Why I Believe What I believe


1 Corinthians 15:3-8    

A “disciple” is someone who has done enough studying and learning about the faith to defend it. Conversely, a “convert” – and we praise God for every convert – usually has difficulty defending the faith simply because they have not done enough studying or acquiring of knowledge yet. For example, if someone were to tell you that Easter is a pagan term stolen from Babylonian mythology about Ishtar, the Babylonian fertility goddess, and whose name, according to the accusers, was really pronounced as “Easter” and that her symbols of eggs for fertility and new life were applied by the Christian Emperor Constantine to Easter and Jesus’ resurrection, how would you respond? A “disciple”, one who is committed to growing in their faith, could refute that argument by having studied. In addition,

The term for Resurrection Sunday, “Easter”, comes from the old German word “Oster” or “Ostern,” which means “the rising of the sun.” Oster comes from the old Teutonic word “Auferstehen” which means “resurrection”. When combined, these two words form “Erstehen”, which in English is translated as “Easter”.

So, refuting untrue statements, presented as “gotcha” moments from people impressed with themselves, can be done, if a Christian has done their homework, which shows they are truly a disciple, a learner, a follower, not just a convert. Consider this quote from John Wesley,

“The church changes the world not by making converts but by making disciples.” (John Wesley)

Some 40 days after his resurrection and just before he ascended up to heaven, Jesus told his followers, “Go and make converts”. No! He said,

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

Not, “go and make converts”, but “go and make disciples”. I used to preach at an inner-city mission where the rule was, if the listeners wanted lunch, they had to listen to a gospel message. After one such session, I asked a man who had raised his hand to receive Jesus into his life if he had done that at any time in the past. He said, “Sure. 28 times!” It was then that I started to appreciate the need for the church to make disciples, not just converts.

Conversion helps a person know what they believe. Discipleship helps a person know why they believe what they believe.

Conversion gets a person into school of discipleship, but a lot of learning lies ahead, if the person is willing to undergo the training. The reason I am focusing on discipleship today is because at Easter time, there are all sorts of people who try to impress others by attacking the factualness of Christ’s death and resurrection. If a Christian hasn’t learned enough to know how to defend their faith and correct those false attacks, their faith might waver. Here’s an example: did Jesus die on a Wednesday or a Friday? Every Easter, someone claims that Jesus died on Wednesday, not Friday, because Jesus said he would be in the tomb 3 days and 3 nights, thus, Wednesday night & Thursday day, Thursday night & Friday day, Friday night & Saturday day – 3 days and 3 nights – with Jesus then being raised back to life on Saturday evening. But, through study, a Christian knows that it was only on one occasion, when he was referencing Jonah being in the belly of the great fish 3 days and 3 nights which was given as an analogy for his coming death, that Jesus said used that phrase. On every other occasion referring to his death and resurrection, Jesus said he would rise “on the third day”. In Jewish counting, any part of a day equals a full day. Thus, any part of Friday equals a full day and night, any part of Saturday a full day and night, any part of Sunday a full day and night. We do the same thing in English! Disciples know these things!

Here are five other facts about Easter that every disciple should know:

  1. There is demonstrably sincere eyewitness testimony. Early Christian apologists cited hundreds of eyewitnesses, some of whom documented their own experiences, including the conversion of certain key skeptics, most notably Paul and James, both of whom suffered and died for their belief in Jesus’ resurrection.

Those eyewitnesses were willing to endure ongoing hatred, torture, and death rather than refute their testimony. No one is willing to die for what they know is a lie. Thus, they were telling the truth.

  1. Enemy attestation to the empty tomb.

The Jewish religious leaders spread the story of the empty tomb of Jesus. They couldn’t deny what was under their very noses. That Jesus’ enemies spread the story of the empty tomb attests to its truth.

  1. The fact that faith in the resurrection took root in Jerusalem.

A hoax may have been possible if the events of the resurrection were claimed to have happened in some far-away place, but impossible when it happened in Jerusalem. The leaders could not disprove it.

  1. A peculiarity of the eyewitness testimony. In all of the major resurrection narratives, women are credited as the first and primary eyewitnesses.

In both the ancient Jewish and Roman cultures, women were severely disesteemed, and their testimony regarded as without substance and thus dismissible. Given that, it is unlikely that any perpetrators of a hoax in 1st Century Judea would’ve had women as their primary witnesses. They surely would have chosen men as their spokespeople.

  1. Devout Jews changed the day of their worship from Saturday to Sunday. That would have never happened without a thing so shaking their belief system that they would feel justified in breaking that much cherished fourth of the Ten Commandments, that of observing the Sabbath day.

The resurrection of Jesus (which happened on a Sunday) changed those Jews’ day of gathering and of corporate worship away from Saturday – the Jewish Sabbath day – to Sunday, “The Lord’s Day”. So,

  1. There is no plausible explanation for the emergence of the Christian faith other than that of Christ’s resurrection – a thing he predicted. Other people have accurately predicted that they would be put to death by someone else, but no other person in history has successfully predicted their own resurrection from death.

