MAKING THE CASE FOR CHRIST
Today I want to talk to the dads out there, but alsothe moms; to all who form the faith of children and youth. I want to give yousome bedrock answers with which you might converse, or text, or write to those underyour care. Children are powerfully influenced by their peers, and often theirpeers are not only uniformed, they are misinformed about matters of faith.Today I want you to be sure of some of the facts of the faith that have notjust been believed, but also proven as if in a court of law. Let’s begin: there are few other bookswith as convincing an argument for unbelievers to believe, and as reassuring tobelievers that they’ve got it right, as Lee Strobel’s book written twelve yearsago called THE CASE FOR CHRIST. Strobel got his Law Degree from Yale and alsowas a published journalist with the Chicago Tribune for thirteen years at thetime he wrote this book. Could there be any better person to investigate thetruth about Jesus of Nazareth, the claims that he is Son of God, and the claimSimon Peter bestowed on him that he is the Christ of God? I submit that there isno better equipped person than one who knows how to build a case and gatherwitnesses like a lawyer, one who has an inquisitive mind and a relentlessdesire to get to the bottom of a story like a newspaper reporter, and a man whoproclaimed himself to be an atheist when he began his investigation! Hisfindings moved him from unbelief to belief, and moved him, like the ApostlePaul, from being a scoffer, and in some ways a persecutor of the faith, tobeing trained as a teaching pastor at Willow Creek Community Church. He joins ahost of people throughout the ages who, like the Apostle John, had one mainpurpose in writing: as John put it in his gospel: (20:31) “These words are written so that you may come tobelieve that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through believingyou may have life in his name.”
Ages before Strobel, the world was indebted to thegreat Albert Schweitzer, who among his other contributions to society, wroteTHE QUEST FOR THE HISTORIAL JESUS. Did you know, by the way, the Schweitzer wasa Doctor of Medicine, a Doctor of Philosophy, and a Doctor of Theology? With those great credentials,Schweitzer examines all the theories and ideas about Jesus brought out over theearlier decades, giving a critical eye to each stance. He concludes that the historicalJesus brings less to bear on the answers to the world’s problems, while thespiritual Jesus—the one hailed by disciples who follow him and his teachings—isthe one that changes lives and has changed the world. We find in the writingsof the British scholar Arthur Patterson Lee these words: “That Jesus was nailedto a cross is not only central to the Christian faith; it is a historical factverified from secular sources.” Other such conclusions have been drawn bydozens of scholars, some believers, some non believers (as Strobel wasinitially.) We might go back to the Apostle Paul and look at a snippet of theconvincing stand he took in his letter to the Galatians. This letter, like hisothers, addressed particular people and issues and from it we get somefoundations of the Christians faith.Today his words expose the result of the learning curve he gained since meetingChrist in his Damascus vision: Paul has gone from believing that he was savedby knowing Torah, to now believing that he is saved by his faith in Jesus asChrist, the Messiah. “The Law (Torah) was our disciplinarian until Christ came,”he wrote” so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come,we are all children of God through faith.” Paul was just one who wanted toconvince people that Jesus was the Christ. But few have been as thorough andmethodical and tenacious as Lee Strobel. Over the centuries we have learnedreassuring things. For example, the Dead Sea Scrolls of Qumran discovered from1947 – 1956, have shown the extraordinary accuracy of scribes who copiedancient Biblical texts over the years. In addition, we are quite sure that eachof the writers of the four gospels had either personal contact with Jesushimself, or is one who wrote down the material from those who had personalcontact. Matthew and John had personal contact with Jesus himself; Mark isalmost certainly John Mark who wrote down the words that Peter gave to him, andLuke is almost certainly the physician who traveled with Paul who spoke withJesus directly. And each was committed to getting it right for their audience. Inaddition, the Christian teachings we have from Paul’s letters enhance thegospel record immeasurably. It was through Paul’s understanding of who JesusChrist was and what he stood for that brought him to make the extraordinary andcontroversial claims that he made. Paul says that because of Christ, there isno longer Jew (formerly inside the circle of chosenness) and Greek (formerly outsidethe circle of chosenness), there is no longer male (humans with privilege intheir society) and female (ones treated as property in their society) nor istheir slave (one who was owned in their society) or free (ones who could makelife choices for themselves.) Paul says that Christ wants them all on an equalplain. Such pieces of theology are life altering and society bending. But sucha stand is part of the New Testament.
Fathers, remember what an influence you have on yourchildren: in so many ways they want to grow up to be like you. Do you come tochurch? Chances are then that they will come to church when they are grown; ifyou stay home, they stay home. Do you talk with them about what you give to thechurch and why? If you don’t guide them in the way of a tithe, they will justhave to guess what go give. Give your children guidance. Do your children eversee you reading a Bible? Do you ever read it to them? Part of being Christianis surely reading our Bibles. Do you help others in need? They will see thatand want to do the same. Do you pray before meals, in the morning or evening,and in times of need or joy? They will learn where you get your strength if youlet them participate in prayers you have with God. If you feel awkward aboutpraying, just practice talking with God in whatever language suits you, fromthe very formal to the very informal. Your Maker will love to hear from you! There are so many ways you can be agreat Christian example to your children … or a poor one. Choose wisely.
So, my friends, to sum up for you: the Bible can betrusted to not have been distorted or changed over the years; it is the closest thing we’ll have toknowing God’s will except in our knowledge of Jesus Christ. In knowing him wealso see the will of God most clearly. The historical Jesus was a man fromNazareth. But if he were just a man, his death would have been forgotten alongwith others. But for those who had eyes to see, they t
old others about him, andthey lived as he lived. If there is anything that we are commissioned to do: myfellow fathers, and my sisters and brothers in Christ, it is to go and dolikewise. I thank God for good examples I have had in my life, including myfather and my grandfather. Be a good example too.
Jeffrey A. SumnerJune 20, 2010