It is a legitimate question to ask ourselves if we can know that Jesus existed. It is also important for us to base our faith in things we can know and confirm. Here are some reasons we can be sure that Jesus existed on this earth and that he is the Son of God.
The Prophecies of the Bible
No other book known to mankind contains the ability the Bible has to foretell the future. Daniel two predicts the rise of World Empires and of the church hundreds of years before it happened. Micah and Isaiah tell us multiple details of Jesus’ life six hundred years before his birth. In fact Jesus fulfilled at least three hundred prophesies in his life, death, and resurrection.
The Movement of History
In a matter of less than two hundred years, the Roman Empire outlawed slavery, became monotheistic and had it’s leaders convert to a form of Christianity. Such major economic and moral changes could only have been the result of something as powerful as the gospel, Acts 17:6 “These men have turned the world upside down.”
Writings of Pagan Historians
Men who had no agenda to promote Christianity have through the Ages told us that Jesus is real and powerful. Notice some of the following quotes: Mara Bar-Serapion (Jewish writer from Rome) wrote of Jesus’s death in in his writings dating back to AD 73. Cornelius Tacitus speaks of Christians in Rome in 112 AD as he discusses Nero and the burning of Rome. Pliny the Younger in 112 AD spoke of Christ and he discussed the torture of Christians. The Talmud (Jewish writings dating back to AD 70) is very hostile towards Christ saying he led people astray, added to the Law of the Jews and performed magic. But this opposition serves to confirm the identity of Jesus. Flavious Josephus sometime after 70 AD speaks of Christ calling him a miracle worker who won over many Jews and Greeks. Each of these writings confirms that Jesus existed and had a ministry like what we read of in our gospels.
The Power of the Scriptures
The Bible contains scientific foreknowledge, moral superiority, and unity of message that can only be the result of the authorship of the Holy Spirit. Mankind left to himself cannot produce such a mighty work.
The greatest story ever told is the one where an Almighty, Powerful God gives His Son as a sacrifice to save sinners whom He loves. The gospel will heal the broken, revive the fallen, and save the sinner. Jesus is real and He calls us to follow him today.
What do we need to do in order to grow as a congregation both numerically and spiritually? We have a congregation that has a wonderful history and good present state. But what can we do in order to grow as a church? Here are a few things:
Gospel. When thinking about growth, it is important to keep the focus on the good news of Jesus. Any other plan or focus apart from Jesus leads us to distraction and keeps us from being what we need to be in life. Our preaching, teaching, and example always needs to go back to Jesus’s example and teachings.
Relationships. The church in the Bible is called a family, a body, and community. Each of these examples revolves around relationships. As a congregation we must consistently be sure that people feel included here and feel as important to us as they are to God. From the quality of our worship services, to the daily activity we encourage, we must make our congregation a place to belong.
Outreach. We must consistently seek people who are outside of our building. Salt is not useful unless it comes out of its container. In the same way, we must seek and save the lost rather than tend the sheep.
Work the people. We must find ways to enable people to develop and use their talents. For a church to be truly healthy, we must find ways to have more and more people involved in its work. As a general rule, the more people involved in the work of the church the more people who will attend.
Think Big. Don’t be satisfied with the size of the congregation and don’t become discouraged. Pray to the Lord and think creatively about what can be done to reach out to the lost. Expect growth and do what you can to obtain it for the glory of God.
Harvest. Jesus commanded the Apostles to pray for reapers to gather the harvest. In preparing for the harvest, it’s important to always reach for more. Too many churches are satisfied with their current size. We must seek to grow and glorify God with everything we have. What can we do today to bring someone to Christ?
Many books (the Koran, the Book of Mormon, The Bhagavad Vita, and others) claim to be the supreme word of God. Christians, for good reason, believe the Bible is the true message of God. However, few books are attacked and criticized more than the Bible. Many scholars have devoted their time to trying to discredit its message. To counter this attack, let’s briefly look at some of the evidence to remind us the veracity of Scripture.
First of all, we can see the Bible is the word of God just by reading it. Passages such as 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tell us that it is inspired (literally God breathed). 1 Peter 1:21 shows us that the biblical writers were moved by the Holy Spirit while they wrote. Secondly, we see the spiritual nature of the Bible in its transforming ability. Those who hold to the Bible are transformed (Romans 12:2) and see the effect of the word of God on their lives, Romans 1:16. Thirdly, and perhaps most convincingly of the internal arguments is the unity of Scripture. The Bible covers hundreds of topics, yet it does not contradict itself. Written over fifteen hundred years by over forty people in three different languages and at least eight cultures, the Bible still holds the same view of God, the same core message of salvation, and the same themes of God’s love and ultimate judgment. 1 Peter 2:21 tells us that though so many different people wrote the Bible, no prophecy was made by act of human will, but men were moved by the Holy Spirit to speak from God.
