The following two websites are helpful for investigating the historical accuracy of the gospel record.
Josh McDowell’s story tells how as a skeptical History lecturer he set about disproving Christianity only to find the evidence showed he was wrong. His website is rich with all kinds of material that will not only fascinate someone searching for truth, but will also greatly equip anyone to share the reason for their hope with others.
Lee Strobel is a journalist who has published his discoveries as he researched for himself the Christian faith. Originally a hard nosed agnostic, his wife’s conversion left him needing some answers about how much damage this development might mean for their relationship. As he sought to unravel the basis of her experience his research eventually led to the demolishing of his own world view and radically changed his life. The resources on his website are compelling reading!
Listen to what Jesus says…
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” — Matthew 11:28-30
“I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’” — John 3:5-7
“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” — John 5:24
“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” — John 7:37-38
“Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” — John 4:14
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” — Revelation 3:20
Believe in the Lord Jesus… that is trust in, cling to, and rely on him. He will do something incredible within you. His own spirit —the Holy Spirit, the Spirit that raised Him from the dead — will transform you from the inside out, giving you a new nature — his own nature — making you a brand new person — being born all over again with Jesus nature! Forgiven cleansed and empowered to live the way you were meant to!
This is what these verses say. This is his promise to you today! What a Saviour!
You can receive Him today. Right where you are. Right now. Is there anything stopping you from praying a prayer like the one below?
“Lord Jesus, I know you love me. I know you died for me. I know you paid for all my sin. You know I can’t deal with the sinfulness of my heart myself. I come to you as you told me to. And I ask you to forgive me. Come into my life. I am sick of the person I am. Come into my heart. Make me the kind of person you want me to be. Give me your spirit to change me on the inside into what you are like. I believe you rose from the dead to give me life, and I trust you now to keep your promise, not because of anything in me, but because I know you are faithful. Thank you for loving me, and for all these things that you have guaranteed to do. Amen.”
Suppose you were to die, and you found yourself face to face with God, and He asked you, “Why should I let you into heaven with me?” What would your answer be?
We have surveyed many people with this question. Though it can be answered a thousand ways, every response falls into two basic categories. In fact, more than nine out of ten are basically the same.
Most people’s answers focus on their own merit. We try to find something in ourselves that might redeem us. We might look at good things we might have done, at our motives and intentions, or our desires. We might compare ourselves with others or look at things we didn’t do or temptations we resisted; good deeds, generous thoughts, religious acts etc. “I never tried to hurt anyone.” “I tried to do my best.” I kept the golden rule.” ” I never murdered anyone.” “Even though I’ve done things I’m ashamed of, I didn’t mean to do wrong.” “I am a product of my environment.”
But who can measure up to God’s standard? Very few people face the truth that compared to God, who is Holy, perfectly loving, and who is perfect Light, we are not able to come into His presence. Very few people acknowledge the deep depravity the hides within the human heart.
The truth is that human history proves beyond doubt, what God’s word says about us,“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Who can know it?” The worst evil in human history is committed consistently by average ordinary people. The worst obscenities in human history are repeated over and over again, as a whole, by people from all walks of life who loved their wives and kids, and cried when their pets died. Given the right circumstances, the right conditioning, the right culture, any of us could have been guards in the concentration camps. This is what Jesus said about you and me.
“For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man unclean.” — Mark 7:21-23
That’s why we need him; not just to forgive us, not just to bear our punishment in our place only, but to change our hearts. The Old Testament promised that one day He would come to do exactly that!
“I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” — Ezekiel 36:25-27
That’s exactly what Jesus does for us when we come to him — in grace — freely and totally undeserved!
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world… All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” — Ephesians 2:1-10
The good news of Jesus is that when we trust him, he forgives us and makes us new — inside! Good works can’t save us, but when He saves us good works come as a result of that change!
The resurrection of Jesus is the central issue on which Christianity rests. Without it our faith is “useless."
Peter declared this when he vehemently affirmed, “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.”
John, near the end of his life earnestly assures his hearers, “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.”
The apostle Paul likewise made the historicity of the resurrection the defining issue for Christianity when he wrote, “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead.”
If Jesus didn’t really rise from the dead then Christianity is useless.
This story was not easy to believe even for the disciples themselves. The gospels tell us that Jesus disciples were crippled with disillusionment after His death and burial. Piecing together the different perspectives of the four gospels we get a vivid picture of the confusion and disbelief that characterised the disciples response. As Jesus followers were laying low from the authorities, various reports filtered back from various people. Their skepticism was eventually dispelled only when Jesus himself appeared among them together in the upper room where they were hiding out.
There have been a number of books written by people who were skeptics and critics of Christianity, whose purpose was to debunk the myth of the resurrection. As the facts were researched and the various arguments were explored, the inescapable conclusion became more and more compelling. Each of these authors eventually came to same conclusion. They ended up writing books which outline the way overwhelming evidence supporting the resurrection led them to faith.
The reason the resurrection is so important is threefold.
When Jesus died, all the ambitions, hopes and dreams of his followers died with him.
Convinced that he was Israel’s Messiah, they expected Jesus would overthrow the tyranny of Rome, and re-establish the Kingdom of Israel! They saw his miracles — calming the sea, raising the dead — as signalling that God was about to repeat the epic miracles of the Exodus when Moses parted the Red Sea to drown Egypt’s armies, or when He brought down the walls of Jericho for Joshua.
