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As we are reminded again of the sufferings of Christ on the Cross, we need to consider the question: Who is responsible for the sufferings of Christ? As we read the Gospel narratives, or as we see the crucifixion of our Saviour depicted by The Passion of the Christ film, we have to ask the question: Who killed Jesus?
1. Do we blame the Roman soldiers? Certainly, they crucified Him.
2. Surely though it was the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, who was responsible? He alone had the power to enforce the death penalty, it was he who, as a magistrate of the Roman Empire, declared: "I cannot find any reason to condemn Him" John 19:4; "I find no reason to condemn Him" John 19:65; "I find no reason to condemn this Man" Luke 23:4. Yet, Pilate bowed to pressure and condemned an innocent man for political expediency and popularity.
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“Which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of Holiness, by the Resurrection from the dead.” Romans 1:2-4
Careful Investigation is Encouraged
There is nothing wrong with being cautious and careful when it comes to eternal matters. Indeed, there is much in the world that we should be skeptical about. We should not be gullible. There is far too much superstition and ignorance in the world. We should carefully investigate and establish what the facts are. We need to have the courage to face the facts.
Faith in Facts
Christianity does not require one to make a blind leap into the dark. False religions require blind faith. Christianity is an intelligent step into the light, in response to facts.
"But if they had stood in My counsel and had caused My people to hear My Words, then they would have turned them from their evil way and from the evil of their doings." Jeremiah 23:22
At a recent meeting of military veterans, one person asked, how, with all the Transformation prayer rallies, Angus Buchan Mighty Mens’ Conferences and prayer events, could things in our country have continued to deteriorate so badly?
The Crisis That Confronts Us
Just how did we descend to such a disastrous situation that litter, pollution, deforestation and degenerate Hollywood entertainment could be considered normal? That corruption could be endemic, dysfunctional families the norm, most state schools failing, student riots, rampant rhino poaching, canned lion hunting, legalised abortion, "gay pride" parades, legalised perversion, transgenderism and gender fluidity disrupting sports and infiltrating schools and so-called homosexual "weddings"! How could perverts be called pastors? How could Europe so abandon its Christian heritage that it could be hijacked by secular humanism and endangered by an Islamic invasion? How could South Africa have been hijacked by corrupt criminals who have looted this country into power failures, water shortages and violent crime?
Wickedness Within the Church
"My heart within me is broken because of the prophets; all my bones shake. I am like a drunken man and like a man whom wine has overcome, because of the Lord and because of His holy Words. For the land is full of adulterers; for because of a curse the land mourns. The pleasant places of the wilderness are dried up. Their course of life is evil and their might is not right. 'For both prophet and priest are profane; Yes, in My house I have found their wickedness,' says the Lord." Jeremiah 23:9-11
Recognise the Tactics of satan
We need to recognise the tactics of the enemy: corrupt and conquer and confuse, divide and conquer. We need to learn the lessons of history, recognise the tactics and strategies of satan, as well as the disastrous consequences of idolatry and immorality, compromise and cowardice, passivity and neutrality, neglect of God's Word and silence in the face of evil.
The Bible is the Word of God
The Bible itself teaches its divine origin and authority:
"No prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophets'own interpretation."
2 Peter 1:20
All Scripture was written as:
"Men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit."
2 Peter 1:21
"God Spoke . . . through the prophets . . . and by His Son."
"All Scripture is God-breathed."
2 Timothy 3:16
The Word of God, once given and written, is exact in all details down to each letter and stroke of the pen. Matthew5:18
"The Scripture cannot be broken."
"The Word of the Lord stands forever."
1 Peter 1:25
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The release of the epic new film RISEN provides an excellent Evangelistic opportunity to engage friends, family, neighbours and strangers with the overwhelming evidences for the bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. We have produced a tract specifically designed for you to print out and distribute to film-goers and neighbours. RISEN is a springboard to discuss the Person and Event that changed everything.
"And declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of Holiness, by the Resurrection from the dead."
The bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is tremendously important. Death is man's greatest enemy, and it has conquered all men - but Christ. Cities and nations, like people, are born and grow for a season, and then fade away.