The Bible must be more than a product of mortal man because it is indestructive. Skeptics have tried to burn it, outlaw it, discredit it, and ignore it throughout its history. It has undergone the scrutiny of heresy, science, and philosophy. Yet the Bible continues to prove itself true again and again. A second proof of the Bible’s credibility is the evidence of archeology. Even those who disagree with the teachings of Scripture are unable to prove the Bible wrong in its placement of towns and in its descriptions of peoples of the time. It is by far the most accurate history of the majority of human race in the most confused part of the world. But the greatest external evidence of the Bible’s power is its fulfillment of prophecy. Over three hundred predictions of Jesus’ life were matched exactly even though the majority of them were told at least six hundred years before his lifetime. Over one thousand predictions concerning kingdoms, events, and individuals are given in the sacred pages to show the authority of the Bible. While many books may claim to be from God, none of them have the power of fulfilled prophecy to back up those claims.
God gave us the ability and opportunity to search the Scriptures so that we might find eternal life. As you study these pages about Jesus, let us make sure that we do not let anything distract us from following and obeying his word.
In John 19:32-34 we see a very interesting fact about the death of Jesus. Hours after the crucifixion, the soldiers broke the legs of the two criminals who were crucified with Jesus. The Romans would routinely break the legs of crucified prisoners to hasten their deaths, but since Jesus was already dead, they left his legs unbroken. One of them, though, pierced his side with a spear, and out came blood and water. Some think John put this in his book to prove that Jesus was dead, but the John’s gospel had already stated that the soldiers had observed his death. This fact is relayed to us today to display two important things concerning the death of Christ.
The blood of Christ is for redemption, to deal with the sins of the world (John 1:29, Hebrews 9:22) and for the purchasing of the church (Acts 20:28). As the blood of Christ cleanses us, we now walk in newness of life. Christ’s redeeming death accomplished a marvelous redemption for us, giving us the forgiveness and washing away of our sins. We can never praise and thank the Lord enough for the life-imparting aspect of this great gift.
The water represents to us the method of how we obtain the forgiveness of Christ. As we are baptized into Christ’s death (Romans 6:3-4), we obtain the forgiveness of sins. Acts 2:38 tells us that baptism is for the remission of sins. Acts 22:16 tells us that it washes our sins away. 1 Peter 3:21 says it saves us. This water is our avenue to the reception of Christ’s gift for us as Christians.
Zechariah prophesied of Christ’s death by writing, “In that day there will be an opened fountain for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for impurity.” At the fountain of Christ we can continue to be washed from our sins. As we are cleansed by his blood through baptism, we receive the divine life by participating in the fountain of life. It is through the death of Christ that we find life.
While attending college many years ago, I worked at a small congregation in Sardis, Tennessee. This church had around forty members and they faithfully endured my early attempts at preaching. One of the special things about the building there and especially the pulpit is a plaque that was attached to the pulpit that could only be seen by the preacher during church services. The plaque read,
“Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” John 12:21.
The purpose of the plaque was to remind the speaker that the Christians had not gathered that day to hear the eloquence or education of the preacher. Life stories and funny jokes were not to be the focus of the sermon either. The church needed to hear the story of Jesus. The Messiah who came to this world to show us how to live and to relate to his fellow man. The Son of God who endured loneliness, poverty, and rejection, all the while never losing faith in God. The one who died on the cross so that you and I may have forgiveness from our sins.
Our congregation needs to always focus on Jesus. We need to show people his teachings, his example, and his love. Each one of us needs to show the love and compassion of Jesus in our marriages, in the work place, and even in our churches. Remember that each day we are to be Christian light to this dark world.
As Jesus was traveling from Judea to Galilee, the Bible says he needed to pass through Samaria, John 4:4. While strict Jews would often take the longer route across the Jordan River to keep away from the ‘unclean’ Samaritans, Jesus chose to go through the heart of this area. The phrase ‘had to’ is from the Greek “DEI” meaning necessary and in John’s writings it points to a divine necessity (John 3:7,14, 30, 10:16, 12:34, 20:9). Perhaps the writer here is emphasizing the mission of Jesus to all people, whether we consider them worthy or not. The land of Samaria in the days of Jesus was an area plagued by three issues that we see in our day as well. The reason Jesus had to go through Samaria was not just a question of geography; it was an issue of Jesus’ purpose.
