Watson looked up and replied,”I see stars and stars and more stars.”
And What does that tell you Watson?”
Watson thought for a moment.
"Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets."
"Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo."
"Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three."
"Theologically, I can see that God is all powerful and that we are small and insignificant."
"Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow."
"What does it tell you, Holmes?"
Holmes glared back at him and replied: "Watson, you idiot. Someone has stolen our tent!"
Today we’re looking at apologetics and sharing the gospel, but sometimes we can end up discussing all these in depth topics and fail to realize what the issue at hand really is.
As Christians we exist between worlds. We’re destined for the eternal city, yet still living on the chaotic Earth. In the world, but not of the world. We’re surrounded by evil, by a troubled world. Yet we carry within us the life of Christ. We carry the cure to death itself.
Here on Earth, it seems to be getting worse everyday. In fact today even the most self evident facts are in question. Today people don’t even know which bathroom to use. It’s true.
Maybe we’ve forgotten the fact that we are engaged in a spiritual war against a deadly foe. That foe is Satan. And in the history of our United States we have royally pissed off Satan quite a few times, founding a Christian nation, setting slaves at liberty, and defeating tyrants like Hitler. Obviously the enemy’s number one target must be the USA.
Because frankly, there is nowhere else to go. If we lose our freedom here, we have nowhere else to flee to. This is it. Ultimately on the nation stage, it’s not really left vs. right, or big business vs. the people, or banks vs. the working class or government vs. the people. It’s really a spiritual battle, Satan’s kingdom vs. the body of Christ. We must always be aware of that and thus always be ready to fight that battle. Around us we see people, buildings, grassy fields, lakes, rivers, houses, businesses, but beneath that surface unseen is a spiritual battle raging for the souls of mankind.
See in the photo? What movie is this from? That’s right, Lord of the Rings. It was when Gandalf stood against the terrible balrog. He stood and turned to face the menace, coming after his friends. Why? Because he could. He knew he was the only one who could face the balrog, with it’s dark powers. In the same way, we as Christians are the only ones truly aware of the spiritual battle. And we are the only ones with the tools of the Spirit to take on the balrog, the dark forces destroying our country and menacing our young people.
Let’s talk about young people. Young people, especially my generation, have been led astray. I’ve watched my generation obliterated by alcoholism, addiction, pornography, sex trafficking, abortion, on and on the list goes.
What happened? Slowly our nation is being transformed from one nation under God, to a nation gone under. The Bible was forced from public schools, evolution teaching was thrust upon an entire generation. Values and ethics were no longer taught, because increasingly people believed that man was basically good, and simply needed to be liberated from the chains of church & God. My generation was born into a world where the 1960s radicals had transformed a Christian nation into a secular empire. The prevailing ideas have not led to a greater prosperity, but have led to the confusion & destruction of young people.
When I was a young guy, in my early twenties I asked the question probably many young people ask: So a guy died on a cross two thousand years ago, who cares? Why does this matter? Why should it change my life?
We’re called to “share the gospel.” In the past, it was simple, because nearly everyone was raised in a church of some kind. Ministers and evangelists could pull out the Bible, and show people what it said. The Bible was once a primary cornerstone of American culture.
Today it’s quite different. My generation, millennials are increasingly unchurched. Many of them were not raised in churches, and many more are simply uninterested n the spiritual. They tend to believe that society has moved past the need for “religious views.” They tend to hold a lot of skepticism and hostility toward Christianity and the Bible. So how do we reach young people with the message?
Let’s talk about apologetics.
Apologetics are reasonable defenses of the Christian faith. The root word for apologetic is in the Greek “apologia” which means “to give an answer.” The most notable use of the apologetic is done by the Apostle Paul at Mars Hill. When Paul spoke to the gentiles at mars hill he did not refer to the scriptures, but instead gave a defense of Christianity. (Acts 17:22-31)
To make use of apologetics is to give reasons and evidence for why God exists and why Jesus is a true, living savior.
"If Christians could be trained to to provide solid evidence for what they believe and good answers to unbelievers’ questions and objections, then the perception of Christians would slowly change. Christians would be seen as thoughtful people to be taken seriously rather than as emotional fanatics or buffoons. The gospel would be a real alternative for people to embrace."
–William Lane Craig, On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision, p. 18
Let’s look at some quotations.
