Archive for the 'Easter' Category

Easter: God’s solution to our greatest need (1 Peter 3:18)

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

(mega tsunami, Indonesia 2004, public domain)

By Spencer D Gear

1. Introduction

The deadliest tsunami of all time hit the Indian Ocean on 26th December 2004. “In the aftermath of the quake, resultant tsunami waves … killed over 280,000 people in towns and villages along the coast of the Indian Ocean. Over 3 million of survivors have [had] their livelihoods destroyed.”[1]

The death toll in the earthquake in Haiti was expected to be over 100,000 according to the Haitan Prime Minister.[2]

Is our greatest need to end all earthquakes and tidal waves of the enormity of tsunamis?

What about curing all paedophiles, all diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C?

What about stopping war and violence around the world? If we could solve the conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Middle East, the Sudan, North Korea, would that provide the solution to our greatest need?

What about the tragedy of murder and suicide in our own country? What is the world’s greatest need? What is your greatest need?

I’d like to share a verse from Scripture with you that, if practised, would help to put an end to war, violence and sexual abuse. It helps us to understand why tsunamis, earthquakes and the September 11 2001 disaster happened.

It causes us to reflect on what is wrong with our world and what can be done about it. The verse I am referring to is: 1 Peter 3:18, “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit” (NIV).

The title of this message is: “Easter: God’s solution to our greatest need.”

This verse shows us what is wrong with our world and proclaims the solution. Here we see:

  • The greatest problem with our world;
  • The greatest need of individuals and our world.
  • And the solution to the greatest problem;

2. The greatest problem with our world

This verse uses two words that describe our greatest problem, but we don’t want to hear them. I don’t expect that you’ll hear them too often on the radio or TV. Some of you may object with me this morning for even mentioning them. But unless we understand the greatest problem, we will never know the greatest solution. If we don’t understand what is really wrong with our world, we won’t want to seek the best way to solve it.The greatest problem is NOT:

  • Osama Bin Laden[3] and Al-Qaeda[4],
  • the Americans and their Allies in Iraq; OR
  • paedophilia, murder and violence around the world.

These are symptoms of the greatest problem.

Those two words that spell out the greatest problem with our world from this verse are:

a. Sin, and

b. Unrighteousness

We don’t like to be told we are sinners, but if we don’t understand that every human being since the time of Adam and Eve has been born sinners, we won’t understand the solution.

What does it mean that we are sinners? Most of us think that the meaning is simple: We do wrong. That’s only part of the answer. Those of us with a long association with the church can easily rush over this greatest problem in the whole world. Briefly, let’s talk about

A. SIN

In this 1973 book by a secular Jewish psychiatrist, Karl Menninger, Whatever Became of Sin, he wrote this:

In all of the laments and reproaches made by our seers and prophets, one misses any mention of “sin,” a word which used to be a veritable watchword of prophets. It was a word once in everyone’s mind, but now rarely if ever heard. Does that mean that no sin is involved in all our troubles . . ? Is no one any longer guilty of anything? . . Anxiety and depression we all acknowledge, and even vague guilt feelings; but has no one committed any sins?[5]

Menninger says that “the sinful act” includes “an implicitly aggressive quality—a ruthlessness, a hurting, a breaking away from God and from the rest of humanity, a partial alienation, or act of rebellion. . . sin has a willful, defiant, or disloyal quality; someone is defiled or offended or hurt.”[6]

These are amazing statements from a secular psychiatrist. Karl Menninger pushed the boundaries of what is wrong with our city, our country, the world – what is wrong with you and me.

Our text agrees that the major problem is “sin.” SIN, with a big “I” in the middle.

Too often we think of “sin” as an act of wrongdoing like telling a lie, stealing, killing somebody, sexually abusing a child. Sin includes wrong actions such as those, BUT its fundamental understanding in the Scriptures is “a state of alienation from God. For the great prophets of Israel, sin is much more than the violation of “[7] something that is forbidden or breaking some external law.

Sin indicates a breaking “of a personal relationship with God, a betrayal of the trust he places in us.”[8] Here are a couple of examples.

Isa. 6:5, “‘Woe to me!’ I cried. ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.'”

Luke 5:8, “When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, ‘Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!'”

The British evangelist, Michael Green, put it this way:

“What would you think of a doctor who, on discovering you had a tumor buried deep in your body, responded, ‘Take two aspirin and you’ll be just fine.’?

“How about a fireman who responded to the fire alarm by saying, ‘It’ll probably burn itself out soon enough,’ or a policeman who, on arriving at the scene of a robbery, merely shook his head and said, ‘Boys will be boys’!

“In each case the response is inappropriate to the situation. Is your response to sin also inappropriate.”[9]

Our greatest problem is not only that we are alienated from God, but that the sinful acts that come out of this alienation, flow from deep within all of us. Jeremiah put it as straight as you can get: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (ESV)

So, SIN is a state of alienation from God and this comes from deep within all of us.