Homes, clothes, even vehicles, wear out and eventually go back to dust, just as do their owners. The Bible describes this universal reign of decay and death as "the bondage of corruption" (Romans 8:21). In science it is recognised as the Second Law of Thermodynamics - the Law of Increasing Entropy. Left to themselves, every system tends to become disordered, to run down and eventually die. All the founders of great religions and movements have died and you can visit their graves. Zoroaster, Confucius, Buddha, Muhammad, Marx, and Lenin. They are all dead and decayed in the grave. But Jesus Christ is alive!
One of the great Church Fathers, Augustine of Hippo, in what is universally recognised as one of the greatest books in History Confessions, wrote concerning God: “You have made us for Yourself and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You.”
A God Shaped Vacuum
Millions of frustrated people are trying to fill their hearts, minds and souls with everything except God. The resultant depression, disillusionment, despair, sense of meaninglessness and hopelessness, have become pervasive. Mental disorders and suicides are extreme examples of mankind’s failure to find meaning and purpose in life apart from God. It is a fact that there is a God shaped vacuum in each one of us. We are created by God and we are created for God. Nothing and no one can fill that void, except the eternal Creator.
You cannot substitute coca cola for petrol and expect your motor vehicle to still function effectively. Many people try to find fulfillment in fame, fortune and fun but the end result is always frustration.
God and the Astronomers
Astronomer Dr. Robert Jastrow, a former Director for space studies at NASA, wrote in God and the Astronomers: “Strange developments are going on in astronomy. They are fascinating, partly because of their theological implications, and partly because of the peculiar reactions of scientists.”
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.”
1 Peter 3:15
The motto of the Scouts is: “Be prepared.” Similarly, we as Christians must be prepared to answer those who would ask us to explain what we believe, and why we believe.
We are exhorted to:
“Contend earnestly for the Faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.”
The apostle Paul declared that he had been appointed: “for the defense of the Gospel.”
“But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And the servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.”
2 Timothy 2:24-26
“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to Repentance.”
2 Peter 3:9
Oscar Wilde claimed that suffering proved that a good God does not govern the world. If God cannot stop the suffering, then He is not all powerful. If God will not stop the suffering then He cannot be good and loving.
The faulty logic and wrong conclusion evidenced by Oscar Wilde is quite common. Many question God’s goodness, power, or even existence, because of suffering in the world. Poverty, disease, war, natural and man-made disasters – why does God not bring it all to an end?
Even those who love God and do not doubt His Word, are often grieved and puzzled about why the Lord will not intervene, for example, to put an end to the tyrannical government in Zimbabwe which has caused so much havoc to the economy and widespread suffering amongst the Zimbabwean people, more than half of whom have fled the country.
What is the Cause?
So much of the world’s news media focuses on the effects of suffering, but seldom attempts to explore and explain the causes. What is the true meaning and purpose behind all of the world’s calamities and catastrophes?
“I would never become a Christian! Look at all the hypocrites in the church! Look at all the scandals of tele-evangelists, the Health and Wealth preachers, the Name it! Claim it! Frame it! hyper-faith prosperity preachers, two-faced frauds and conmen! I don’t want to be part of hypocrisy!”
God is far more offended by hypocrisy than you are. The Bible contains the greatest condemnations of hypocrisy ever recorded. The Apostle Paul wrote about:
“False apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ, and no wonder! For satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light, therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.”
2 Corinthians 11:13-15
Paul also wrote of:
“false brethren secretly brought in…”
The Apostle Peter taught that we are to lay
“aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy and all evil speaking.”
1 Peter 2:1
The writer of the book of Hebrews exhorts us to:
“draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience…”
Humanist and atheist, Bertrand Russell, wrote in Why I am Not a Christian: “Man is the product of … accidental connections of atoms … no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thoughts and feeling can preserve an individual life beyond the grave, and ... all the labour of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system. The whole temple of man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruin. All these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain that no philosophy that rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair can the souls’ habitation henceforth be safely built.”
Is Religion a Crutch?
Russell maintained that man is an accident of the cosmos, formed by chance and chaos, directionless in life, and in the end, nothing but food for worms. Russell maintained that religion is simply a crutch for weak people, who cannot bear to face up to reality.
Some religions may be a crutch. Certainly atheism is a crutch. However Christianity is no crutch and many Christians throughout history could hardly be classified as weaklings.
Not for Weaklings
In some of the worst of circumstances Christianity has produced the greatest courage, the greatest achievements, progress, prosperity and freedoms ever known.