Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Reflection of God

God reveals Himself to us in more ways than one.  The obvious way that God reveals Himself is in Scripture, and this is important, because there are many things we would not know about God without the Bible.  But in special ways, God has revealed Himself in His creation.  In intimate ways, God reveals His plan to reconcile man to Himself, and just how special our relationship with God is.  What we see in the physical world reflects certain spiritual truths.

The Sun is the most basic reflection of God's truth - it reveals to us the light of Christ, the Son of God.  Malachi 4:2 says, "But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.  And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall."  The rising and setting of the Sun reflects another eternal truth: The spiritual ups and downs throughout history.  The world is constantly rolling through times of darkness and times of light.  The fact that the Sun produces light, while the moon, the earth and everything on the earth can only reflect that light, demonstrates for us that the Son of God is the source of light, and when we live in that light we reflect the light of Christ.  Those in darkness are in darkness because the Earth is between them and the Sun.  So it is with those that allow the world to come between them and the Son of God - they live in darkness.  And when it is daytime, we feel a comforting warmth that comes from the Sun.  Yet the Sun can burn us, and if we look straight at the Sun, its light overwhelms us.  I think this demonstrates the fact that man is separated from God, and because of sin, the glory of God overwhelms us.

The family, which is another creation of God, also reveals for us some eternal truths.  God reveals Himself as the Father in Heaven, and by giving us fathers on earth He reveals a major aspect of the relationship between us and Him.  We know that, just like a good father on earth, He is protector and provider and the Head of our heavenly household.  He also disciplines us, just like a good father disciplines his son.  Marriage is what gives us a picture of our unity with God.  The Bible describes the Church of Christ as the Bride of Christ, and in Genesis 2:24 God states that a man and his wife become "one flesh".  This means that Christ and the Church will become "one flesh", and this is how we as Christians are adopted into God's family.  If Jesus is the Son of God and we are married to Jesus, then we too are sons and daughters of God.  In Ephesians 5:22-24, Paul draws a clear parallel between the relationship of a man and his wife and the relationship of Christ and His Church.  The man is the head of his wife, just as Christ is the Head of the Church.  This is another way that marriage reveals to us the truth of our relationship with Christ - it is as husband and wife, and Christ is the Head of the Church.

Finally I want to touch on the greatest reflection of all.  Christ coming to Earth and taking on the flesh of man is the essential demonstration of salvation.  Christ has done the work of salvation, but this is an important point: Jesus was 100% man and 100% God.  If Christ is 100% man and 100% God, then His work on earth demonstrates clearly that it is both God and man who do the work of salvation, and God and man working together as one.  Consider this: Paul and the other apostles were always using the phrase "in Christ" to describe a Christian.  The implication is that the Church makes up the body of Christ, and any member of that body is "in Christ".  This makes perfect sense when we consider regeneration (being born of the Holy Spirit) and the fact that Jesus is 100% man and 100% God.  When we are born of the Holy Spirit (the third Person of God) we are one with God, because then the Spirit of God is in us and we are in Christ.  So the body of Christ is made up of us - men - and made up of God.  Christ coming to earth, being born as a man, dying on the cross and resurrecting three days later is a blueprint for our own salvation.  We must take the steps that Christ took and so be united with Christ.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Plain and Profound

When the average person thinks about the Bible, its likely that he doesn't think too much of it.  He might think its just some ancient religious text.  He might think its full of myths.  He might associate it with genealogies.  He probably considers it to be way out of date and irrelevant to the present world.  His first thought about the Bible is not going to be something special.  Those that only have a vague idea of what's in the Bible certainly do not think its special at all.  Its quite plain on the surface.  But why then is the Bible the number one seller of all time?  Despite the seemingly plain and obsolete exterior of Scripture, there is something quite incredible in those pages.  I'll try my best to explain.