And this SIN is associated with:

B. UNRIGHTEOUSNESS

What does it mean for all of us to be unrighteous? “Righteous” or “just” is based on the Hebrew word meaning “straight” or “right.” “The corresponding Greek term[10] in Greek society referred to that which is in accordance with law or social norm.”[11] For example, the God of Israel, asks, “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen. 18:25).

If righteous means to do what is right and in accordance with the law, what do you think unrighteousness might mean? The opposite: To fail to do what is correct and to do what is against the law.

Here’s the BIGGEST problem: We all are sinners by nature, alienated from God, and we DO what is wrong and against the law – against the law of God, against the law of the land, and even against the law of our own consciences.

Unless we understand the GREATEST problem, we will not grasp the GREATEST solution celebrated at Easter. We will not understand the wickedness in our world if we miss the meaning of these two words: SIN and UNRIGHTEOUSNESS.

That great British Baptist preacher of the 19th century, C. H. Spurgeon, often told this story:

“A cruel king called one of his subjects into his presence and asked him his occupation. The man responded, ‘I’m a blacksmith.’ The ruler then ordered him to go and make a chain of a certain length.

“The man obeyed, returning after several months to show it to the monarch. Instead of receiving praise for what he had done, however, he was instructed to make the chain twice as long.

“When that assignment was completed, the blacksmith presented his work to the king, but again was commanded, ‘Go back and double its length.’ This procedure was repeated several times. At last the wicked tyrant directed the man to be bound in the chains of his own making and cast into a fiery furnace.”[12]

We are like that cruel king because sin takes a dreadful toll in our lives. Rom. 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death. . .” In the verse we are considering in 1 Peter, it says, “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous.” Why was it necessary for the righteous one, Christ, to die for the sins of the unrighteous?

  • Since sin means we are alienated from God;
  • Since unrighteousness means that we do wrong and crooked things,
  • that tells us something about our greatest need. This verse from First Peter nails it:

3. Your greatest need . . .

is “to bring you to God.” Wait a minute, you might be saying: “I haven’t the faintest interest in God.” In fact, I’m of the Perry Como vintage and I believe “Love Makes the World God Round,” and my greatest need is LOVE. Or if you’re of the Madonna vintage, “Love [still] Makes the World Go Round.”

Just a moment folks. Who or what makes the world go round? Who is the one “who gives food to every creature. His love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of heaven. His love endures forever” (Ps. 136:25-26)?

There would be no understanding of “love” without the one whose love endures forever and the one who provides food for every creature, sends rain on the just and the unjust, and who sustains this world – in spite of its sin and unrighteousness.

We think our greatest need is love, human love. Our biggest need is not to deal with war, tsunamis, Sept. 11, cancer, crime, our job and our family.

God says that your greatest need is to be in fellowship with God himself – your greatest need is for somebody “to bring you to God.” The greatest issue is that we are cut off from Almighty God, our Creator and Sustainer.

If this greatest need and greatest problem are NOT solved, then the anger of God will rest on us and our eternity will be miserable.

Please understand what this would mean. If we were in fellowship, companionship, friendship, in love with the Lord of the Universe, we would not want to tear one another apart, violate one another, and do violence in our world. We would want to love as God loves.

You see, no matter whether you have been raised in deepest, darkest Africa or deepest, darkest Bundaberg, you know that God exists. How do I know? God tells us in Rom. 1:20, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (TNIV).

Deep down within you and me, our conscience convicts us of the existence of God. But we feel out of step with him. The Bible puts it that we are “alienated from God.” Augustine of Hippo, Northern Africa, was a sexually immoral man who indulged his passions in his youth, fathering an illegitimate child.[13] He eventually obtained a reputation to be called, St. Augustine, and described this alienation in the 4th century in his book, Confessions. In that book he wrote: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you”.[14]

Our greatest need is for somebody who can bring us to God. We are rebels who don’t want anything to do with God but our greatest need is to be in relationship with the Lord God of the universe.

How can that happen? I’m glad you asked. That leads us to what this verse tells us about.

4. The greatest solution to our greatest need

If sin and doing wrong are our problems, we too often think of better security, more police, bigger prisons, tougher penalties, better parenting.

If you don’t understand the greatest problem with our world and reject the greatest need that we have, you won’t be interested in the greatest solution to our personal problems and the world’s problems.

A T Easter, we are directed to the greatest solution and it has nothing to do with police, prisons and security: “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit.”

These are the steps to the greatest solution.

  • Christ suffered for sins;
  • Christ, the righteous one suffered for us, the unrighteous;
  • Christ died on the cross and rose again from the dead.

