Little Fantasies That Comfort…

When I was a small boy, I had some strange concepts about life. Perhaps the strangest concept involved a back-and-forth development between me and my parents. I was convinced that after I grew up and became an adult, my parents would shrink and become children. I then assumed that I would be able to boss them around and get back at them for all the childhood atrocities that they had put me through (e.g., having to eat all the food on my plate, going to bed early, etc.). I honestly thought that life was a constant back and forth of growing up and then shrinking back, with parents becoming children and children becoming parents. Obviously, such a notion is ludicrous and inconsistent with reality. But I remember daydreaming of the day that I would be able to boss my parents around and get even with them once they became children again…

Why did I tell you that story? I have no idea, but isn’t it interesting that we can harbor such weird thoughts about life and reality? Even as an adult, I often wonder, are there things that I believe about life, God, and eternity that provide comfort, but are in no way dialed into reality? Do you ever wonder such thoughts?

As a local church pastor, I often encounter people who have some wild ideas about life, God, and eternity. This becomes especially pronounced to me when I’m officiating funeral or graveside services. I’ve pretty much heard it all over the years…”My loved one is an angel with wings now…”Or, “I’m sure he’s up there fishing with Jesus right now…” Or, “I put this item into my loved one’s urn (or casket) so that they’ll have it with them in eternity…” Yeah, I’ve heard many strange things that people, in their grief, turn to for comfort and encouragement. Yet, these things, according to Scripture, are not dialed into reality.

You see, the little fantasies that we tell ourselves might be comforting, but they’re not true. In fact, isn’t it better to be comforted with the truth than with a lie? “But what if the truth hurts?” Ah, you see, that’s where the cookie crumbles…Perhaps we are attracted to the little fantasies that we conjure up in our minds because the truth is too difficult to fathom…

Not sure where to land the plane on this little blog post, except to say this…Even if the truth hurts, it eventually comforts. Truth is like a surgeon…It cuts, but it cuts to heal. Too many of us are putting the band-aid of our little fantasies on our gaping wounds, when what we really need is the durable truth of God’s Holy Word. The Bible says in Hebrews 4:12, “For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” My admonition is simple…Test all your thoughts against the truth of the Word of God. Do not settle for comforting lies when you can be strengthened by the truth.

My Scriptural First Aid Kit…

I was recently asked, “What are your go-to verses for when you’re feeling discouraged?” Below is what constitutes my Scriptural first aid kit. In other words, when I’m feeling the pressure of discouragement, and I feel like hope is bleeding out of me, here’s what revives my soul…

  • When I feel all alone, I remind myself that God is near – “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you'” (Hebrews 13:5).
  • When I feel like I can’t keep up with all the changes around me, I remind myself that God remains constant – “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
  • When I feel like everything is so dirty and tainted, I remind myself that God is perfect – “And one called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory'” (Isaiah 6:3)!
  • When I feel anxious, I remind myself that God brings peace – “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
  • When I feel like there is so much hate in the world, I remind myself that God is love – “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:8).
  • When I feel the weight and conviction of my sin, I remind myself that God grants forgiveness – “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
  • When I struggle with what to do next, I remind myself that God gives wisdom – “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5).

This is just a short list, but it’s my Scriptural first aid kit. These are my seven dynamite verses that help me in my time of need. What’s your go-to set of verses?

“5 Warnings To Those Who Merely Pretend To Be Godly” By Tim Challies

There is in each of us a dangerous temptation toward hypocrisy, to be one thing but to pretend to be another. There are many within the church who are hypocrites, people who claim to be Christians but who are, in fact, unbelievers attempting to convince others (and perhaps themselves) that they are followers of Jesus Christ. They are people who do not practice true virtue but who instead offer counterfeit versions of it. Jude compares them to clouds without water in that they seem to be full of the Spirit but are actually devoid of true goodness.

Here are five solemn warnings to those who only pretend to be godly:

Hypocrisy angers God. God hates hypocrisy and hypocrites because hypocrisy misuses religion, taking advantage of its laws and decrees for self-advancement. The hypocrite wants religion—even the Christian faith—only for the advantages he gains from it. He fails to truly turn his heart to God and do good to God’s people. He carries Christ in his Bible, but not in his heart. He serves the devil while wearing the uniform of Christ. He will be condemned by God.

Hypocrisy is self-delusion. Many hypocrites deceive themselves, thinking that their hypocritical deeds are evidence of true godliness or, even worse, that they have the ability to merit God’s favor. The person who collects counterfeit money harms no one more than himself. The person who piles up counterfeit godliness does the greatest damage to his own soul. “The hypocrite deceives others while he lives, but deceives himself when he dies.”

