Summary: Jesus is Lord, not a legend, a liar or a lunatic.
Since Christmas is in the air, we will resume our series on “Our Best Life Now” next year, which is just a month from now. Second, I will have a different preaching approach this morning. Instead of a verse-by-verse exposition of the Bible which I usually do, I would present a topical defense of our faith.
In the past months, according to the Wall Street Journal, “atheist authors… have created a publishing sensation, selling more than 1 million books worldwide.” Topping the bestseller’s list is “The God Delusion” by Oxford Professor Richard Dawkins. Dawkins wrote that God is “jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic [or a woman-hater] homophobic, racist, infanticidal [or a child-killer], genocidal, filicidal [or a parent who killed his child], pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”
Running after “The God Delusion” is “God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything” by journalist and literary critic Christopher Hitchens. He wrote, “Monotheistic religion is a plagiarism of a plagiarism of a hearsay of a hearsay, of an illusion of an illusion, extending all the way back to a fabrication of a few nonevents.” Then coming in third is “Letter to a Christian Nation” by non-fiction writer Sam Harris. He wrote that his aim is “to demolish the intellectual and moral pretensions of Christianity in its most committed forms.” Harris is also the author of “The End of Faith,” for which he won the PEN American Center’s Martha Albrand Award for First Nonfiction. Dawkins praised “End of Faith” as “one of those books that deserves to replace the Gideon Bible in every hotel room in the land.”
Then this December, a controversial movie, “The Golden Compass” will be released. The movie is based on a trilogy by Philip Pullman who himself admitted that he is an atheist. I encourage you to read my article regarding this movie.
How do we respond to all these attacks on our faith? First Peter 3:15 gave this answer: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” I am not encouraging you to boycott the movie or to burn those books. Rather, I am encouraging you to know why and what you believe so you can “defend the faith that God has once for all given to his people.” We should not be afraid but instead make the most of this opportunity. According to Amazon.com, “the publication of The God Delusion last year also prompted a 120 per cent increase in sales of the Bible.” This confirms “that religion has become a pivotal topic in the early 21st century.” Thanks to Dawkins and company, again we have an open door to share our faith.
Is it true that our faith is a plagiarism, a hearsay and an illusion? Is it true that we are just pretending intellectually? Our Lord Jesus Himself declared that the first and greatest commandment is “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” How can I love God if my faith has no basis? Even if I am sincere, if my faith is not factual, I am still sincerely wrong.
Let us focus on our Lord Jesus Christ. Was Jesus a historical person or was He just a LEGEND? Our faith stands or falls on Him. For example, remove Buddha from Buddhism and it will continue to exist because it is not centered on Buddha but on his teachings. But remove Jesus Christ from Christianity and it will crumble for our faith revolves on His person, not on His teachings. For no matter how beautiful His teachings were, if Jesus did not really exist, our faith has nothing to stand on.
So, how do we know Jesus really walked on this earth? If I quote from the Bible, you might say that my source is biased. So allow me to quote Flavius Josephus, an ancient Jewish historian who was born about 4 years after the death and resurrection of Christ and started writing as a historian for the Romans 30 years later. In his famous historical work, “The Antiquities of the Jews,” he wrote: “Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to Him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was the Messiah… [Pilate] had condemned him to the cross… he appeared to them alive again the third day”. This is just one of the evidences that Jesus really existed! So, Jesus is not a legend.
Now this historical Person claimed to be God. Let us read John 5:17-18. “Jesus said to them, ‘My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.’ For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” To understand why they wanted to kill Jesus, we have to understand that the Jews did not call God, “My Father.” If ever, they would say, “My Father in heaven.” According to the “Word Pictures of the New Testament,” this is a “claim to peculiar relation to the Father.” It is clear from this passage that the Jews understood what Jesus meant. By “calling God his own Father,” He was in effect “making himself equal with God.” The Contemporary English Version goes like this: “…he had said that God was his Father, which made him equal with God.” The Message translated it this way: “…putting himself on a level with God.” Like Father, like Son.