“If the universe had not been made with the most exacting precision we could never have come into existence. It is my view that these circumstances indicate the universe was created for man to live in.” –Robert Jastrow, agnostic astronomer, author of God and the Astronomers
“An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going.” –Francis Crick, biochemist and spiritual skeptic, shared the Nobel Prize for discovering the molecular structure of DNA
“There is for me powerful evidence that there is something going on behind it all....It seems as though somebody has fine-tuned nature's numbers to make the universe....The impression of design is overwhelming.” –Paul Davies, an internationally known British astrophysicist and author
"Donald Page of Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Science calculated the odds against our universe randomly taking a form suitable for life as one in: 10,000,000,000124. One in ten billion to the 124th power! This is a number so large, it is safe to say that the universe did not come together randomly. It was created by an incredibly intelligent and powerful designer." –Charlie H. Campbell
These quotes are a form of evidence called “expert testimony.” We hear from experts in various fields, and their testimony lends credence to the Christian worldview.
Next let’s look at a quick reasoning process through several disciplines.
Veritology, what is truth? We have to start off with the idea that objective truth exists. You'll hear this one a lot in pop philosophy and the culture: "All truth is relative bro." In response simply ask them,"Is that true?" That's called the road runner tactic, their bogus philosophy violates it's own conditions. Absolute truth exists. We live that way, even if we want to play at the idea that it's relative, we don't live that way when it comes to history or our bank account or the laws of our country. Those are all fixed truths.
Second, does God exist? Everything that begins to exist has a cause. The universe began to exist (big bang). Therefore the universe has a cause. The cause must be outside the system, timeless, space-less and eternal, all powerful, and therefore God exists, because God is the only being who can meet those conditions.
Third, are miracles impossible? Naturalists, evolutionists say "no." But if God exists, and he can make the universe from nothing, then the miraculous is possible. If God really made the universe from nothing with special ability, then smaller adjustment to the system are simple.
Fourth, the NT is historically reliable. Yes it is, given excellent manuscript evidence, correlation with archeological discoveries, and known historical events. There are about 5,686 ancient manuscripts of the New Testament, all matching one another; in historical terms, such evidence is unmatched, it's unheard of, a revelation, a divine fingerprint on history itself! Has it been changed over time? When comparing our modern Bible with the recently discovered Dead Sea Scrolls, which sat untouched for 2,000 years, they matched perfectly. Therefore by all available accounts the NT is accurate.
Lastly, Jesus has risen from the dead. The twelve disciples, save John, died proclaiming Jesus Christ as risen. The Romans and Jews never produced a body to disprove the early Christian movement. And finally, a small movement in the midst of hostility broke out to become the world's number one religion. Given the data, Jesus rose from the dead.
So if Jesus really did rise from the dead, that means he’s really God come to Earth, every word he spoke is true, he is God, and I must respond in faith, in worship, in praise, in adoration and allegiance to my savior.
One of my favorite Christian apologists always says, “Apologetics are the appetizer, but the gospel is the main course.” Apologetics help the young understand that Christianity is true, even in a modern world. But once your there, then comes the vital living gospel.
So let’s talk about this guy who died on the cross, and why we believe it matters. Jesus Christ, born in Bethlehem was God himself, born into human history. Thankfully they didn’t have abortion back then, because we might’ve missed the son of God. Why Jesus matters is because he is not just a man, he is literally God come in person. Can your mind comprehend the expansiveness of that fact? The God who made this entire planet from nothing, the God who designed the laws of science, of logic, and mathematics, your body and mine, came into human history.
This matters greatly, because He was God. And he lived. He humbled himself. In fact he was tempted in every way we are, every terrible urge we feel at times, he felt, and he successfully resisted.
Jesus of Nazareth grew up, hung out with his brothers, and eventually as he got older he became a carpenter. He knew his whole life what he was destined to do, but he had to wait. Just like us, he had to learn patience.
Then Jesus, around age 30 theologians believe, began his mission. Jesus began performing “miracles.” He healed basic medical conditions, people who were blind, he helped people who couldn’t see. He healed people with other conditions and ailments as well.
This is where we start to get skeptical, but remember, Jesus is well established as a historical figure, like George Washington or Napoleon or Winston Churchill, Jesus Christ most certainly did exist. He gathered disciples around him, twelve of them. And he trained them to carry his message: And his message was this: God has come into human history to redeem his people, and to set them free.