Hypocrisy is offensive to God and man. Unbelievers hate the hypocrite because he makes himself appear godly; God hates him because he merely looks godly. Unbelievers are deceived by his veneer of godliness and hate him for it; God sees through that veneer and hates him for having no more than that. The hypocrite loses on all accounts because he becomes the enemy of unbelievers and of God. “The wicked hate the hypocrite because he is almost a Christian, and God hates him because he is only almost.”

Hypocrisy is pointless. The hypocrite may labor hard in this life, but as soon as he dies he will lose absolutely everything. The only reward he will be able to enjoy will be in this life since he will certainly be condemned in death. He may earn praise today, but he will receive only retribution at the judgment.

Hypocrisy brings no comfort in death. People who have only painted over their depravity with a thin veneer of counterfeit holiness will find themselves without hope and without comfort upon their deathbed. Little holiness leads to little happiness.

Hypocrisy is an ugly sin and one that God despises. Yet still there is hope for the hypocrite and the words of Paul should ring in the ears of the hypocrite: “Do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4). Those who turn to Christ in repentance and faith will be cleansed of every sin, including this one. And then they will be indwelled by the Holy Spirit so they can clean off that thin veneer of holiness and, instead, become truly holy.

As for those of us who truly believe, but still grapple with the temptation toward hypocrisy, let’s pray with Thomas Watson: “Lord, let me be anything rather than a hypocrite,” for two hearts will exclude one from heaven. We may well ask, “What good will it do to a man when he is in hell, that others think he is in heaven?”

Pray For Persecuted Christians In Iran…

Every Wednesday night from 6:30pm – 7:30pm, we gather out here on the prairie for Prayer Meeting. During this hour, we take some time to learn about persecuted Christians from around the globe. Yesterday (5-19-21), we took a spotlight to the country of Iran. Below is one story from one of our persecuted sisters in this closed access country. Her name is Esther…Please pray for Esther and her family as they struggle to love Jesus and serve Jesus in difficult and dangerous situations…

“If We Love God Most, We Will Love Others Best” By Jon Bloom

The most loving thing we can do for others is love God more than we love them. For if we love God most, we will love others best.

I know this sounds like preposterous gobbledygook to an unbeliever. How can you love someone best by loving someone else most? But those who have encountered the living Christ understand what I mean. They know the depth of love and breadth of grace that flows out from them toward others when they themselves are filled with love for God and all he is for them and means to them in Jesus. And they know the comparatively shallow and narrow love they feel toward others when their affection for God is ebbing.

There’s a reason why Jesus said the second greatest commandment is like the first: if we love God with all our heart, we will love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:37–39). It functions like faith and works; if we truly have the first, the second naturally follows.

But if God is not the love of our life, there is no way that we will truly love our neighbor as ourselves. For we will love ourselves supremely.

He First Loved Us

The reason we will love others best when we love God most is that love in its truest, purest form only comes from God, because God is love (1 John 4:7–8). Love is a fundamental part of his nature. We are only able to love him or anyone else because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). We are only able to give freely to others what we have received freely from him.

And as God’s image-bearers (Genesis 1:26), we are designed to love God and others in the same way that God loves God and others. God, being the most pure, perfect, powerful, and precious entity in existence, must love himself most in order to love everything else best, since everything else is “from him and through him and to him” (Romans 11:36). If God loved something or someone else more than himself he would be violating the first commandment (Exodus 20:3) and the foremost commandment (Matthew 22:37–38). For God to love something or someone more than himself would be inappropriate, perverted, immoral. Like God, we must love him supremely in order to love everything else best.

The Horrible Result of Not Loving God Most

When we (or anything else, if that’s possible) become our supreme love instead of God, love becomes distorted and diseased. Love ends up devolving into whatever we wish for it to mean.

This is a great evil, greater than we often realize. This is the world as we know it: everyone loves in the way that is right in his own eyes. Which of course means that everyone hates in the way that is right in his own eyes. They become supreme “lovers of self” (2 Timothy 3:2) and live “in the passions of [their] flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind,” since they were “children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3). It is not hard to understand why there is so much confusion and conflict and heartbreak and violence in the world. We live in an anarchy of love resulting in much of the horrifying things we hear in the news.