A. Step One: Christ suffered for sins once for all; [15]

What’s the deal about Christ’s suffering “once for all”? Understand what happened for the Jews in the OT. If they wanted to be right before God and have their sins forgiven, “God set up a system by which the people of Israel could make atonement for their sins. To atone is to make amends, to set things right.”[16] God’s law was that “the high priest entered the Most Holy Place once a year to sprinkle blood [of animals] as an atonement for the sins of the people (Lev. 16:3-34: Heb. 9:7, 25).”[17] To set things right between the Jews and God, blood was sprinkled on the altar only once a year.

When Jesus Christ suffered on the cross, he provided the blood atonement, not once a year, but once for all people for all time, so there is no need to wait for this once a year sacrifice. You can set things right with God any day at any time because “Christ suffered for sins once for all” times. This is wonderful news of freedom from sin and easy access to God.

You might ask: “Why does any blood have to be shed? That sounds gruesome to me.” We need to understand that when it comes to dealing with sin and unrighteousness, we don’t set the rules. God does.

That’s step one from this verse: Christ suffered for sins once for all.

B. Step 2: Christ, the righteous one suffered for us, the unrighteous.

This is God’s justice in action. There are no unfair, unjust sentences with God.

When Peter was preaching to the Jews in the Temple at Jerusalem, according to Acts 3:14, he said, “You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you.” He was speaking of Christ, “the Holy and Righteous One.”

Jesus is “righteous.” He’s without sin. We are unrighteous – with sin deep within us and in the behaviour we do. How is it possible for us, the unrighteous, to enter the presence of the totally righteous and holy God?

This is how God does it. God set in place this wonderful solution to our greatest problem. This is how he says it in 2 Cor. 5:21, “God made him who had no sin to be sin [or a sin offering] for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

So, what’s the effect of this? Simon Kistemaker summarised this beautifully when he wrote:

Jesus’ sacrificial death is to enable us to enter God’s presence. Jesus opens the way to the throne of God, introduces us to the Father, and re-establishes for us an intimate relationship with the Father. By removing sin as the cause of our alienation from God, Jesus provides access to God and makes us acceptable in his sight.[18]

This is what is means to be justified by faith – to be declared righteous before God. For all those who place their total trust in Jesus Christ by faith, they now have a friendly relationship with God, “are acceptable to him and have assurance that he is favorably disposed toward us.”[19]

The third step in this greatest of all solutions is:

C. Step 3: Christ did this by dying on the cross and rising again from the dead.

I Peter 3:18, “He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit.”

We must always keep these two actions together: Christ’s death and Christ’s resurrection.

The resurrection shows that God was satisfied with Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross. This means that God will be satisfied to have you, if you become a believer, in his presence because of Christ’s death and resurrection. We know that when Christ died on the cross that he continued to live in a new realm. How do we know that? To the repentant thief who was crucified alongside Christ on the cross, Jesus said, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

Then Christ was resurrected three days later, transformed into a new “spiritual body” that didn’t have the limitations of his fleshly body.

God said a big YES to Christ’s death as a substitute for our sins by raising him from the dead.

5. Conclusion

Let’s pull this all together, based on 1 Peter 3:18. That verse again, “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit.

a. The greatest problem with our world is not tsunamis, Sept. 11, crime, violence & sexual abuse. Our greatest problem is defined by two words that you probably won’t hear on TV tonight: SIN (a state of alienation from God) and UNRIGHTEOUSNESS (sinful actions that we do).

b. The greatest need of all people is not to solve the teenage rebellion or broken relations, to find peace in the Middle East, Iraq, the Sudan, or in downtown Bundaberg, but that greatest need is to deal with our alienation from God. How can we ever have a relationship with the holy, righteous God of the universe?

c. The greatest solution, that you won’t read in tomorrow’s newspaper, is found in 3 steps that are linked together:

  • First, Christ suffered for sins once for all;
  • Second, the righteous one suffered for us, the unrighteous;
  • Third, Christ did this by dying on the cross and rising again from the dead.

I would be remiss if I did not offer this challenge. This message is wasted if you do not respond.

  • How are you going to deal with the biggest problem you have – your sin and unrighteousness?
  • Since your greatest need is to be in relationship with God and you are alienated from him, what will you do about that today?
  • What’s the point of the greatest solution: Christ suffered for your sins, the righteous for the unrighteous by dying on the cross and rising again from the dead?
  • What’s the meaning of all this if you don’t repent of your sin and trust Christ alone as your Lord and Saviour?
  • How can you do that? The Bible says:

“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (Acts 3:19).

“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).

If you repent and receive Christ by faith, what will happen to you?

  • “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Cor. 5:17 TNIV).
  • Won’t you receive the greatest solution today? If you want to know more, please speak with me after the service.

Chuck Swindoll once said:

If our greatest need had been information,

God would have sent us an educator.

If our greatest need had been technology,

God would have sent us a scientist.

If our greatest need had been money,

God would have sent us an economist.

If our greatest need had been pleasure,

God would have sent us an entertainer.

