WHAT ARE YOU WILLING TO BELIEVE?
When was the last time you looked at your belief in something? I bet it was only when that belief was challenged by someone you respected. On rare occasions we do this on our own. We may overcome the erroneous belief that appearance equals quality. The timbers may be rotting in the house under a pretty new coat of paint. I maintain that most of our beliefs are taken on, and acted on, from unconfirmed sources. Don’t many voters vote based only on media campaign ads? We’re going to think about the things we don’t think about today and take communion, so get your elements now.
On the way to the resurrection, I want to talk about belief. We don’t make these thins up. They’re based on a compilation of the evidence we’ve taken in on the subject. In small decisions, we rarely are aware of the belief that founds a certain action. The more consequential the decision, the more examination of the beliefs involved.
We have to start off by looking at some of the general areas from which we commonly get our information. And keep in mind that we’re working toward believing the resurrection of Jesus, and its implications, if true.
--|Ministers of the belief system
The printed words of a Bible translation
Verification of the Bible
What are you willing to believe? We’re going define “believe” as following the belief to one’s own deprivation or hurt. Acting with one’s body as though the professed belief was true beyond doubt; as the belief is in tomorrow’s sunrise. That is, the expending of one’s life energy, in many different forms, for the perpetuating of the belief. We used to say, “Putting your money where your mouth is.”
Now listen, this isn’t some intellectual frame of mind. This means, “giving” away your Stuff. “Wasting” your time on things that don’t directly benefit you. Especially hard is “giving” away your money. And don’t think in the small box called Charity. Your belief system may demand that you do that charitable giving, but will demand that above that you give up to 25% of your gross income to the furtherance of the belief system.
OK. I think you get the idea. This isn’t some Sunday morning past time. This is a change in lifestyle. What are you willing to believe? On what are you willing to base such a radical change in life style?
You’ll find a lot of talk about religion on the street. People who won’t give you a definitive answer on things they seem to be expert in will give authoritative sounding statements on religion. Try to get a straight answer from you car mechanic on an electrical problem you are having with your car. You’ll think he’s beating around the bush. Ah, but bring up God, and he may give you a long speech on “how it is.” And like most emotion-driven arguments, it’ll be devoid of logic or truth. Talk on the street is cheap.
Talk in the media costs you. You have to buy the paper/TV/radio/movie ticket. They then have the effrontery to tell you lies and fabrications, so as to further their own agenda. And boy, do they do a good job of it. Because of the da Vinci Code book, the media coverage, and the movie itself, millions of people now have serious doubts about Jesus. “I’ve heard it so many times, it must be right..” In our day, that should be the first red flag that goes up.
If there is such a thing as the Truth of God, then because, axiomatically, there must be a devil, the opposition to that Truth will trumpet long and loud against that Truth. Repetition is probably the oldest form of brain washing. Repetition makes Truth out of Lie. How many times did we hear “Weapons of mass destruction?” (and isn’t that a wonderfully crafted psychological phrase. Reminds me of the fear-ridden phrases of the Cold War. “Duck and Cover” not being the least of them.) Beware of repetition.
Well then. Let’s not trust our lives to the street or media. We’ll surely discover Truth from the Professors. They who are studied and steeped in research of the things of this world? They who really know what’s going on? This will probably prove a dead end for those of us searching for evidence to found a lifestyle. In my experience, it’s the professors who most are the ones who I’ve described above. They might be in the top three in their field, but won’t say anything very solid about it. It’s a never-ending stream of qualifications. God? Maybe. But Jesus as divine? Never. Good Teacher. Wonderful moral character, to be emulated. Wiser than most we can listen to. But not divine. Maybe we’d better just leave these academics to their academies and look elsewhere.
How about those who have taken up the lifestyle of one who studies belief systems? Theological Academia. This might be another dead end, though. I can only speak from what I’ve heard and seen, and argued with different Pastors. I wonder greatly at what they might be teaching in those seminaries and higher theological institutions when I hear what come out of the mouths of their progeny. I used to argue with a “new” pastor. One day I could no longer keep the question. I had to tell him that he sounded like he didn’t believe the Bible. He confirmed this by telling me he didn’t have and real proof it was true. What the hell did they teach this guy? He could teach Greek and Hebrew, but didn’t believe the Bible.