The Greatest Love Ever Shown

But God, being rich in mercy (Ephesians 2:4), “so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). The author and perfecter of love, Love himself, stepped into our horrible evil anarchy to redeem us (Romans 5:8), his people, and give us new life (Ephesians 2:5), and transform us from children of wrath back into children of God (John 1:12) who are able to love him supremely and therefore love each other rightly — the way he has loved us.

And how has he loved us? With the greatest love there is, the love that moves one to lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13). But this doesn’t mean that Jesus loved us, his friends, more than his Father. It means that Jesus loved us best because he loved his Father most (John 17:26Mark 14:36). And “if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11).

What May Be Our Most Loving Act Today

So we see that if we love God most, we will love others best.

I find this to be a convicting and uncomfortable truth: How we love others, particularly other Christians, reveals how we love God. The apostle John puts it bluntly: “He who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen (1 John 4:20). Our love for each other is an indicator of the place God is holding in our hearts.

God is very good at designing things this way: our faith is revealed by our works (James 2:18), our creeds are revealed by our deeds (Luke 6:46), and our love for him is revealed by our love for others (1 John 4:20). He makes it very hard for us to fake it. And this is a great kindness (Romans 2:4).

Since the greatest and second greatest commandments are involved in these things, we know they are important to God. So perhaps the best thing we can do today is take an honest, lingering look at the way we love others, allow what we see to have its Philippians 2:12 effect on us, and ask God what he would have us do in response.

We may find that this is the most loving thing we will do for everyone else today.

From the Desk of the Associate: A Renewed Mind

I recall a conversation I had with a coworker at a new job. We had a lot of drive time together so I attempted to get to know him and his life better so I could introduce the Gospel into his life. He shared that he was not religious at all but had begun to ask questions about God. On the other hand, he said his girlfriend and her mom were very religious. He said that his girlfriend had a tattoo of Romans 12:2 “Be not conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” Now found this to be very ironic considering what I already knew about his and her lifestyle, partying and sleeping together. I wanted to get to the point where I could have a Bible Study with him and even her at some point. Unfortunately, I was not given that opportunity as he quit that job the next week and did not respond to my communication very much after that. Obviously, the girlfriend had a serious disconnect with what the verse that she had tattooed on herself really meant. I would say that we too often have a real disconnect with what it means to have a renewed mind. Let’s see if I can shed a little light on this concept so that it is more than an empty platitude.

Over and over again we find this concept of a renewed or transformed mind in the Scriptures. This is an idea that relates to our sanctification process, that is the process that God uses to help our actions progressively come into conformity with our Holy position in Christ. Put another way, God accepts me “Just as I am” when He saves me, but He never leaves me “Just as I am,” as He is desirous that I grow in godly living. So where do we learn about a renewed mind? Let’s take a look at some of Paul’s letters and it will quickly become apparent that this is a repeated theme in his teaching.

For starters, lets observe some contrasts in mindsets. We already mentioned Romans 12:2. Here we are told that the believer should actively avoid the default position that the world is trying to press on us. We need to be transformed into something different by a completely different way of thinking. In Romans 8 we know that a mind set on things of the flesh is one that cannot be at peace with God because a mind of the flesh leads to death but a mind set on the Spirit leads to life and peace. This connects to Galatians 6:8 where Paul says he who sows to the flesh will from the flesh reap corruption and he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. In Colossians 3:2 we read, “Set your mind on things above and not on things on this earth.” We can see over and over again that if we want to change our actions, we must first change what we think about. We have to train our minds to follow the truth and to not follow our flesh. How do we do that?

Let us look at what we can do to have a renewed mind that will result in renewed actions. First, I want to point out that all of us are born in sin and corruption and left to our own natures we will always have minds set on the flesh. It takes the Spirit of God breathing life into our dead souls for us to even be able to grasp the truth of God. In John 3 Jesus says, “unless one is born of the water and by the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” God has to first send His Spirit into our hearts and sprinkle our eyes with clean water before we can accept Him. That is when the sanctification process begins. Because, even though we are already a new creation because of our position in Christ, we still have the indwelling flesh within us. That is why Galatians says that the Spirit is at war with the flesh. So again, what can the believer do to have a new mindset that leads to godly actions?

