Date: March 31, 2013

Bible Text: Acts 26:8 |

Series:

The questioning of miracles has been around since the beginning of religious history. As we look at Jesus Christ’s life, we are forced everywhere to see the supernatural. Our faith in Him depends on believing these supernatural events. If we deny the miracles of Jesus Christ, we throw in the trash bin so much of Jesus Christ’s life. All through the New Testament we read of lepers being made whole, blind being able to see, the crippled being healed; and if these are not true accounts, then I think we are silly to follow Jesus Christ. Prayer itself is a true miracle. Think of someone, trusting and humble, talking to God. They’re on a spiritual telephone; they talk to God. And if we believe, God answers with answered prayer, peace in our heart, even miracles in our lives. Regeneration, or salvation, is a tremendous miracle. A wicked, sinful man comes to Christ with a holy mixture of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ’s redeeming blood, and a new man is born. Somebody is saved. Somebody is on his way to heaven instead of on his way to hell. But to God, the supernatural is only natural. That’s the main point I want to get across this morning. If we would only approach every question believing that God is God, we would have no problems. We would not doubt the creation. We would not have any problems believing in a prayer-answering God. Turn to Acts 26:8. When King Agrippa was questioning the validity of the greatest miracle of all, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul bluntly said, “Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?” That, to me, is an exciting verse. What is so incredible? He is God! Do you expect to limit the God who out of nothing created the heavens and the earth? Do you expect to limit God who hung the planets in the air? Do you expect to limit God who called into being every living thing around us? “Why,” said Paul, “should it be thought a thing incredible that God should raise the dead?” Of course, He can raise the dead. He is God. If God could make man out of the dust of the ground and breathe in him the breath of life, is it a big thing that He take a man who stopped breathing and put breath in him again? But the skeptics have searched heaven and hell and all the earth to find anything to discredit Jesus Christ. They attack the very existence of God. They deny His hand in creation. Notice the battles regarding separation of church and state. I have to say it all the time: our founders didn’t want separation of God and this country. This country was founded on the Word of God, for the Word of God. But Satan is trying to make everybody ignorant about the things of God. They don’t want the Bible anywhere near the schools. They want the devil’s lesson of our coming from a monkey. You may come from a monkey, but I didn’t. I believe God formed man out of the dust of the ground and breathed in him the breath of life. You say, “Well, you are a silly, uneducated person.” We have very educated people in this church, and some of the most educated people in the history of this world believed what I just said. Our government has changed history. I read a survey not too long ago that asked who were the greatest presidents, I believe it was the top ten presidents. George Washington was not even one of them. We would not have a country if it were not for George Washington. Just because our government changes things to suit them, just because they’ve taken creation out of the teaching of the school, just because they want to teach that we came from a monkey, doesn’t make it right. They have attacked His supernatural birth along with His atoning blood. Critics have picked the Bible to pieces and tried to destroy it from the face of this earth. Critics have murdered Christians throughout the years. Even now, right now, Christians are being murdered only because they are Christians. I don’t care what our government wants to say; I believe with all my heart this war in Iraq is a religious war. Christians have been killed from the first century when they were thrown to the lions and when they were burned at the stake. I don’t hate Muslim people, but this has been a battle for centuries, trying to destroy Christianity. God’s church has been attacked from inside and out. So-called ministers stand with their priestly robes and deny the Bible. They try to destroy the witness of the writers. They say they were not eyewitnesses. They say the books are not authentic. They say the miracles were impossible. The fools say, and if you have heard them you know this is true, that Jesus Christ was a good man, in fact, the greatest man to ever walk the face of this earth, but He was a liar. Now that does not make sense to me. Good men do not lie and try to get people to give their lives to a lie. Only a fool would believe that. Only a man trying to deny a fact that cannot be denied would make such a statement. If they would only stop trying to make God a man, they would realize that He is the Almighty Who created the universe. These infidels tried to kill Jesus. If you remember, when He was born they killed