliation is first a past, objective accomplishment. Secondly, reconciliation is a present, guiltless relationship. Thirdly, reconciliation is a future, peaceful protection. Note Romans 5:9-10, "Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life." (NASB)

When Paul uses the phrase 'much more then' inverses 9 and 10, he is engaging in interesting logic. To use this type of logic is like saying, "If the vast ocean is salt water, then one cup of that ocean water will be salt water. If the sun's energy can provide power to heat a thousand houses, then it can heat my one house. If Christ died for all mankind, then he died for me. If one is made a friend of God now, he shall escape God's wrath hereafter. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!" (Romans 5:9)

Argues the Apostle, "If the blood of Jesus shed on the cross resulted in a once-and-for-all reconciliation of God with man, and if we are personally and continually appropriating the benefits of the cross, resulting in personal daily reconciliation, then we can be assured that our present peaceful relationship will not be forfeited when we face the day of future judgement".

He who is presently enjoying friendship with God, need not fear that that friendship will be lost in the future, when the Great Day of Judgement will reveal the Wrath of God against sin and sinning humanity. He whose heart is enjoying the cleansing blood of Jesus now, can be assured that that same cleansing blood will guarantee a future, peaceful protection, from God's just wrath which will be exercised against those who rejected the blood of Christ.

There is 'eternal security' for the one who pleads nothing but the blood of Jesus as the basis for his reconciliation and peace with God. We are 'eternally secure' in the Son, not outside of the Son! "If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgement and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God… a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace." (Hebrews 10:26-27, Hebrews 10:29 NIV)

"My sins have already been judged on the Cross! I face, not a fearful future, but a fantastic future! I am secure in time and in eternity! God's friendship now cannot be compared to the greater friendship hereafter. All because of Jesus!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I was saved, I am saved, and I will be saved–in the Son, not outside the Son!

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Romans 5:10-11, John 14:27, John 15:13-17, John 16:33

Sweet Peace — The Gift Of God's Love!

There are those who casually talk about God. They talk sentimentally about God, even while they are practicing sin and lawlessness in their lives. 'But God and I are buddies; we get along quite well together. We have an understanding between us', said one shallow person to me. Or some refer to God as 'the man upstairs'.

Without the cross, man is an outright enemy of God! Even with the historic death of Christ, man is still an enemy of God until man appropriates the work of Christ on the cross. (John 3:36) But the person who accepts Christ's work on the cross is reconciled with the Father.

Reconciliation produces friendship with God. "When we were his enemies, we were brought back to God by the death of his Son." (Romans 5:10, Living Bible) You can be a friend of God. You were made for greatness in the Creation. You lost your greatness in the Fall. You can regain your greatness by accepting the reconciling work of Christ on the cross. The fellowship lost in the fall can be regained through the cross. The rebel can be made the reconciled. The enemy can be made the friend. "Now we rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God–all because of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done in dying for our sins–making us friends of God." (Romans 5:11, Living Bible)

Reconciliation produces fellowship with God. The friendship of God with man is at the deepest and most intimate level. "What blessings he must have for us now that we are his friends, and he is living within us!" (verse 11b, Living Bible) God shares our deepest joys and our deepest woes. God actually indwells in our lives. All of life is shared with Christ. The intellect becomes the center where the Holy Spirit forms the 'mind of Christ' within the believer. The emotions become the center where the Holy Spirit sheds abroad the love and compassion of God within the believer. The will becomes the center where the Holy Spirit works to accomplish the plan of God for the believer's life.

Peace is the gift of God and the result of the atoning and reconciling work of Jesus. The great benediction at the end of the Epistle to the Hebrews, speaks of this relationship: "The God of peace, who brought again from the dead the great shepherd of the sheep with the blood of the eternal covenant, even our Lord Jesus". (Hebrews 13:20) The Christian peace is like the peace of the bird who is resting secure on a nest overhanging a mighty waterfall. Amidst the roar and confusion, the bird is peaceful, just as the Christian is tranquil as he rests secure in the arms of Jesus, amidst the turmoil about him.

"In the Garden of Eden, Adam walked with God 'in the cool of the day'. I have walked with life's sorrows too long! I have long tasted the fruits of my own sins, and they are bitter! Let me know forgiveness, that my heart may rejoice! Let me walk and talk with You, as Friend with friend! Amen!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother; his name is Jesus, the sweetest name I know!

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Discussion Questions On 'The High Cost Of Reconciliation'

  1. In what ways did the death of Jesus objectively accomplish the reconciliation of God and mankind?

  2. What is your interpretation of the following statement: "Reconciliation is universal as far as God is concerned, but not automatic as far as man is concerned".

  3. What is meant by the 'Finished Work' of Christ on the cross? Why can it be said that, through Christ, God is first reconciled to mankind, ever before there was anything in man's heart to correspond?

  4. As a result of Christ's death on the cross, did God's feeling towards mankind change or was it simply God's treatment of mankind that changed?

  5. What are two different expressions of God's love toward mankind, and how does man's experience of God's love change as a result of the death of Christ on the cross?

  6. Give your interpretation of the following: "The cross allows God's love to be expressed in tender forgiveness, not in terrible justice".

  7. What is meant by C.S. Lewis' statement: "We have a strange illusion that mere time cancels bygones".

  8. Give your interpretation of the following statement: "The objective aspect of reconciliation is first and foremost; the subjective aspect of reconciliation is secondary and derivative".

  9. Why is it important in man appropriating the reconciliation made possible through Christ's death, to confess the 'recalled sins' of the conscious mind and the 'repressed sins' of the subconscious mind?

  10. What are some of the wonderful results and benefits that a person enjoys when he becomes personally reconciled to God through Christ? (Note 2 Corinthians 5:17)

  11. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: "Christ died in vain for me unless I allow the universal atonement to become my personal atonement for my sins".

  12. Explain (through the use of analogies) the kind of logic that Paul used when he wrote: "Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!" (Romans 5:9)

  13. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: "If the blood of Jesus shed on the cross resulted in a one-for-all reconciliation of God with man, and if we are personally and continually appropriating the benefits of the cross, resulting in personal daily reconciliation, then we can be assured that our present peaceful relationship will not be forfeited when we face the day of future judgement".

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    Discussion Questions On 'The High Cost Of Reconciliation' (continued)

  14. What conditions must a believer continue to meet, in order for him to have assurance that he can face the future day of judgement with confidence rather than with fear? What serious warning is sounded in Hebrews 10:26-27, Hebrews 10:29? Hebrews 10:26-27, Hebrews 10:29?

  15. What is restored by God to a person when he experiences reconciliation, according to Romans 5:11?

  16. In what ways does the Holy Spirit work in the believer's intellect, emotions, and will?

  17. What are characteristics of the believer's peace, as the result of the atoning and reconciling work of Jesus?

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The Victory Of a Conquering God (Part 1)

The Victory Of A Conquering God (1)

Chapter Ten

The Victory Of A Conquering God (1) (The Resurrection Devotionally Experienced)
No Tomb In Christianity! 117 Fulfilled Aspirations Beyond The Scope Of Time 126
Christianity Begins Where Religion Ends! 118 An Ugly Worm Can Become A Beautiful Butterfly! 127
"Hope Is A Thing With Feathers!" 119 The Resurrection Vindicated God's Righteousness 128
The Resurrection Gives History Its Meaning 120 The Resurrection Demonstrated God's Power 129
Resurrection Of The Body 121 The Resurrection Sealed Satan's Doom! 130
"Come On Up, Edna!" 122 "Why Was I So Afraid Of This Thing Called Death?" 131
The Resurrection Hope 123 "I Was Talking With Him This Morning!" 132
"How Long Shall The Wicked Triumph?" 124 Discussion Questions 133
Resurrection – Last Word In Human Affairs! 125 Discussion Questions (Continued) 134

Romans 1:16,17; 1 Corinthians 15:1-8

No Tomb In Christianity!

Searching to find God–that is what we have been doing during the last several weeks. We look upwardly toward the heavens and we see the handiwork of God. We look inwardly at our conscience and we see the moral laws of God at work, convicting, convincing, and revealing the ways of God. We look backwards in history and we see God providentially revealing Himself in historical events and in the greatest historical event which was the coming of God to earth (Incarnation). We look outwardly at the Church and we see God transforming human lives. In every direction we look, we see God!

We have been on our knees, gazing at the heart of God! Looking at the heart of God, we see a cross! The cross has always been on the heart of God, but that cross was revealed to man on Mount Calvary where Jesus died!