This is the answer, Colossians 3:10 says we must be renewed in knowledge of our Savior and Creator. In order for us to imitate something or rather someone, we must know a lot about them. An actor who is to study a real-life character must study that person in every detail, learning their unique quirks and mannerisms so as to make the imitation believable. In a much greater way, if we want to imitate Christ, we must study Him to the highest degree possible. This is the job of every Christian. It is not just for pastors to learn what Christ is like but for all of us. So, what are some practical ways we can have a renewed mind? Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly…” Literally the Word needs to live inside us. This is an idea that the Word wakes up inside us, and goes to sleep inside us, eats its meals inside us. We are the primary residence of the Word. We are not the vacation home or the weekend getaway spot where the Word visits us on Sunday then goes back to its regular home during the week. It should live in us continually. This means we read it daily, we memorize it, we pray it, we sing it. In addition, we teach it and are taught it by others in our local church. What do you think it means when the same verse says, “teaching and admonishing one another?” We are to learn the Word in the context of other believers.

Believer, are you struggling to live a life that is dominated by the Spirit and not the flesh? Why not start taking advantage of God’s common means of grace, God’s Word and God’s people? If you want a renewed mind, it is impossible to do this without the means that God has blessed us with. Just like my coworker and his girlfriend were clearly not possessing a renewed mind, so I fear many so called Christians have abandoned the regular means of God’s grace and wonder why they do not have victory over sin and the flesh.

Demons, Death, Disease, Demo, & Difficulty: A Trip Down Memory Lane On My Associate Pastor’s 2-Year Anniversary

I can hardly believe it, but this Saturday, May 1 is my Associate Pastor’s 2-Year Anniversary out here on the prairie. It has been a great two years working and leading beside this great pastor. His love for the Lord, his family, and our church family is evident to all who know him. I am privileged to serve beside him.

As I was contemplating life and ministry with Pastor Tim, my mind took a trip down memory lane. I’ve alliterated the items below because (you know) that’s what Baptist preachers do… 😉 But, no joke, Pastor Tim and I have experienced these five things below and the experiences have been exhilarating and educational…

Demons – One of my first pastoral experiences with Pastor Tim regarded a demon possessed man. I can’t get into all the details on this blog, but this experience was completely supernatural. We tag-teamed the situation with prayer and Scripture. In fact, I remember, as the demoniac was experiencing voice changes and begging us to kill him, that Pastor Tim just began quoting (from memory) a ton of Scripture on the grace, mercy, and power of God. We still keep in contact with this individual and regularly pray for his salvation, but wow, that was an incredible moment of pastoral ministry with my right-hand man…

Death – This is a mega-theme in pastoral ministry. From witnessing the death of beloved church members to witnessing the tragic death of various relationships in the church body, death is a constant theme in pastoral ministry. But I remember Pastor Tim and I navigating the challenges of a very unique and severe suicide attempt. The individual who tried to commit suicide was not directly connected to our church family, but the situation was truly heart-breaking. It was such a privilege to minister beside Pastor Tim as he and I tag-teamed ministering and praying with various family members and friends at the hospital in the hours after the suicide attempt. It was an incredibly long day, but it was so good to work side by side with Pastor Tim in that moment and to see his heart for people as he cared for them. Thankfully, the young lady who tried to end her life survived and we still pray for her as she comes to mind…

Disease – Then as I think through my time working with Pastor Tim, 2020 came in like a wrecking ball. Wow. What a year! From navigating the challenges of mask-wearing, to figuring out how to keep people socially distanced in our sanctuary, to learning how to record and livestream services, 2020 was an incredible year of uncomfortable growth. It was such a joy to work with Pastor Tim during this period because he (unlike me) rolls with the punches and has a natural entrepreneurial spirit that is helpful when you are in uncharted waters, like the dumpster fire of 2020…

Demo – Then there’s Demo Day 2020. Oh, yeah! I remember starting this project – the Sanctuary Renovation Project. We started and ended this project in the midst of a global pandemic, and it was awesome. We were able to totally renovate our sanctuary with new chairs, carpet, a bigger sound booth, and more space for worshippers. Our new worship space turned out really beautiful and functional. I am truly grateful for Pastor Tim’s leadership and administration of this project. This project, because of Pastor Tim, turned out so well…

Difficulty – I can’t get into specific details, but man alive, the different counseling experiences we have had over these last two years would blow your mind. Pastoral ministry may be many things, but it is certainly not boring. We have encountered situations that have made us laugh, cry, and just shake our heads in disbelief. It has been great to tag-team many different counseling situations together…

Well, Pastor Tim, congrats on making it through Round #2 out here on the prairie. You’re doing all right. I appreciate working with you. And thank you for allowing me to be the boss. I know I’m not the best boss out there, but you are a privilege to boss around…Love you, man…

The Summer of 2008…

War is difficult to describe. The first thing one realizes upon arrival in a combat zone is that war is nothing like the movies or television shows in America. There is no background music, and the story is not over in 120 minutes.

