"After spending four days on a vision tour in Puerto Rico alongside of Pastor Job and three pastors from Cave Spring Baptist, I woke up this morning with some reflections rapidly running through my mind. I have tried to capture most of them here.
1. When you go somewhere prayerfully asking God to open your eyes to His work and how He wants you to be involved, He will answer. We did not go to Puerto Rico with pre-determined answers, but it is fair to say we were leaning in a direction, and now God seems to be clearly leading us in a different direction.
2. Getting out of your context gives you fresh eyes on your context. Both Job and I found ourselves making observations about the Roanoke Valley and church life in the Roanoke Valley that had not really occurred to us (at least as profoundly) when we were sitting right here in the Roanoke Valley.
3. As an example of observation #2: there is much that we do every week that is beneficial but not essential to church life. We do not have to have, for example: bulletins, padded chairs, pipes big enough to flush toilet tissue (that’s right!...TP goes in a wastebasket in PR), offering plates, air conditioners, instruments, amplifiers, good signage, PowerPoint, good graphic design, and a host of other very good things to be Christ’s church. Many of these good things can get in the way of the best things — reading the Word, hearing the Word, praying, singing the gospel and its implications to God and one another, confessing our sins to one another, sharing the gospel, developing leaders, opening our homes to one another, and etc. — if we allow them.
4. What we saw in the pastors planting churches in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico were men focused on getting the essentials right — putting in place a system to train leaders to train leaders and turn the church into a disciple-making engine fueled by the Holy Spirit and obedience to God's Word. This does not mean they do not also pay attention to beneficial things. For example, their church plants have more modern-looking/functioning websites than we do. However, the website is simply a door into a community where people find life in Christ through the ministry and hospitality of His body doing the essentials that Christ commanded. What is beneficial supports the essential. Churches stall when the essential serves the beneficial.
5. Christians cannot afford to become complacent or dwell on the past when they are planting a church because the church will die before things become sustainable. In church plants, there is a fresh vitality, flexibility, entrepreneurial spirit, and urgency to train new pastors and lay-leaders that should really characterize every church. We seldom become more like Christ or participate in advancing the Kingdom through what is comfortable or routine. This is not, of course, an argument for doing away with the routines the Bible has given to the church. It may mean, however, exploring new ways to do those routines and make them more effective. For example, what if Christian hospitality and Bible study were paired together rather than always meeting at a central building? When planting a new church, this approach has proven very effective (and Biblical!...”house-to-house") in helping the church engage lost neighbors and friends. It is very difficult to make disciples if we are not reaching lost people who need to be converted, baptized, and taught!
6. The Spirit makes men fearless when they know they are heeding God’s call and walking in obedience. We visited one man, age 32, planting a church about 30 minutes outside of the capital city of San Juan. His family has been through all sorts of turmoil this year - sickness, death, surgeries, mysterious infection and hospitalization, broken-down cars, and a school closing bringing even more changes into his young daughter’s life. This young man may become a planter we work with in Puerto Rico. When I asked him what he’s afraid of, he said, “The only thing I fear is that He would not find me faithful. I want to give Him my all.” In other words, he fears God and God alone. He is doing everything He can to share Christ and the gospel with his beloved Puerto Ricans. How exciting to know we are already part of helping him each week through the Cooperative Program! How much more exciting that we may be able to help him (or someone like him...we met another man in a very similar situation in a city near San Juan) to reach Puerto Rico for Jesus.
7. There are many people who use religious language who are far from God. Many Puerto Ricans say “God bless you,” but relatively few have the eternal life the Apostle John speaks of when he writes, “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). This, of course, is still true in much of the Southeastern US. Whether it is in the US territory of Puerto Rico or in our hometown, we must not forget that many who say the right words are still heading the wrong direction. If we love them, we must reclaim an urgency for sharing the gospel with them and being a church that is believing and living out the things assigned to us in the Scriptures.
