Do you remember where you were when President Kennedy was shot?
Do you remember the 9/11 attacks?
I’d wager if you were alive then, you do remember, even though they occurred 48 years ago, and 10 years ago. You didn’t have to see those tragedies firsthand; they were so shocking, so threatening to our sense of well-being that they will forever be real in our minds.
Now, do you remember where you were when Jesus rose from the grave? When he ascended to heaven?
No, we weren’t there. Nevertheless, we believe the reports of the witnesses—because of the great body of testimony—more than 500 people saw Jesus after the resurrection. The corroboration by other sources and the advocacy of God’s Holy Spirit further confirm those truths.
For those who were in Jerusalem that first Easter morning, you can imagine the excitement. Despite threats and abuse from the religious leaders, Christ’s followers spread the news of his resurrection. That was proof that he was–and is–the Son of God.
Over the next 40 days Jesus gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He met with his followers outside the city and told them, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Then he was taken up into the air and a cloud hid him from their sight. Those images burned into their memories, just like we remember 9/11. The book of Acts tells us that on the day of Pentecost, the promised Holy Spirit descended on the 120 followers who remained in Jerusalem—accompanied by miraculous signs and wonders. Another unforgettable event for the witnesses.
Witnessing wasn’t a static condition. New believers shared how God had transformed their lives. Right along with them, the Holy Spirit was directing and empowering, enlivening and filling, convicting and renewing. Witnessing was the same as today—you and God.
Lives were changed—broken families restored and broken bodies became whole. The gospel spread through the apostles’ preaching, through their testimonies, and personal letters.
It would be 30+ years after Christ’s ascension before the narrative gospel accounts would be written and the history of the early church (Acts) was written around 63-70 AD. In 397 AD the Council of Carthage established the orthodox NT canon. The importance of the Christian writer was established.
Hebrews 11 gives an overview of what those heroic witnesses endured—burnings, gladiators and wild animals in the arena, imprisonment and floggings … Men of whom the world was not worthy, they wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.
Yet, their testimonies encouraged those who followed, to this day.
This day. Yes, but at this day, our culture is rejecting God’s Word … making up its own truth … and Christians are increasingly marginalized.
At issue is the belief in the supernatural …
Best-selling books by well-known atheists advocate an all-out culture war to remove any vestige of Christianity from the public square. I recently commented on a secular writers’ blog. An atheist quickly responded: “As for Biblical inerrancy, that horse has been out of the barn for a long time. Far from being inerrant, the Bible is filled with historical inaccuracies. Evangelicals, always the caboose on the intellectual train, continue to defend the debunked idea that the Bible is inerrant.”
Despite his mixed metaphors and lack of supporting data, he believes
that 1) the Bible is based on superstition; and 2) the defenders of the Bible—mainly evangelicals and fundamentalists—have no credibility, anyway.
The Barna Research Group reports that a majority of late teens to late thirty-year-olds (which I’ll call 20/30s)—have turned their backs on the faith. Less than 10% have religious faith as a top priority of their lives. Tolerance is their touchstone. Most believe they can live a credible life without Jesus.
Three times as many of the 25 million young people in the 20/30s group have a negative view of Christians as have a positive view. Many view the Bible from the perspective of The DaVinci Code, the best-selling propaganda piece against the truth of the Bible.
Next time, we’ll talk about why this is or is not so …