Even though we may have reservations regarding the priests or ministers, we may next turn to them to answer our questions. They should be able to allay our doubts and show us that this extreme make over is worth the effort. They may be able to help us understand the Truth of this belief system. I don’t know about you, but if I’m going to give over half of my lifestyle to a belief system, I want to know if it’s real. I want proof.
But as I mentioned above, we may be no nearer our goal when the Pastor gets through with us as we were when he started.
Just as an example of what can come out of a preacher’s mouth, I’ll relate what I saw on a David Frost interview with Billy Graham. Frost was asking the “tough” question. “How do you prove there’s a God?” I could have given Frost about a hour’s worth of four or five different ways to show supernatural intervention into the physical reality, but all Graham could come up with was, “All you have to do is look at a baby to know there’s a God.” Oh boy! That sure helps the seeker have confidence in “giving away” half his life.
We keep striking out, here. Not that any one of these avenues could hold the Truth, but how to verify that Truth? That’s the other main point. Besides finding the Truth, how will we confirm it so we can start on our transformation? You might hear “God is Real” from any one of the above sources. That sure is true. God is Real. But because you hear from any of these sources doesn’t mean you’ll start giving away your money, even if it’s only a Twenty. What are you willing to believe? What are you willing to bank half your life on?
Doesn’t it really come down to individual research? Someone else’s word might sustain you for a little while, but soon the pursuit of survival will take over and you’ll go back to protecting what you have, instead of giving it away. We’re just human, after all.
OK. I’ve gone to all the places above, and now I’m on my own. What’s left as a source? How about the Bible itself? I’m ready to believe the Bible, with one or two exceptions. First, I know that the Bible I’m reading wasn’t written in that language. So I have to get over the hurdle of knowing what the Bible said originally. That’s pretty simple, because I can just go to the original language and check to see that my translation is true to the author’s words.
The much harder exception to deal with is proving that what the original writing says is True. How can I believe that a flesh and blood man was killed and three days after being laid in a tomb he came back to life? How can I really believe there’s a heaven? What can I use, to help me give away half my life, to prove that God’s life force/Spirit will be deposited in my body if I act on something He has said about helping me? How can I believe the Bible?
Sure, I can believe what Acts says about Paul and his journeys. I can check that with secular history. I can believe that Jesus really lived. I can check that with secular history. I can believe that what the apostles wrote has been transmitted to us today. I can check that with secular history. I can do the same with the kings of Israel. I can find some of their tombs. Will any of that help me act as though I’ll go to heaven if I give away a bunch of my money? No! Even the people in the back yelled, “No!”
I’ve got to be able to prove supernatural intervention into the writing of the Bible to be able to take a chance that the improvable parts might also be true.
How do I do that? Check secular history. You’d think such a simple answer would result in everyone finding the Truth. God’s intervention into the physical reality is never more apparent than in Biblical prophecy. The most superficial manifestation of God’s hand is the study of the Lost Tribe or House of Israel prophecies. The Old Testament is crowded with “predictions” to the ten-tribe northern kingdom of the House of Israel. One tiny step deeper will bring up about seven other names given to the House of Israel.
Next, we list all those prophecies and check them against secular history to see if they came true. When we see that God opened a little window of time and show the prophet what would be taking place in 3000 years, we might gain the confidence that the Bible is supernaturally inspired. I’m positive that the Pastor I mentioned above never was presented with this type of information.
The fulfilled prophecies to that House of Israel number in the hundreds. But secular history is where we’ll find the connections to the people who have fulfilled those prophecies. Once we know whom those people are in today’s world, it takes no more than the usual twelfth grade education to know that the prophecies have come true. I’ll mention one of the many prophecies I’ve talked about over the years.
This one goes back almost 4000 years. Abraham was told that when his descendents numbered so many that they couldn’t be counted, that they would possess “the gates of their enemies.” The short, up to date version of that promise is that the Israelite nations would control the strategic points of world access and trade. After making the connection between the Israelites of the Bible and the people who became Britain and the US, it’s grade school knowledge that confirms that Britain and the US control Panama, Suez, Gibraltar, Cape Horn and Good Hope, and many more.