8. Pastor Job can put away some food and saw some logs!
On a more serious concluding note, thank you for praying for us. I believe Christ is paving a way to join His work in Puerto Rico, and I look forward to seeing how God uses us there to reach a city and eventually impact an island for the glory of Christ our King.
(En español a continuación)
Last Sunday, February 11, we formally installed Job Marquez as the Missions and Community Pastor at North Roanoke Baptist Church.
The Lord opened this door in some unusual ways. For the past 13 years, Job has served Christ as the Church Planter/Pastor of the Hispanic Mission Church which was funded primarily by North Roanoke along with a few other partners along the way.
In 2005, Job immigrated here with his family to help plant a Spanish-speaking church to serve the rapidly-growing Hispanic population in the Roanoke Valley. God used Job and his wife Patty to make a tremendous impact in the lives of many.
Though the church impacted many lives, she also faced many challenges and was unable to attain financial viability as an independent local church. In 2008, the Great Recession dramatically slowed the growth of the Hispanic population in our Valley. Many people who attended the church and whose lives were forever changed had to return to their home country or move to another city for work. Finally, as the children entered the public schools here in the Valley, they learned English. They made friends who speak English, and, over time, they wanted to worship in a setting that was more like the rest of their lives — lives lived beside all types of people who mostly speak English.
After 13 years of trying to plant an independent church serving Spanish-speaking people and not reaching the goal, we began to ask some questions.
1. What if we could put Job’s passion for reaching people with the gospel to work among the 105+ nations represented by the people living in the Roanoke Valley right now?
2. What if we could help first-generation immigrants learn English and serve their children who already know or are quickly learning English in the process?
3. How could we do it?
We are at the beginning of something new. For the Spanish-speaking worshipers who join us each week, Job is providing a live translation of the sermon into Spanish. For those who do not yet know English and want to learn and worship alongside of their children, we will be launching an English as a Second Language (ESL) class later this year.
As we enter some unknown territory and try some new approaches, we do so knowing assuredly and believing wholeheartedly that Jesus is worthy of a church that strives to reach the nations among us and the people among the nations.
The installation of Job represents many things. It represents the closing of one chapter and the beginning of another. It represents the truth that we will not allow adversity to alter our ultimate aim - to make disciples of all nations. It represents our willingness to serve anyone who wants to worship with us to the best of our ability, and it represents our willingness to learn about new people and new cultures because Christ is greater and the gospel sweeter than any other thing we may hold dear. It represent our confidence that Jesus wins, and He will have the worship of people from all nations, and He uses His church in achieving His mission.
So, how now can we pray? Please pray that God would send us the people He wants us to serve through ESL classes. Please pray the people who have joined us from the Hispanic Church would feel welcomed and be able to benefit from the sermon translation as they gradually learn English while also taking care of all their other responsibilities in a place that sometimes does not feel like home. And, pray for Job as he strives to help us reach all kinds of people for the glory of King Jesus — people living in the Roanoke Valley and the peoples of the world.
Christ is King of the nations!
DANDO LA BIENVENIDA AL PASTOR JOB
El domingo pasado, 11 de febrero, formalmente instalamos a Job Márquez como Pastor de Misiones y la Comunidad en la Iglesia Bautista del Norte de Roanoke.
El Señor abrió esta puerta de una manera inusual. Durante los últimos 13 años, Job ha servido a Cristo como el sembrador / pastor de iglesias de la Iglesia Hispana, que a sido financiado principalmente por Iglesia Bautista del Norte de Roanoke junto con algunos otros ministerios a traves de estos años.
En 2005, Job emigró aquí con su familia para ayudar a plantar una iglesia de habla hispana para servir a la población hispana de rápido crecimiento en el Valle de Roanoke. Dios usó a Job y su esposa Paty para impactar tremendamente en la vida de muchas personas.