If God's love was best demonstrated on the cross, then God's power was best demonstrated by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead! The death and resurrection of Jesus are two parts of one whole. The cross without the resurrection would be great heroism at its best and great tragedy at its worst!

In our search to find God, it is important to look carefully at the Christian belief in the resurrection.

What is the foundation of Christianity? The simple and obvious answer is Christ. "For other foundations can no man lay that that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." (1 Corinthians 3:11) The foundation of Christianity is not an ethical creed or the memory of a religious reformer. Rather, the foundation of Christianity is a living Saviour–a 'Saviour' because Jesus' death was redemptive, and 'living' because Jesus arose from the dead.

One time in India a Christian preacher was preaching and a Mohammedan said to the Christian preacher, "We have a proof in our religion that you haven't got in yours. We can go to Mecca and find the tomb of Mohammed, but when you go to Palestine you can't be sure that you've got the tomb of Jesus."

"Yes," said the Christian preacher, "you're right. We have no tomb in Christianity because we have no corpse." (20 Centuries of Great Preaching; Vol. 9; pg. 322)

"God, I tremble when I think of the terror of the cross, but I thank you that that terror turns to triumph on Easter morning. Dark Friday turns to Good Friday because of that bright Sunday morning! II

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will glory in the glory of Christianity–a blood-stained cross and an empty tomb!

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Acts 17:16-34

Christianity Begins Where Religion Ends!

Among the religions of the world, Christianity is unique because Christianity alone rests upon the foundation of the resurrection. In fact, as one great Christian once said, "Christianity begins where religion ends… with the resurrection." (Dr. W. A. Criswell)

Christianity is based on a miracle. One day during the French revolution, a man remarked to Talleyrand, who was Bishop of Autun: "The Christian religion–what is it? It would be easy to start a religion like that."

"0h, yes," replied Talleyrand. "One would only have to get crucified and rise again the third day." (Shoe-Leather Faith; No. 137; Merv Rosell)

It is important to understand that the entire superstructure of Christianity–faith, hope, justice, immortality, transformation–rests upon the foundation of the resurrection. We must in turn look at each one of these concepts which compose the superstructure of Christianity and realize that if the foundation of the resurrection is removed, the entire superstructure will crumble!

Christianity believes that the bodily resurrection of Christ is the foundation of faith. Wrote Paul to the Corinthians: "If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished." (1 Corinthians 15:13-18)

If Christ did not rise from the dead, then death had the 'final word,' and death proved to be stronger than life. To put faith in Christ would be to put faith in one who was defeated by death and thus one who had no power over death. If Christ did not overcome death, then He has no power to give man victory over death, regardless of how much faith man puts in Christ. Faith in Christ is only meaningful if Christ conquered death. Belief in the resurrection is the very foundation of faith.

"God, I see now that the value of my faith depends upon the object of my faith. The object of my faith is the resurrected Lord! Through faith in Christ, death becomes my slave! Death serves me because death gives me a grand entry into my heavenly home with Christ!"

AFFIRt4ATION FOR THE DAY: I shall place my faith in the one person who is totally trustworthy–Jesus, the resurrected Christ!

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Hebrews 6:16-20; Hebrews 12:28-29

"Hope Is A Thing With Feathers!"

Christianity believes that the bodily resurrection of Christ is the foundation of hope.

Emily Dickinson once wrote, "Hope is a thing with feathers." By this she meant that hope is both beautiful and fragile!

Hope is beautiful. It is the dash of flavor in the stuff of everyday life. Without hope a person soon becomes depressed and even physically ill. A man grows hopeless when he thinks that his actions make no difference in the outcome of his little life.

Hope is beautiful because it drives men to great exploits. But hope is also very fragile. Hope must be grounded in nothing less than a living God if hope is to survive in a world of despair. Even Christian believers are not immune to the threats of despair!

When one looks at the outward world, he is tempted to throwaway all hope! Modern-day conditions challenge one's hope. The acceleration of pornographic literature in the name of art, the liberalization of abortion laws, the secularization of American higher education, the growing disillusionment with the American political process and judicial system, the inflationary spending habits of Americans which is precipitated by exploitative advertising, and the increasing waves of political terrorism– all of these have combined to attack the very foundations of western civilization!

The 'Golden Calf' of science, before which many Americans have naively worshipped for decades, has failed to give soul security and lasting peace. Men's hearts fail them for fear of what is coming upon the world! World- wide starvation is increasingly becoming a fearful possibility. It is reported that serious devout occultism is stronger than ever before.

From some angles the picture is very dark. Is there any basis for hope? Wrote the Psalmist, "Blessed is he whose help's the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, the maker of heaven and earth." (Psalms 146:5-6 a NIV) Wrote Jeremiah, "But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit." (Jeremiah 17:7-8 NIV)

"God, I so often become shaky when circumstances around me become shaky. My little world within me becomes cloudy when the big world around me is filled with despairing clouds! Help me to rejoice in hope even when circumstances seem hopeless!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: There are no hopeless situations, only people who have grown hopeless about them!

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1 Peter 1:3-12

The Resurrection Gives History Its Meaning

The resurrection of Jesus is the foundation for all hope. Wrote the apostle Peter, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you." (1 Peter 1:3-4)

By rising from the dead, Christ showed that there is hope beyond the grave–in the future. Christ's resurrection was prerequisite to Christ's eternal reign. Evil will be destroyed and righteousness will triumph. The future belongs to those who believe in and appropriate the power of Christ's resurrection.

If Christ had not risen from the dead, then life and history would have no goal, meaning, or destiny. But the resurrection is proof that nothing– not even death–can destroy history's goal which is the ultimate triumph and reign of righteousness and peace by Christ. The death warrant for evil has been signed by the resurrection.

Remove the resurrection hope and all that is left is present despair and futility and future doom. It is the resurrection that gives history its meaning! Said H. G. Wells, famous historian, shortly before he died: A frightful queerness has come into life. Hitherto events have been held together by a certain logical consistency as the heavenly bodies have been held together by the golden cord of gravitation. Now it is as if that cord has vanished and everything is driven anyhow, anywhere, at a steadily increasing velocity. The writer is convinced that there is no way out or around, or through the impasse. It is the end."

Death, for the Christian, is not the end, but the beginning. The sunset of life introduces the dawn of eternity–eternity with Christ! The winter of death is passed and the resurrection of eternal spring for the sons of men has been ushered in by our all-powerful Lord. The future is bright for the believer of Christ. Said Jesus, "Because I live, you shall live also." Said Bishop Elmer Parsons: "The resurrected Christ will come again to write the final words of history and conclude the plan of God."

Facing the future without God is facing a very dark future. The resurrection of Jesus is the only foundation for a hopeful and bright future.

"Dear God, without the resurrection I am like a lost orphan whistling in the dark trying to ward off my fright. With the resurrection I am like a son stepping into the ever-brightening dawn of my heavenly homeland!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The blazing light of the resurrection dispels my darkness and makes my future bright and hopeful!

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1 Corinthians 15:35-58

Resurrection Of The Body

The resurrection is the basis for our hope of having a new body. The Bible teaches that, although the earthly body will decay and return to dust, the spirit of the person never dies. The personality of man will survive eternally. The Bible also teaches that the believer in Christ will receive a new body which is not subject to pain or death. Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live." (John 11:25)

Belief in the bodily resurrection of Jesus gives the foundation of hope in the subsequent resurrection of the body of true believers. "The resurrection of Jesus was bodily, and it is not to be confused with the widely- held doctrine of immortality of the soul. It is fashionable today in some scholarly circles to disassociate the resurrection from anything involving the body of Jesus. This is a misuse of terms, for the concept of resurrection implies body. In fact, it is redundant to say 'bodily resurrection.' That is like saying 'widow woman.' When one says 'resurrection,' he has already implied 'body.' The concept of an immortal soul, separate from the body, is a pagan idea, traceable back to pagan religions, centuries before Jesus. This is one fallacy refuted in John's Gospel." (Quote from Dr. Frank Stagg; Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary at Louisville, Kentucky.)