Ah! Now we’ve got a basis for belief in the Bible. Many different prophets over the course of many centuries can’t fill out this same story without there being some over riding supernatural guidance.
Some other prophecies might not be so easy to confirm, but I think we can be sure that the important ones for us to embrace, one’s that will found our lifestyle change will also be found confirmed. For instance, the resurrection.
I may never find solid evidence that God’s Spirit will be put in my body when I act in trust of something He’s said, but if Jesus was a historical figure, then what the Bible says about him can be believed. There are many prophets of Jesus’ coming and experiences. David, who many never think of as a prophet, has a lot to say about Jesus. But it’s spread out amongst many of the Psalms. Isaiah is probably the most concise and most comprehensive in telling about Jesus. He is also the prophet that most describes Jesus’ dealing with the Lost Tribes, Britain and the US, plus northwest Europe. Handel uses Isaiah chapter 53 as the basis for his “Messiah.”
Isaiah deals with two sides of life. The physical and the spiritual. His prophecies about the life and events of Jesus fit well with other such prophecies about Jesus. But he also tells us things about Jesus that are for our spiritual comfort. He tells us that Jesus would relieve us of the responsibility of our imperfection, which keeps us from getting it Right. He explains that Jesus took our health issues on himself.
Now the whole New Testament is open to us. Our minds will be open to the evidence that will confirm Jesus’ divinity. Prophets weren’t divine. They did some wonderful things. Jesus had nothing on Elijah when it came to flying off to heaven. But he wasn’t divine. He didn’t die and come back to life after 72 hours.
The fact that Jesus said he would die and be raised, even that it would be in three days, and then have that resurrection actually take place confirms his divinity. It’s the Proof that founds the whole of Christianity. The evidence for the resurrection is abundant, but scattered and takes some extra study to amass enough to found a belief that will result in a lifestyle change such as we’ve been talking about.
Welllll…….. if what the Bible says is true, and the Bible quotes Jesus, then can we also believe that Jesus’ words were not only true but supernaturally inspired? The answer, as hard as it might seem, has to be yes. A very reluctant Yes. We just hate to stick our toe into the unknown, no matter how good we’ve been told it is.
Now we’re in for it. When it comes to Jesus’ sayings, we encounter great gobs of the unknown. He lived forever, he knew what heaven was like, he had the OK to forgive someone for a wrong that didn’t touch him in any way. Would you feel effective forgiving a thief for stealing your neighbor’s car? The cops would haul him away anyway. Jesus acted like he was perfect. He went as far as to say that the bad stuff in the world would be fixed by his death. We better be on pretty solid ground if we’re going to accept that crazy stuff.
By the way, the above is also a good debunk of what Academia thinks of Jesus. They say he’s a good and wise teacher. No good teacher would try to deceive his students with drivel about living forever. He’d have to believe the delusion himself. And if a wise teacher taught that he could forgive sins, he’d be defrauding his students. Jesus couldn’t be wise and/or good and say the things he claimed for himself.
There’s more hard stuff, though. There are all the things that Jesus told us that we should be doing. Bottom-lining people isn’t a good way to start, but the bottom line of Jesus hard sayings is “love your neighbor as yourself.” The stuff above that line is hard enough. Jesus said we should tithe. I can still hate my neighbor and tithe. Why take it all the way to loving my neighbor? I just want to sit here where it’s nice. And I’m not overjoyed about turning the other cheek, either.
Those challenges are the “push” into the new lifestyle. The responsibilities of Christianity become our lifestyle. We try to do these things in our day-to-day lives. The things we did before don’t get any play now. No time left over.
We better find some good evidence to confirm the resurrection. We’re not the first ones to investigate this, though. Good thing. Both the Dark and Light sides have thrown evidence into the pot. We’ve got plenty of explanations for the resurrection. More correctly, the explanation for the empty tomb. Standing alone, which is the trick of the media; some of these explanations seem plausible. The most frequent story is that the disciples stole the body. Why is that first on the list? It’s right there in the Bible. The Priests told the guards to go tell that story around the city. It was the first news to reach anyone, and oft repeated. The folks at the checkout counter didn’t take much notice of the possibility of the story being true or false.