Aunque la iglesia impactó en muchas vidas, también enfrentó muchos desafíos y finalmente no pudo alcanzar la estabilidad financiera como una iglesia local independiente. En 2008, la Gran Recesión disminuyó drásticamente el crecimiento de la población hispana en nuestro Valle. Muchas personas que asistian a la iglesia y cuyas vidas cambiaron para siempre tuvieron que regresar a su país de origen o mudarse a otra ciudad para trabajar. Finalmente, cuando los niños ingresaron a las escuelas públicas aquí en el Valle, aprendieron inglés. Hicieron amigos que hablaban inglés y, con el tiempo, quisieron adorar en un entorno que era más parecido al resto de sus vidas: vidas vividas al lado de todo tipo de personas que en su mayoría hablan inglés.
Entonces, después de 13 años de tratar de plantar una iglesia independiente sirviendo a las personas de habla hispana y no alcanzar la meta, comenzamos a hacer algunas preguntas.
1. ¿Qué pasaría si pudiéramos poner la pasión de Job por llegar a las personas con el evangelio para trabajar entre las más de 105 naciones representadas por las personas que viven en el Valle de Roanoke en este momento?
2. ¿Qué pasaría si pudiéramos ayudar a los inmigrantes de primera generación a aprender inglés y servir a sus hijos que ya saben o están aprendiendo inglés rápidamente en el proceso?
3. ¿Cómo podríamos hacerlo?
Entonces, estamos en el comienzo de algo nuevo. Para los adoradores de habla hispana que se unen a nosotros cada semana, Job ofrece una traducción en vivo del sermón al español. Para aquellos que aún no saben inglés y quieren aprender y adorar al lado de sus hijos, estaremos lanzando una clase de inglés como segundo idioma (ESL) más adelante este año.
Al entrar en un territorio desconocido y probar algunos enfoques nuevos, lo hacemos sabiendo con toda seguridad y creyendo de todo corazón que Jesús es digno de una iglesia que se esfuerza por alcanzar a las naciones entre nosotros y a nuestra comunidad entre las naciones.
La instalación de Job representa muchas cosas. Representa el final de un capítulo y el comienzo de otro. Representa la verdad de que no permitiremos que la adversidad altere nuestro objetivo final: hacer discípulos de todas las naciones. Representa nuestra voluntad de servir a cualquier persona que quiera adorarnos lo mejor que podamos, y representa nuestra disposición a aprender sobre personas nuevas y culturas nuevas porque Cristo es más grande y el Evangelio más dulce que cualquier otra cosa que podamos apreciar. Representa nuestra confianza en que Jesús gana, y tendrá la adoración de personas de todas las naciones, y usa a su iglesia para lograr su misión.
Entonces, ¿cómo podemos orar? Por favor ore para que Dios nos envíe a las personas que quiere que sirvamos a través de clases de ESL. Por favor, ore para que las personas que se unieron a nosotros de la Iglesia Hispana se sientan bienvenidas y puedan beneficiarse de la traducción del sermón a medida que aprenden inglés gradualmente mientras se ocupan de todas sus otras responsabilidades en un lugar que a veces no se siente como en casa. Y ore por Job mientras se esfuerza por ayudarnos a llegar a todo tipo de personas para la gloria del Rey Jesús: las personas que viven en el Valle de Roanoke y los pueblos del mundo.
¡Cristo es el Rey de las naciones!
September 1, 2017
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
It has been an action-packed summer at North Roanoke with two student mission trips, a mission team to Haiti, Fusion student camp, Vacation Bible School, and serving as the host church for WinShape Camp for Communities. Through WinShape, we served 201 campers and their families with many kids hearing the gospel and wanting to learn more. Please pray for our church and the other partnering churches as we follow up with the campers and their families.
In addition to the ministries of the summer season, I have also enjoyed hearing how God has been at work through our Summer Series in the Psalms. We have a sure refuge in Christ the King in all circumstances and in every season!
Over the past five Sundays, several of our adult classes worked through the Life on Mission study to learn a simple way to begin a conversation about the gospel. We learned how to move a conversation from the brokenness of our lives to the hope we find when we repent and believe the gospel. I am asking the Spirit to give us eyes to see the opportunities all around us and the boldness to share the gospel as we live our lives on mission. Imagine the celebration that would fill our church family and the hope that would spill into our community if we all had the privilege of leading someone to Christ this year!