But our greatest need was forgiveness,

So God sent us [the][20] Savior.[21]

Notes:

[1] Dr. T. Matthew Ciolek (ed.), “2004 tsunami disaster: Scholarly and factual analyses,” updated 22 January 2020, Asian Studies WWW Virtual Library, available at: http://www.ciolek.com/WWWVLPages/AsiaPages/Tsunami-Analyses.html [Accessed 23 January 2010].

[2] “Death toll in Haiti expected to be over 100,000 says Prime Minister”, Gather News, 13 January 2010, available at: http://www.gather.com/viewArticle.action?articleId=281474977993233&grpId=3659174697244816 [Accessed 23 January 2010].

[3] See “Osama Bin Laden”, Wikipedia, available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osama_bin_Laden [Accessed 23 January 2010].

[4] “Al-Qaeda”, Wikipedia, available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Qaeda [Accessed 23 January 2010].

[5] Karl Menninger 1973, Whatever Became of Sin, Bantam Books, New York, p. 15.

[6] Ibid., p. 22.

[7] D. G. Bloesch 1984, ‘Sin’, in Walter A. Elwell (ed.), Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, p. 1012.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Michael P. Green (ed.) 1982, Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, p. 346.

[10] Dikaios.

[11] D. W. Diehl 1984, ‘Righteous’, in Walter A. Elwell (ed.), Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, p. 952.

[12] ‘Sin’s Deadly Wages’, Our Daily Bread, Saturday, December 28, 1996. Also available as Richard W. De Haan, ‘Sin’s Deadly Wages’, Sermonettes, available at: http://www.nccg.org/Sermonette-16.html [Accessed 23 January 2010].

[13] Earle E. Cairns 1954, 1981, Christianity through the Centuries (rev. & enl.), Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, p. 146.

[14] Confessions of Saint Augustine, 1.1 (I have modernised the language), available at: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/augustine/confessions.iv.html [Accessed 23 January 2010].

[15] Some of the following information is summarised and changed, but based on Pastor John Piper, May 18, 1997, Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota, “What is Baptism and Does It Save? 1 Peter 3:18-22,”, available at: http://www.soundofgrace.com/piper97/5-18-97.htm [Accessed 23 January 2010].

[16] R. C. Sproul 1992, Essential Truths of the Christian Faith, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois, p. 173.

[17] Simon J. Kistemaker 1987, New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and of the Epistle of Jude, Evangelical Press, Welwyn, Hertfordshire, p. 139.

[18] Ibid., p. 139.

[19] Thayer, p. 544, cited in Kistemaker, p. 139.

[20] The original said, “a”.

[21] Charles R. Swindoll 1998, Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, p. 315.

 

Copyright © 2010 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 9 October 2015.

 

What a combination! Easter eggs and crucifixion

Saturday, January 2nd, 2010
Easter Calvary

By Spencer D Gear

Easter is the time for Easter eggs but it has other ingredients that make it an attractive season. Of course, there’s the long weekend, plenty of sport on television and the opportunity for gorging lots of chocolate. Talk about options!

At Easter, according to The Age (13 November 2008) newspaper, “Australians will munch their way through about 200 million Easter eggs. We hold the title of being the highest per capita consumers of chocolate Easter goods in the world”.

In the UK around £200 million pounds is spent on 80 million Easter eggs every year. What about Australia? According to the Brisbane Courier-Mail of 15 March 2011, “Research conducted for the CMA [Confectionery Manufacturers’ Association] has found $230 million is spent annually in Australia and New Zealand on Easter sweets”. The Courier-Mail found that in 2011, Easter egg prices soared by 20%.

But why are there special eggs at Easter? Eggs symbolise new life and fertility. This religious festival comes with little to frighten anyone in this era of religious extremism. Who could ever be offended by a cute chocolate bunny?

But there’s a paradox here. Have you thought how strange it is that Easter eggs are identified with one of the most horrific ways of killing a person? This is the time of remembering the most famous death by crucifixion in history – Jesus Christ.

To be crucified for crime, the victim was lying on the cross on the ground and held down. He was nailed on that cross with crude, rough nails.

Then he was lifted up on the cross and it was dropped into a hole in the ground. He experienced unimaginable thirst and found it difficult to breathe.

Medical doctor, C. Truman Davis MD,[1] explained that as fatigue came to the arms and cramps to the muscles, the victim experienced deep throbbing pain.

There were hours of pain, cramps, and partial suffocation as tissue was torn from the person’s lacerated back as it moved up and down on the rough timber. This trauma impacted the chest and began to compress the heart.

To make it worse, the crowds would mock the victim.

But how does our culture remember Christ’s crucifixion at Easter? With eggs and jewellery. It’s almost impossible to walk down the street without seeing a version of the cross. Generally it’s on a chain around somebody’s neck or as ear rings. This is a far cry from the actual Easter event.