Some of the less reasonable stories are that the Romans or the Jews took the body. A second thought would expose that lie. No one ever produced the body to debunk the story of the resurrection.
The favorite nowadays is the old resuscitation theory. That’s the basis for the da Vinci Code idea that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had kids. This all happened after the supposed crucifixion. Jesus resuscitated in the tomb. Or came out of the induced coma that made him seem dead.
But again, none of these theories fit with the facts. There are many considerations, but we’ll deal only with the facts of the disciples preaching and their lives. One of the theories that explain the empty tomb is that preached by the disciples. The resurrection relies on the truthfulness of the disciple’s story. Did they tell the truth? How can we today ever prove that to our own satisfaction; to the point of taking on a new life?
We’ve had a lot of help, thank God. We have the great legal mind of Simon Greenleaf, who literally wrote the book on court admissible evidence. We also have Sherlock’s “Trial of the Witnesses” which does the same basic examination of the disciple’s story in a little different way. Frank Morrison has also contributed to the picture in his book Who Moved The Stone?
From those who have had the time and expertise to deeply research the testimony of the Apostles, we are presented with the same conclusion. Given all the factual evidence we have from history and human behavior, the disciples told the truth. There was no way they could have lived, and died, the way history tells us, based on a made up story. The whole resurrection issue comes down to one question. Did the disciples tell the truth? If any of the other theories about the empty tomb is true, then the preachers of Jesus’ resurrection were making it up.
They never saw Jesus after the crucifixion. They had no idea where the body was. They didn’t watch Jesus fly off into the sky, leaving a couple angels to comment to the men watching below.
And what would they gain by this lie? Money? Fame? Power? Nope. Revilement. Imprisonment. Beating. Death, a terrible death.
No lawyer was Augustine, but I think it was he that summed it up briefly, and surely for any open mind. He said, “They all died ALONE.”
In recent years I have come to add the evidence contained in the Shroud of Turin.
My radio archive has three hours of evidence that should at least provoke further research into the authenticity of the Shroud. Proof of the Shroud’s authenticity isn’t the subject here, but I do want to take a look at a few of the details of the image, rather than trying to prove the Shroud is real.
It shows a man who was crucified. It shows blood flows that fit with Jesus’ injuries as stated in the Biblical account. The little dumbbell whip marks match the type of scourge that the Romans used at that time. The wound in the side is the same as described in the Bible. Many elements of the image mirror what we are told about Jesus. The nail wounds are probably standard. The spear wound in the side is much less probable. Why not the other side? And weren’t there many that needed no verification of death? Same for scourging. Did all those that were crucified get whipped beforehand?
The most prominent feature that is certainly at least very rare is the blood marks around the head. These show many wounds, not just one or two, as though the person was hit on the head with some “blunt instrument” as they used to say in the crime shows. How many “crucifix-ees” had a crown of thorns? My somewhat biased guess is, none. The reason for the crown was to mock Jesus’ touted kingship.
For all the elements of the shroud to parallel the Biblical account is beyond coincidence.
But, just for good measure, the Shroud is chock full of supernatural stuff, too. None of the details can be see without taking a photograph and looking at the negative. That done, the image shows up as a positive image, one can recognize the swelling on one cheek. The image looks three dimensional, and doesn’t line up with the blood marks. The cloth draped around the head. When the cloth is held out flat, the blood marks from the side of the face are way out to the side. This would result in a very wide, distorted picture of the head. So we have a flat image, like in a photograph, and rounded “image” at the same time; physically impossible. There is an x-ray quality to the Shroud that shows many different types of local flowers and spices that were used to pack around the body. The Shroud even contains the lines of the stones that made up the table on which the body was laid. The image is scorched onto the fabric in a way that only the top microns of the threads are turned color. The backsides of the threads are still white. The image shows a man that’s “hanging” vertical, not laying down. The hair of the image falls straight down to the shoulders, as when a person is standing up. The hair is NOT lying back against the table the way it does on your pillow at night. It looks like we have a man lying down and floating upright at the same time. And there are facial shadows that show that some “light” came from above the head. The scorched image went straight out from the body through the cloth. But, added to the image is an additional scorching “light” that shone from above the head down toward the feet.