As summer winds down and the school year begins, I want to take a moment to let you know of some upcoming opportunities within our faith family.
On September 3, many of our adult Sunday School classes begin the Gospel Project curriculum for Sunday School. This will mean everyone from preschoolers to grandparents can work through the same lesson each week at an age-appropriate level. My prayer is that this “alignment” will allow families to discuss and pray through what they have learned.
Jon Davis has been teaching through the Gospel Project for most of this year, and this is how he summarized the curriculum, “The Gospel Project takes a chronological survey of the entire Bible demonstrating the gospel is visible through every part. The gospel is not God’s afterthought—it was and is God’s sovereign design to save the world from the very beginning. By walking chronologically through God’s Word each week, we see more and more how God desires to change the world through the redeeming power of His gospel.”
I have spoken with fellow pastors about this curriculum who have found it to be invaluable for helping to "connect the dots" and truly see Jesus and our need for Him in all the Scripture. If you have not been in a Sunday School class yet, I hope you will see this season of new beginnings as a great time to find a class and start fresh at North Roanoke. I have been praying that many would take that next step of getting to know other believers this year.
This Wednesday, September 6, we will launch the full slate of activities for Wednesday nights beginning with dinner at 5:30PM and followed by LIFE classes for adults, AWANA for children, and Bible Study for middle and high school students. About half-way through the semester, we will offer a six-week class for parents, Christ-centered Parenting: Gospel Conversations on Complex Issues. If you are raising children or teens in this fast-changing world full of complex issues and challenges to our kids, I highly recommend this course (watch the bulletin for details).
After I mailed this letter, I realized I also should have mentioned the opportunities available on Wednesday mornings. We have a prayer team that meets on Wednesdays at 9AM in the conference room by the church office. At 10AM, Claude Carter will lead a study in Genesis which meets in the children's worship area on the second floor. If you are available to gather for prayer and/or Bible study on Wednesday mornings, these are outstanding opportunities to serve the family of faith in the ministry of prayer and to grow in God's Word.
On Sunday, September 10 at 5PM, we will have a special ordination for the new men joining our deacons. The service will be followed by pizza and salad at approximately 6PM. During dinner, we will also recognize the WinShape volunteers. I hope you will plan to attend this special evening of celebrating God's goodness in providing servants for the work He has entrusted to us.
On Sunday, September 17, the North Roanoke family of faith will gather to celebrate the faithfulness of God over the past 60 years. We will have one service in the sanctuary beginning at 10:45AM. The service will include several baptisms and the Lord's Supper. This is a day you do not want to miss! Following the service, we will have a pot-luck luncheon (chicken provided by the church) in the gymnasium and games and bounce-houses in the field behind the church (think church picnic and celebrating 60 years all rolled into one big celebration).
Whether you are new to North Roanoke or you have been a part of the family for a long time, a 60th anniversary is an occasion to celebrate the faithfulness of God to His people. In a rapidly-changing world, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 13:8). He is the Foundation and Cornerstone. He is the reason we have gathered for 60 years and the reason we will continue to gather, by His saving and sustaining grace, until He comes.
I want to encourage you to set aside the 60th anniversary as a “don't-miss-it” Sunday as we come together in one service to worship the One who makes all the difference in our lives, our community, and to the ends of the earth. I look forward to seeing what Christ does in and through our church as we continue striving in the Spirit’s power to be Christ's church, impact the Roanoke Valley, and reach the world all for the glory of King Jesus!
For Christ and the gospel,
At North Roanoke, we are committed to explaining what God has revealed to His people in the Bible because neither salvation nor sanctification is possible without hearing and understanding God's Word. Furthermore, faithfulness to God's Word is the primary way God protects His church from demonic doctrines that undermine the Lordship and sufficiency of Christ. When we remain faithful to God's Word, there are several key benefits for the church.
