A Challenge to Skeptics: An Easter Message

empty tomb grave clothes
Have you ever heard of Theudas? How about Judas of Galilee? They were would-be messiahs in the first century. How many followers do these men have today? Zero, zip, nada.

Of course, we’ve all heard of Jesus Christ. One-third of humanity professes to believe in Him. But I guarantee you we would never have heard of Him had He not risen from the dead.

Whoever you are, whatever you believe, you have a vested interest in looking into the issue of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. There are millions today who simply dismiss the message of Christianity out of hand and don’t realize the eternal peril they are in by doing so.

On the first Easter, the tomb of Jesus was empty. That is an historical fact. Furthermore, the original skeptics of the resurrection were the disciples themselves. The only explanation for their turn from cowering in fear to boldly proclaiming Christ, though it cost virtually all of them their lives, was that they had encountered the risen Jesus.

The late Chuck Colson worked in the Nixon White House. He said: Compare the Watergate scandal with the resurrection. With Watergate, there was a human conspiracy; but once it began to break, it collapsed completely. And 80 men went to jail—Colson being one of them. But nothing (not even torture, nor martyrdom) could stop the disciples who proclaimed the resurrection of Jesus.

Honest skeptics who have examined the evidence have eventually become believers. Repeatedly.

*General Lew Wallace (1827-1905) was an unbeliever and set out to disprove the faith that he later came to embrace and help to promote. His pro-Christian book, Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, became the basis for the 1959 film of the year.

*One of the best known defenders of the Christian faith of today is Josh McDowell, but as a young college student, he was very skeptical about the historicity of Christianity. In fact, he spent some time on study leave at the British Museum specifically to refute the faith.

After a few weeks of intense study, he realized how wrong he was. He realized that the Christian faith is based on the facts of history, available for anyone open-minded enough to discover.

He became a dedicated believer, has written many books, including the best-selling, Evidence That Demands a Verdict, and has proclaimed Christ all over the world. Josh McDowell said of the resurrection of Jesus: “It’s the most fantastic fact of history.”

*C. S. Lewis (1898-1963) was one of the greatest Christian writers of the 20th century. He taught at Oxford and at Cambridge University. But as a young man, he had been an atheist, until he examined Christianity more closely. He describes himself in Surprised by Joy as “the most dejected, reluctant convert in all of England . . . drug into the kingdom kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting [my] eyes in every direction for a chance of escape.”

*Lee Strobel used to be the legal affairs editor of the Chicago Tribune. He graduated Yale Law School and was no intellectual slouch. He also was a confirmed skeptic. But when his wife started attending church, he decided to go on a quest: to use his investigative skills to examine the claims of Christianity, including the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

Strobel was honest enough to follow where the evidence would lead him. He became a Christian and now is a leading apologist. He has now written such classics as The Case for Christ and The Case for Faith.

*Author Dr. Mike Licona, professor at Houston Baptist University, told me that he had serious doubts as a young man: “So, I resolved to do a thorough investigation and go where the evidence led. After years of research, the conclusion was inescapable that Jesus had risen from the dead, and the Christian gospel turns out being true.”

Licona’s key professor was Dr. Gary Habermas of Liberty University. Habermas is one of the greatest scholars on the resurrection alive. He tells me: “I struggled through many years of religious doubt, for some ten years straight and then more sporadically for many more years beyond that. It dominated my thinking during those years.”

He concludes: “Having studied other philosophies and world religions along the way, at one point I thought I was becoming a Buddhist. Throughout my entire search for answers, nothing quieted my toughest questions more thoroughly that did my detailed study of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This event became my anchor and foundation for faith ever since.”

Skeptics are welcome to examine the evidence for themselves. He is risen indeed.

by Jerry Newcombe


The Resurrection: Christ’s Destiny And Ours

1 Corinthians 15:3-22

Throughout the past week, Christians around the world have contemplated Jesus’ final steps as He made His way to the cross. His humiliation and suffering have broken our hearts, but just beneath the surface lay the expectation of what we knew was coming: He is risen!

The resurrection was the Savior’s destiny—but so was the cross. Jesus came as the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world (John 1:29). But did you know that the cross is also God’s ordained destiny for believers? It’s the only way to deal with sin. When Jesus died at Calvary, He bore the punishment for our sins so that everyone who believes in Him can be forgiven and declared “Not Guilty!” From God’s judicial standpoint, we have already been crucified with Christ because the penalty for our sin has been paid. However, salvation doesn’t remove our old sinful thought patterns and desires.

What Christ did in removing the penalty of sin, we must each do personally to overcome the power of sin in our lives. But the cross is the last place we want to go. It not only brings pain, but the road leads through Gethsemane, where we have to say to God, “Not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

Though we long to overcome sin in our life, many of us are unwilling to do what’s required. Yet if we try to avoid the cross, we’ll miss the abundant life God wants to give us. Instead of living in consistent triumph over temptation, we will be on a roller coaster of ups and downs. Each time we fail, we’ll try harder, but there is no way to improve or reform our sinful tendencies. They have to be put to death.

The cross is not the end point. God’s goal is that we “walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). Once we nail those old fleshly cravings to the cross, they’ll start to lose their appeal, and our hearts will begin to find delight in obeying the Lord. Just as Christ was raised from the dead, we, too, will find vibrant life and victory beyond our Golgotha.

Ask yourself these questions: What is at the center of my life? What drives me and gives me a sense of purpose? Does anything other than the Holy Spirit have control over me? What am I unwilling to surrender to the Lord? If anything or anyone in your life has priority over Christ, it’s idolatry. Whatever you are holding onto or whatever is holding onto you needs to be taken to the cross. A new life of freedom and power is waiting on the other side of the grave.

—Charles F. Stanley

Stained with Blood So Divine

“But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, . . . one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith there came out blood and water.” (John 19:33-34)

As with many of the great hymns, the verses of “The Old Rugged Cross” tell a story when considered in sequence. The first verse states the general doctrine of the cross; the second speaks of the necessity of the incarnation to accomplish the cross’ purpose; the third, quoted below, gives details of the crucifixion and what it accomplished, and the last verse rehearses the results, both now and in the future.

In the old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
A wondrous beauty I see;
For t’was on that old cross Jesus suffered and died
To pardon and sanctify me.

That old rugged cross was stained with blood, as is obvious from our text. But this blood was special, for “ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold. . . . But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world” (1 Peter 1:18-20).

The divine Lamb of God suffered and died on the cross, “in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:14), “that he might sanctify the people with his own blood” (Hebrews 13:12).

But the old rugged cross was not the only thing stained that day, for “the blood of Jesus Christ . . . cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). The saints in heaven are portrayed as having “washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14). “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18). So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross. JDM

Long Before the Lord

But when Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he tool me vail off, until he came out. And he came out, and spake unto the children of Israel that which he was commanded. —Exodus 34:34

It is written of Moses that he “went in before the LORD to speak with him…. [a]nd he came out, and spake unto the children of Israel.” This is the biblical norm from which we depart to our own undoing and to the everlasting injury of the souls of men. No man has any moral right to go before the people who has not first been long before the Lord. No man has any right to speak to men about God who has not first spoken to God about men. And the prophet of God should spend more time in the secret place praying than he spends in the public place preaching….

One swallow does not make a spring nor one hot day a summer; nor will a few minutes of frantic praying before service bring out the tender buds or make the flowers to appear on the earth. The field must be soaked in sunshine over a long period before it will give forth its treasures. The Christian’s heart must be soaked in prayer before the true spiritual fruits begin to grow.

Quiet my heart today, slow me down I pray. Amen.

Worth of a Soul: God Gave His Only Son

…Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Matthew 16:26

In the world’s markets, something which has no value for a disinterested person may be considered of great value to another who desires it and purchases it. In this sense, we may learn how dear and precious we are to Christ by what He was willing to give for us!

Many Christians are tempted to downgrade themselves too much. I am not arguing against true humility and my word to you is this: Think as little of yourself as you want to, but always remember that our Lord Jesus Christ thought very highly of you—enough to give Himself for you in death and sacrifice!

If the devil comes to you and whispers that you are no good, don’t argue with him. In fact, you may as well admit it, but then remind the devil: “Regardless of what you say about me, I must tell you how the Lord feels about me. He tells me that I am so valuable to Him that He gave Himself for me on the cross!”

So the value is set by the price paid—and in our case, the price paid was our Lord Himself, and the end that the Saviour had in view was that He might redeem us from all iniquity, that is, from the power and consequences of iniquity.

One of Wesley’s hymns speaks of “the double cure” for sin. The wrath of God against sin and the power of sin in the human life—both of these were dealt with when Christ gave Himself for us. He redeemed us with a double cure!

Hope or Despair?

A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven. JOHN 3:27

John the Baptist gave his questioners a brief sentence that I have called the “hope and the despair” of mankind. He told them that “a man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.”

John was not referring to men’s gifts. He was speaking of spiritual truth. Divine truth is of the nature of the Holy Spirit, and for that reason it can be received only by spiritual revelation.

In his New Testament letters, the Apostle Paul declares again and again the inability of human reason to discover or comprehend divine truth. In that inability we see human despair.

John the Baptist said, “Except it be given him from heaven”—and this is our hope! These words do certainly mean that there is such a thing as a gift of knowing, a gift that comes from heaven. Jesus promised His disciples that the Holy Spirit of truth would come and teach them all things (see John 16:13-14).

Jesus also prayed: “I thank thee, O Father, because thou hast hid these things from the wise, and hast revealed them unto babes” (see Luke 10:21).

Lord, I pray that as I read Your Word, Your Spirit will help me perceive its spiritual truth and apply it to my life.