Wrote E. Stanley Jones only a few days before he died at the age of 89: "Sometimes I find myself musing in this way: Dear old body, for the past nine decades we've walked the dusty roads together, we've flown across continents, and you've been uncomplaining even when I've put impossible loads upon you. Thank you for your faithful service, and now you say you'll be faithful till death us do part. When that parting comes, I'll look back at you and salute you and thank you, and I'll say to you, 'When I get my immortal body, I hope there will be a lot of you there incorporated.' Thank you again, for everything." (The Divine Yes; pg. 149)

In his unique way, Jones continues, "I have often said that when the people stand around and say, 'Well, Brother Stanley is gone,' I want to be able to wink at them, and if I have enough strength I would like to laugh and say, 'Jesus is Lord.' Because this will not be death. It will be fuller life. I say this as a half joke, but I believe it will turn out to be reality. Because any person who is in Jesus is deathless, for he is under the principle and power of resurrection." (Ibid; pg. 150)

"God, I have deep-seated urges–the urge for permanence, the urge for transcendence, the urge for personal identity. I believe the resurrected Lord can fulfill these God-created urges!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Because of the resurrection of Jesus, I have the capacity to live forever with my Lord, and be personally known and identifiable to all!

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121


Revelations 21:1-5

"Come On Up, Edna!"

Because of the resurrection of Jesus, we have hope of seeing our loved ones who have died in the Lord. Paul wrote to encourage those who were bereaved of loved ones: "Now we don't want you, my brothers to be in any doubt about those who have 'fallen asleep' in death, or to grieve over them like men who have no hope. After all, if we believe that Jesus died and rose again from death, then we can believe that God will just as surely bring with Jesus all who are 'asleep' in him. Here we have a definite message from the Lord. It is that those who are still living when he comes will not in any way precede those who have previously fallen asleep. One word of command, one shout from the archangel, one blast from the trumpet of God and the Lord himself will come down from Heaven! Those who have died in Christ will be the first to rise, and then we who are still living on the earth will be swept up with them into the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And after that we shall be with him for ever. So by all means use this message to encourage one another. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

This scripture gives great comfort during times of great sorrow. One person in my childhood who greatly influenced me to be a Christian was my great aunt (my grandmother's sister). She was a cripple all of her life, but she lived to be an old person. Only hours after she was born, she was stricken with polio and therefore she never knew what it was to walk without leg braces. She never married and was dependent upon other family members, including my grandmother, to care for her. She was one of the kindest Christians I ever knew. She gave me my first Bible in which she wrote, "My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him." (Psalms 62:5) My 'Aunt Mary' was no stranger to pain and disappointment, as she hobbled along in life. But she was always sweet in her spirit and faithful to her Lord. My grandmother, who was caring for her at the time, wept when 'Aunt Mary' died. The sorrow she felt in her loneliness was great, and comfort in her loss was hard to find. One night God gave my grandmother a vision of 'Aunt Mary.' 'Aunt Mary' was dressed in garments of pure white, her face radiant with the countenance of heavenly strength and health. My grandmother knew that 'Aunt Mary' was with Jesus. Suspended in mid-air, looking upwards toward heaven, 'Aunt Mary' seemed to be saying to my grandmother, 'Come on up, Edna.'

"The pain of separation from loved ones is more than I can bear! Will I see and know them again? Yes! Because of the resurrection, I shall be with thee, O Christ, and with them! Glory!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The resurrection is my upward call from God to a new life and to a new body!

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122


1 Corinthians 15:35-49; 2 Corinthians 5:1-5

The Resurrection Hope

What about our loved ones who have already died? Where are they right now? Is there any evidence that they are with Christ?

A few years ago, my wife's mother had a most wonderful experience. The following is the account of that experience: "I find it difficult to share publicly a precious experience that God gave to me quite a few years ago. I had lost my father, and my mother lived alone for a few years. Her health was not good and she finally consented to surgery. We had brought her home from the hospital and I was staying with her.

"One night I had checked many times to see if she was resting. I had gone to sleep, but suddenly was wide awake. I got out of bed thinking I had heard mother. I went to the door and I saw my father standing, looking in on mother. I said, 'Don't waken her dad, she has been so sick.' He turned his head and looked at me. He said so quietly, 'I'm not going to waken her. I just wanted to see that she is alright. I want to go back. I He turned and without seeming to walk, he was across the living room and through the windows. I watched him cross the yard and, although it was very dark, I saw him as he crossed the small pasture.

"I was not frightened, but was filled with a beautiful peace. I don't mourn for my dad, though I still miss his gentleness and concern. I am sure that at the resurrection we will have bodies we will recognize."

"'If a man keep my saying he shall never see death' (John 8:51); 'Whosoever liveth and believeth on me shall never die' (John 11:26). It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the meaning that Christ intended to convey was that death was a completely negligible experience to the man who had al ready begun to live life of the eternal quality… Once it dawns upon us that God (incredible as it may well sound) has actually identified Himself with man, that He has taken the initiative in effecting the necessary reconciliation of man with Himself, and has shown the way by which little human personalities can begin to embark on that immense adventure of living of which God is the center, death–the discarding of a temporary machine adapted only for a temporary stage–may begin to seem negligible." (The Newborn Christian; J. B. Phillips; pg. 212-213)

Wrote Paul, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." (Philippians 1:21 NIV) "For we know that when this tent we live in now is taken down–when we die and leave these bodies–we will have wonderful new bodies in heaven, homes that will be ours forevermore, made for us by God himself, and not by human hands." (2 Corinthians 5:1 Living Bible)

"O Christ, because you live, I too shall live forever. Sometimes my earthly body makes me groan and sigh, reminding me that this present body is but a temporary dwelling place for my eternal spirit which shall someday take its flight to You. Earth's pains shall give way to heaven's pleasures, and death shall be swallowed up by everlasting life! Glory!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Death for me shall be a joyful departure, not a tragic disaster, for I have a grip on the timeless life of God!

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123


2 Corinthians 5:6-10

"How Long Shall The Wicked Triumph?"

We have noted thus far that the resurrection of Jesus is the foundation for faith and hope. Christianity also believes that the resurrection of Christ is the foundation of justice.

Oftentimes in this present life, wrong goes unpunished and right goes unrewarded. In this life it sometimes seems that the balance is tipped in favor of the wrong. One is tempted to ask with the Psalmist, "How long shall the wicked triumph?" (Psalms 94:3) When Jesus was crucified, it seemed that evil was triumphant and justice was mocked, but God's resurrection of Jesus vindicated God's righteousness and justice. Christians believe that the resurrection is proof that ultimately righteousness will be rewarded and evil will be punished. Christ is the first fruits of those who will rise from the dead. The righteous, like Christ, will be raised to the resurrection of life and then the righteous of all ages will be vindicated, and impartial justice will be rendered.

In this life it sometimes seems that the balance is tipped in favor of the wrong, but in eternity each man will receive his just due. Lenin wrote: "Every religious idea, every idea of God, even flirting with the idea of God, is unutterable vileness of the most dangerous kind, contagion of the most abominable kind. Millions of sins, filthy deeds, acts of violence and physical contagion are far less dangerous than the subtle, spiritual idea of a God." Lenin's disregard for God and religion has perpetuated brutality and unrestrained evil in the Communist system. It is said that if Joseph Stalin, a leader of the Communist Revolution, had done nothing else all his life but to write the names of his innocent victims, his life would not have been long enough to finish the job! Hitler killed six million Jews, but Communism has killed thirty million Russians and millions of Chinese and others, including many Jews!

The resurrection of Jesus guarantees a future resurrection of all men– the righteous to a resurrection of life, and the wicked to a resurrection of damnation! "God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed." (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10 NIV)

"Thou great accountant of the universe, I know you will someday "balance the books.' Unrestrained evil will be punished, and unrewarded good will be rewarded. I commit the cause of justice into the hands of a just God!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Because this is a moral universe, I will act justly and righteously!

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124


Acts 2:22-38

Resurrection – Last Word In Human Affairs!

The resurrection of Jesus answers some of our most troublesome questions regarding the seeming triumph of evil and injustice. In his book, the last one he wrote during his long life, E. Stanley Jones dealt effectively with the problem of injustice.

"First, how far can force go in a world of this kind? As long as people believe that the last word in human affairs goes to force, force can go a long way. It can do that today and tomorrow, but the third day, no! For goodness arises from the dead and goodness is the last word. The guards were like dead men, and Jesus was alive. Force can go a long way, but it can only go two days. The third day God raised him from the dead. He himself is the answer, and illustrates that answer in his own body.

"Second, how far can lies go? Lies can put the purest and gentlest and most truthful person on the cross today and tomorrow, but the third day, no! The universe is not built for the success of a lie… Life cannot stand upon the insecurity of a lie. A lie has nothing behind it except itself. The universe makes a lie break itself upon the universe. The universe is not broken for it is established on God's truth. So how far can lies go! A long way. They twisted his words and made them into lies. He was crucified on lies. So lies can go the first day and the second day, but the third day, no! How many lies did it take to try to break the truth of the Gospel? They gave some persons money in those days to say that the disciples had stolen the body of Jesus. Jesus raised the question on the cross and answered it in the resurrection. How much money do you think it will take to stop the Christian Gospel now?