It was this expectation that caused his disciples to leave everything and follow him. It was why they speculated which of them would be the greatest. It was why Mrs Zebedee asked Jesus if her boys, James and John, could sit either side of Him on his throne.
When the soldiers came to the Garden of Gethsemane with their lanterns in the dead of night to arrest Jesus, the disciples at first wanted to take them on. But when Jesus surrendered to them without a fight, all they could do was panic and run. Totally bewildered, they were preoccupied with their own survival and went into hiding. As dawn broke and the full tragedy unfolded, their hopes began to free fall into despair.
Crucifixion was shockingly brutal; whipped until the ribs were visible, hands and feet nailed to a cross, then hoisted up and dropped into a hole in the ground, jarring all the bones out of joint. Exhausted, parched, dehydrated, and on the verge of asphyxiation, as the victim’s weight squeezed on his diaphragm. To breathe he had to lift his weight so he could gasp in the air needed to prolong the agony. All this under the constant taunts of the crowd surrounding him.
As Jesus was about to die he cried out, ”My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”... This the first line of Psalm 22 written 1000 years earlier. No doubt the rest of the words of the Psalm would eerily have gripped all those who heard him. Jesus was showing that this had been God’s plan all along. The Psalm goes on… “… All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: “He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him… I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death… a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me... They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.”
But as amazing than this supernatural revelation, is the truth that there on the cross Jesus was bearing the sin of all of the human race. 1 Peter 2:23-25 explains what happened that day this way… “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”
Jesus Christ is arguably the greatest person who has ever lived. He divides history itself into BC (Before Christ) and AD (Anno Domini, Latin for the year of Our Lord). Most people concede Jesus was a great teacher. All the world religions revere him as a great prophet. Even Humanists admire his teachings of equality, love, forgiveness and humility.
One of the most obvious things we learn from the gospels is Jesus’ authority. The gospels say that Jesus’ authority as a teacher was unique. Unlike the other spiritual leaders of his day, he never quoted others to draw on someone else’s credibility. He just simply said on the strength of his own authority “I tell you…”
It wasn’t just His teaching. He had authority to heal physical diseases, to cast out demons, to command even the physical elements themselves, to even raise the dead! Jesus actually claimed for himself the very highest authority. He claimed to be God.
There is a very significant story almost at the beginning of Mark where He is confronted with a man paralysed. Everyone expected him to heal the man, but instead he forgives the man’s sins. The religious leaders had problems with this, though apparently they wouldn’t have had a problem if he had healed the man, but they thought that he was blaspheming because only God can forgive people their sins. Jesus knew this caused them a problem. That’s why he said it. He waited for their reaction, then explained to them it was because he wanted them to know who he really was he held back before healing the man. Then he dramatically heals the man completely of his paralysis… “But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…” He said to the paralytic, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. ‘
We don’t have to accept this story to know that Jesus claimed to be God. There were many such claims, for which the Jewish leaders sought to kill Him. It was for this very reason they eventually did. The record is clear. He claimed to be God! What do we do with such a claim?
Maybe He actually believed He was God, but was delusional. In that case he was a lunatic.
Maybe he wasn’t mad, and knew that he was really just a man. Then he was deceiving people — passing himself off to the vulnerable and impressionable as something he knew he wasn’t. In that case he was a liar.
But it is hard to reconcile someone who has had the most profound influence on morality as being such a liar, and luring millions of followers into persecution and martyrdom for what he knew to be a lie. It is equally impossible for Jesus (whose wisdom credits him as being the greatest teacher in history), to be written off as a lunatic.
So if he wasn’t a liar or a lunatic, there is only one possibility left — He is Lord — just as he claimed.
The Gospel of John begins with these words… “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”
Without a Creator nothing could exist. This is a profound statement. It is the starting point of the gospel just as it is the starting point for the whole Bible, where Genesis begins with the simple statement…
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
True science, freed from the prejudices of the religious faith of atheistic naturalism, points to this truth. The laws of thermodynamics tell us that all the processes of nature are driving unrelentingly to an end point. Sooner or later, the energy that drives every natural process will eventually be spent. The Universe is like a clock winding down. In eternity future, all the stars will have been born and burned themselves out. In time, the Universe will eventually reach what scientists describe as “Heat Death.” This is why we know the physical universe hasn’t always been here. Because if it had existed eternally, then it would have died an eternity ago. It had to have a beginning.
This means that all the physical dimensions of mass, space and even time itself came into being at the beginning of the universe. How could the natural physical universe spontaneously create itself? This is beyond the natural laws of the natural universe that we can know. So the “supernatural” in one sense is a self evident fact. And that’s where the Bible story takes its starting point.
Of course some will immediately ask, “If God had to create the universe, then where did God come from?” The difference between God and the natural physical universe is that the physical universe is constrained by the physical laws of time, mass and space. Outside of the physical universe what is time? What is space? What is mass? Asking “When did God begin?” is about as sensible as asking “What does God weigh?” or “How wide or how tall is God?”
Philosophers love to argue about these kinds of things. If the first cause had a cause then it is no longer the first cause. Like looking at a mirror through a mirror eventually our view disappears into infinity. Can finite people ever really understand eternity? Can we expect to get our minds around a being who is eternal? For whom there is no such thing as time? Having eternally existed when there was no past?
As Jesus faced His death on the cross He prayed these words… “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent… And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.”
This Jesus is our Creator, the eternal God of whom the Psalms say… “Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”