War is marked by days of extreme boredom with moments of extreme excitement. Those moments elevate the human emotions to levels hardly experienced in civilian life. Happiness becomes pure delight, anger turns to rage, and sadness becomes sorrow. On July 15, 2008, I experienced the full spectrum of human emotions. On that day, our unit received word that one of our men had been injured in a vehicle accident, as a result of a firefight, in Mosul, Iraq. A few hours later, we learned that Staff Sergeant David W. Textor had died from his injuries. In that moment, war became so very real to me. For the first time, I realized that this was no training exercise – this was no game! Indeed, the summer of 2008 changed my life in a big, big way…

I remember being so angry after this man’s death. Why did God allow such a soldier (a green beret), with a wife and five kids, to leave this earth so far from home? Even with the passage of time, I still do not have all the answers. I do not know why some things happen. Life is so cruel sometimes, and the Iraq War did a great job of slapping this fact in my face.

During the Iraq War, I served as an Army Intelligence Analyst and was charged with the task to “find, know, and never lose the enemy.” I became obsessed with “the hunt” and wanted to know the “why” of everything. When Staff Sergeant Textor died, I realized that for all my efforts, knowledge, and ability, there are just some things that I can never prevent, namely, good soldiers dying so far from home.

You know, war has a way of proving that we are not in control of anything. Listen to the words of Nick Swarthout (one of my best friends and fellow Iraq War Veteran) as he recounts one of the most sobering events of his life: “While sleeping on the second floor of one of Saddam’s mother-in-law’s mansions, a rocket landed in the front yard. Never in my life have I experienced such a feeling of hopelessness and insecurity. There I lay in my boxers, all of my equipment and weapons downstairs, its 6:00 in the morning, and I am tucked safely in a bed completely surrounded by ¾ inch plywood walls as the only thing that stood between me and the corridor of glass windows in front of me. All I could think about was how much closer to me than the front yard are the other 36 rockets going to land? And which one is going to be the one to land in my ready-made coffin of a bedroom? Fortunately, that rocket was flying solo into our front yard that morning, and again, by the grace of God, I am here to type these stories for you.”

Dr. Jeff Newman (one of my former professors at Faith Baptist Bible College) once stated, “There are no accidental moments.” Yes, nothing in our life happens by accident. God has a plan for our lives, and He is working all things for our good. It was not by accident that Staff Sergeant Textor died in the war, while my friend, Nick, survived. In both cases, God remained good and sovereign. I simply have to trust in the goodness and sovereignty of God no matter what. The Bible states in Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

In the end, God is able to use all of the events in our lives to bring us into a new and better relationship with Himself. God used the Iraq War to show me His tremendous goodness and sovereignty despite the tragedies of this life. My life is to be lived for Him because He alone is God, and I am not…Nick Swarthout states it best when he says, “I have been shot at, scared, bombed, terrified, intimidated, stressed, lonely, and anxious, depressed, blown up, attacked, and broken down, all of which have led me to my life’s purpose that I have found in Him, to bring Him honor, glory, and praise through my worship to Him and my service for Him and His people.” Yes, in life and death, and in war and peace, everything is about God, loving Him and serving Him – or hating Him and rejecting Him…The choice is yours…

From Such A Dark World, Came Our Son…

The first time I met my adopted son, Derrick, it was love at first sight. Every bone in my body ached to hold him, to cradle him, to position him in my arms as if to say, “You’re mine now. You’re my son. You’re home now, and I’m never letting you go.” It was a powerful moment filled with tears, a pounding heart, and immense gratefulness to the God who led us to our little boy.

Derrick is now three months old, and he is such a beautiful child. I am literally blown away by all of his handsome, adorable features…And that smile of his, oh my! It will literally melt you. In fact, I have never met such a happy, smiley baby in my entire life.

But as I stare into that picture-perfect smiling face, I wonder, “Where does that smile come from? And will he always smile like this?” Forgive me for being a little dark and twisty, but this world is such a difficult place and the amount of pain and suffering out there can be overwhelming, even to the brightest of personalities.