"Third, how far can evil go in a world of this kind? Does the moral universe bend to evil? The answer is No! Today, tomorrow, but the third day, no! The third day, evil breaks itself upon the facts of life. The word EVIL in English is the word LIVE spelled backward. In other words, the universe is not built to accept evil. Only truth has the moral universe behind it. There is nothing behind evil except evil. Today and tomorrow evil may be strong, but the third day evil breaks itself upon the nature of reality. For the Christian Gospel and reality are one–in fullest accord. The sum total of real character becomes a question mark today, tomorrow, but the third day it becomes an exclamation point. Jesus is alive! He is risen!" (The Divine Yes; pg. 105-107)

"God, there is no power on earth or in hell that can thwart your purposes! 'Though wrong seems oft so strong, God is Ruler yet!'

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The power that raised Jesus from the dead is the same power available to overcome evil now!

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125


1 Corinthians 2:9; Hebrews 11:10, Hebrews 11:13-16

Fulfilled Aspirations Beyond The Scope Of Time

The resurrection of Jesus is the foundation for all of life. The foundation for faith, hope, and justice. Also, as we will see today, the foundation for fulfilled aspirations.

There is within the breast of every man a longing for immortality. Man is born with a thirst for infinity. Man is overbuilt for this world, and his aspirations call for a fulfillment that is beyond the scope of time.

The very existence of aspirations is a clue that man is not merely a product of nature, but that he is a spiritual creature whose true greatness is found in a supernatural. Says Harold Sloan, "In nature, then, man aspires, but he merely aspires and dies. The universe provides no fulfillment for his outreachings. Two courses only are open to him. He can surrender to disillusionment, despair, and cynicism, or he can turn from the natural to the supernatural, discovering the answer to his need in forces which transcend nature… Shall man, then, whose faculties lift him so high above the beast, deny the actuality of everything those higher faculties need for fulfillment, and shut himself up to the universe of the beasts?… Man's aspirations belong to his inner world; and it is this inner world which he knows most immediately, and therefore best." (He Is Risen; pg. 22, 27)

If man's aspirations are so real to him and these aspirations cannot possibly be fulfilled within the short span of a lifetime, then the very presence of the growing aspirations points to a fulfillment beyond the confines of time, a fulfillment that reaches into eternity. But if aspirations are to be fulfilled in eternity, there must be a life hereafter. But there can be no life hereafter if Christ did not rise from the dead. Therefore, Christ's resurrection is necessary as the foundation for the fulfillment of man's deepest aspirations.

Man spends his entire lifetime, striving to grow, working to create, laboring to accumulate wisdom and knowledge. And then man dies! A thousand unfulfilled dreams! Does death end it all? Is there no future opportunity for man's deepest longings to be fulfilled? Without the resurrection of Jesus, there is no resurrection for man, and without a resurrection for man, there is no opportunity for life's deepest aspirations to find fulfillment! The satisfaction of man's deepest aspirations in the supernatural, immortal realm is only made possible because of Christ's resurrection.

"Loving Creator, thank you for life's clues to spiritual reality. The lungs are made for air, the stomach for food, the eyes for beauty, the ears for music. Are not the deepest aspirations of my spirit created by God to be fulfilled by God in eternity?"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Because Christ lives, my aspirations will not die!

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126


Romans 1:16; Ephesians 1:15-23

An Ugly Worm Can Become A Beautiful Butterfly!

It is the fundamental belief of Christians that, without the resurrection, one's faith in Christ is an illusion, one's hope is useless, life's injustices are permanent, man's deepest aspirations remain unfulfilled, and man's transformation is impossible. It is this last point that we must look at today.

Christianity believes that the resurrection is the foundation of personal transformation. Christians point to the many New Testament passages which state that the power that raised Christ from the dead is the same power that is available to transform lives and to change society. Wherever resurrection power has touched individuals or society, things have drastically changed!

Do you ever long to be different, to be self-controlled, serene, loving, contributive, winsome, faithful, confident? Do you ever wish that you could start life allover again? Do you ever wish that your secret past would no longer haunt you? Have you ever wished that your guilt could be resolved and that your future could be bright with hope and cheer?

The Bible says that your past guilt can be removed and that you can be totally forgiven. Under the power of the resurrected Christ, your human nature can change! Everything can become new! An ugly worm can become a beautiful butterfly, and a dried up root can bloom into a sweet-smelling flower. A bad man can become a good man! "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV)

The great writer, Alexander Pope, muttered: "O Lord, make me a better man," and his spiritually enlightened page replied: "It would be easier to make you a new man." Perhaps you, like Pope, have longed for sweet peace. Then no longer simply try to patch up your life, but let the great and powerful Lord–the resurrected Christ–come into your inner life to remake you, to convert you, to transform you within. Remember, reformation is a human attempt at change; transformation is a God-wrought change. The power that raised Christ from the dead is the same power that is available to transform your life! You don't have to remain the kind of person that you are. Your conscious and subconscious mind alike can be converted. You can start anew!

One girl who accepted Jesus as her Saviour was so changed that someone told her that she appeared to have 'swallowed sunshine.'

"An alcoholic came to a place of prayer and said, 'O Jesus, if you are going to save me, why don't you do it?' Then he opened his eyes and claimed, 'Boys, he has done it.'" (The Divine Yes; E. S. Jones; pg. 92)

"O Thou Christ, who defied the power of death and left the tomb empty, let that same power that accomplished the humanly impossible be exercised in my life to change me into a new person."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I choose, not to become a better person, but a new person, through the transforming power of the resurrected Christ!

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127


Acts 2:22-33

The Resurrection Vindicated God's Righteousness

During the last several days, we have looked at the foundation of Christianity–the resurrection of Jesus. We have seen that the resurrection is the foundation upon which the entire superstructure of Christianity is built. The resurrection is the foundation for faith, hope, justice, fulfilled aspirations, and transformation of human nature. Because of its central place in Christianity, we must continue to look at the resurrection, seeking to further understand its meaning and significance.

If Jesus would not have been raised from the dead, certain conclusions would have to be drawn: (1) Jesus was a mere man, even though a great man; (2) Death is more powerful than life; (3) God is not just and loving.

"Long ago some one read the story of the death of Jesus to King Clovis, who was a barbarian, not a Christian; and suddenly, as the story went on, his hand reached for his sword, and drew it, and 'Oh,' he cried, 'if only I had been there with my Franks! Weld have charged up the slopes of Calvary, and smashed those Romans, and saved Him!' But if God, watching Calvary, did nothing–left it at that, and knew this was the end of Christ for ever? Then we are back where Huxley was. 'I cannot see,' he said, lone shadow or tittle of evidence that God is love.'" (The Gates of New Life; Stewart; pg. 163)

For God to have allowed Jesus to remain in the tomb, would have been a sign that Jesus was not God, that Jesus was not righteous, that death was stronger than life, that evil was stronger than righteousness!

During Jesus' lifetime, God declared Jesus as righteous, but such a claim would be invalidated if Jesus would have remained sealed in a tomb. The resurrection of Jesus is an absolute necessity if God's claim to Jesus' righteousness is to be validated. God had to raise His Son to life to show that the sinless Son of God could not be overcome by the sinful sons of the devil! If the evil plots of men are to be revealed for what they are, and if the righteousness of Jesus is to be vindicated, then Jesus must rise from the dead! Evil must be cut down, if not on the first day or on the second day, then always on the third day!

Also, the resurrection proves God's trustworthiness. For generations, God promised to establish His Messianic kingdom. The death and resurrection were the fulfillments of that promise. God is never slack in fulfilling His promises (2 Peter 3:9).

"God, you so loved your world that you gave your Son to die for the sake of sinners. God, you so loved your Son that you raised Him from death for the sake of justice! Such love and such justice!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The resurrection is the badge of Christ's authority to establish his long-predicted Messianic kingdom in the hearts and lives of people–people like me!