Malcolm Muggeridge,[2] the famous British media personality, soldier-spy and later Christian convert, called this death the most famous one in history. He said that no other death than Christ’s has aroused one-hundredth part of the interest or been remembered with one-hundredth part of the intensity of concern.

We are continuously confronted with troubles. Troubles in war, families and even in our own souls.

Into the midst of this repulsion in our world, at Easter we remember the Jesus of the cross who died for our sins and was resurrected. Why? So that we can have the opportunity to be set free from the guilt of our souls.

At Easter we remember that there can be new life in Christ. Hence the association with eggs!

Louis M. Lepeaux,[3] French philosopher, politician and bitter opponent of Christ at the time of the French Revolution, once started a religion that he hoped would be superior to Christianity. He sought the counsel of the great French diplomat and statesman, Charles Maurice Talleyrand.

Talleyrand’s advice was perceptive: “I recommend that you get yourself crucified and then die, but be sure to rise again on the third day.”

Why should you bother to embrace the Christian message this Easter?

The Christ of the cross changed the agnostic, Malcolm Muggeridge, into an active Christian who published Jesus Rediscovered.[4] Millions of people have made the same life-changing commitment and discovered the joy that Muggeridge found.

This is what we remember at Easter. He is the Jesus who died, was resurrected and changes people’s lives.

Endnotes:


[1] C. Truman Davis MD, “A physician examines the crucifixion,” available from: http://www.thecross-photo.com/Dr_C._Truman_Davis_Analyzes_the_Crucifixion.htm [Accessed 2 January 2010].

[2] Seeing through the eye: Malcolm Muggeridge on faith, available from Google Books [Accessed 2 January 2010].

[3] The story is told in Rt. Rev. John Paterson, Bishop of Auckland, Sunday 14th May, 2006, “150th anniversary of Devonport Parish,” available from: http://www.holytrinity.gen.nz/Pages/sermons/150sesquicelebrate.htm [Accessed 2 January 2010].

[4] Available online at: http://www.worldinvisible.com/library/mugridge/jred/jredcont.htm [Accessed 2 January 2010].

 

Copyright © 2010 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 13 October 2015.

Flower22Flower22Flower22Flower22Flower22Flower22Flower22
Whytehouse designs

Torn between life and death

Saturday, January 2nd, 2010

(public domain)

By Spencer D Gear

Why is it that many of us will do many things to live longer but others want to end life now?

We go on diets to reduce the strain on our hearts and the cholesterol from the fatty foods that we eat.

A recent study in the USA found that if people want to be healthy and live longer, they should consume less red and processed meat.[1]

The research of half a million American middle-aged and elderly people who consumed four ounces of red meat a day (an amount equivalent to a small hamburger), found that there was a 30% higher chance that they would die in the next 10 years.

Most of these would die of heart disease and cancer. The risk was increased through eating sausage, cold meats and other processed meats.

But this desire to try to avoid death, is also seen in some treatments of cancer. In spite of severe side effects of chemotherapy, such as fever, chills & sweats, abnormal bleeding, severe vomiting, constipation, diarrhoea and abdominal pain, patients want to live longer to spend more time with their relatives and friends.

Why is it that we have this love of life and need to prolong the date of death? Could it be connected with our culture’s deep fear of death?

“I want to be with my loved ones who have gone before, but I’m not sure about that,” are among the comments I hear.

For others, life has become a burden and ending life sooner than later sounds like a good release. The euthanasia movement in Australia, Europe and the USA is pushing this line. “To die with dignity” sounds like a reasonable and responsible way of thinking until one sees how euthanasia is happening in countries such as Holland.

The recent series of articles in The Times (UK) demonstrates this continuing push for euthanasia and assisted suicide.[2] The Dutch experience shows that this push will not be limited to the terminally ill. After a three year inquiry, the Dutch Medical Association (as reported in the British Medical Journal) wants more freedom to kill. The report stated that “doctors can help patients who ask for help to die even though they may not be ill but ‘suffering through living.'”[3]

Some experience this ambivalence: Extend life as much as possible but end life if it becomes unbearable.

This is where the Easter message of the resurrected Christ has particular application. We do not have to guess about what happens at death. Here there is an opportunity of knowing why life must end and what lies beyond the grave. The physical resurrection of all human beings after death is firmly grounded in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, which we celebrate on Easter Sunday.

Jesus Christ himself affirms this. After raising a man from the dead, he said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”[4]

He demonstrated the reality of this through his own resurrection from the dead, which was a turning point in human history.

Because of Christ’s physical resurrection from the dead, there is a solid biblical, theological and historical basis for the belief that the souls of both believers and unbelievers survive death and will be raised again.

There is no reason for the believers in Christ to fear death as they are eternally redeemed. Are those who push for euthanasia certain of the destiny of those for whom they push for “death with dignity”?