I often think of Derrick’s birthparents. We’ve seen pictures of them. They are beautiful people. Derrick’s birthfather is tall with an athletic build, and Derrick’s birthmother has exotic features that are striking. But as beautiful as Derrick’s birthparents are, they are broken. They live in a world of darkness. They are people torn apart by homelessness and drug addiction. From such a dark world, came our son…

You know, it’s a weird feeling being so intimately connected to people I’ve never met before. I long to meet Derrick’s birthparents, to become their friend (like a real friend – a true friend), and to share the hope and light of the Gospel with them. For weeks now, just before I get up to preach, my imagination is captivated by the thought of them wandering into our little church and sitting in the back row…Maybe one day. I pray for them. I love them. How can I not? They gave to me my son. No matter their struggles, addictions, and demons, I will forever be grateful to them.

Derrick will grow to know the brokenness of his birthparents and the darkness of this world. I hope none of that extinguishes that smile of his. But Derrick is a fighter. He’s been fighting since the womb, battling drugs of every kind. He then fought in the NICU during the detox process. Derrick is a fighter. As his father, I hope that one day Derrick not only understands the brokenness and darkness of this world, but I pray that he comes to understand and embrace the hope and light of the Gospel. From there, I pray that he will be a Gospel fighter, battling the darkness of this difficult world with faith, hope, and love, “these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

From the Desk of the Associate: What Changed?

Coming off the Easter season, I think it’s important for us not to gloss over or move past the idea of the Resurrection too quickly. You see, it can be argued that the Resurrection validates everything in Scripture, not least of which are Jesus’ claims about Himself, namely, that He is God. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then we have no reason to believe any other claims in the Bible. This is not just me making this claim. The Apostle Paul states the same in 1 Corinthians 15 when he says that “if Christ has not been raised from the dead then our preaching is worthless, and your faith is worthless.” So that being said, why do we actually hold to this crazy idea that someone could come back from the dead?

There have been many solid arguments made for the historicity of the Resurrection. One of my personal favorites is the change wrought in Jesus’ disciples. Let us consider these guys before and after they witnessed Jesus alive after being dead. We have their own testimony over and over again in the Gospels, how Jesus claimed that He was going to give himself as a sacrifice for the sins of His people, but that they did not understand or accept Jesus’ claims about this reality. We also see them squabbling over positions of prominence in the kingdom that they believed Jesus was just about to bring about. They mistakenly believed that Jesus was simply going to institute a physical kingdom by overthrowing the Romans and their political and religious puppets. So, the very ones who are testifying to the remarkable event of Jesus rising from the dead are the very ones who paint themselves in a negative light. I do not know about you but if I were going to try to convince people to follow my religion and I was able to play fast and loose with the facts, I would certainly attempt to air brush my own involvement in these events. I would hide my negative words and actions and highlight my admirable characteristics. This is not what we get at all. The Apostles were willing to include even the most shameful words and deeds in their telling of the story. This to me indicates the truthfulness of their testimony.

Let’s approach this another way. Take the Apostle Peter. This man was known to be brash and confident. When Jesus asked His disciples questions, Peter seemed to be the first to step up and take a swing at the answer. Sometimes Peter would hit it out of the park and sometimes he would fall flat on his face. Take the time when Jesus asked the disciples about His identity. Peter very quickly declared that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. Immediately after this Jesus declares that He would be killed. Peter again takes a wild swing and declares that this would never happen. Jesus then said, “Get behind me, Satan.” Peter, who would be the leader of the Apostles and the early church was not a paragon of virtue during Jesus’ earthly ministry. During the Last Supper, Peter declared that he would be willing to go with Jesus to the end, but later that night he was unable to even stay up and pray with Jesus during His hour of temptation. Later he fulfilled the Lord’s promise that he would deny Jesus three times. This denial happened to the very intimidating figure of a young servant girl. So that makes us ask the question…How did Peter go from someone who ran away from and denied the Lord, to someone who would, just a few weeks later, preach boldly to the very group who condemned Jesus and put Him on trial? The obvious answer is the fact that Peter saw his risen Lord. Not only did he see Jesus risen, but he interacted with Him several times. In addition, Peter received the promised Holy Spirit.

So, the fact that these weak, squabbling, and dense group of disciples would then go on to change the world with the message of a risen Savior seems to be very strong evidence indeed that they believed the message that they preached. How else can we explain these men being willing to give everything without anything to show for it in human terms? Peter and the rest of the disciples gave it all for the sake of their risen Savior. It has been said that “many people have died for a lie, but few people willingly die for what they know to be a lie.” This is all extraordinarily strong evidence that the Resurrection really took place. This is great news because it is the very thing that secures the future Resurrection of all believers. I guess that is what changed everything and why we call this “The Gospel.”

He Is Risen Indeed!