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128


Colossians 2:9-15

The Resurrection Demonstrated God's Power

"The clash you see at Calvary was not only between Jesus and His enemies: it was between God and the devil–the two great world powers grappling there, locked in wrestler's grip. And if the cross finished things, then down in the underworld that night there must have run a savage cry, 'We win! We win! God is blotted out.' Power? says Paul. If Christ be not raised, don't tell me God is power." (The Gates of New Life; Stewart; pg. 163)

"The triumph of the resurrection was conclusive evidence of the vast spiritual power exerted through Christ against those enemies of man which had never previously been defeated–sin and death… God, by spiritual power, raised his Son from the dead. The physical force which moved the stone from the tomb and reduced the tough Roman soldiers to terror was only a trifle, a mere straw in the wind which in its holy blast destroyed the power of sin and death. Can you hear the ring of holy joy behind these exultant words of Paul: 'And then, having drawn the sting of all the powers ranged against us, he exposed them, shattered, empty and defeated, in his final glorious triumphant act.'" (Good News; J. B. Phillips; pg. 200-201 )

What Satan thought was his greatest triumph became in reality his greatest tragedy! Satan claimed victory when he saw Jesus hang His head in death on the cross. Satan was crushed three days later when he looked into an empty tomb and knew that Jesus was to ascend to the right hand of His Father's kingly throne! The demons' cries of triumph on Calvary's Friday suddenly turned into cries of terror on Easter morning! Christ disarmed the power of Satan!

"Death cannot keep his prey, 
Jesus, my Saviour! 
He tore the bars away, 
Jesus, my Lord!

Up from the grave he arose, 
With a mighty triumph o'er his foes; 
He arose a victor from the dark domain, 
And He lives forever with his saints to reign; 
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!

The greatest weapon of Satan has always been death. When Christ arose from the dead, Jesus captured Satan's chief weapon!

"'Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?' The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Corinthians 15:55-56 NIV)

"Mighty God, I see that I do not fight for a victory; I fight from a victory! The victory over Satan has already been won–on Easter morning! Help me to claim that historic victory as my personal victory!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: When I place my faith in Jesus, I am placing my faith in one who has conquered my greatest enemy–Death!

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129


Revelations 20:1-10

The Resurrection Sealed Satan's Doom!

War took place in heaven! The most beautiful and powerful angel of heaven, who was himself a created being, became drunken with pride and decided to replace God on His throne! The origin of sin is found in this treasonous act when God's chief angel sought to exalt himself above his created position.

Satan was cast out of heaven, only to cause problems on earth. Satan instigated man's fall into sin. Satan became known as the 'prince of this world' for he usurped God's rightful place of authority.

Considering the power of Satan and the sway of evil, can we truthfully say that Jesus is Lord of history? Considering Satan's cruel power, and considering Jesus' humble earthly life, how can one say that Jesus is the conquering king and Satan is the defeated foe?

The resurrection is the basis for such a positive declaration! By His death and resurrection, Jesus has destroyed him who holds the power of death–that is, the devil–and Jesus frees those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15).

What an irony! Through Jesus' death, death for mankind is destroyed! What Satan thought was his greatest victory, became instead his greatest defeat!

Why did Jesus' death destroy death? Because Jesus' death was followed by His resurrection! The death and resurrection of Jesus are two parts of one whole. The death of Jesus must always be interpreted in light of the resurrection of Jesus. The greatest tragedy of history–the death of Jesus–turned out to be the greatest triumph of history because of the resurrection!

The resurrection is what makes Jesus the conquering king and Satan the defeated foe! "Christians, though living in a world still under the prince of darkness, give daily testimony that the prince of darkness has already been judged and the lordship of Jesus is already affirmed. We await the coronation." (Belonging; Adventures in Church Membership; Donald Bastian; pg. 45)

The prince of this world, Satan, has been judged. Satan's head has been crushed (Genesis 3:15). His sentence of death has been pronounced. The broken seal on Jesus' tomb becomes Satan's seal of death! God has already appointed his day of execution: "And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever." (Revelations 20:10) While he awaits his final day of execution, Satan is taking out his bitterness upon mankind. However, Satan's total destruction is certain! Jesus guaranteed final victory for His Church when He arose victoriously from the dead. Said the victorious Christ: "I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it!" (Matthew 16:18)

"Victorious Christ, the judgment of the enemy guarantees the execution of the enemy! The crushing of the serpent's head guarantees the total destruction of the serpent! Satan shall no longer be 'on the loose.' Glory!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The bitterness of the battle against evil can be endured when I am assured of the victorious outcome of the battle!

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130


Philippians 1:19-26; Philippians 3:12-14

"Why Was I So Afraid Of This Thing Called Death?"

Is there any hope for life after death? Without Jesus' resurrection there would be no hope for the future, after physical death. Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live." (John 11:25) Belief in the resurrection of Jesus gives the foundation of hope in the subsequent resurrection of the body of true believers.

To help you anticipate your future resurrection life, think of life's stages. "The unborn child is up under his mother's heart, well taken care of, well fed, and happy. He likes it there. Suppose then, that someone could come to the baby and tell him, 'You're going to be born. You're not going to stay here.' And he would learn that by being born, he would leave this warm secure place. That would not be being born to him, that would be dying for him. Dying is an end. And the baby would say, 'I don't want to be born. I don't want to die. I like it here. I'm warm. I feel love all around me. I'm happy and content. Just leave me alone. I don't want to leave this nice place.'

"But there comes a day when he is born. Or, looking at it from his angle, when he dies out of that place, and is born into our world.

"What happens to him? He feels soft, tender, loving hands gently holding him. He looks up into a wondrous face, that is full of love, and it is shining down at him. Then as he grows, he has the glorious experiences of childhood, and young manhood, and the future is before him. He feels strong and it is good to be alive. He marries and raises children. He becomes middle aged. He is creative and happy, and life is good. The world is good. And the years begin to add up. His hair becomes white, and his form a bit feeble. He knows he has to die, to leave all this and go into another place. But he protests: 'I don't want to die. I like it here. I love to feel the warmth of the sun on my face, the softness of the rain, the sting of snow. I love to see great mountains, shouldering out the sky. I love to watch the ocean washing upon soft shores of sand. I love to be with my family, and my friends. Life is good; I don't want to leave here.'

"But one day he does die, to this world.

"Do you mean to tell me that all of a sudden God changes? Isn't it reasonable to believe that the first thing he will feel is the touch of great loving hands; that he will look up into a face that is infinitely loving? He will look around him, and his breath will be taken away by the beauties that he sees. All tears will be wiped from his eyes. And he will say, 'Why was I so afraid of this thing called death, when as I now see, it is life!'

"And the Christian will live forever!" (quoted by Robert Andrews on the 'Light and Life Hour'; April 22, 1973)

"God, if on earth I see your smiling face in the beautiful sunset, and feel your love in the cool breeze of the early morning, what will your presence be like in heaven!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." (Philippians 1:21 NIV)

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131


1 Corinthians 15:16-22

"I Was Talking With Him This Morning!"

Provision has been made for your forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life! What is the basis for that provision? Jesus' death for your sins and His demonstration of power over sin, death, and hell as shown in the powerful resurrection! "If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins." (1 Corinthians 15:17 NIV) You need forgiveness, but without Jesus' resurrection, there is no forgiveness of sin! "If the cross was the end, Christ's brave pathetic attempt to be a Saviour failed. Because the sins of men that slew Him had the last word." (The Gates of New Life; James Stewart; pg. 165)

But forgiveness is provided because of the empty tomb!

You cannot live abundantly without forgiveness! "There is a dreadful passage in Carlyle where he imagines a man trying to run away from his own shadow; and ever and again he turns round, and it is still there, that black thing, dogging him; on and on, flinging himself wildly away from it– and round again, and it is still there; and he is panting now, and dead-beat: 'God, God, I can't get away from it!' That is sin–if there is no forgiveness." (Ibid; 155)

Because Christ died and arose from the dead, He has power on earth to forgive sins! Hallelujah!

The Christ who arose from the dead is the Christ who seeks to indwell the heart of every man. The incredible power that raised Christ from the dead is the same incredible power that is available to convert, cleanse, comfort, and challenge modern-day man. "I pray that you will begin to understand how incredibly great his power is to help those who believe him. It is that same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him the in the place of honor at God's right hand in heaven." (Ephesians 1:19-20)

The phrase 'in Christ' is used frequently in the New Testament. As birds are 'in' the air constantly, and as fish are 'in' the water because that is their natural habitat, so Christians are to be 'in' Christ constantly–drawing constantly upon His presence and power. The resurrection makes possible the living presence of Christ. "Two young men were discussing the account of the resurrection of Jesus. They agreed that such a thing was impossible. Seeing an old Christian gentleman approaching, one of them accosted him with, 'Tell us, why are you so sure that Jesus rose from the dead?' Said the old gentleman, 'Well, for one thing, I was talking with Him this morning.'" (Shoe-Leather Faith; No. 133; Merv Rosell)

"God, to me the most beautiful word in all human languages is 'forgiveness,' but all talk of forgiveness is an illusion without the resurrection of your Son. Because He vanquished death, my sin is vanquished! Glory!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I am a great sinner in need of a great Saviour– Jesus!