Those are 6 positive proofs for the resurrection that every Christian should know, and disciples probably have taken the time already to learn. If you didn’t know those proofs, please, get studying! I became a Christian in 1975 but I admit I wasn’t able to effectively counter attacks on Christianity or defend my beliefs, until 1984, 9 years later, when my wife and I took an extended time to study at Francis and Edith Schaeffer’s retreat center in L’Abri, Switzerland. It was there, and after doing a lot of “deep diving” into different biblical and social topics, that became able to explain “why” I believe “what” I believe. I knew I was going to be a church pastor one day and I desperately didn’t want to be like the one pastor I knew of whose church was dwindling away, and we all joked it was because he finished each sermon with, “But, what do I know, anyway?” As Christians, we should know why we believe what we believe. Ok, I’ve already mentioned 6 positive truths we should know. Here are 5 negative falsehoods we also need to be able to understand so we can correct them.

  1. The disciples stole the body. How would you refute that claim? Simple. If this were the case, they would have known the resurrection was a hoax and they would not have been so willing to suffer and die for their claims of Jesus being alive.

Every first century disciple died for their claims about Jesus, excepting the apostle John who was sentenced to death in a pot of boiling oil, but survived. People have been known to die for what they believed to be true, but no one is willing to die for a thing they knew to be false, a lie. Not one of the disciples caved and said it was all a lie, a hoax they had made up. Because they knew Jesus had been raised.

  1. That Christ’s resurrection is a legend having its roots in the older story of an Egyptian god named Horus.

Every year, someone will arrogantly state that the Jesus story is nothing more than a copying, a reworking, of stories based on the life of an Egyptian god named Horus. But, studying shows you there are no similarities. The ancient Egyptian writings about Horus do not back up the claims of the late 19th century English spiritualist writer, Gerald Massey, who loved Egyptology and who thus wanted it promoted and his books sold. He did so by attempting to link Jesus to Horus.

  1. Christ faked His death and later escaped from the tomb.

Jesus was beaten, tortured, stabbed, and speared, according to eyewitnesses. There is no human who could fake their own death after all that, then sit in a tomb without medical attention, food or water, and finally remove the massive stone which sealed His tomb and escape undetected (without leaving behind a trail of blood). People who study enough have come to see the truth of his resurrection.

  1. The claim that the over 500 people to whom Jesus appeared underwent some sort of mass hallucination – but this is laughable and a desperate assertion.

No behavioral scientist supports that a mass hallucination like that is even possible. Going to our fifth negative claim a disciples can refute:

  1. Jesus merely fainted or swooned in the tomb and was revived by its cool air of the tomb. This assertion is known as the “swoon theory”.

Jesus didn’t die on the cross, but merely swooned and passed out. After being revived by the cool tomb air, he unwrapped himself, moved the 2-ton stone uphill in its groove, and slipped past the guards assigned to watch over his tomb. A sect of Islam believes Jesus he then made his way to Srinagar, Kashmir, where he spent the rest of his days as a respected teacher before dying at a ripe, old age. Listen up…

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins (punctiliar, a one-time act) according to the Scriptures, that he was buried (punctiliar, a one-time act), that he was raised on the third day (punctiliar, a one-time act), according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared (passive pluperfect, which means a past action with present, ongoing ramifications – in other words, Jesus is still alive today!) to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. (1 Corinthians 15:3-8) Disciples know why they believe what they believe, and it comes down to this: Jesus died, was buried, then raised, and is still alive today!

“The stone was rolled away from the door, not to permit Christ to come out, but to enable the disciples to go in.” (Peter Marshall)

“Easter says you can put truth in a grave, but it won’t stay there.” (Clarence W. Hall)

“I’m not a Christian because it ‘works’ for me. I had a life prior to Christianity that seemed to be working just fine, and my life as a Christian hasn’t always been easy. I’m a Christian because my high regard for the truth leaves me no alternative.” (J. Warner Wallace)

“Jesus could have been satisfied with giving the world bread and water. He could have given them a healing clinic in every town. A leprosarium. School of exorcism. No. He gave himself. Spiritual sacrifice to God. Broke the bond of sin and death and set us free forever. He left for us an empty tomb.” (Eldon Reich, Easter: What God Gave to Us

“Jesus did not die on the cross just so we could live comfortable, well-adjusted lives. His purpose is far deeper: He wants to make us like himself before he takes us to heaven. This is our greatest privilege, our immediate responsibility and our ultimate destiny.” (Rick Warren)

Disciples have come to the point where they know and understand the proofs for the resurrection of Jesus Christ, as well as how to rebuff false statements. Make it your goal this year to study and spiritually grow. Listen: Muhammad died and was buried. His followers visit his remains. The same is true of Buddha and other religious leaders. But Jesus is different. You cannot visit His remains; you can only visit His empty grave. Jesus isn’t there. He arose! He’s alive today! Every disciple of Jesus knows that! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed!

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