Jesus

What Drives Disciples?

As I approach formal retirement, I can honestly say cross-cultural missions has dominated my life. I believe our God is a missionary God. I believe one of the primary purposes of the church is to ensure that all peoples, everywhere, have the opportunity to hear and understand the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ.

In some ways, I am a driven personality. I can almost hear my family and friends shouting a hearty Amen! to that. I see what needs to be done and I try to do it or get it done.

I don't mind the label, because I have that trait in common with others I admire. It’s not enough to just share that label with you. Most of you reading this don’t know me as a person, but I do want you to know what it is that drives me. Why am I in missions? Why am I a part of Mandate? Why am I even writing this blog entry?

As we move along this month, I'm going to compare this with the Jesus and some of his followers, ancient and modern, who were also driven people. Let's see what made them tick. In short, What Drives Disciples?

Jesus was often a frustrating person to those around him. When his friends asked a simple question, he rarely replied with a simple answer. Instead, he usually turned it out into a teaching opportunity. On the other hand, when his enemies asked questions, such as "Who are you?" "Where did you come from?" or "Why are you here?" he often turned the tables, answering their questions with some hard ones of his own.

At least once, though, he gave a very simple answer to that question.

The scene was set in Luke 19. Jesus had come into the city of Jericho and had singled out a tax collector named Zacchaeus. During the dinner that followed, Zacchaeus confessed faith and repentance. He then showed the reality of his faith by pledging to make restitution. Jesus commended his faith, then made the broader remark, “the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).

Think about how many times Jesus tried to tell his disciples why he was with them and what his life and death would mean. They were a hard-headed bunch and couldn’t seem to understand what he was saying. Even just before his crucifixion Jesus had said, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds" (John 12:23-4).

It wasn't until after the resurrection that they began putting it all together. Even then, they needed help. Within hours of his resurrection, Jesus still had to explain to two of his friends, "‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.’ Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them,‘This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem’" (Luke 24:44-47).

So, what drove Jesus to come to earth and die for the sins of humanity? Perhaps the best summation of that were his very familiar words of John 14:6, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." He was driven both by the Father's love for His creation and the necessity of God's redemptive plan. Jesus knew that without his sacrifice, there would be no hope. Everyone who does not have faith in Christ is already lost and condemned. No one can gain eternal life without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Resurrection . . . ? or !

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the single most important doctrine of Christianity.

The 15th chapter of the 1 Corinthians is a wonderful affirmation of the resurrection and its importance to us. The apostle Paul clearly states an objective truth: “. . . what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”

Paul goes on, “if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” And, “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.”

Over the past 2000 years, many people have opposed Christianity. Some have argued against Christianity on theological or philosophical grounds. Some have used force in attempts to destroy the faith. Others have sought to marginalize the church and her adherents.

If Christianity’s opponents want to completely destroy this religion, there is one foolproof way to do so. They only have to disprove the resurrection.

From the day of the resurrection in April of A.D. 33 until now, no one has been able to disprove the resurrection. The evidence of an empty tomb is historically accurate. Religious and secular historical sources attest to the resurrection. Jesus’ dead body was never discovered. Quite the contrary, a living Jesus showed himself to his closest friends and over 500 other people in the days following his death, burial, and resurrection.

A little over a week from today, Christians around the world will celebrate Easter, the day Jesus the Christ was raised to life.

If the resurrection did not happen, this celebration is meaningless. Christianity, then, is meaningless.  It doesn’t matter how nice Christians are or how much good they are doing. If Christ did not rise from the dead, our faith is based on a lie and is meaningless.

On the other hand . . .

If Christ did rise from the dead, Christianity is true.

 

Jesus is the God he claimed to be (John 1:1, 10:30).

Jesus is the only way of salvation (John 14:6).

Salvation only comes through personal faith in Jesus (John 3:36).

Coming back to 1 Corinthians 15, Paul moved from the reality of Christ’s resurrection to the effect on those who put their trust in him. “For as in Adam [the natural human] all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” (v. 22).

Then he looks forward to the culmination of our faith with the awe-inspiring words:

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable,

and the mortal with immortality,

then the saying that is written will come true:

“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

                        Where, O death, is your victory?

                        Where, O death, is your sting?

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

This is Easter, my friends. Celebrate!