1. God's Word reveals. God's Word is operative in salvation because the Holy Spirit uses the written revelation of God's holiness as perfect Creator to expose our rebellion and reveal Jesus as our sure hope for receiving God's righteousness and resurrection to everlasting life as His gracious and unmerited gift through faith in Jesus Christ.
2. God's Word refines. Salvation is both instantaneous and lifelong. In a moment, we go from death to life, from bondage to freedom, and from condemned to pardoned. But, those in whom the Spirit truly dwells begin a lifelong process of becoming more like Jesus. As we hear God's Word rightly explained, the Holy Spirit applies the preached Word to our lives and refines us - making us more mature, smoothing our rough edges and completing us in Christ. Consistent preaching of the Word allows us to be consistently conformed more into the image of Christ until we die or Christ returns.
3. God's Word reinforces. While we are always growing in our knowledge of God by communing with Christ through His Word, the knowledge we gain never contradicts the fundamentals of the gospel -- Jesus in our place: crucified, dead, buried and raised on the third day (and subsequently ascended and soon to return) according to the Scriptures for His church. God's Word always reinforces the reality that we are nothing without God and the gospel.
4. God's Word reaches. There is nothing more practical in the world for someone who does not belong to Jesus than to hear and understand the Word of God. In the Book of Acts, whenever people come to saving faith in Jesus, we always find a man of God declaring the Word of God and the Spirit of God bringing new people into the Kingdom. We cannot fulfill the Great Commission without preaching and teaching the Bible, and we cannot expect people to be reached where God's Word is only casually employed in the sermon or disregarded all together. Churches that care about really reaching people will ignore faddish attempts to attract a crowd by compromising the sermon because the gospel is the power of God unto salvation.
5. God's Word rewards. For the new Christian or the seasoned saint, consistent exposure to God's truth brings the rewards of confidence in prayer, assurance of salvation, increased appreciation for Christ, and ever-increasing relational knowledge of our Creator and Redeemer. The Word also gives us God's perspective on life and its purpose and equips us for the challenges that surely come to those living in a fallen world as they anticipate the return of the Lord Christ.
6. God's Word restricts. The Word of God is often inconvenient to the modern mind. It strongly implies the practice of church membership by giving instructions for church discipline/restoration. It urges elders to command those who are rich in this present age to be ready to give and willing to share. It urges us to be holy because the God we serve is holy. The only way to maintain commitments like these in a world that wants to excuse sin, shirk responsibility, maintain autonomy, and elevate the self is to be consistently reminded that we have been bought with a price; we owe our lives to Jesus, and we must strive to help one another live for Him. When we feel restricted by the Word, we must remember we have been freed from sin to be slaves to Christ, and His restrictions are always for the good of His people - His bride and body, the church.
7. God's Word repels. This may be the most difficult truth to understand as beneficial to the church (especially when we do not want anyone to miss the joy of belonging to Jesus). However, a key way God prospers His church is by using His Word to repel those who want to harm the church. Some time ago, a guest and his wife began attending, but something did not seem right. They always asked a question seeking to undermine the credibility of God's Word in the last few minutes of class. The question was often entirely off topic. After taking the couple to lunch, I understood this man did not have good motives for his questions. I never asked him to leave, but after giving a consistent and well-reasoned defense of the authority and accuracy of God's Word for several weeks in a row, the couple left and never returned. I wanted them to get the gospel, but they just wanted to get the church. God's Word repels those who want to harm God's sheep. The Good Shepherd shepherds us with His perfect Word.
I wrote this article (below) for Pastor Darryl and shared it with him prior to his celebration on May 14-15. With his permission, I am posting it here for our North Roanoke church family. We love you Pastor Darryl!
As the pastor for succession of North Roanoke Baptist Church following a pastor who has served the flock faithfully for nearly 30 years, I have received unsolicited advice from several well-meaning people outside of our church about how to "handle" the transition.
Some of the advice goes something like this, "He needs to go." Or, "you will never escape his shadow," or "you need to establish yourself as the leader" and several other similar statements.