I think most of us, if not all of us, have held a view similar to the one above at some point in our own history, and there might be some reading this now that currently hold a view similar to that.  I believe there's a reason for it.  The Bible is indeed very plain on the surface.  But here's the reason: The Bible is not designed to be taken casually, or for a person to only skim the surface.  Those that do only skim the surface will never understand the many wonderful truths inside.  These truths are profound, but they require digging.  Remain on the surface and you will entirely miss these truths.  Every one of us has been there at one point, and many are there right now.  But those of us who went past the surface and dug a little deeper, did so because we were searching for the truth.  There is the key.  Those that seek, find.  Those that do not seek, do not find.  Those that know what is in the Bible, but haven't considered it in depth, do not understand what is profound about Scripture.

I believe this is by design.  I can't prove it, but it makes sense that God would design His word to be this way.  You see, the truth is hidden to those that do not put faith in it and do not seek it.  That is why you could come across a really educated person, who is supposed to be really smart, who does not understand any of the profound truths in Scripture.  To him they are hidden.  To him the Bible is just some ancient text with religious themes.  You could say that God has outsmarted him, and that God has purposefully hidden the most profound axioms from him.  God does this by His wonderful design of Scripture - plain on the surface but profound underneath.  In fact, I doubt that there is any limit to the profundity of Scripture.  The deeper I dig, the more I discover.  The more I discover, the more my mind is blown.  And that continues to this day - I don't know if there is any limit to it.  Only God could do that.  He authors the greatest book of all time, with the most profound truths that have ever existed, and He disguises it as a plain old religious text that seems like nothing special to most people.  The key to unlock the wonders of Scripture is to go searching.  Jesus said it in Matthew 7:7 - "seek and you will find."  Searching the Bible for discovery is the most incredible and joyous adventure that I can think of.  I can testify to that.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Reasons That Reasonable People Believe The Bible

This is something you may not think much about, but since the Bible makes claims that, if true, hold eternal consequence, it makes a lot of sense to spend the necessary time to thoroughly research the arguments and evidence relating to the Bible.  We can treat the Bible much like we treat other subjects, testing whether its true or not, because the claims in the Bible are specific, presented by specific people at a specific time and place.  We can take all the evidence surrounding those claims - all the historical documents, archaeological and scientific information - and compare it to what's written in the Bible.  And the fact that there are specific prophecies in the Bible on top of that, we can test the Bible to see if its trustworthy or not.  It would be foolish to simply dismiss it because its extraordinary claims seem unbelievable, or to ignore it; those extraordinary claims also carry extraordinary significance if true.  If we're reasonable people, we must search out the truth in this matter because of the importance of it.  So here are a few reasons to believe the Bible, and reasons that reasonable people believe the Bible.

Manuscript evidence
To believe any historical document, there must be sufficient manuscript evidence in the original language the document was written in.  The Bible is second to none in this regard, both the Old and New Testaments.  There are over 5000 original Greek New Testaments, and over 2000 original Hebrew Old Testament manuscripts.  And the early dating of many of these manuscripts is also comparable to none other.  A fragment of John's gospel dates back to AD 125, entire books of the New Testament date back to AD 200, and Codex Sinaiticus, a complete copy of the New Testament, dates back to AD 350.  In comparison, there is virtually no other ancient historical document whose earliest manuscript dates within 700 years of the original writing.  The earliest copy of the Twelve Caesars, by the Roman historian Suetonius, is dated at AD 950, about 800 years after Suetonius originally wrote it.  Beyond the shear number of biblical manuscripts and the incredibly early dating compared to other historical documents, there is also the consistency of these manuscripts.  For the over 5000 New Testament full and partial manuscripts there is about a 99% internal consistency rate.  Combine that rate of consistency with that number of manuscripts to compare against each other, and the case for the Bible's reliability is great.

That's the first reason, because if the Bible we are reading today were in some way different than the one written in history, then the basis of our faith would be flawed.  But its not.  Even just the casual observer, who reads the Bible, can see that there are many connections in the Bible that could only be by design, and could never be true if textual corruption had happened.  Just consider the consistency of Jesus' teachings in the gospels, and the same consistency between that teaching and the teaching of the apostles.  There are four different accounts conveying the teachings of Christ to us, and even with four different accounts there is no contradiction.  Paul, an apostle of Christ who never even heard Him teach, taught in his letters the exact same stuff that Christ was teaching in His ministry.  That is the kind of thing that can only happen by design, and if the text were corrupted, so too would the consistency of the teaching be corrupted.

