“Now therefore, send and gather all Israel to me on Mount Carmel, the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal, and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table. So Ahab sent for all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together on mount Carmel. And Elijah came to all the people, and said, ‘How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, then follow him.’ But the people answered him not a word. ” (1 Kings 18:19-21, NKJV)
I certainly don’t want our buildings to be on fire, but I do want our church to be on fire. Indeed, the greatest need in our churches, our homes, and our nation, is not men, money, might, machinery, or methods. The greatest need is for the fire of revival to fall on the pews of the church, the desks of the schools, the hallways of congress, and the oval office in the White House.
The first thing Elijah did was to confront this false god and his pagan worship. Now I want to call your attention to the obvious, which is, Elijah was not politically correct. You know today there are basically three ways you can relate the Lord Jesus Christ to every other religious figure, and every other religion in the world.
The first is inclusivism. That view says that Jesus Christ may be unique, but he does not have a monopoly on the truth. Other religions are also an expression of the divine. Other religions also have God’s revelation, just in a different form. Now that philosophy today is both politically correct and culturally acceptable.
But many say an even better way than inclusiveness is pluralism. This is the thinking that all religions are totally equal. Jesus Christ is no more unique than Buddha, or Mohammed, or any other religious figure. No religion has the right to sit in judgment on another religion, and any other view is simply religious bigotry. Everybody worships the same god, they just call him by different names, and everybody has a different way to god, and whatever works for you is fine.
Well, Elijah did not practice inclusivism nor pluralism. He believed in exclusivism. That is, there is only one God – the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore any other religion, any other philosophy, any other god is wrong, misleading, and false.
Do you know what people who do not know the Lord Jesus Christ need? They not only need to know the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, they need to see the dynamic of the Holy Spirit alive in us. People will turn from a false god when they see the evidence of the true God living in us. One of the great preachers in Great Britain of the 20th Century, was a man by the name of James Stewart. James Stewart once said:
“If we could but show the world that being committed to Christ is no tame, humdrum, sheltered monotony, but the most exciting adventure the human spirit can ever know, those who have been standing outside the church and looking askance at Christ, will come crowding in to pay allegiance…and we may well expect the greatest revival since Pentecost.“
People still want to know that there is a God who answers by fire! I believe that when people walk into a church, it ought not to feel like a refrigerator, it ought to feel like a furnace where the Holy Spirit is ablaze in the pulpit, and the Lord Jesus is aflame in the pew. Our problem is, we have gotten so afraid of the wild fire of fanaticism, we have settled for the no fire of formalism.
Elijah wanted his people to know that he had great faith in a great God. The God that cannot burn wet wood isn’t worth dry faith. You know today, we would have poured kerosene on it and added matches to help God out. But not Elijah. He wanted to prove that his God could do anything.
Elijah wanted everybody to know that not only did he serve the only God, he served an omnipotent God for whom nothing is impossible. The problem with the average Christian is not that his faith is too small, but his God is too small.
Any prophet, professor, or preacher, that proclaims any other gospel than the gospel of grace, and worships any other lord than the Lord Jesus Christ, is absolutely false, and the fire will fall. It will either fall in retribution, or it will fall in revival.
Has the fire fallen in your life? Can I tell you how you can know whether or not it has? When the fire falls, here’s what happens: sin is burned out, the Savior is burned in, and self is burned up. When that happens, revival comes. So let the fire fall.
Dr. Luke evidently was very interested in the law and in legally defending the resurrection, because he says in Acts 1:3,
“To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many convincing proofs…” (Acts 1:3, NASB)
There is one word for the two English words “convincing proofs” that literally means “a sure sign.” It comes from a legal term that refers to conclusive evidence that would hold up in a court of law. Just like Dr. Luke did two-thousand years ago, let’s explore some of the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Resurrection is either the greatest fact or the greatest farce in human history. Two billion people in the world today have staked their eternal destiny and their entire lives on this one truth that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead. Yet for four billion other people in the world the jury is still out.
There were a tremendous number of different people who were willing to bear witness they had seen Jesus Christ alive. In fact, when you put all the scriptures together, we are told that Jesus appeared on 10 different occasions over a period of 6 weeks to at least 516 witnesses. He appeared in the morning, in the afternoon, and in the evening. He appeared indoors. He appeared outdoors. Now when you stop to think that if each of these witnesses was brought into a courtroom and assumed the witness stand and testified for only 30 minutes each about what they had seen and heard and experienced, you would have over 250 hours of testimony. Can you imagine the verdict of the jury if over 500 witnesses testified to the same thing, corroborating one another 500 different times?
May I also remind you that many of these witnesses sealed their testimony with their own blood? They suffered torture. They were beheaded. They were imprisoned. They were crucified.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ means that when I come to that own time when my life is coming to an end and I am about to breath my last, when I have seen my last sunrise and enjoyed my last sunset I can say,
“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (I Corinthians 15:55, NASB)
You cannot receive eternal life and you cannot go to heaven unless (a) Jesus Christ was raised from the dead and (b) You believe He was and receive Him as your Lord. Romans 10:9 says,
“If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
After exploring some of the evidence, you have to make a decision. Who are you going to invest your hope in for eternal life? The evidence screams out at us that Jesus Christ told the truth when He said in John 11:25,
“I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies.” (John 11:25, NASB)
Evidence demands a verdict. Now you need to decide not only whether or not the evidence is true, but what are you going to do about it?
“Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Hebrews 1:1
It was Mexico City 1968. John Steven Akhwari of Tanzania had started the Olympic marathon with all the other runners hours before, but he finished it alone. When he finally arrived at the stadium there were only a few spectators remaining in the stands. The winner of the marathon had crossed the finish line over an hour earlier.
It was getting dark; his right leg was bandaged and heavily bleeding. He was obviously in great pain, but he crossed the finish line suffering from fatigue, leg cramps, dehydration and disorientation. A reporter asked him why he didn’t just quit. He thought for a moment and said, “My country did not send me here to start the race; my country sent me here to finish it.”
If you are a Christian you are in a race this passage in Hebrews 12 refers to running a race. The word for “race” is the Greek word “agon” from which we get the English word “agony”. The Christian life calls for the discipline of an athlete, the endurance of a marathon runner, and the determination of a champion.
You see, the way you win the race is not by focusing on the finish line, because we don’t know where the finish line is. The way you run and the way you win is by focusing on Jesus.
Salvation is not a reward you get at the end of the race. Salvation is the gift that puts you into the race. I encourage you, today, if you’re not in the race give your life to Jesus. He’s got the shoes and the uniform waiting for you. If you are in race, run it for the glory of God, keeping your eyes on Jesus who will make you a winner.
During World War II there was a General Wainwright who had been taken captive by the Japanese. They treated him terribly. He was beaten, tortured, emaciated and almost starved to death.
One day a plane landed with the news that the war had ended, and the Americans had won. The next day, out of sheer habit, the Japanese soldiers came to the compound where General Wainwright was staying. They had come to torture him, beat him, and mistreat him as they were accustomed to doing, because they had forgotten that the war was over, and that the General was now on the victorious side.
When those soldiers came in and raised their weapons, he said, “Wait a minute. Put down your weapons. I am now in charge of you and you are my captives.”
When Jesus Christ was beaten, tortured, and died on the cross, He did it not in order to take sides, but He did it in order to take over. He is now in charge. As the psalmist said, “Honor him, for he is your Lord.” (Psalm 45:11, NIV)
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.” (John 3:1, ESV)
This was no ordinary run of the mill Jewish man with whom Jesus was talking. First of all he was a Pharisee. There were only six thousand in all of Judaism and they were considered the spiritual cream of the crop. They were considered experts in the law. They kept the law more scrupulously than anybody else. More than that, he was a ruler. He was a member of the Jewish ruling council otherwise known as the “Sanhedrin.” This was the Jewish Supreme Court. They were the religious and political liaison between the Roman Empire and the Jewish people.
Nicodemus had heard a lot about this Jesus. Fascinated by the stories of a man who could walk on water, raise the dead, feed thousands of people with a few loaves and a few fish and a man who was making some unique claims about who He was and where He was from. Nicodemus decides to seek this man out for himself.
“This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.’” (John 3:2, ESV)
Notice he says the same thing about Jesus that the world is still saying today. Who is Jesus in the eyes of the world? A good man? A great teacher? A real prophet. Not God, but maybe from God, but not God. Spiritual–yes. Supernatural–Nicodemus would have said no. Where Nicodemus thought he was coming to have a theological discussion or a friendly philosophical debate, Jesus begins to talk about (of all things) birthdays.
“Jesus answered him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’” (John 3:3, ESV)
One thing you have to say about Jesus is He doesn’t beat around the bush. He gets right to heart of the matter. He said, “Nicodemus, you don’t know Me, but I know you. You think that having a relationship with God is a matter of religion, good works, keeping the law, doing your best, and dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s. I’ve got news for you. A relationship with God has nothing to do with what you do for God and it has everything to do with what God can do for you and in you.
If you had been there you would have seen the blood drain out of his face. You would have seen the sweat drop from his brow. You would have seen the tremble in his hands. For the first time in his life, Nicodemus was confronted with this shattering thought–when it comes to having a relationship with God, good isn’t good enough. Your best won’t do. Your works won’t work. You want to see the Kingdom of God? You want to get into the Kingdom of God? You want to live in the Kingdom of God? Then, you must be born again.
Nicodemus had no problem with the birth being the way to God, but he had been taught that getting into the kingdom of God was a matter of physical birth. If you were born Jewish or born as a descendant of Abraham that automatically made you a kingdom citizen. He had what I would call an “in and out religion”. You were in the kingdom the moment you were out of your mother’s womb if your mother was Jewish. Had Jesus left out the word “again” after the word “born” Nick would have gone his merry way. Sure a person must be born to get into any kingdom. If Jesus had just said, “born Jewish” or “born to Jewish parents” Nicodemus would have gone back, given a big thumbs up to his Pharisaical buddies and said, “Hey, this Jesus is a-ok.” Instead, Jesus said, “You had better have a passport to get into God’s Kingdom and that passport must be stamped “born-again.”
You can’t even understand why Jesus Christ came to this earth if you don’t understand what it means to be born-again. Jesus Christ was born physically that we might be born again spiritually. He left heaven as the Son of God and came to earth as the Son of Man, so that sons of men might leave this earth and go to heaven as sons of God. The only way a son of man can become a son of God is to be born again into the family of God.
You were born for only one purpose–to be born again. There are a lot of things that we think you have to do that we really don’t have to do. You don’t have to succeed in business. You don’t have to grow old. You don’t have to get married. You don’t have to have children. You don’t have to make money. You don’t have to get an education. You don’t have to buy a home or a car. You don’t have to live until retirement, but if you want a relationship with God, if you want to see the Kingdom of God and enter it, you must be born again.