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Discussion Questions On 'The Victory Of A Conquering God' (Part I)

  1. If the foundation of Christianity is not an ethical creed or the memory of a religious reformer, what is the foundation of Christianity?

  2. Describe what is meant by the statement: "The entire superstructure of Christianity rests upon the foundation of the resurrection."

  3. Why is the bodily resurrection of Jesus the foundation of faith? (Note 1 Corinthians 15:13-18.)

  4. In a world of despair and disillusionment, what is the Christian's basis for hope? (Note 1 Peter 1:3-4.)

  5. Describe what is meant by the statement: "The future belongs to those who believe in and appropriate the power of Christ's resurrection."

  6. Why can it be said that the bodily resurrection of Jesus gives history its meaning?

  7. Describe what is meant by the statement: "The resurrection of Jesus is the basis for our hope of having a new body." What scriptural support can you cite as evidence that there will be a future bodily resurrection for believers?

  8. Can you share any personal experience (i.e., your vision or the vision of one of your friends) which gives further support for your belief in a future glorious life with Christ?

  9. What attitude should a sincere Christian have regarding physical death?

  10. Why is the resurrection of Jesus the foundation for all justice?

  11. In what ways does the resurrection of Jesus answer some of our most troublesome questions regarding the seeming triumph of evil and injustice?

  12. Why is Christ's resurrection necessary as the foundation for the fulfillment of man's deepest aspirations?

  13. What is the basis for personal human transformation?

  14. What is the difference between a person becoming a new person and a person becoming a better person? (Define the difference between transformation and reformation.)

  15. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: "For God to have allowed Jesus to remain in the tomb, would have been a sign that Jesus was not God, that Jesus was not righteous, that death was stronger than life, that evil was stronger than righteousness!"

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    Discussion Questions On 'The Victory Of A Conquering God' (Part I) – Cont.

  16. Concerning your own personal confrontation with evil and injustice, describe what comfort you can receive from the following statement: "Evil must be cut down, if not on the first day or on the second day, then always on the third day!"

  17. Describe what is meant by the following statement: "The resurrection of Jesus is the badge of Christ's authority to establish His long- predicted Messianic kingdom in the hearts and lives of people."

  18. Describe what is meant by the following statement: "What Satan thought was his greatest triumph became in reality his greatest tragedy!"

  19. Do you, as a believer, fight FOR a victory or do you fight FROM a victory? Explain your answer.

  20. Considering Satan's cruel power, and considering Jesus' humble earthly life, how can one say that Jesus is the conquering king and Satan is the defeated foe?

  21. Describe what is meant by the statement: "Jesus' death destroyed death!" (Note Hebrews 2:14-15.)

  22. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: "The incredible power that raised Christ from the dead is the same incredible power that is available to convert, cleanse, comfort, and challenge modern- day man." (Have you personally appropriated that power in your life? Are you coming to know Christ personally?)

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The Victory Of a Conquering God (Part 2)

The Victory Of A Conquering God (2)

Chapter Eleven

The Victory Of A Conquering God (2) (The Resurrection Historically and Philosophically Considered)
Who Moved The Stone? 135 A Purposive Universe 140
Foolish Theories To Explain Away The Resurrection 136 Resurrection – A Divine Action Consistent With Divine Purpose! 141
Was Jesus' Body Stolen? 137 Resurrection – Puzzling Or Purposeful? 142
Hysterical Visions Or Historic Facts? 138 Discussion Questions 143
Is The Resurrection Philosophically Feasible? 139 Discussion Questions (Continued) 144

Mark 16:1-4

Who Moved The Stone?

We are looking at the meaning of Christ's resurrection. Great things were accomplished when Christ arose from the dead. The resurrection vindicated God's righteousness, proved God's promises, demonstrated God's power, sealed Satan's doom, provided man's salvation, and guaranteed man's future resurrection life!

Do you possess and enjoy the hope which the resurrection has brought into our despairing world? That hope has been given to our world through the sacrificial death and glorious resurrection of Jesus. However, that hope only becomes yours personally and experientially as you take the living Christ into your life as Saviour and Lord. You must abandon all hope for salvation, aside from Jesus Christ. You can't save yourself. Only the resurrected Christ can save you. Turn your life over to the One who has conquered your enemy–death. Confess your sins today and let the power that raised Christ from the dead touch and transform your life.

He can deliver you from the bondage of fear and death, and give you new life. He can write your name in the 'Book of Life' (Revelations 20:15). You can live an abundant life on earth and enjoy eternal life with Christ someday in heaven. Turn your life over to Christ. Remember, the object of your faith determines the value of your faith. Put your faith in the resurrected Christ and you will live forever!

There are three ways to look at the resurrection of Jesus–devotionally, historically, and philosophically. Each way is important for a complete understanding of the resurrection. Some there are, honest people, who would like to enjoy the affirmations regarding the resurrection, devotionally, but who question the resurrection's historical authenticity and philosophical feasibility. It is to these honest people, who entertain honest doubts, that we must now speak.

If Christianity is founded on belief in the resurrection of Christ, what evidence is there that the resurrection is a historical fact?

The scriptures say that certain women found the tomb empty on Easter Day. The question that must be answered is, "Who moved the stone and what happened to the body of Jesus?"

Several theories have been given in an attempt to explain the empty tomb–explanations other than the traditional Christian explanation. We must give an honest answer to those who would ask us for a reason for the hope that we have within us. To do this we must briefly examine the theories which have been advanced to explain away the resurrection of Jesus.

"My heart cannot rejoice in what my mind rejects. My faith must be based on facts, not illusions! Thank you, God, that You are open to honest inquiry!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Honest doubt is the shadow side of honest belief. If I ask honest questions, I will find truthful answers!

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Luke 24:1-12

Foolish Theories To Explain Away The Resurrection

To confront doubts regarding the historical reliability of the resurrection, we must examine the theories which have been advanced to explain away the bodily resurrection of Jesus.

To explain away the resurrection, some say that the women went to the wrong sepulcher. It is said by some that the women went to the wrong sepulcher because it was dark and they were greatly grief-stricken. There are two main weaknesses in this theory: (1) It was not completely dark. Luke says that it was 'at early dawn' (Luke 24:1), and Mark says that 'the sun had risen' (Mark 16:2). (2) These women were no fools. Two of the women who went to the sepulcher in the early morning had previously watched the whole process of burying. There were at least five women who visited the tomb, and therefore if one started on the wrong path, she would be corrected by another. It is not likely that all would go to the wrong sepulcher. Mary Magdalene returned later in the full light of the day, and if she would have gone to the wrong place the first time, it is not likely that she would have made the same mistake the second time. When these women came in the early morning, they came with a business like concern to anoint the body and they were determined to complete their tasks. If they had gone to the wrong place the first time, they would not have given up until they had found the right tomb.

There is another theory. It is called the Swoon Theory. Some say Jesus did not die on the cross, but that he only fainted. He revived in the tomb, left it, and then showed Himself to His disciples, and convinced them that He was the glorious Lord! It is almost impossible to conceive that people could take this theory seriously. (1) Only after Pilate was thoroughly convinced by the centurion that Jesus was dead, did he give Joseph permission to remove the body. The centurion probably was present when "one of the soldiers pierced his (Jesus') side with a spear, and at once there came out blood." (John 19:34) (2) It is inconceivable to believe that if Jesus fainted, he would be able to survive for thirty-six hours in a stone sepulcher without warmth or food, after He had experienced the pains of trial, mockery, flogging, and crucifixion. How could a weakling whose body was racked by pain, be able to move a large boulder, and that without disturbing the Roman guard? (3) How could a weak and sickly person give the disciples the notion that He was glorious in appearance and victorious over death? Would he not rather have a ghastly, deathly appearance, after going through such an ordeal? What happened to Jesus after the forty days? Could He have died without anyone knowing about it?

"God, I am so grateful that I do not have to commit intellectual suicide to become a Christian! My 'leap of faith' is not a blind leap! Christianity's faith is based on history's facts! Wonderfu1!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: An unexamined faith is a faith not worth having! My search for truths will lead me to surrender to the truth!

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Matthew 27:62-66

Was Jesus' Body Stolen?

Another theory says that thieves stole the body of Jesus. There is no evidence for this. How could thieves have escaped the attention of the guards to move the stone? Why would thieves have wanted the body in the first place, and why would they leave the clothes undisturbed?