The cross
At the center of the biblical story is the cross.  It is the fundamental act of redemption, and it also happens to be a great point of proof for Christianity.  Dying and coming back to life three days later is the greatest miracle Jesus performed.  Obviously its a miracle, and its recorded by all gospel writers.  A public event that is attested by four independent accounts within decades of the event, as most scholars date the gospels, makes it impossible fiction.  Why?  Because had the accounts of the crucifixion and resurrection been fabrication, no one would have believed it.  Its not like these were written long after the event or in a different location, so certainly there would have been plenty of contemporaries to verify or falsify what they witnessed.  Paul even made an astounding claim to the Corinthians, that there were over 500 witnesses of the risen Christ and many still living, which is a claim that the Corinthians could have checked out themselves.  The opponents of Christianity, of which there were many, could easily have discounted fictional stories written about supposed events only decades prior.  It would be like any one of us writing an account of miracles happenings during the Vietnam War; plenty of skeptics would come forward, and plenty of veterans as well, to easily disprove something that's already hard to believe.  But we know for a fact that this is not what happened with the gospel accounts.  They were believed by people living in the same location as the events, and only a few decades (possibly just two decades with some of the New Testament books) after the events.  And the accounts of the crucifixion and resurrection went on to be the basis of the largest belief system in the world.

So what else might have happened?  Could the disciples have stolen the body?  With Roman soldiers guarding the tomb, and the disciples being scattered and leaderless, this seems highly unlikely.  And it wouldn't account for the numerous witnesses of the resurrected Christ.  They claim to have seen an alive Christ, not a dead Christ.  Could it be that Jesus swooned on the cross?  Only if you think a person can swoon after being beaten, nailed to a cross, pierced with a spear, and then have the strength to uncover himself from the burial wrappings and roll back a massive stone from the inside of a tomb.  Its much more reasonable to believe the miracle.  Could the Romans have made up some story?  Why would they?  They were enemies of Christianity and enemies of Israel, and the last thing they wanted was another radical belief system to contend with.  And had the disciples made up a story, why would they have gone to their own deaths defending it?  Sometimes a person will die for a lie, but never does a person die for a lie that they themselves came up with.  All of the remaining eleven disciples and Paul died a martyrs death, except for John, who was exiled to Patmos.

The prophecies
This is a test that anyone with a Bible can perform.  Find at least one of the many prophecies in the Bible, something that has been fulfilled, and see if it can be proven to originate before the fulfillment of it.  If its something specific and not enigmatic, then you have real proof that the prophecy is of supernatural origin.  Take this for example: In Daniel 11 there is a prophecy about kings of the south and kings of the north, which perfectly describes the battles between the Ptolemy dynasty in the south and the Seleucid dynasty in the north.  We know that the Ptolemies and Seleucids were fighting in the third century BC, and we know that much of Daniel was discovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls, which dates to around the same time period.  Its reasonable to assume that the original writing of Daniel occurred centuries before those earliest manuscripts, and Daniel's understanding of Babylonian culture also gives us good reason to place him in that time period.  That would make for a specific prophecy, fulfilled and reasonably originated before its fulfillment.  That's just one; Daniel, by itself, has more.  Psalm 22, Isaiah 9, Isaiah 53, Zechariah 11:12-13 and Ezekiel 26 are a few more examples.  If a person wants to go crazy with it (because studying prophecies is indeed a lot of fun), he can find plenty of examples where Old Testament prophecies line up perfectly with New Testament prophecies - prophecies that have yet to be fulfilled, like much of the stuff in Revelation.

These are a few of the reasons that you will find many reasonable people putting their faith in Christ.  Its not some blind dogma that atheists would like you to think it is.  Research it for yourself, study it out like you would study anything else.  I didn't even get to the mountain of archaeological evidence confirming many details in the Bible.


About Me

Unimpressive in person. But always praying that these letters I write will be weighty and forceful. I serve the Almighty as a servant of Christ. I strive to conquer hearts and minds with the word of God. I am nothing, but the Holy Spirit living inside me is omnipotent. By Him I can run and not grow weary, or walk and not be faint. All glory and honor be to God and to Jesus the Christ.