As I have processed this "wisdom," it has seemed more like the wisdom of the world than the wisdom of God, and three questions have come to my mind and heart.
1. Is this how the early church would have considered an aging but still capable pastor - told him to hit the road and find another church to care for him in his latter years?
2. Where is this sort of thinking in Scripture? Does not Hebrews 13:7 say, "Remember (ongoing) your leaders, those who spoke (past tense) to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith"?
3. Does the wisdom of God not apply to pastor transitions? Is this not an opportunity to demonstrate genuine and mutual gospel humility?
The answer to these questions seems clear. The early church cared deeply for their faithful pastors until they died. Hebrews connects our remembering of those who preach the Word to us with Christ who is the same "yesterday, today, and forever" (Heb. 13:8). This means cherishing our aging pastors is a tangible way of cherishing Christ and His Word.
The wisdom of God should apply to every aspect of the Christian life and especially to pastoral transitions. This wisdom, self-denying, heavenly wisdom, should impact the thinking of both the incoming and retiring pastor.
I am blessed to follow a great and godly man who loves Christ and His church deeply and who preaches the Word faithfully, and below I have endeavored to articulate what I have come to believe about my new role as I consider it in light of God's Word.
First, how the new pastor relates to the retiring pastor, privately and publicly, will communicate a great deal about his view of every pastor's vital relationship with the local body and the importance of life-long relationships within the body. If the retiring pastor can be easily cast off, the new pastor must not intend or desire to make deep and lasting relationships within the body himself. If the new pastor plans to just "set sail" at some point or considers his new church just a stop along a path, he will never get as close to the sheep as God intends. I want to be close to the sheep because I am not just an undershepherd, I am also, just like the retiring pastor I am following, one of the sheep.
Second, how the new pastor relates to the retiring pastor communicates a great deal about how he believes the flock should view their pastor. If the pastor who retires is sent away, then the pastor is more easily viewed as a hired hand -- performing the services and filling a role until the next guy comes along to replace him. If a decades-long, faithful pastor is easily expendable; a new pastor is easily expendable too. Neither should be.
Serving a church is a calling from God not only to preach but also to love a particular people. When the aging pastor's energy wanes and preaching lessens, his love for the church does not. Indeed, it is often at that moment that the pastor who has served well most needs the love and care of those he has served.
The new pastor trains people how to think about himself as pastor by how he treats their former faithful pastor. The former pastor is either an expendable commodity or an indispensable servant of Christ who is an integral part of God's local flock. The path chosen will likely mark the new pastor's ministry for decades. Better to endure some initial moments of awkwardness and closed-door meetings (if necessary - they have not been in my case) than to pretend the past and the pastor of the recent past is an unimportant part of what God will do in the future. This is, in part, why the God of the Christian is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Christian faith does not distance itself from faithful forefathers, it embraces their testimony as encouragement for our own (Heb 11).
The new pastor should take the low place by seeking to patiently and winsomely earn the trust and confidence of the retiring pastor. If gospel wisdom is truly operative in both pastors, the retiring pastor will reciprocate, and the church will see a living demonstration of godly wisdom at work! I have had the incredible joy of seeing this unfold at North Roanoke.
While the new pastor could simply "put the retiring pastor in his place" or "send him down the road", the new pastor's prideful overreach will eventually weigh him down. The opportunity for mutual sanctification between incoming and retiring pastor will be lost, and the body will miss a divine opportunity to see the power of the gospel on full display.
How the new pastor honors the retiring pastor and continues to allow his gifts to be deployed among the family of faith will, obviously, impact the church's view of the role of pastor. As a result, it will also, at least indirectly, impact the flock's view of Scripture.
3. How the new pastor relates to the retiring pastor will communicate a great deal about his view of the sufficiency of Scripture and the seriousness of faithfulness to Scripture even in challenging circumstances.
This has been proven in some of the aforementioned advice I have received. Many assume the retiring pastor must depart indefinitely or even forever. To me, gospel wisdom demands that he is welcome to stay and meaningfully contribute for as long as he is able. The world is either won through the foolishness of the cross, or it is not. And, if we believe this is the witness of Scripture, it must influence how we handle pastoral transitions.