Conclusion? If the Shroud is real, then it is the image of Jesus. If it is the image of Jesus, it evidences his resurrection.
I guess you can see how the superficial ideas of the Street, Media, Academia and even Pastors can leave us with false conclusions. The evidence confirming the resurrection of Jesus isn’t found on page two. It’s “hidden” in many dusty, dark corners. It only comes out into the light with deeper research than most everybody wants to do. Who won the game Monday night seems more important.
Unfortunately, the real benefits of the resurrection never come home. But once we confirm the resurrection, we can then focus on the up side to the whole issue. Again, it will be crazy stuff that Jesus or Paul says. Stuff we can’t prove, even when we think it’s happening.
Jesus said, “He that cometh to me, I’ll in no wise cast out.” John 6:37 Who you are, where you are, what you’ve done, is irrelevant to God. All we have to do is make a move in God’s direction and He’ll accept us. That’s better than any of your friends, and even most parents.
He also told us, that “Who the Son sets free, is free indeed.” John 8:36 When I follow God, I am not governed by ANY rules. I’m set free from all the regulations and rituals put on us by probably sincere Pastors and teachers. There are no more rules for salvation. Only faithing. Faithing isn’t a specific behavior; it’s a governing principle that can be applied to all actions. Paul Tillich makes the point well. He says that Jesus wasn’t the founder of a new religion. He did away with religion, religiously practicing a belief system, living by the Rules.
Paul expands on this idea in Galatians 6:17 and Colossians 2:16. He says, “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days.” No rules. It’s in Galatians where he applies this to himself.
“From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” His lifestyle can be clearly seen to connect to Jesus and God. And we have no say in the matter.
Seeing that Jesus taught Paul about the connection of the Old Testament to the New for three years in Arabia, and that Paul is obviously the interpreter of the Old Testament, when he talks, it’s out of God’s or Jesus’ mouth.
And Paul says, “I’ll never leave you nor forsake you,” in Hebrews 13:5. He assures us in Romans 8:38 that nothing on this physical, and even spiritual plane has the power to get between God and us. We’re safe, with a capital “S”. That doesn’t sound half as profound as it really is. Think about safety at the spiritual level. Where does that go?
Safety at the spiritual level means that there is total safety on the physical level. If our souls are safe, what matter about anything that happens physically? Even the supreme physical concern is welcomed. I don’t know any believer that doesn’t say they’d rather die and be with God, than live down here. Complete freedom.
Then Paul unleashes a veritable ocean of opportunity to us in 2 Corinthians 1:20. He tells us that any promise found anywhere in the Bible can be used by us. He says, “For all the promises of God in him (that’s Christ) are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.” Look where that goes in just three Old Testament verses.
Deuteronomy says that whatever you have to do today, that God will give you the strength to get through it. “As thy day, so shall thy strength be.”
In Proverbs 3:6 we’re promised guidance if we’ll just consult God. “In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.” When can’t we use God’s guidance?
On a more practical level, and relating to our radical change in lifestyle, is Malachi 3:10. God tells us through the prophet that it’ll be OK to give away our money. “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, If I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” Wow!!!
To me, that says that the money I give back to God, back because it is His to start with, He just lets me hold it for a while, will be made up for. In fact, I’ll get back more value than the money I put out. “Windows of heaven” doesn’t mean twenty bucks.
And there are five additions to that promise that are worthwhile. He will rebuke the devil. Your crops will do fine. Your “fruit” will come to maturity. Malachi is talking to the whole nation of Israel, but the next two promises can be scaled down to the personal level. He says that we’ll be blessed by those around us and be a delight to others.
This new lifestyle might look really hard, but those benefits are better than any retirement plan I’ve seen.
Oh, and we might want to consider that we’re told we’ll live forever.