Endnotes:


[1] Rob Stein, The Washington Post, 24 March 2009, “Daily red meat raises chances of dying early,” available from: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/23/AR2009032301626.html [Accessed 2 January 2010].

[2] A. C. Grayling, The Times (UK), 31 March 2009, “Allowing people to arrange their death is a simple act of kindness”, available from: Timesonline at: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article6005023.ece [Accessed 2 January 2010]. See other euthanasia & assisted suicide stories linked to this article.

[3] Tony Sheldon, British Medical Journal News roundup, Extract, 18 January 2005, “Dutch euthanasia law should apply to patients ‘suffering through living’ report says,” available from: http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/extract/330/7482/61 [Accessed 2 January 2010]. Sheldon’s full article may be viewed at: http://www.lists.opn.org/pipermail/right-to-die_lists.opn.org/2005-January/000555.html [2 January 2010]. I was alerted to this information by Weblog: Christianity Today, “Dutch doctors want to kill the healthy,” 13 March 2006, available from: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2005/januaryweb-only/51.0.html [Accessed 2 January 2010].

[4] John 11:25-26.

 

Copyright © 2010 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 October 2016.

Flower22Flower22Flower22Flower22Flower22Flower22Flower22

Easter: Fact or fiction?

Saturday, January 2nd, 2010

happy Easter bunny

wpclipart

By Spencer D Gear

Australia has horrific levels of domestic violence. Surveys of women attending general medical practice in Australia reveal varying partner abuse rates of 8.0% (1999) and 28% (1996) in a 12-month period.[1] One study of police figures revealed that women are over eight times more likely to be victims than males.[2]

Family breakdown seems to be happening in epidemic proportions. Other personal and social ills are devastating our land – sexual abuse, drug and alcohol addiction. These are symptoms of what the first Easter events came to help to address.

Do any of these natural and social disasters have anything to do with the Christ of Easter? What’s the purpose of Easter beyond a 4-day holiday?

Today there are some spicy and conflicting statements made about the reality or myth of the Christian story of Christ’s death and resurrection. Did it happen or is this a Christian invention?

There are doubters galore both inside and outside of the church. They range from an agnostic’s letter to The Fraser Coast Chronicle,[3] which stated, “Whether Christ existed is open to conjecture. Was he the son of God? What God?” to John Cornwell in The Weekend Australian Magazine, “Did Jesus really rise from the dead?”[4](Easter 2005).

His conclusion was that “however compelling the story, however authentic the feel of the evidence, in the final analysis it comes down to a decision to believe or not to believe.”[5] The “feel” of the evidence is radically different from actual evidence. Having faith in the “feel” sounds a bit out in space to me.

Former Anglican bishop of North Sydney, classical historian, and now visiting fellow in ancient history at Macquarie University, Sydney, Dr. Paul Barnett, has examined the evidence carefully over a lifetime of research. He has concluded that “Jesus of Nazareth, the historical Jesus, became through death, bodily resurrection and ascension the Christ of faith.”[6]

This led to the spread of Christianity worldwide, he says: “Jesus the Christ, crucified but risen and glorified, is the engine that drove the missionaries who established churches in Palestine, Syria, Asia Minor and Greece, who in providing for the needs of those churches wrote the documents that came to constitute the New Testament.”[7]

Barnett elsewhere shows how the history of early Christianity and secular history intersect, proving that “the history of early Christianity is, indeed, genuinely historical and not ‘mythical’ in character.”[8]

Apparitions of risen Jesus: Crossan

Yet, John Dominic Crossan of the Jesus Seminar (now, there’s a group of doubters!), speaks of “the apparitions of the risen Jesus.” An apparition is a phantom, a ghost. Jesus’ resurrected body was not real flesh according to him but “the resurrection is a matter of Christian faith.”[9] So, in Crossan’s view, the resurrection of Christ was really a spiritual resurrection among believers – whatever that means!

What actually happened to the body of Jesus and does it matter? Crossan wrote that “Jesus’ burial by his friends was totally fictional and unhistorical. He was buried, if buried at all, by his enemies, and the necessarily shallow grave would have been easy prey for scavenging animals.”[10]

New Testament scholar, Dr. N.T. Wright, disagrees, has debated Crossan, and in 2003 completed an 817-page defence of the authenticity of Christ’s resurrection. He considers that discussion about the resurrection must be seen “as a historical problem.”[11]

Why is there such resistance by both unbelievers and some people in the church to the Easter faith of Christians? Wright believes the underlying cause in the contemporary and ancient world is in what T. F. Torrance regards as “the sheer horror that some people have for the being and action of God himself in space and time.”[12] People are God haters or evaders.

Richard Ostling of Associated Press regards Wright’s work as “the most monumental defense of the Easter heritage in decades. It marches through a clearly organized case that confronts every major doubt about Easter, ancient and modern.”[13]

As for the recent claims in James Cameron’s TV documentary, “The Lost Tomb of Jesus,” that the bones of Jesus are in the ossuary, the archaeologist who found the tomb said that Cameron’s interpretation was “nonsense.”