Some say that Jesus' disciples removed the body of Jesus. It is argued by some that Jesus' disciples took the body while the guards slept. There are certain real difficulties to this theory also. (1) The soldiers were especially chosen to guard the tomb in order that the disciples might not steal the body and then claim that he arose from the dead. It is highly unlikely that all of the guards would have slept when they had a special assignment. How would guileless and defenseless women get past the guard to roll away the heavy stone? (2) The disciples' main emphasis in their preaching was the resurrection, and they were willing even to suffer for preaching it. Psychologically it is almost unthinkable that a group of men would suffer for a cause that they well knew was not genuine. The disciples were so convinced of the reality of the resurrection that they were willing joyfully to lay down their lives in martyrdom!

Others advance the theory that Roman or Jewish authorities took the body. Some argue that to avoid the trickery of the disciples or of others, the authorities took Jesus' body into safe custody. This theory has one main weakness which makes it completely invalid. The preaching of the resurrection by the disciples caused great disturbance, both to the Jews and Romans. As John Stott says, "The Jews feared conversions; the Romans riots." To avoid the disturbance which the preaching of the resurrection brought to both the Jewish authorities and Roman authorities, the body of Jesus could have been produced, if it had been taken by the authorities. The authorities never attempted to produce the body of Christ. If they could have produced it, Christianity would have been destroyed before it even got a good start.

These are the theories presented to explain away the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. They are harder to believe than the supernatural explanation of the Bible!

The resurrection is positively proven in the two following ways: (1) The Lord was bodily seen alive after the crucifixion; (2) The lives of the disciples were radically changed. The tomb was not only empty, but many actually saw the Lord after the crucifixion and their lives, as a result of seeing the living Christ, were wonderfully changed! "For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)

"God, you honor the honest doubter and condemn the dishonest doubter! My honest doubts are fading in the light of historical truth! Thank you for honest evidence–evidence that demands a moral verdict!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Because the body of Christ could not be produced, the body of the Church cannot be destroyed!

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Acts 26:1-23

Hysterical Visions Or Historic Facts?

Paul lists those who saw Christ alive after the crucifixion: "For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me." (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)

J. B. Phillips, well known New Testament translator, writes concerning the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians: "Then I came to the fifteenth chapter, which I have come to regard in some ways as the the most important chapter in the New Testament. Certainly it is the earliest evidence for the resurrection of Christ. We need to remind ourselves that so far there were no written gospels, and that these words were written some twenty years after the crucifixion of Jesus. There would still be many alive who knew and remembered him, and Paul lists some of those who saw Christ alive after his very public death. I was struck again by the 'over five hundred Christians' who saw Jesus simultaneously, 'of whom,' Paul comments, 'the majority are still alive.' The evidence for the resurrection does not rest on hysterical visions in the half-light of early dawn but on actual 'appearances,' the last of which seems to have happened to Paul. I noticed the flat, matter-of-fact recital of known events. There is no attempt to persuade or prove, and certainly there is no artistic embellishment. Paul is, in effect, saying: these are the historic facts which we know." (Ring of Truth; pg. 32)

Some explanation must be given for the dramatic changes in the disciples' lives and many other Jews in Jerusalem. The same Peter who denied his Lord, is soon found fearlessly preaching in Jerusalem. Hundreds of Jews were converted within Jerusalem, despite the threat of the angry Jewish leaders. The message of the apostles was discussed and critically examined, and proved to be valid and persuasive.

Not only was Peter persuaded of the validity of the resurrection and even risked his life to preach it, but James, the brother of the Lord, became a strong leader among the believers in Jerusalem. James had previously opposed Christ and showed no tendencies to follow the teachings of his older brother. What factor so radically changed his life? What caused him to be willing to suffer martyrdom for the new movement? Nothing less than the fact of the resurrection! What turned Saul the persecutor into Paul the apostle? The resurrection!

"God, what power can make the fearful into the fearless, the doubter into the believer, the impotent into the powerful, the whiner into the winner, the spineless into the courageous? The world has been shaped and shocked since Jesus came! Why? Because of resurrection power? I believe so!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Nothing less than resurrection power can change a Saul into a Paul, a bad man into a good man!

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Acts 3:6-16

Is The Resurrection Philosophically Feasible?

We noted yesterday that the fact of the resurrection turned sinners into saints and persecutors of the faith into proclaimers of the faith! The disciples were so convinced that the resurrection was a fact, that their cowardice and disbelief were changed to an invincible faith. They could not doubt the validity of the resurrection after they had seen the Lord with their own eyes!

The very existence of the Christian Church for nineteen centuries, through periods of bitter persecution, is further evidence that a supernatural power was released into the world–a power that Christians call 'resurrection power' which enabled the Church 'to stand the test of time.'

Further, "there is the institution of the Christian Sunday–which can also be traced back to much the same place and date. To what does this owe its inception? The Jews were fanatically attached to their Sabbath, and the early Church was almost exclusively Jewish. It must have required some event of the deepest and most startling significance to make them change to the first day of the week. It did: it was nothing less than the resurrection. And the same line of reasoning can be applied to the festival of Easter." (The Evidence for the Resurrection; by J. N. D. Anderson; pg. 14)

There are those, however, who, even after being moved by the resurrection story, and after even being honestly and intellectually persuaded that the historical evidence for the resurrection is sufficient and valid, are nevertheless inwardly compelled to conclude that a dead man rising from the dead is so incredible that it is impossible to believe. Some who might be inclined to admit to the historical validity of the resurrection are not so quickly inclined personally to believe, because of the supposed rational and philosophical impossibility of the resurrection. Such an attitude of skepticism (after all the historical evidence is in) must be declared as prejudiced and unscientific. Nevertheless, the following question is worthy of consideration: "Can the resurrection be shown to be, not only historically valid, but also philosophically feasible?"

There is convincing evidence, other than the resurrection, for believing that Jesus was 'God manifest in the flesh, I although it must be admitted that the resurrection is the conclusive evidence. Jesus' unique claims, Jesus' miraculous works, the testimony of friends and enemies alike as to the sinlessness of Jesus' character, the mystery and majesty of Jesus' teaching–these facts all point to Jesus' deity. Should it seem incompatible and inconsistent for Jesus, who had shown such uniqueness preceding the resurrection, to have shown uniqueness in the events surrounding His death?

"God, the least I can say about Jesus is that He is unique! Unique in the way He came into the world! Unique in His words and works! Unique in His reactions to His enemies who nailed Him to a cross! Unique in his victory over death!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Because Jesus is altogether unique, He has a unique claim on my life!

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Ephesians 1:3-14

A Purposive Universe

We contended yesterday that if Jesus showed uniqueness in His life, it should not be surprising that He showed uniqueness in His death. Considering the resurrection philosophically, should it seem incredible that Jesus, who was 'God manifest in human flesh' (as shown by all other evidence), should rise from the dead? Would it not be far more incredible if He had not?

Those who consider the report of the resurrection as philosophically infeasible, are those who have chosen a naturalistic view of reality. To adopt the naturalistic position is to adopt a mechanical, closed-ended conception which holds that the universe is like a perpetual-motion machine with fixed laws over which God has no control, and in which anything that appears to contradict the normal laws of nature cannot happen.

The one who has intellectual problems in philosophically accepting the resurrection as a real possibility needs to consider the broader, more inclusive view of reality; namely, the supernaturalistic view of reality, or sometimes called the purposive view of reality.

To adopt the supernaturalistic view of reality is to adopt the purposive view of reality. The purposive view offers a logical explanation for novelties or irregularities in nature. Prayer, providence, and miracles (the greatest of which is the resurrection) are understandable, and science and religion are complementary in understanding reality. It is not a matter of choosing between uniformity in nature's laws and reports of miracles, but both can be accepted without conflict or contradiction.

The principle can be apprehended and illustrated by noting that human experience and nature both show constancy in general, but flexibility in specific. For example, the general trend in a person's moral development can be predicted, but not the specific decisions, since they are made not on the basis of efficient causation, but on the basis of good as apprehended. As another example, consider that although there is uniformity in laws, nature shows flexibility in the changing of seasons and in the variety of days. There is constancy, but not identity.

Because God is the sovereign ruler of the universe and creator of all natural laws, it is al together reasonable to think that He could introduce a supernatural event in history if it would serve His eternal purposes. This world with its laws is a subsidiary system, subject to God's will and eternal purposes. Natural law says that a dead man cannot rise from the dead. God's eternal purpose demands that one man, Jesus, must rise from the dead if mankind is to be saved! A universe which has redemptive purposes at its heart makes the resurrection of Jesus both a philosophical feasibility and a moral necessity!