4. What the new pastor says about the retiring pastor, privately and publicly, will reveal the depth of his spiritual maturity and willingness to consider others more important than himself.
Do I have hopes and dreams for the future? Absolutely yes. However, during this season of transition, I find that I am mostly consumed with wanting to give honor where honor is due -- not lip service but real, sacrificial honor. I am following a man who served this flock faithfully for 29 years and who has an inexhaustible supply of pastoral wisdom and theological insight. I don't want to be defined primarily by how I am not like him but how I am like him. We of course have many differences, but we love each other; we love the same Jesus, and we enjoy being together. Is that not how it should be?
And, he is handing me the baton. That is sobering. It is humbling. It is heavy. It is full of sadness and salvation. It is a retiring pastor laying down his life for his flock -- and for me.
So, what do I want for our church right now? I want us to not miss this moment that God has given. I want my friend and brother and mentor, Dr. Darryl Crim, to feel the undying and unrelenting love of God for him coursing through the veins of our church. And, I don't want that to end - ever.
Will I want to do some things a bit differently? I am sure that I will at some point. But, I don't want to go forward if it means we have to abandon the man God used to bring us to where we are. Despite the advice of some, I cannot find anywhere in Scripture or in the heart of our God any true wisdom in asking the retiring pastor to depart the church that God called him to serve.
This course may not be advisable to some, but I pray it is pleasing and acceptable in the sight of the God who took the low place for me. God help me, and us, to honor your Son by taking the low place for one another as He took the low place for us.
I love you North Roanoke; I love you Darryl Crim. Praise God for His work among us.
In yesterday’s sermon (March 27, 2016), we discovered the reason we should believe in Jesus’ victory over death through His resurrection is the Scriptures (the Old Testament) clearly point to a Messiah who would come and conquer death through His death and resurrection.
Peter, who was an eyewitness to Jesus’ transfiguration, death, and his life in a glorified body following the resurrection says, “We have the even more sure prophetic word to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place” (2 Peter 1:19a). We have something more reliable than Peter’s own eyewitness testimony – the Scriptures. Jesus Himself says, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:31). For centuries before He came, dozens of writers living at different times and in different cultures declared the same message – look for God’s salvation which comes through God’s Son.
But, some people suppose a Christian’s appeal to the Scriptures is some sort of intellectual cop-out. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are a number of credible reasons to believe Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. Below, I list and explain several of the reasons that I find most compelling.
1) The gospel writers put women at the empty tomb first and build the case for Jesus’ resurrection from the initial testimony of these women who say they discovered an empty tomb. In the first century, a woman’s testimony was, sadly, not regarded to be as reliable as the testimony of men. If the disciples were inventing a story about a resurrection, they would have put themselves or other men at the tomb first to make the story more compelling to their first-century audience. By placing the women at the tomb first, we know the disciples were not inventing facts to make their story more credible. They were simply reporting the facts as they knew them to be.
2) The gospels consistently mention the disciples failed to understand that Jesus would be victorious through His crucifixion and resurrection. Contrary to human nature, the disciples willingly confess their ignorance and even their petty arguments about who could be the most important disciple in Christ’s Kingdom. If the disciples were inventing a story, they would have left out the details of their arguments, and someone would have surely taken the credit for understanding everything that was going to take place. The disciples mention their arguments and doubts because they are not afraid to tell us they story as it happened.
3) The New Testament is the most reliable document from the ancient world. There are over 5,760 Greek manuscripts, more than 10,000 Latin manuscripts, more than 9,300 early versions, and the church’s early pastors and theologians quote from the New Testament constantly.[i] People often say the church “created” the canon in the fourth century, but this claim overlooks that the vast majority of what is formally accepted as the canon had functionally been accepted as canonical from the first days of the church. The first manuscripts of the New Testament date to within 30–50 years after they were written. By contrast, we only have two copies of the Histories and Annals by Tacitus which date to 800 and 1000 years after they were written. As a historical and literary document, the New Testament is far more reliable than its ancient peers based upon the number of copies we have for comparison and the amount of time lapsed between when the document was written and the date of the first copy that has been discovered.
