GraceLife Thoughts for Easter 2012

We started publishing GraceLife Thoughts on the Internet 17 years ago (March 1995). One of the great joys we’ve had during that time has been sharing about the Death, Burial and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ during the days leading up to Easter. As the Apostle Paul wrote so beautifully almost 2,000 years ago: Continue reading

The Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ – True or False?

The Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ are the most important events in the history of the human race – so why don’t more people believe it? I understand why Buddhists don’t believe it – why Muslims don’t believe it – why Jews don’t believe it – why Hindus don’t believe it – why pagans don’t believe it – why atheists and agnostics don’t believe it – but why don’t Christians believe it? Millions of people today who claim to be Christians do not believe that Jesus Christ rose from the grave!

The Bible is emphatic about the Resurrection of Jesus. In fact, being a witness of the Resurrected Lord was primary to who the Apostles chose to take the place of Judas as one of the 12 Apostles. Look at what Peter said to the 120 followers of Christ before Pentecost –

“Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.” Acts 1:21-22

Does that sound like someone who did not believe that Jesus Christ literally rose from the dead? Peter said that beginning with the baptism of John to the day when Jesus ascended into Heave, it was vital that the person they chose to take Judas’ place be “a witness with us of His resurrection.”  The Death and Resurrection of Christ was the starting point of Peter’s great sermon on Pentecost.

“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know— Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it … Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.” Acts 2:22-24, 29-33

So, again how can Christians say Jesus did not rise? Why would they say that? When did that belief – or lack of it – begin in Christianity? Some believe it began during the 18th century as part of the “Age of Enlightenment” – and grew into the liberation theology and Christian existentialism of “liberal” and “progressive” Christianity. Not believing in the Lord’s Resurrection is just one of the foundational teachings of the Bible they do not believe. In fact, many don’t believe in the verbal inspiration of the Bible. They believe the Bible is filled with errors. They believe that many of the events in the Bible – like Creation, Adam and Eve, Noah’s Ark and the worldwide Flood – are just stories believers made up to help people understand universal spiritual truths. Some believe that much in the New Testament is mythical. They question major doctrines of the Faith – the Trinity, the Deity of Christ, the Virgin Birth of Christ, the Miracles of Jesus, the resurrection of Lazarus, the Death of Christ on the Cross, the Blood Atonement of our Lord, the Ascension of Christ, the miracles of the Apostles, the Return of Christ for His Church, Heaven and hell.

The great debate about the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and other essential beliefs of the Christian Faith began much earlier than the 18th century. In fact, they began in the 1st century. Paul, Christ’s Apostle to the Gentiles, warned church leaders to be on guard for those people “inside the Church” who would turn it upside down and try to change the very soul of its spiritual fabric. Here’s what Paul told the elders of the Church at Ephesus.

“Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.” Acts 20:28-30

That very thing has happened throughout the history of the Church. People who call themselves Christians rise up, speak perverse things, and draw away many disciples after themselves. Many of these “savage wolves” have perverted major aspects of the Christian Gospel and taken believers captive to their teaching – and they are still around. Could any be lurking here? We say that couldn’t happen, but I hear the words of Paul to the elders of a church that Paul himself founded – “take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” The Church does not belong to any believer or group of believers. The Church belongs to Christ. He purchased the Church with His Blood on the Cross.

Years before Paul told the Ephesian elders to keep their eyes out for wolves in their own church, Paul dealt with a major doctrinal problem in Corinth. Some members of the church there did not believe in the resurrection. How did Paul handle it? Head on!

Paul addressed a lot of doctrinal errors in the Corinthians Church. One of them was the Resurrection of Christ and the resurrection of those who believed in Him. In 1 Corinthians 6:14, Paul makes what appears to be a basic statement of fact that all Christians would accept. “And God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power.” (1 Corinthians 6:14) But later in the letter, Paul addresses a major error some Christians had about the resurrection. “”Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” (1 Corinthians 15:12) No question about it – some Christians at Corinth said there is no resurrection of the dead. How did Paul deal with this? Methodically and powerfully.