"God, I see that you are reliable enough to give mankind predicable laws by which he can routinely live his life, and yet you are loving enough to transcend natural laws, by which, through the resurrection, you save mankind from the unbearable routine of sin!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Because this is a purposive universe, I will live purposefully!

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Ephesians 3:8-21

Resurrection – A Divine Action Consistent With Divine Purpose!

Another example of this principle of constancy without identity is seen in the fact that man's physiological processes are mostly mechanical, but his rational, mental processes are purposive, and therefore, man's mind not only supersedes his body, but guides it. "Professor Webb of Oxford insists that all men do, in practice, distinguish between one set of qualities, such as extension and motion, which we attribute to bodies and another set of qualities, such as those of thinking and feeling, which we attribute to minds. If we are going to be empirical, accepting the world as we find it, we must somehow find room for both sets of qualities." (Philosophy of Religion; Elton Trueblood; pg. 214) Thus, one can see that the purposive explanation for reality not only includes the mechanical, but transcends it. "The purposive conception is dualistic or pluralistic in that it admits the existence of both minds and bodies, though both are part of the same creation. Purpose is the larger conception, since it can include mechanism, and mechanism cannot include purpose. The purposive systems we know best (i.e., human beings) include mechanical levels which operate alongside the levels of consciousness and, though they follow different laws, can be used in the service of purpose." (Ibid; pg. 212)

From these examples it is plausible to see that, just as the human body is the medium of expression for the rational human mind, so the world with its uniform laws can be the medium for the activity of divine mind, who can supersede nature's laws if it serves His purpose. Nature is regular because mind is self-consistent, but novelty is understandable when an intelligent adaptation to meet a changing circumstance is necessary to serve purpose or reason. "Constancy of purpose must often exhibit itself by a change in procedure… The order which comes from purpose has, thus, a unity of aim and variety of method. Exceptions to the general rule would be fully consistent with a purposive order though the reality of the purpose would ensure that exceptions would be rare. Exceptions for a good reason, such as the welfare of the human race, would not be 'breaks' in a purposive order, but would, instead, be demonstrations of such an order." (Ibid; pg. 215 ff)

Man cannot always see God's purpose, but that fact doesn't invalidate divine purpose. "When we begin to look at the world with any genuine humility we realize that it is at least thinkable that there may be invasions into our causal system, for there is nothing illogical about the idea that God is superior to what we call natural law. We are helped along this liberating road when we realize that natural laws do not tell us what must be, but are mere generalizations of what, in a very short period of history, has been generally observed to occur. The Christian understands natural law as merely the way in which God's purposive action in our little corner of the universe normally takes place." (A Place To Stand; Elton Trueblood; pg. 93)

"Why should I think it illogical that the creator of nature's laws should supersede nature's causal system to accomplish the redemptive purpose of the universe? Thank you, God, for your invasion into human history!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The resurrection is not supernatural, but natural, from God's viewpoint–a divine action in time consistent with divine purpose in eternity!

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1 Corinthians 15:1-8; Acts 26:8, Romans 26:26

Resurrection – Puzzling Or Purposeful?

We said yesterday that the resurrection is a divine action in time, consistent with divine purpose in eternity! If the purpose of God demanded that He supersede natural law and thus make an intelligent adaptation in order to cope with man's moral failure by invading human history, the Incarnation is explainable and the resurrection is not only historically valid, but also rationally and philosophically feasible.

A miracle is only a conspicuous exception to a natural law to achieve the eternal purpose of God, and is therefore not supernatural but normal, as seen from God's viewpoint. "By a miracle a Christian does not mean something mysterious and unaccountable, but rather an event in which the redemptive purpose of God is clearly manifest. A miracle is an alteration in the ordinary course of events which, far from being puzzling, is a clear evidence of divine purpose in God's world. If Christ rose from the dead, as the evidence indicates, that is a miracle. It is a miracle because, in this instance, God chose to intervene directly in the course of events and did so for a transcendently important purpose. If this was necessary to change men's hearts it is not really puzzling, but highly intelligible." (A Place to Stand; Elton Trueblood; pg. 94-95)

As we have already noted, Christianity is a historical religion; that is, it originated in time and in a specific geographical locality. The resurrection has no true devotional or philosophical meaning if the resurrection is not validated as a solid historical fact. We have seen that the evidence is overwhelming in making such a validation.

Thomas Arnold, the famous historian who was appointed to the chair of Modern History at Oxford, gave the following testimony to his own persuasion of the historic trustworthiness of the resurrection narrative: "The evidence for our Lord's life and death and resurrection may be, and often 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 up 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 history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of any 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."

"God, Thou are the 'God who acts.' You have decisively acted out your eternal plan for human redemption on the stage of human history. Thank you!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The resurrection, the greatest of all miracles, is simply the manifestation of God's personal and purposeful concern for mankind!

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Discussion Questions On 'The Victory Of A Connquering God' (Part II)

  1. In summary form, name at least six realities which the resurrection of Jesus accomplished.

  2. Describe what is meant by the statement: "The object of your faith determines the value of your faith."

  3. What are three ways in which one can look at the resurrection of Jesus?

  4. Discuss the two main weaknesses in the theory of those who attempt to explain away the bodily resurrection of Jesus by claiming that the women went to the wrong sepulcher because it was dark and they were greatly grief-stricken?

  5. What is the 'Swoon Theory,' and why is this theory such a foolish theory?

  6. Why is the theory which says that thieves stole the body of Jesus a theory that is totally unfounded?

  7. Why is it illogical and inconceivable to argue that Jesus' disciples removed the body of Jesus from the tomb while the guards slept?

  8. What is the main weakness in the theory which argues that Roman or Jewish authorities took the body of Jesus?

  9. What two main arguments can be pointed to as positive 'proof' that Jesus arose from the dead?

  10. List those who, according to 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, actually saw the resurrected Lord.

  11. Why does J. B. Phillips (the well known New Testament translator) consider the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians to be one of the roost important chapters in the New Testament?

  12. Name some of the Jews in Jerusalem whose lives were dramatically changed (following the death of Jesus), and note the most likely reason for the spiritual transformation of these persons.

  13. What is the power that has enabled the Christian Church to exist for nineteen centuries, amidst many changes and amidst severe challenges and crises?

  14. In light of the fanatical attachment which the orthodox Jews had to the Jewish Sabbath, why were the early Jewish converts to Christianity persuaded to exchange Saturday for Sunday as their day of worship?

  15. What are significant facts, all of which combine to form strong evidence to validate Jesus' claim to being divine?

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    Discussion Questions On 'The Victory Of A Conquering God' (Part II) – Cont.

  16. If Jesus showed uniqueness in His birth and in His life, should it be surprising that He showed uniqueness in His death? Why or why not?

  17. Those who consider the report of the resurrection as philosophically infeasible are those who have chosen a naturalistic view of reality. Describe such a view of reality, and show why adopting such a view of reality makes it impossible to believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus.

  18. What is the supernaturalistic (purposive) view of reality, and why does such a view of reality make the bodily resurrection of Jesus both logically possible and philosophically feasible?

  19. Illustrate from both human personality development and from physical nature how the contrasting principles of constancy and flexibility work together in a complementary fashion. How does the supernaturalistic view of reality take into consideration both the principles of constancy and flexibility as these principles relate to 'natural law' and 'miracle'?

  20. Discuss what is meant by the statement: "A universe which has redemptive purpose at its heart makes the resurrection of Jesus both a philosophical feasibility and moral necessity!"

  21. Discuss how the following statement helps make the bodily resurrection of Jesus more philosophically feasible: "Just as the human body is the medium of expression for the rational human mind, so the world with its uniform laws can be the medium for the activity of divine mind, who can supersede nature's laws if it serves His purpose. Nature is regular because mind is self-consistent, but novelty is understandable when an intelligent adaptation to meet a changing circumstance is necessary to serve divine purpose or reason."

  22. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: "The resurrection of Jesus is not supernatural, but natural, from God's viewpoint–a divine action in time consistent with divine purpose in eternity!"

  23. Considering the supernaturalistic view of reality, do you agree or disagree with the following definition of a 'miracle': "A miracle is only a conspicuous exception to a natural law, to achieve the eternal purpose of God, and is therefore not supernatural but normal, as seen from God's viewpoint."

  24. What is your personal reaction to the following quotation from Thomas Arnold (the famous historian who was appointed to the chair of Modern History at Oxford): "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."

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