Israeli archaeologist, Amos Kloner, who was one of the first to examine the tomb when it was discovered near Jerusalem in 1980, claims that the names on the side of the coffin were common in the first century. He told BBC News, “I don’t accept the news that it was used by Jesus or his family. The documentary filmmakers are using it to sell their film.”[14]

Kloner told the Jerusalem Post that “it makes a great story for a TV film. But it’s completely impossible. It’s nonsense. There is no likelihood that Jesus and his relatives had a family tomb. They were a Galilee family with no ties in Jerusalem. The Talpiot tomb belonged to a middle class family from the 1st century CE.”[15]

Why all the fuss? Does it matter? If Christ were mere fiction and the Christians throughout the last 2,000 years have based their faith on such a myth, all Christians had better leave the churches and give up on their faith. They are on a foundation of belief that is no more substantial than belief in Mickey Mouse.

No resurrection, no fuss?

In fact, if Christ’s resurrection did not take place, the apostle Paul told the Corinthian church that “your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” They might as well eat, drink and be merry if Christ’s death and resurrection did not happen in real time and history.

But the apostle Paul was confident: “Christ has been raised from the dead.” This was not some ethereal, mystical event. The physical resurrection of Jesus was proven by an empty tomb and Jesus’ appearing to the 12 apostles and over 500 believers at one time.

It is further demonstrated by the explosive spread of Christianity across the first century Roman Empire and then around the world. Today there are about 6 billion people in the world made up of 24,000 different people groups.

Christianity Now and Then

The United States Center for World Mission estimates that there are 800 million people “who have been born again into a relationship with Jesus Christ.” Another 1.37 billion consider themselves Christian because they come from a Christian culture.[16]

In A.D. 100, it was estimated that only one in every 360 people was an active Christian believer. In the year 2000, it was 1 in 9.3. Because of the propagation of a myth? Hardly![17]

It’s not just the presence of Christians around the world that makes a difference in addressing some of the social and welfare needs (see Matthew ch. 25), but the truth that the living Christ changes people. Slave owners such as John Newton (author of “Amazing Grace”?) were changed from the inside out. Lawyer, Watergate hatchet-man and criminal, Chuck Colson, has been so revolutionised by the living Christ that he and his team have a world-wide ministry to prisoners.

Imagine what would happen to the epidemic of family violence and drug and alcohol abuse, if the living Jesus were taken seriously all year round by the majority of us!

Louis M. Lepeaux, French politician and bitter opponent of Christ at the time of the French Revolution, once started a religion that he hoped would improve on Christianity. He discussed the dismal situation with his friend, Talleyrand. “There is one plan you might like to try,” said his friend. “Why not be crucified and then rise again on the third day?”[18]

For a challenge to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, see the ““William Lane Craig and Bart Ehrman debate: Is there historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus?””

Endnotes:


[1] Kelsey Hegarty, Elizabeth D Hindmarsh and Marisa T Gille 2000, “Domestic violence in Australia: definition, prevalence and nature of presentation in clinical practice,” Medical Journal of Australia, 173, pp. 363-367, available from: http://www.mja.com.au/public/issues/173_07_021000/hegarty/hegarty.html#refbody12[Accessed 31 March 2007]..

[2] Cited in ibid.

[3] John A. Neve 2007, “Search for Salvation”, Letters to the Editor, The Fraser Coast Chronicle, March 28, p. 6.

[4] John Cornwell 2005, “Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead? The Case of the Empty Tomb,” The Weekend Australian Magazine, March 26-27, pp. 24-32.

[5] Ibid., p. 32.

[6] Paul Barnett 1999, Jesus & the Rise of Early Christianity, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove Illinois, p.41, p. 20.

[7] Ibid., p. 418.

[8] Paul W. Barnett 1997, Jesus and the Logic of History, Apollos, Leicester, England, p. 120.

[9] John Dominic Crossan 1995, Who Killed Jesus? HarperSanFrancisco, San Francisco, p. 189.

[10] John Dominic Crossan 1994, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, HarperSanFrancisco, San Francisco, p. 160.

[11] N. T. Wright 2003, The Resurrection of the Son of God, Fortress Press, Minneapolis, p. 14.

[12] Ibid, p. 736.

[13] In Wright, 2003, introduction; also available from Richard N. Ostling, Book Review, Associated Press, Courier Post Online, Saturday, 19 April 2003, at: http://www.christendom-awake.org/pages/resurrection/wright_resurrection.htm [Accessed 2 January 2010].

[14] “Jesus tomb found, says film-maker,” BBC News, 26 February 2007, available from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6397373.stm [Accessed 31 March 2007].