Paul began his portion about the resurrection by pointing Christians to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

“Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:1-2

What is the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

“For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.” 1 Corinthians 15:3-4

What is the proof for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ?

“… and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.” 1 Corinthians 15:6-8

Why do some people say there is no resurrection?

“Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.” 1 Corinthians 15:12-19

Christ is risen from the dead!

“But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.” 1 Corinthians 15:20-22

The Glorious Body!

“But someone will say, “How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?” Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies. And what you sow, you do not sow that body that shall be, but mere grain—perhaps wheat or some other grain. But God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body. All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of animals, another of fish, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies and terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differs from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.” 1 Corinthians 15:35-49

Our Resurrection!

Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory  through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 15:52-58

As we approach Good Friday and Easter this year, let’s remember how important remembering these Events is to the Body of Christ. Let us not be swept away  by the world’s view of them, but may we see them through God’s Eyes and rejoice in the power of spiritual freedom we have in our Lord.

“Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.” Romans 6:8-10

In Christ’s Love and Grace,

Mark McGee

GraceLife Ministries

“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

Three Crosses Against Sky

Three Weeks Until Easter

Three weeks until Easter – what are Christians around the world doing to get ready?

Many are preparing for the annual celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Some are preparing for Good Friday programs – Passion Plays – Easter Contatas  – Easter Sunrise services. Many are fasting and praying. Some have given up something for Christ during the time before Easter to remember what Jesus gave up for us. Good Friday vigils and Easter celebrations were well established by the 2nd Century A.D. Fasting began on Good Friday and continued until Easter morning when Christians would rise early, wash, and greet the sun in celebration of the Lord’s Resurrection. Easter is the oldest annual Christian celebration.

What was Jesus doing three weeks before Easter?

He was preparing His followers for what was going to happen to Him and them.

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Christ Appears to Disciples

The Holy Week – Lessons of Life!

“Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’ And they remembered His words.” Luke 24:1-7

How quickly things can change for the better. Tears of sorrow became tears of joy – “So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word.” (Matthew 28:8) How many emotions these women must have felt – fear and joy at the same time. “He is not here, but is risen!” Those words of the two angels must have seemed like a dream to the women who came to the tomb to attend to the body of Jesus. The stone was rolled away from the tomb. The soldiers were gone. The body of Jesus was also gone. The Lord was ready to teach His disciples the greatest lesson of all – The Lesson of Life! You see, Jesus has the Power – the Power of Life over death. Nothing can destroy Him – nothing can delay Him – nothing can dissuade Him. Jesus has the Power of Life because He is Life.

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Where He Sends I Will Go

The Words of Jesus Christ are Keys from Heaven that unlock the Storehouse of God’s Eternal Wisdom. Some of the greatest Keys are in the Words Jesus shared with His disciples the night before He died for their sins.

The first Key is found in John 13:1: “Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” Jesus knew that the great Hour of His Sacrifice had come. He knew that He was going to depart from this world and go to God the Father in Heaven. Jesus loved His disciples very much and gave them Keys that would help them unlock the many gates they would walk through in their service to God. Those Keys are found in John Chapters 13 – 16.

In John Chapter 17, we see Jesus talking privately, intimately with His Father. He prays for Himself, then His disciples. That prayer for His disciples includes remarkable insight into our topic this week that every Christian is a missionary:

“As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.” John 17:18

Do you see it? God the Son said He sent His disciples into the world just as the Father had sent Him into the world. We learn a lot about being a missionary (on a mission from God) from the context of that Prayer:

“I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them. Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.” John 17:9-19

Well, you say, that was just for Christ’s disciples at that time. He certainly couldn’t mean us – now. Oh,  really? Look at the next verses:

“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.” John 17:20-23

Jesus prayed for you and me on the night before He redeemed us with His Blood on the Cross. We have all believed in Christ through the Words of the Apostles. That’s what Jesus said. His prayer goes on to show He wants us to “be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You.” Jesus prays that we will be unified in Him. Why? “… that the world may believe that You sent Me.” There you have it. That’s the mission. That’s what God wants us to do with our lives. Jesus sends us out into the world that people will believe that God the Father sent God the Son into the world to accomplish His Mission for them.

