Undeniable: What Even Skeptics Believe

AD Series

Undeniable: What Even Skeptics Believe

June 6th  2015
Pastor Robb Stancer
Destiny Worship Center

Introduction:

Acts 9:1-16 “Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.  “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.  In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!” “Yes, Lord,” he answered.  The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.” “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”  But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

Gary Habermas was a young doctoral student at Michigan State in the 1970’s struggling with his faith. Like so many young people who grow up in a Christian family and eventually leave home and their faith as well, he was definitely rethinking what he really believed. It came to the point of announcing to his mother that he was leaning toward Buddhism.

To settle the issue rationally, Gary decided to do his doctoral dissertation on the resurrection of Jesus. He felt that anchoring his faith in the truth of the resurrection would give him the peace and confidence he sought. The chairman of his doctoral committee said the topic was fine, but added, “Don’t come back and tell us the resurrection happened because the Bible tells us so.”

Gary’s challenge was to demonstrate the reality of this event without exclusively using Scripture.

He called his approach the “Minimal Facts Method.” He presented twelve historical facts that validated the core events and people surrounding the most crucial event in the Christian faith: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The results of his research on the resurrection not only literally saved his Christian faith, but Gary Habermas is now considered one of the world’s leading experts on the topic.

Out of these accepted historical facts he put forth in his research, let me mention just five. Again, these are things that the majority of skeptical scholars believe to be true.

  1. Jesus actually lived and was Jewish
  2. Jesus was executed by crucifixion by Pontius Pilate, the Roman procurator
  3. Jesus’s tomb was found empty by a group of His female followers three days after His crucifixion
  4. His disciples believed Jesus appeared to them after His death
  5. Saul of Tarsus was transformed after claiming to see the risen Jesus

We will focus on Saul who stands out as history’s most famous convert to the Christian faith

  1. Saul’s encounter with Christ game him a new life mission
  • This event may be one of the most dramatic encounters with God in all of Scripture. It could be considered the New Testament parallel to Moses encountering God at the burning bush in the Old Testament.
  • The end result of both of these moments was these men being commissioned by God to accomplish His purposes.
  • A common theme runs through the stories of those who encounter Christ in any way: They find themselves divinely “redirected.”
  • This church [referencing your congregation] is filled with people who found their God-given purpose and destiny when they came to Christ.

2. Saul’s encounter with Christ changed his character.

  • Meeting Christ on the road to Damascus not only changed the course of Saul’s life, but it changed his character.
  • In our world today, we can see this trait in people who think they are doing God’s work by harassing and harming others in the name of God. However, after Saul’s encounter with Christ, he became the exact opposite—teaching

2 Timothy 2:24-25 “The Lord’s servant “must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to knowledge of the truth”

  1. Instead of resorting to torture and persecution to get others to change their beliefs, Paul would instead pray, preach, and persuade them by the force of his arguments—even to the point of being tortured and persecuted himself.
  2. One of the greatest evidences for the Christian faith is the collection of stories or accounts of people who were radically transformed and are now trophies of grace.

3. Saul’s encounter with Christ affected his relationships

Encountering Christ can cause relationships to dramatically shift. Saul’s companions were baffled by his sudden turnaround from being a Christ hater to a Christ follower. Some even sought to kill him to minimize the collateral damage of his defection. Yet, this encounter also gave Paul a new set of friends—those who were completely different in culture and ethnicity.

Similarly, Christ gives us the power to love all people, regardless of color or culture. Saul would become an apostle to the Gentiles, destroying ethnic barriers that were centuries old and deeply ingrained. In a world still divided racially and ethnically, Christ offers the hope of true reconciliation and real relationships with people from every nation.

4. Saul’s encounter with Christ made him willing to suffer for the sake of his faith

  • From the very start of his new Christian life, Saul was told the price he would have to pay to follow Jesus.
  • The man sent to help him, Ananias, could have said something like “Saul, I’ve got good news and bad news for you.
  • The good news is that Jesus told me to tell you that you are a chosen instrument of His; the bad news is that you are going to suffer….. a lot.”
  • These words certainly mirror those of Jesus as He consistently told His disciples that they would have to pick up their own cross and follow Him in Luke 14:27. It has been said many times, “Christianity is a cross, not a crutch.”

5. Saul’s encounter with Christ caused him to ground his faith in the truth of Scripture, not just personal experience

Just three years after his encounter

  • Saul personally visited Peter and James and verified the message of the Gospel (Galatians 1:18-20)
  • Eventually, he would talk to John and other apostles, as well as those who were eyewitnesses (Galatians 2:1-10)
  • He would write to the Corinthians the great Gospel creed, which he received from the eyewitnesses he spoke to (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)
  • and which historians say would have been constructed no more than two to three years after the resurrection. These statements contained in the passage emphasize that Christ died and rose again “according to the Scriptures.”

Application

  1. Jesus lived the life of perfect obedience to God’s law
  2. Jesus’s death paid the penalty for the sin of the world
  3. Jesus’s resurrection proved He indeed was the Son of God
  4. Jesus is who He says He is: the Son of God
  5. His Words are indeed true.
  6. Our sin’s are forgiven

Conclusion:

I want to challenge you to memorize and master this message and be able to confidently communicate it to others. By believing this with all our hearts, we can be saved and delivered from the power of darkness. By communicating it clearly to others, they can be too.

The question I have is this: “If skeptics know these things are historically true, why don’t they believe?”

Obviously, this inquiry reveals one of the most mysterious and misunderstood aspects of our existence—doubt.

If your issue is factual doubt (doubting that these truths are facts of history), then this message should go a long way to helping you believe. Yet, many can know the correct facts but still not believe.

The issue could be due to emotional doubt, which points to an experience that has left a person in a place where they can’t overcome the emotional hurdles of a bad religious experience, a failed relationship with someone who claimed to be a Christian, or simply a fear of not being able to follow Christ and keep His commandments.

Finally, it could come down to volitional doubt, which in essence is an act of your will. Every person has a choice; God gave the human race the privilege He gave no other creature—the power to make real choices