[15] David Horovitz 2007, “Kloner: A Great Story but Nonsense,” The Jerusalem Post, 27 February, Available at: http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1171894527185&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull [Accessed 2 January 2010].

[16] Ralph D. Winter, et. al. n.d. (ca. A.D. 2000), “The Amazing Countdown Facts,” United States Center for World Mission, [Accessed 2 January 2010].

[17] Ibid.

[18] Cited in David Holloway 1999, “The Good News at Athens: Acts 27,” a sermon preached at Jesmond Parish Church, 28 March 1999, available at: http://www.church.org.uk/resources/sermondetailpf.asp?serId=341 [Accessed 2 January 2010].

 

Copyright © 2010 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 13 October 2015.

Flower22Flower22Flower22Flower22Flower22Flower22Flower22
Whytehouse designs

Easter and the healthy committing suicide

Saturday, January 2nd, 2010

By Spencer D Gear

At Easter seasons, we are faced with a situation where the eternal consequences of death are ignored and the promotion of suicide is glorified. Those of us who have spent years trying to prevent suicide receive a lethal message from this Swiss lawyer.

Here’s the situation. There should be virtually no restrictions on helping people to commit suicide. These are the comments from human rights lawyer, Ludwig Minelli, from the Dignatas Swiss clinic that offers help to people to kill themselves. That is what Minelli told BBC radio in the UK on 2 April 2009. This article stated:

The founder of Swiss right-to-die organisation Dignitas has defended helping Britons, including some psychiatric patients, kill themselves.

Ludwig Minelli told the BBC suicide was a “marvellous possibility” and he wants the assisted suicide law clarified for the healthy partners of dying people.

Former Labour Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt said his comments showed the need for a change in UK laws.

More than 100 Britons, mostly terminally ill, have died at Dignitas.

In his first broadcast interview for five years, Mr Minelli told BBC Radio 4’s The Report that failed suicide attempts created problems and heavy costs for the UK’s National Health Service.

He said: “I have a totally different attitude to suicide. I say suicide is a marvellous marvellous possibility given to a human being.”

This controversial comment has come from the organisation that runs a clinic in Switzerland that has assisted almost 900 people to kill themselves, about 100 of them being British. Fortunately, Swiss psychiatrists are not recommending this clinic.

The British newspaper, The Guardian (4 April 2009), reported that Minelli saw assisted suicide as “a very good possibility to escape a situation you can’t alter.” But he went way beyond this recommendation to cold-heartedly suggest that attempted suicide makes good business sense because of its burden on the costs of health care.

“For 50 suicide attempts you have one suicide and the others are failing with heavy costs on the National Health Service,” he told the BBC. “They are terribly hurt afterwards. Sometimes you have to put them in institutions for 50 years, very costly.”

For those of us who have spent many years counselling those who are troubled by the issues of life and the family, Minelli’s kind of comment is like a kick in the guts. This lawyer is advocating that attempted suicide is such a financial burden on the health system that these people should be done away with.

Ultimately, what’s the difference in consequences between the ethics of Minelli and Hitler?

For my exposition on the deleterious consequences of euthanasia, see: “Voluntary Active Euthanasia – a compassionate solution to those in pain?”

Dignatas and the euthanasia advocates in Holland are demonstrating the slippery slope that happens when those who begin with the desire to assist suicide of the terminally ill, ends up advocating much more.

Herbert Hendin MD, Professor of Psychiatry at New York Medical College, and medical director of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, stated in 1995: “Over the past two decades, the Netherlands has moved from assisted suicide to euthanasia, from euthanasia for the terminally ill to euthanasia for the chronically ill, from euthanasia for physical illness to euthanasia for psychological distress and from voluntary euthanasia to nonvoluntary and involuntary euthanasia.”[1]

See also Herbert Hendin MD, The Case Against Physician-Assisted Suicide: For the Right to End-of-Life Care (Psychiatric Times, February 01, 2004).

At this Easter season we need to consider another dimension. Among the advocates of assisted suicide and euthanasia, an important factor seems to be overlooked.

What happens one second after you die? Where will you be? Is death the very end and the body and soul are obliterated? Talk of heaven or hell seems to be missing from this lethal advocacy for assisted suicide.

Worldviews have consequences. Worldviews of death need to be opposed by those who believe in eternal life and eternal punishment. Death does not end it all and Christ’s resurrection demonstrated this: “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins” (First Corinthians chapter 15).

Endnotes:


[1] “Argument: Euthanasia creates a slippery slope to legal murder,” Available at: http://wiki.idebate.org/en/index.php/Argument:_Euthanasia_creates_a_slippery_slope_to_legal_murder [Accessed 2 January 2010].

 

Copyright (c) 2010 Spencer D. Gear.  This document last updated at date: 9 October 2015.

Flower22Flower22Flower22Flower22Flower22Flower22Flower22
Whytehouse designs