What Would Cause Jesus to Shut a Church Down + More Reasons to Believe in the Resurrection! #350

Happy Friday to you, dear friends! Two more topics today and we are literally only THREE weeks to the New Year – can you believe it?! Today we are reading 2nd Chronicles 11 and 12, Zephaniah 3, John 1 and Revelation 2. I want to start out with a great comment from a friend of mine who chooses to remain anonymous online. I have one dear friend who listens to this podcast and used to work at a top-secret kind of aviation company, and he has all of this top secret clearance and stuff…he probably retrofitted some Roswell tech to work on smart phones, or something like that. (I kid, I kid…) and he goes by his real name, as far as I know, online. But this other dear friend, who wrote a great comment on our Youtube page for the podcast, is so above top-secret that he uses aliases online. He says he works in an IT related field, but I’m pretty sure he is really CIA or NSA or maybe even Mossad. Probably Mossad, now that I think about it. Anyway, I can’t share his name for obvious not wanting to be targeted by assassins reasons, but I do want to share his great comment on yesterday’s episode in which he gives more rational reasons to believe in the resurrection. It is longer than your average comment, which is great, because I’ll take any excuse to talk about the resurrection!

How do we know that Jesus rose from the dead? 1. If He did not, we are faced with the enigmatic fact of the empty tomb, which is accepted as a historical fact by most scholars of antiquity, including many non-Christian skeptics. See also Frank Morison, Who Moved the Stone , https://www.gospeltruth.net/whomovedthestone.htm 2. If He did not, we are faced with the extreme enigma of the Birth of the Church. While the disciples (except John) did not immediately take the empty tomb as evidence of resurrection, within a few days ALL of the remaining followers (Judas having hanged himself) believed absolutely and without any doubt that Jesus was alive, and the God of Heaven. This is absolutely unthinkable given that they (particularly John) had seen Jesus shredded to death on the cross, a criminal’s brutal death that usually ended political and religious movements. 3. If He did not, then we have no explanation for the multiple parallel accounts of followers of Jesus having appeared to early Christians, including above 500 at one time. If one or two had made such a claim, we might have believed it to be hallucinations, or some kind of ecstatic mental state, but above 500 at one time is an absolute stopper for that counter-claim. People do not share hallucinations. It might have been possible for people to have lied, except that some of them died still holding to these claims. Had they known it to be false, and could have saved their lives from horrible deaths by confessing, why wouldn’t they do so? In addition, Charles “Chuck” Colson points out that he and the other Watergate conspirators could not keep a secret for two weeks, and they were the most powerful men in Washington DC. For more than a dozen conspirators to keep such a secret for decades, let alone millennia, is simply absurd. 4. If He did not, then we are faced with the enigmas of the conversions of James the Just and Saul of Tarsus. James, half-brother of Jesus initially rejected the claims of Jesus, but after the resurrection and an appearance of Jesus to him, became a follower of Jesus. Saul was a Pharisee, son of a Pharisee; a man of great religious heritage and an education rivaling anything available in the ancient world. He initially despised Christians, participating in their murders and imprisonment. But upon seeing an appearance of Jesus, he cast away his future, his fortune, and his family in order to spend the remainder of his life as an itinerant preacher, living in poverty and constant danger. 5. If He did not, then we are faced with the enigma of the early creeds, such as the embedded “Pre-Pauline doctrine” found in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8. This book is considered an authentic Pauline writing by nearly all scholars of antiquity today. In it Paul declares “That which I received,” a phrase which tells us that he is following the Rabbinical tradition of passing down an oral teaching, and then states that Jesus died for the sins of the world, was buried, rose on the third day as predicted in the scriptures, and was seen by many (including above 500 at one time). In the introduction to volume three of his Story of Civilization, the , called Caesar and Christ , SUNY Historian Dr. Will Durant states that the two most remarkable events in Western Civilization are the Roman Empire and the Church (Caesar and Christ), and that in a most improbable coincidence, they at the same time in history, and at one point, one of them (Caesar, i.e. Rome) judged the other (i.e. Jesus Christ). If one is to fairly and without prejudice examine all of the evidence from an objective light, it is simply undeniable that Jesus rose from the dead, and that He is Lord, and that He is LORD.

Amen and amen!

Our focus question for the day comes out of Revelation, and concerns the church at Ephesus, which seems to be great in so many ways. Orthodox theology, good works, hard labor for the Kingdom, great endurance, and they have even suffered persecution for the name of Jesus and not given up…and yet, Jesus says something is missing – something so serious it literally threatens their existence as a church. What is that something? Let us read Revelation 1 and find out.

But I have this against you: You have abandoned the love you had at first.Remember then how far you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.

Revelation 2:4-5

This is chilling. So many things seem right about this church except for the MAIN thing – which they have abandoned. This is crucial, and it is crucial that we learn from the example of the church at Ephesus. They were doing so many things right – and their beliefs appear to be right, because they discerned who were false apostles and who weren’t and they did not tolerate false teachers. I take from this that they had solid and biblical theology – they believed the right things and held on to the truth. Not only that, but they were hard workers – this church probably did a lot of acts of service and a lot of community outreaches, and things like that…lots and lots of ministry – BUT THEIR HEART WASN’T THERE. They had abandoned or ‘sent away’ their love.

Over the years, there has been quite a bit of discussion about what kind of love Jesus means here – did they abandon their love for God or their love for each other? The language of the passage is pretty ambiguous in trying to answer that question. Jesus uses the word ‘agape’ here, which many people understand to mean something like, “God’s love,” or “unconditional love,” but that’s not really how the Bible uses agape. Yes, it can refer to God’s love, and it can refer to unconditional love, but it can also be used in a very similar way that we use the word in English – to refer to something like, “I love vanilla ice cream,” for instance.

Woe to you Pharisees! You love the front seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces.” Luke 11:43

because Demas has deserted me, since he loved this present world, and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia.” 2 Timothy 4:10

Agape can also, refer to loving God, and God’s people loving each other…so the vocabulary doesn’t answer the question of what kind of love we are talking about. And, just like our discussion yesterday, I think this represents intentional ambiguity on the part of Jesus. I believe the Ephesus church had abandoned love in general – love for each other AND love for God. In fact, says John, there is no real way to separate the two. If we love God, we will love each other, and the only way to love each other fully is for the love of God to be in us. Consider this passage in 1 John 4:

God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him. 17 In this, love is made complete with us so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment, because as he is, so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears is not complete in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and yet hates his brother or sister, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother or sister whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And we have this command from him: The one who loves God must also love his brother and sister.

1 John 4:16-21

So, we see here the danger that the church of Ephesus was facing: Abandoning love means abandoning God…and this put the church in grave danger of having it’s light/lampstand removed, which I believe would mean it would no longer be a church. Had they abandoned God? I don’t think so – but the danger was close enough that Jesus’ message to them was repent before the fire goes out.

So – dear friends…let us also hear the Jesus exhortation to the Ephesus church as an exhortation to us and our churches – let not the fire go out in our love for God and our love for each other.

 


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