Jesus had to go through Samaria to correct societal problems. While the Jews had no dealings with Samaritans, Jesus came to break down the barriers that stood between people. Jesus came to make all people aware of the good news and to show compassion for them. The church today needs to be free from racial barriers (Ephesians 2:14) and social status barriers as well (James 2:1-9). We must constantly emphasis that all people stand equally at the foot of the cross (Galatians 3:28). The church must emphasize unity and fellowship and stand against those who seek to cause division.
Jesus had to go through Samaria to correct marital problems. At the well, Jesus found a lady who had been married five times and was living in adultery. Truly the grace of God is able to cover all sin. Jesus’ message of living water encouraged this woman to remember that she was loved and had meaning. Our churches today must reach out with the gospel to the single, the divorced, and the married. God loves every one of us, regardless of our past. There is always room for each of us to repent of our sins and to live righteously before God.
Jesus had to go through Samaria to correct spiritual problems. A disagreement over where and how to worship had progressed enough to divide peoples and nations. Jesus lovingly and firmly taught the lady the truth that “God is spirit” and needed to be worshipped in Spirit and in truth, John 4:24. Instead of remaining separate and talking about one another, Jesus went to the person and brought them to a better understanding. Our church must engage with the world and lovingly and firmly share the gospel of Christ.
Jesus traveled through Samaria. In the same way, Christians are called to leave their comfort zones and reach out to the lost, the lonely, and the searching. We have so much work to do!
The New Testament clearly teaches the importance of baptism. While spiritual knowledge (Romans 10:17), faith (Hebrews 11:6), repentance (Acts 17:30), and confessing Christ’s identity (1 Timothy 6:12) are all necessary for salvation, the Bible teaches that it is the point of baptism at which we find remission for our sins, Acts 22:16, Romans 6:3-4. This is illustrated through the Old Testament and during the ministry of Jesus by the way God used water.
While baptism alone (just getting wet) does not save a person, it is an act of obedience required for the sinner to be saved by the grace and mercy of God.
As Jesus walked down the dusty road
The crowds gathered the Lord to behold.
They all struggled to find some space
So they could each see his face.
But there was one pushed to the back
For in him, great stature lacked.
He was not given space to spare
For he was a sinning tax collector.
But then he found a sycamore tree
And climbed up his Savor to see.
Then Jesus looked at this face
And preached the gospel at his place.
That tree with a role so small
Was used by Jesus for this sinner’s call.
For by its branches and its leaves
It changed this man’s eternity.
So it is today for you and me
To our fellow man, we must be a tree.
Lifting Christ up to our fellow neighbor
So they can see our loving Savior.
Introduction:We live in a world that needs Jesus. With a population of over seven billion people on this earth, there are around six thousand who die each hour while around fifteen thousand who are born. Every one of these people is in serious need of the opportunity to hear the gospel. Every one of these people is headed to an eternity of bliss or torment. In light of this population explosion, Christians live under the command of Jesus to make disciples of all the nations, Matthew 28:18-20 [All scriptures references are from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted]. The method of making disciples is baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, Holy Spirit and teaching them all things that are commanded. This need for evangelism has been the call to the church for centuries and is especially important for the church in our century.
Heart of the Message: Methods for Evangelism
There are several models of evangelism used in the New Testament that are effective today as well. A major one is mass proclamation. In Acts 2 Peter and the apostles preached the very first gospel sermon. Using the proving power of the Holy Spirit along with proof from Old Testament prophecy, Peter confirmed that Jesus had been unlawfully crucified and yet he rose from the grave. The crowd interrupted Peter with the question, “What shall we do?” Acts 2:37. This mass proclamation harvested 3000 souls who obeyed the gospel. Other instances of mass proclamation are found in Acts 3, Acts 7, and Acts 17. In our modern day, mass proclamation can be done in lectureships and gospel meetings. In decades past in the last century, the gospel meeting was a primary source of evangelistic work. However, today many of our large gatherings include few outsiders who are unfamiliar with the gospel message. This means that our large public gatherings need to be designed to bring in outsiders and to fulfill purposes other than evangelism.
Another model of evangelism is through media. Many of the Apostles wrote letters to churches they visited or to areas in which they had influence. While some of these letters are no longer preserved, the ones that remain today are our inspired Scriptures. The letters, or as we know them, the epistles are valuable in that they reach a wider audience than the spoken word. Since they are written, they can be preserved so that they can be passed around to others and they can last through many years. Today we live in an age of media. From television to radio to social media, there are countless ways for the Lord’s church to reach to the far corners of the globe with the gospel message. Huge numbers are contacted by a single blog post or tweet. Yet a weakness of this method is that there is so much media being sent out that it has a diluted effect. People today are highly discerning of what they read and the time they spend listening to a message. But well written and well-designed communication still can accomplish a huge harvest.
