Explore the Evidence

shutterstock_156727070Dr. 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?

–James Merritt

Run the Race

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“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.

–James Merritt

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)

–James Merritt

You Must Be Born Again

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.

–James Merritt

Everything For Our Good

shutterstock_106407572“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

Not everybody can say, “Don’t worry, everything will work out.” Because everything does not work out for everybody. Everything only works out for God’s children. You may be sitting there thinking “Well, I’m not a child of God, and everything is working out for me.” I submit to you that ultimately if you die, and spend eternity without God, things really didn’t work out for you.

You may not always like what God is doing in your life, and you may not always understand what God is doing in your life. But you can know that God is involved in your life 24-7 making all things work together for your good. Think about that. This verse did not say that God works all things out for our good most of the time, nor does it say that God works most things out for our good all of the time. It says God works all things out together for our good all of the time.

Now, it doesn’t say that we “see that all things work together for good.” But you can know it whether you can see it or not. Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean he can’t see it. Never doubt in the dark what God has told you in the light. That does not mean that all things that happen to us are good. As you well know, everything that happens to you is not good. But everything that happens to you will ultimately work together for your good.

Behind every promise of God is the providence of God. Do you know what the word providence means? It comes from two words: the word pro meaning “before,” and the word video meaning, “to see.” Providence simply means to see beforehand and to provide for what is seen. Do you hear that word “provide” in the word providence? The providence of God simply means that God sees every event before it occurs, and provides for that event and makes sure that it fits into His plan for your life.

Normally we would think that thanking God for a flat tire would be crazy, but now we know that we can give thanks “in all things.” Good does not necessarily mean health, because not all Christians are healthy. It does not necessarily mean wealth, because not all Christians are wealthy. God’s purpose for you is neither to be healthy or happy, nor to be rich or famous. His purpose for you is found in that next verse, Romans 8:29, where Paul said, we have been “predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son. God’s purpose for you is to be just like Jesus.

The best thing that can ever happen to you in this life is not to make millions of dollars, not to become famous, not to live in a mansion, not to drive a Mercedes. The best thing that can ever happen to you in this life is to become just like Jesus. And because God is working everything in the life of the Christ-follower to that ultimate end, we can know He works everything for our good.

–James Merritt