CHECK YOUR MIND AT THE COAT CLOSET?

BY: FRANK TUNSTALL

As we go into the Christmas season, it is good to be reminded that the incarnation of Jesus, who came down from heaven and moved into the Jewish neighborhood some 2,000 years ago, is based on historical facts. We must also never forget what Simeon the prophet told Mary, Baby Jesus’ mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too” (Luke 2:34-35 italics added). Watching Jesus tortured on His cross surely drove the blade of agony deeply into Mary’s soul.

Some critics, however, claim Christians believe on blind faith, defined as belief that is not based on historical facts. For example, The God Delusion is a book by Richard Dawkins who is recognized by many as the world’s most prominent atheist. Dawkins asserts faith opposes reason. He also says faith is actually a “delusion.” A delusion is an idea or belief that people hold, despite the strong evidence that is against it. [See Chapter 1 of The God Delusion.]

Regarding Jesus’ resurrection three days after His crucifixion, Dawkins in The Selfish Gene addressed the Bible story of Thomas, and concluded “Thomas demanded evidence” for the Lord’s resurrection. Dawkins’ position is that the disciples had no evidence to offer Thomas because there was no resurrection. Dawkins goes on to say, “The other apostles, whose faith was so strong they did not need evidence, are held up to us as worthy of imitation” (p. 198). Hence, the other disciples were living out a delusion held so strongly they intended to spread it to anyone who would listen!

Wow!

The assertion that Christianity is anchored on blind faith is preposterous. The gospel asks no one to check his mind at the coat closet when he walks into the church.

Thomas was not present resurrection night when Jesus appeared to His disciples, but he was given the best kind of evidence, eyewitness testimony by the other disciples who were present and shared the historic evidence with him. The issue with Thomas was not a lack of credible confirmation; instead, Thomas made a choice not to believe the eyewitness facts his brethren shared with him.

When Jesus met the disciples a week later with Thomas present, Jesus gave Thomas more irrefutable verification by showing Thomas His nail scars and His wounded side. Then Jesus commanded Thomas, “Stop doubting and believe” (John 20:27).

We conclude that faith is a choice to believe God in the face of the evidence, and doubt is a choice not to believe God even in the face of the evidence. Each engages the mind as a mental decision. Clearly Jesus’ message to Thomas was, “Make the decision to believe, Thomas, because the evidence for my resurrection cannot be rejected by a person of reasonable mind.”

Thomas had chosen not to believe, but when the overwhelming evidence stood in front of him and stared him in the face, Thomas exclaimed, “My Lord and my God.”

The problem with critics of the resurrection today remains the same – the difficulty is not lack of credible proof, but willingness to accept the evidence. Jesus was born of a virgin, crucified, died and was buried, and then conquered death on the third day, with each of these as documented events of history.

The primary source for Jesus’ life, teachings and miracles is the Bible itself, which is also a book of history. The Bible has undergone the most intense scrutiny by scholars over the centuries, but its history continues to be authoritative. It provides the best and strongest evidence possible – primary, eyewitness evidence for the resurrection of Jesus.

Celebration of Jesus’ birth is a miracle inseparable from the story of His death and resurrection. Believers’ confessions made in their worship this Christmas season, that Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary and raised from the dead three days after His crucifixion are indeed based on historical evidence that substantiates these miracles.

Yes, we worship God with our minds too.

The following testimonies that include seven people are examples of the kinds of evidence courts of law dream to have – multiple examples of verifying eyewitness evidence.

The Apostle John wrote about his own personal experience with Jesus – what he had seen and heard.

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched — this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete” (1 John 1:1-4).

The Apostle John, in fact, wrote the entire Gospel of John to give the evidence that makes the case Mary’s Baby, Jesus of Nazareth, is the Son of God (John 20:31).

Luke the physician wrote in his introduction to the book of Acts:

“The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:1-3 KJV).

John the Baptist gave witness at Jesus’ baptism to hearing the audible voice of God out of heaven. The Baptizer said he “saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on [Jesus].” And the “voice from heaven” that John heard said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:16-17 KJV). “I have seen and I testify,” John said, “that this is the Son of God” (John 1:34).

The Apostle Peter as well as John and James witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus. Peter wrote about their experience some twenty years later:

“We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty (italics added). For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain” (2 Peter 1:16-18; Matthew 17:5).

The Apostle Paul wrote that Jesus’ resurrection is the final and ultimate proof that Jesus is the Son of God. He told the Corinthians “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.” Paul concluded, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20-23; John 20:31 ESV). Yes, the Apostle Paul knew the resurrection of Jesus was a historical fact [italics added].  

The sun comes up.
It’s a new day dawning.
It’s time to sing your song again….
Bless the Lord oh my soul;
Oh my soul.
Worship His Holy name.
Sing like never before Oh my soul.
I’ll worship Your Holy name.
By: Matt Redman

Jesus’ command to Thomas, “Stop doubting and believe” applies to all of Jesus’ miracles, including His miraculous birth and His death and resurrection as events in history.  It also applies to the unfulfilled prophecies of scripture: “Don’t be unbelieving. Believe,” Jesus said (MSG).

While many today reject the evidence, multitudes of others accept the Lord’s directive to Thomas and embrace the primary evidence for the historical reality of Jesus’ death on the cross and His bodily resurrection. These people also take the next step and cherish the yet unfulfilled prophecies of Jesus. We accept these predictions at face value because Jesus’ resurrection vindicated His authority to make them. They are reasonable and credible outgrowths of the Lord’s miraculous birth and His triumph over the grave (Revelation 1:4-7; 5:5-10).

One example of such a foresight is Jesus’ promise He is coming back to this earth (John 14:3). This is a prophecy to be believed because it has not happened yet. In essence Jesus was saying to all of us as we celebrate Christmas this year that “the evidence for my authority over death, hell and the grave is so overwhelming and conclusive you are to ‘stop doubting and believe’ that I have gone to prepare a place for you, and will return to this earth to get you so that you can be with me forever.”

Wow! “Even so come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).

Another is the prophecy of the great day of the resurrection when each believer will have a glorified and immortal body like Jesus’ body (Acts 2:31; Romans 1:4; 1 Corinthians 15:20-23; Revelation 20:5-6, 13-15).

Still another is the blessed hope of eternal life in heaven with Jesus, “world without end” (Ephesians 3:21).

Because the death and resurrection of Jesus happened as events of history, Paul wrote this breathtaking prophecy: “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you” (Romans 8:11).

We conclude, therefore, the confession in worship that the Virgin Mary gave birth to the Babe of Bethlehem as a historic event, and that Jesus is also God’s Son, has its strongest corroborating evidence in the Lord’s death and resurrection. These conclusions are not at all based on blind faith that lack support in historical facts.

One of the teachers of the law asked Jesus:

“Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength’ [italics added]. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:28-31 NIV).

Indeed! it is not required of a Christian to check his mind at the door when he walks into the church. Instead, we worship the Lord with our minds too. Followers of Jesus do not blindly celebrate Christmas and confess Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

We must be careful to note, however, that mental assent alone can only point a person toward salvation. Personal conviction of sin is the work of the Holy Spirit who draws people to Jesus, convinces them when they repent Jesus will receive them, and actually gives them a new heart in a new birth. Forgiveness from God comes when we believe with all our heart, soul, mind and strength that Jesus is who He says He is. Then we are able to accept Him as the Son of God, and confess our sins with Godly sorrow.  When we do that, “He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins, and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

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