So we must also understand the problem. Guess what the problem is? The problem is you and me. The problem is sin. One of the fundamentals in understanding the saga of Christ is understanding our own brokenness.
So Jesus, Immanuel, came, he lived. One of his twelve disciples, Judas betrayed Jesus. Judas got 30 silver coins for it. Jesus was then dragged before the Jewish rulers, whipped, beaten, dragged before the Roman occupiers of that region, scourged, and forced to carry a rough wooden cross. Then he was slammed down onto the cross, rusty nails were driven through his hands, and his feet. Then the cross was lifted, and forced into a hole in the ground.
Then people would stand around the cross, and laugh at him. They would mock him. Spit on him. Urinate on him. It would take the person nailed to the cross hours to die, sometimes days. See, being nailed to the cross made it hard to breath, but they could use their muscles to force themselves up on the cross to get air, so depending on how weak they were, they would eventually die of suffocation.
This death that Jesus went through for us, of his own free will, was set as an offering for us. Jesus endured what was meant for us. The truth of the matter is that each of us deserve to be cast away from God. Because we’ve done terrible things. We’ve sinned against God, time and again. We deserve to endure what Jesus endured.
But at this moment, as all the forces of evil gathered around Jesus on earth, to slaughter him, Jesus instead of answering back, instead prayed for those before him saying, “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.”
While Jesus was on the cross, slowly dying, from 12 noon until 3pm it went completely dark. For 3 hours. What was happening spiritually during those 3 hours? Hard to say. Perhaps this was the moment when the presence of God left Christ utterly alone.
None of us have ever experienced this, even the most ardent atheist lives in the sovereign grace of God everyday, feeding them, helping them, keeping them alive and well. Everyone in this world lives in a temporary state of grace.
This 3 hour period of darkness was recorded outside the Bible by a Roman historian of that period named Thallus. He attempted to try to explain the darkness away as perhaps a solar eclipse. But scientists looking back to that period of time noted that no eclipses occurred in the solar or lunar calendar during that time period.
A Greek historian of the same period, Phlegon also recorded an event of total darkness, with an accompanying Earth quake, occurring in 33 AD. He recorded that it became so dark they could see the stars over Nicaea, and buildings were toppled in Bithynia. Amazing evidence.
After the three hours of darkness, Jesus cried out as God turned his presence away from him saying: “Father, father why have you forsaken me?”
In Matthew 27 it is recorded that Jesus cried out one last time, probably an awful scream of agony and sadness, before he “gave up his spirit” verse 50. And verse 51 says, “At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split. And the tombs were opened.” See the temple veil had always separated God from the people. The veil being torn showed that God had removed the separation between himself and His people.
So Jesus died. And if that was the end of it, we could dismiss the events easily enough. We could compare Jesus to Martin Luther King Jr, Gandhi, John F. Kennedy and other great leaders who have been killed by this evil world. But then something happened that changed everything.
Jesus resurrected from the dead. He showed himself to his disciples. He showed himself to his mother, and to Mary Magdalene. He came to Thomas, and offered him his hands, holes still in them. And Jesus said,”Stop doubting and believe.” And for some of you out there today, he is saying the same thing: Stop doubting and believe.
Jesus also showed himself to Peter, and the disciples again by the sea of Galilee. In fact it is recorded in 1st Corinthians chapter 15 that the resurrected Jesus Christ personally showed himself to over 500 people.
Now if your looking to make up a false religion, this isn’t the best way to do it. One could simply say “Jesus rose spiritually” then there would be no way to disprove it. But it is specifically stated that Jesus was raised physically. Now all the Romans or Jews had to do to disprove the resurrection was produce the body of Jesus and say here he is, see, hes dead. They never did, they never did. They couldn’t, because Jesus wasn’t dead. He was alive and walking around!
Christianity alone unlike any other religion holds historical accounts, eye witness testimony, and manuscript evidence. Today there are over 2.2 billion Christians in the world. Christianity is the largest faith on planet Earth, by far. Islam is second, with only about 1.5 billion adherents.
Can we really say that it’s all just a coincidence? Has mankind really moved past all the violence and bloodshed and sinful behavior? Take a hard look at our society, just beneath the surface you’ll see corruption, immorality, brokenness, slavery, and even the organized genocide of unborn children.
Jesus resurrected from the dead to set us free from all sin and death. I see the effects of sin, I see it everyday. I volunteer at the nursing homes, Bishop Noa and others. I see people withering away, growing old, and eventually dying. Before that I worked at a homeless shelter in Wausau, and I saw people withering away under the weight of alcoholism, addiction, dying before me.
Friends, death is not normal. Something about it surprises us all. We see people withered and old, and we think to ourselves.. this isn’t right. Death should not be.
But though we wither and die, if we will believe in Jesus, we will be resurrected from the dead just as Jesus was resurrected from the dead. Why should we believe this? BECAUSE JESUS SHOWED US HE COULD DO IT. He did it personally and showed us down through history: I will set you free. I have conquered death, see I have shown myself to many witnesses and they have testified to the ends of the Earth about Me.
Dare we turn away from that in smugness? No. Trust in Jesus. Jesus resurrected. Jesus Christ is alive right now, Lord in heaven, with holes in his hands and feet, seated at the right hand of God the Father.
Before this moment humanity had no advocate before God the Father. But it was recorded in the book of Job that Satan had regular access to the throne of God, where he came to accuse the brethren. But now we have an advocate there, Jesus.
So if Satan says look at that sinner, look at how he betrays you, look at how he lives a double life, Jesus Christ is right there to answer: HE IS MINE I HAVE MADE HIM CLEAN. HE IS BECOME RIGHTEOUSNESS IN ME.
Paul urges us in the scriptures: "In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry." -2 Timothy 4:1-2,5(NIV)
We are Christians. Our primary purpose on Earth is not worship. We’ll have all of eternity to worship God. Our primary purpose is to carry the gospel to the lost. Each of you carry the answer to all the problems of life, death, Earth, people and sin. You carry the sacred gospel of Jesus Christ. I think we as the church have gotten too insular in our attitude. We’re set on being the church within these walls, when we’ve got to be going out into the community and evangelizing the lost. I’d encourage you to do that. Pray about it. Make it a part of your daily thoughts. God will open doors and give you chances to carry that message.
It’s really about adopting a missional attitude of the mind. We won’t do it perfectly, but we can start to have a kingdom mentality, a mentality of thinking throughout the day… how can I carry the gospel today? How can I reach out just a little bit today, to help someone or love someone in need? It isn’t so hard. It isn’t so complicated. And soon the effort begins to grow into a missional lifestyle.
I’m telling you the truth, even one person living that missional lifestyle can trigger shocking transformations in a community. I’ve seen people like that around. They are very inspiring to behold. And they aren’t special. They aren’t superheroes. They are just people, redeemed sinners who have decided to live missionally, to carry the gospel with them. And when they catch fire, well, wow. Just wow.
I want to put this thought in all your minds: Focus your attention on young people. Focus your attention on the elementary school kids, and the teenagers and the young adults in their twenties. When you look at them, remember what you are looking at: your looking at the future.
Please be in prayer for the young. And engage with them.
So our mindset, I’m hoping, will become one of being a “mobile ministry.” That’s how I think of myself. I’m like a one man army. I’m blasting out that gospel message to as many people as possible. I’m trying to be like a battleship, shooting out from the front, from the rear, from the sides, from the hull, and from the decks.
Ultimately we must push ourselves to do it. Will we focus in on the truth, our Christian heritage, our worldview, and carry it into the community? If we want the Salvation Army to carry on for another 100 years, 200 years, then we have to be diligent today.
|The Abraham Lincoln Battle Group, via Wikipedia|
Get creative, think big, but start small. You can do it, in the power of God. Bathe it all in prayer, and it will prosper, even if you don’t see the results, keep on working. Paul languished in prison, probably wondering at times if his letters mattered at all, if they weren’t just crumpled up and tossed in the garbage. Little did he know his letters would be read by billions, and stored in the modern day Bible to lead untold generations to the living God.
Learn more about apologetics, I’ve included several internet links in this post. And carry the gospel to this fallen culture, who are in desperate need of Jesus. The Holy Spirit will do the rest. God be with you, young people need you, the world needs the gospel, carry it boldly, without compromise.
This is the full version of the sermon preached by Justin Steckbauer at the Salvation Army of Escanaba on 5/29/2016.