With all those promises at stake, we’d better take a looong look at the resurrection. And then figure out how to act to get in on those neat things. Figuring is simple and easy. Putting the info we find into practice is somewhat hard.
We access God by faithing. That’s all there is to it. The hard part is the actual faithing. Finding places to do it. Recognizing the opportunities to faithe as they come up on our daily lives can boggle us.
I’ve hit on a plan that gives a small, but solid platform from which to operate. These are the four clear ways to faithe listed in the Bible. Matthew 6 lists three acts of righteousness. Notice that giving is listed first, head of the list. Prayer is next, then fasting. You do any of these actions depending on God to help with the hard part and He can make contact with you through the implantation of His Spirit. That’s another promise we can’t prove, but can be founded on the proof of the resurrection. We get God’s Spirit for faithing.
The last of the four is Communion. This is clearly an action. And someone in the fourth century didn’t make it up. It came out of God’s own mouth through Jesus, and Paul. It’s an act based on something God has said. That’s faithing.
Why not do a little faithing right now? I trust you have your elements there; or you can go quickly and get them. You know, you don’t have to be real picky and say you can’t do communion because you don’t have red wine and unleavened bread. Paul tells us that it’s not what you do, but how you do it. It’s not the physical elements that get our focus; it’s Jesus and what happened to him.
Paul details out the communion in 1 Corinthians 12. He says that we are to discern Christ and his sacrifice. Notice he uses an adverb to describe doing it right. He says don’t take communion “unworthily”. Don’t take communion in an unworthy manner. It has nothing to do with our worthiness. None of us is that kind of worthy. But we can do communion in a worthy manner by focusing on Christ. Paul had to get after those Corinthians because they were making Communion a drunken feast.
In verses 20 to 30 Paul outlines communion. He defines worthiness in verse 29. “For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, (here it is), not discerning the Lord’s body.” Our focus in on Christ, not whether our behavior measures up to some standard; a standard made up for us by some other human being.
Isaiah and Peter confirm the fact that Jesus made all our bad stuff OK with God. Also, that all our sickness, all our body issues were taken care of at the time of the crucifixion. Peter even puts it in the past tense when he tells us, “by his stripes ye were healed.
That’s why there are two elements at the Communion table. One, the wine, is for the “healing” of our souls. The other, the bread, is for the healing of our bodies. There’s no reason to have two elements if they do the same thing. If only saving were at issue, we’d only have to take the wine.
Let’s start with the bread and talk faith by putting it in the past tense like Peter. Say it with me, “By his stripes,..I was healed. In Jesus name.
It’s really hard to make real the idea that God will see us as Himself and not see all our imperfections, but that’s what He’s promised. Take the wine now and thank Him for His grace. And I always ask for more mercy. “Thank you for your Grace, Lord. Please have mercy on me, in Jesus’ name.
Did Jesus come out of that tomb? I sure believe he did. I believe it enough to take on that radical new lifestyle that gives up all my sovereignty to God. But in so doing, I gain sovereignty over all things physical. Pretty good deal when one thinks about it.
Spike Lee had it right. Life here, our salvation and living forever “over there”, are all contained in, “Do the Right thing.” If you’re always doing the Right thing, then you have to be acting in faith of God. There’s no other base that can found that kind of action. Doing the Right thing can always be seen as risky, containing the unknown, the “what if”. Those “what ifs” are very hard to ignore. They get right in our faces.
And look. You don’t have to be a Christian or go to a church to faithe; to act on something that you decide God has said. All you need for that is the Bible; and then only to confirm what your heart says God must have said, if He’s the God of creation.
The American Indians didn’t have to have a Bible to believe that the Great Spirit would provide for them. They didn’t have big pile of rotting buffalo carcasses lying around because they killed way more that they needed, just to be safe.
In this life, you can depend on God.
This new lifestyle sounds pretty heavy, but God doesn’t require us to jump into the deep end. He takes us where we are. It’s about how, not how much.
Are you willing to accept the provable supernatural intervention into reality as a basis for life? I say you can, because I know that God if Real and the He does what He says.
I love mail.