The Bible also has many examples of evangelism through personal relationship. The apostle Andrew’s greatest contribution to the cause of Christ was in who he brought to Jesus. While we do not see many of Andrew’s words, it was he that brought Peter to Christ, John 1:40-41. Aquila and Priscilla took Apollos aside and taught him the way more fully, Acts 18:26. By doing this, they contributed to him becoming a very influential preacher in the early Church, 1 Corinthians 1:12.
While mass proclamation and media proclamation have their roles in getting the message of the gospel out, the most effective method of reaching the lost in the Twenty-First Century is through personal relationships. For proof of this fact, next time you are in a Bible class go around and ask people who or what influenced them to obey the gospel. While there will be some who were converted by radio preaching or by reading a blog, most people in the congregation will refer to a personal relationship such as their parents, their spouse, a friend a work, or someone who took an interest in them. Therefore, the modern church must utilize the personal relationships of its members to enhance evangelistic opportunity.
Messages For Today: How you can develop personal relationships for evangelism
- Meet people where they are
- Turn conversations to a spiritual purpose
- Don’t lose sight of your purpose
- Disregard distractions
We see some good rules for influencing others for Christ in our personal relationships as we read John 4. As a first rule of influence, we see that Jesus met people where they were. While he did spend time in the Temple in Jerusalem, Jesus often went to people rather than expecting the people to seek him out. In John 4 we see that Jesus had to go through Samaria and he met the lady at the well as she was gathering water for her family. A second principle we see for personal evangelism is Jesus naturally turned everyday conversations toward the spiritual realm. He took the lady’s task of gathering water and began a discussion of the living water of the gospel. He took her question about worship and explained how the gospel led people to worship in Spirit and in truth, John 4:24. A third principle shown by Jesus is he never lost sight of his purpose in teaching. As the Apostles sought to interrupt Jesus so he could eat he said, “My food is to preach the gospel.” Later he would tell the Apostles to disregard distractions and “Lift up your eyes and see the harvest.” There are times our good works in the church actually become a distraction to our reaching out to others. It is good to feed the poor and it is good to be known as a supporter of the community. But when we focus on social work to the neglect of saving souls we fail in our purpose of preparing people for eternity.
A Message of Hope For You
Our culture today looks much like the culture of the First Century church. We live in an environment of pluralism (a view that truth depends on individual perception), moderate persecution (there is a segment of our population that is adamantly against Christianity), and a good number of truth seekers who will obey if approached with the gospel message. So how are we to present the gospel to this twenty-first century world? Paul explains our method in 2 Corinthians 5:17-21.
In verse seventeen we see the need to be authentic. “If you are in Christ…old things have passed away.” One of the major necessities for reaching the lost is a sense of “realness” on our part. Our Christianity must make a difference in our lives in the way we think and the way we act. There is also a need to be incarnational. What this term means is that we participate in the daily lives of others. Just as Jesus Christ was sent by God to live among us (verse 18), so also we must go to the world rather than expecting the world to come to us. It is good to invite people to gospel meetings and to events at the church building. But it’s more effective when the members of the church go into the community to show God’s love and share God’s message. This can be done in nursing homes, schools, community events, and in other ways as well. Thirdly, we see the need for humility. Many people in the world think that Christians are prideful and judgmental. They’ve seen some Christians screaming condemnation to the lost and being self righteous to those who disagree with them. As ministers of God, Paul reminds us that we too are in need of saving grace. Verse 18 tells us that God has reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ so that we then can participate in this ministry to reconciling others to God as well. When we remember that we need God’s forgiveness as much as everyone else, then we will have the proper attitude in our interaction with the world. Fourth we see in verse twenty that Christians must be driven. That is, when we see that Christ is working through us; we will not let anything get in the way of our leading others to the Lord. While the term for ambassador is a specific term that technically applies to the eyewitness Apostles, there is a sense in which we too are witnesses for Christ’s work. We know the power of the gospel and we must work diligently to let others know it as well. We see the fifth point of Paul in this passage is we are to be concise, verse 21. We should be able to specifically and simply tell others what they need to know to be a Christian. Paul here emphasizes God’s work in making Christ be our substitute on the cross. We do not need to preach a complicated gospel that breeds confusion, rather we are to simply spread the good news to all people. This world needs Jesus and we have an obligation to participate in and use our culture in ways that reach the lost.