4) Dozens of other ancient sources mention Jesus. Jesus is not a fictitious invention by the writers of the New Testament. He really lived and walked on this earth. Consider just one example of a source other than the New Testament which speak of Jesus.
Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus. . . .(Tacitus in Annals 15.44).
In this account, Tacitus, one of Rome’s greatest historians, confirms several facts also recorded in the New Testament. Christians were persecuted for their faith, a faith that is built on the resurrection. If the resurrection were not real, Christians would have enjoyed a much easier life by simply denying the resurrection and proceeding with life like everyone else. Also, Tacitus's description of the circumstances of Christ’s crucifixion are the same as those recorded in the New Testament. No one can dismiss Jesus as a fictional character of the church’s own making any more than he can deny George Washington was the first president of the United States.
5) Faith in Christ who will one day raise us up to be with Him is the faith that makes the best sense of the human body. God made the body for worship. Worship is not found in escaping the body. It is found in attaining to the resurrection of the just and worshipping Jesus in a body that never dies. There is a reason we do not want to die, and we want to remain in these bodies. We were made for life in the body – not just for now but forever. We will not be reincarnated as a butterfly. We will not attain to new levels of out-of-body enlightenment. We were made for the everlasting worship of Christ offered from the totality of our being – including our bodies.
6) Most of the disciples of Jesus suffered and died in different places and at different times as martyrs for their faith in the resurrected Christ. This was not group think. This was not every disciple dying in the same place at the same time. No, this was each disciple standing for the truth of what he had seen with his own eyes even though it meant he faced a horrific death. If the disciples had not really seen Jesus risen from the dead and later ascended into heaven, they could have spared their lives by simply denying the resurrection and going back to fishing the Sea of Galilee. The disciples either died horrific deaths for a lie that they knew was a lie, or they saw the resurrected Christ. If they had seen the resurrected Christ, they knew they could endure a horrific death with confidence because they too would one day be raised up with Christ. The reality of the resurrection of Christ is the best explanation of the self-sacrificing confidence of the disciples.
7) The faith spread rapidly across ethnic and cultural barriers despite its fantastic and falsifiable claim. A resurrection gets people’s attention. It crosses all sorts of barriers because every culture knows the enemy called death. Unlike almost all other religious which are based upon the private thoughts of one or a few individuals which cannot be confirmed or denied, Christianity is based on this fact – Jesus Christ is risen from the grave. Jesus is either raised from the dead, or He is not. If Jesus has conquered death, everything He said was true. If He has not, well, as Paul says, Christians “are of all men most to be pitied” (1 Cor 15:19).
There is no Christianity if there is no risen Christ. Christianity could have been stopped almost immediately. It would not have required a philosophical discussion or a great debate about whose private religious thoughts were more accurate. Christianity was not built on private thoughts suddenly made public. It was built on centuries of consistent prophecy, a public crucifixion, and a well-attested resurrection. To stop Christianity, all that was required was that someone produce the dead body of Jesus. Surely, it was in the interest of the Jewish leaders who were opposed to Christians to produce a body. Likewise it was in the interest of Rome to produce a body. Yet, for all the hubbub in Judea, for all the reasons people had for producing a body, no one ever could. No one ever did.
And yet, for all the reasons we have for believing in the resurrection, our primary reason is this is what the prophets told us to expect from the very first pages of Genesis. In Christ, we have found the Son who is born of a woman, who bruised His heel, and who crushed the head of Satan (Gen 3:15). In Christ, we can say with Job, “As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, And at the last He will take His stand on the earth. Even after my skin is destroyed, Yet from my flesh I shall see God” (Job 19:25–26).
-Brother Daniel, March 28, 2016
[i] Andreas J. Köstenberger, L. Scott Kellum, and Charles L. Quarles in The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown.