May 8, 2023

“Because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

-Acts 17:31

As I was studying my message for church, I felt that there was also a good topic for the weekly devotion!  So I have managed to kill two birds with one stone, so to speak.  Now, that doesn’t mean I’m going to talk for the next 20 minutes, but I will perhaps give the condensed version of the message I shared with our church.

Now, I’m not in a motorcycle club, and I won’t try to speak on organizations that I am not entirely familiar with, but I know that each of these groups has a process by which one proves themselves worthy of membership.  The keyword there is “proof.”  Even the Baptist Bikers of Kentucky have a set of criteria that one must abide by and uphold to prove one worthy of membership.  Nothing like the much more bizarre and obscure proving tasks that I recall from my younger years of joining a fraternity in college.  The point is that proof is required so that others may know you are worthy of being a part of the group you wish to belong.  

We all find, at some point in our lives, that we need proof of something to believe that it is true, that it is worthy of our belief.  This is so very true of our own faith.  Many of us come to faith because we are seeking something, and something proves to us the truth of the words in the Bible and we receive that incredible gift of salvation by grace through faith, not because we have seen Christ with our eyes, but because we have accepted him through faith, just as he said to Thomas, following the resurrection:

Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

-John 20:29

The verse, at the beginning of this devotion, comes from Paul as he was speaking to the people of Athens.  Paul used the resurrection as proof of the one true God.  But how did he support this claim?  These people didn’t witness the resurrection, so how could they believe an argument like that?  Well, we have the privilege of having the entire Bible to see that proof, and it’s easier to defend when you think about those who DID bear witness to Christ following the resurrection.  You see, after the resurrection, Christ went to find the disciples.  He found them alright, he found them in hiding, meeting in secret behind closed doors because now they were afraid.  The man they thought was the Messiah was now laying in a tomb and they were terrified of what the Jews might do to them.  So they resorted to self-preservation, they hid and they were trying to figure out what to do next.  What happened that day changed all of them forever.  Jesus appeared to them, in that room, and they saw with their own eyes the very same man who’s crucifixion they had witnessed just days prior.  

Now, there was no question in their mind, Jesus Christ is the Messiah that was foretold by the prophets and promised by God.  They had the proof that they needed.  These men, all of them, went from scared and terrified, worrying about saving their own skins, to some of the most passionate and bold proclaimers for Christ that the world has ever known.  It happened in an instant.  All fear and doubt was removed when they spoke to and saw the risen Savior.  These men spread the Gospel far and wide, they also died for the Gospel.  So what can take a group of cowering men, afraid for their own lives, what could take those men and suddenly make them willingly give up their lives for their faith?  It’s simple, they were 100% certain that Jesus Christ walked out of that tomb on Sunday morning and that he is alive.  

Nothing short of that could have cast out their fears and given them the courage to die for their faith.  The transformation was radical, in every sense of the word.  They had the proof, now they wanted to convince others and seek others for Christ.  We may not have the physical presence of the resurrected Christ standing before us, to convince us that He is alive today, but we do have the eyewitness accounts of those who were there, and we also have their own stories of transformation.  

Why?  Why would they do that?  What explanation exists, it certainly wasn’t mass hysteria, because Thomas wasn’t there when Christ first appeared to the other 10.  Thomas refused to believe what the others were telling him.  It wasn’t until he, himself, saw Christ, a few days later that he too became a gospel proclaimer.  He was burned alive for his faith.  They each saw Christ and they were transformed.  We accept Christ on faith, that is where our salvation comes from, by grace alone through faith alone.  We have the proof, who are we to refute or discredit Christ?  

When talking to Thomas, Jesus said "blessed are those who believe and do not see."

Do you believe?  I pray that everyone comes under the conviction that Jesus Christ died for you, walked out of the tomb, and is alive today.

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