The Bible is filled with “defining moments;” amazing moments in time when God cements His Truth in the hearts and minds of His chosen people. Jesus prayed for His disciples the night before He died on the Cross asking God the Father to send them into the world just as He had sent Jesus into the world. Our Lord shared that prayer with His disciples three days later, on the evening of His Resurrection.

“When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’ And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.” John 20:20-22

What a day for the disciples! They had gone to sleep ( if they were able to sleep) the night before filled with great sadness because the body of their dear Lord lay dead in a grave after a brutal beating and crucifixion the day before. What they didn’t remember that night were the words Jesus had spoken to them many times before that He would be killed and then raised from the dead on the third day. It was several hours later, in the early hours of Resurrection Sunday, that Jesus rose from the grave. Later that same day, Jesus showed Himself to His disciples. He showed them the nail scars in His Hands and His Side. Then they were glad. Jesus then gave them their great mission and all the Power they would need to succeed in that mission – “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’ And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.”

Jesus spent a little more than a month with His disciples after His Resurrection teaching them great spiritual insights that they would be able to understand in greater depth because of the Holy Spirit, the Promised Comforter, living in them. Here are some of those insights. Notice how many of them pertain to the mission Christ had given them.

“Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen.” Matthew 28:16-20

“Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen. And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.’ So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.” Mark 16:14-20

“Then He said to them, ‘Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things. Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.’ And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. Now it came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven. And they worshiped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising and blessing God. Amen.” Luke 24:46-53

“And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, ‘which,’ He said, ‘you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’ Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, ‘Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ And He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.’ Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.” Acts 1:4-9

Jesus sent His disciples into the world “just as” God the Father sent God the Son into the world. It was the answer to Christ’s pre-crucifixion prayer. And what did those disciples do when Jesus said “Go”? They obeyed and went, carrying Christ’s Message for Israel and eventually the world. The 12 Apostles spent most of their “mission” time in Israel, while the Apostle Paul spent most of his “mission” time taking the Gospel to the cities and nations of the Gentile people.

Paul is probably the most prolific human missionary who ever lived. God prophesied to Ananias about Paul’s mission – “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.” (Acts 9:15) And that’s exactly what Paul (Saul) did. Where and how did Paul begin his missionary journeys?

“Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. And when they arrived in Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. They also had John as their assistant.” Acts 13:1-5

Paul conducted at least three major missions taking the Gospel of Christ to the world. He started churches all over the Gentile world and kept in touch with them through his letters and personal visits. In so doing, he wrote almost half of the New Testament. That’s a remarkable feat for one man to accomplish in less than 30 years. No other human being since Paul has come close to matching what God did through him. What did Paul do when Jesus told Him to “go”? He went. What should our response be when God asks us to “go”? We should say, “where You send I will go.”

You may be asking, “where do I get the courage and strength to go wherever God sends me?” It begins with loving God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, then loving your neighbor as yourself. The next step is to give yourself to God for His service.

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:1-2

So then, in light of all we’ve seen this week about missions, how should we pray?  Jesus gave His disciples the clear answer: “Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” (Matthew 9:37-38) Look around you. What do you see? People – people by the thousands, by the tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions, billions – people whose greatest need in life is Jesus Christ. We need more laborers, more people on a mission from God, to speak the Words of Eternal Life to the hearts and souls of men and women, boys and girls.

That is our prayer – send us Lord, and we will go.

In Christ’s Love and Grace,

Mark McGee

GraceLife Ministries

“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”