all the babies that were born in Bethlehem. They tried to kill Him throughout His life; and then, finally, they hung Him on a tree, they nailed Him to a tree, and all hell broke loose in glee. But praise God, He arose! No matter what the infidels and skeptics say, He arose; and our whole world was changed because of it. All their efforts fly in the face of overwhelming, infallible proof. He arose. There was an old infidel by the name of Runin who wrote a book on Christ’s life. He made fun of Christ. He was a Frenchman, and at the end of the book, he just wrote “Finis.” A friend of his, who was just as much an atheist and an infidel, did a wood cutting for the cover. It pictured Christ with matted hair and all pale, blood streaked. Birds were circling, and it was dark and all gloom. Christ did die that way, but he didn’t have to. Just one word from Him, and all heaven would have been down at His defense. I don’t read this in the Bible, but I imagine Michael the archangel with his hand on his sword leaning over the battlements of heaven saying, “Jesus, just one sign. Just nod your head. I know those nails can’t hold you to the tree. Just a little wave here, and we’ll be down. We’ll take care of it.” But Jesus says, “Michael, my Father and I know what we are doing. This is for the redemption of the world. This is what is best, for me to die.” He said, “It is finished,” and he was dead. Yes, it was finished, but what was finished? The redemption of the world. That’s what was finished. The redemption of the world. Runin meant that it was all over, that His life was a waste; that when He was put in Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb, he just rotted like any other man. And yet it was not finished. The Roman guard put a big rock there and they posted a guard because they knew He said that He would raise from the dead; but they couldn’t hold Him from it. Some believe the Easter bunny and Easter eggs are more important, but millions and millions are worshipping today, especially remembering that He arose. He burst out of there. Some little rock was not going to hold him back. You see, a failure to understand and comprehend any incident does not justify its denial. Just because a person says, “I don’t understand it,” doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. I don’t understand a lot of things. I ate breakfast this morning, and in some way a good meal is taken into our stomach and is transformed into body parts. I don’t understand it, but that does not keep me from eating. It does not keep me from growing, either. I don’t have to understand it. I don’t understand the simplest of scientific facts. I don’t understand the telephone. I don’t understand the radio. How in the world can sound just go through wires like that or go through air. You say, “I’m a physicist, I’m a scientist, I’ll tell you.” I still would not understand, but that does not make it not a fact. And to deny Christ’s resurrection in the face of all the accumulated overwhelming testimony is to deny all history. If we deny all the testimony attributed to Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, we take out the foundations of trial and witness. Listen to only a small part of the evidence gathered for the resurrection of Christ. Turn, if you will, in the same book to Acts chapter 1; and while you are, remember that most of these who are giving testimony believed so much that it changed their lives completely. They quit their jobs. Now God does not expect us all to quit our jobs today; but in those days, their jobs meant nothing. They left their homes, they left their families. They said, “I believe!” And thousands of them were killed because they believed. You see, if you believe that Jesus Christ came and died for your sins and rose from the dead, dying would be nothing. I believe that with all of my heart. I’m going to heaven anyway; and that’s the way they believed. Listen to Luke as he writes in the book of Acts chapter 1 verse 3, “To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” He is starting out the book of Acts by saying, “Jesus Christ died, but He rose from the dead and He walked around here on earth for forty days. He was seen by a lot of people.” Now here is a dependable, Gentile layman—a doctor. He could have lived a good life. He gave that life up. You don’t see him doctoring at all. You see him spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, and he died for his faith. This is history. This is not some movie. It is a fact. History tells us Jesus Christ came and died on a cross and changed the world, and the Bible says He changed the world because He rose from the dead. Look at Mary Magdalene. She saw Him in the cemetery, in the garden, after Christ rose from the dead. She talked to Jesus. He dried her tears. There was another woman with Mary, and she heard what the angel said about Jesus raising from the dead. She saw Christ. Think of Peter. He is the one I think of more than any. He saw Christ, and he talked to Him, and it completely revolutionized his life. Now again, here is a man who was a follower of Christ. He was a disciple, he was right there when Christ was beaten. Think about that. History again tells us that when someone was beaten with that Roman cato’- nine-tails, it ripped him to shreds. Many times he would be hanging there, dead, with his innards in a pool of blood when it was over. Peter saw this and said, “I don’t want anything to do with it.” Peter was mixed up. Jesus told him who He was. He told him why He was here on earth. He told him what He was going to do. He told him He was going to die. But Peter and so many of the disciples thought He was going to set up His kingdom here on earth. He thought he was going to be with King Jesus. They believed in King Jesus setting up His kingdom here on earth; but now, the man they followed was being beaten to death. What did Peter do? Peter said, “I don’t even know Him.” They said, “Oh, no, we can tell by your speech you knew him.” Peter stood there warming his hands by the enemy’s fire. “Oh, no,” and he cursed. He said, “I don’t know Him.” He was scared to death. He wanted nothing to do with this. He didn’t want to be crucified. But after seeing Christ alive, he gave his life for Him. It was a change, just like night and day. All of a sudden, Peter said, “I don’t care what they do to me.” Then there were the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Emmaus was a town six or eight miles from Jerusalem. They walked with the Lord and they ate with Him; and when He opened the scriptures to them, He gave them a burning heart. Go down through the many accounts. There was a large number of disciples and friends. Picture them, they are in the upper room waiting for Jesus to come. They were afraid because of the persecution, but they were excited because of the stories that people had seen Him. Mary had come back and said, “I saw Him!” Those on the road to Emmaus, “I saw Him!” They were mixed up. They were afraid, but excited; and at that meeting, one of the strangest of miracles occurred. He entered the room with all the doors closed, and He comforted them and gave peace to them. He gave them a challenge to go out into all the world and preach the gospel and tell people that He rose from the dead. The next week, it was the same group basically, except for Thomas. He is called “doubting Thomas” because he was not there at the first meeting; and when they told him, Thomas said, “No, I won’t believe unless I take my finger and put it in the holes in His hands, and take my hand and put it in the hole in His side.” When Jesus appeared that second time He said, “Here, Thomas. Put your finger in the hole in my hand.” And Thomas fell to the ground and cried out, “My Lord and my God!” Thomas was slow to trust; but he was as convinced as any. He gave his life for Christ. Now look at the seven at Galilee who were fishing. They were discouraged and backslidden. They had quit fishing for men and went back to their old job of fishing for fish. Christ came to them and asked the question that has rung down through the centuries. “Lovest thou me more than these?” In other words, “Do you love me more than these fish? Do you love me more than the world?” That’s a question we should answer today. Do we love Him more than our jobs and the things of this world? They ate of the fish and warmed themselves by the fire that Jesus had made, and they talked to Him up close. You must make them out to be bold liars, or else believe the story. Then Paul, Mark, Matthew. They give us the account of five hundred on a mountain. They saw Christ on a mountain. Of course, all this is evidence that would be admissible in any court. Remember the Apostle Paul, when he told the story, said, “Most of these people are alive. Go ask them.” These people were alive, you could go talk to them. Why do you think the Christian religion went from nothing to being spread throughout the entire known world like a fire? Why do you think that could happen in months’ time? Because they saw One who had been crucified, alive. Because these hundreds had seen Christ and believed without a shadow of a doubt; they forgot everything else and shouted the news from the housetops, as it were. They heard the great commission in Matthew 28, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” Only a fool would not obey this One who had risen from the dead. You see, if it had been one frightened old lady, we would say, “Well, she could be wrong.” Or one impetuous Peter, or someone like that, you could say, “Well, he was taken away with some dream or something.” But when you have five hundred just in this instance, five hundred on a mountaintop, saying, “I saw Him. I believe. I’m going to give my life to Him,” you can’t just make them all out to be mad or liars—not honestly. All these mentioned, and more, testified, “I saw Him.” Hear Paul say, “Not only I witnessed His resurrection, but these five hundred did also.” Again, to make void this testimony is to destroy all of historical values. We couldn’t believe anything. Turn to Acts 1. Luke tells us that Christ led His disciples out as far as Bethany and lifted up His hands and He blessed them. Then He was carried away (this was after the 40 days that He was here) into Heaven. And as they stared up into heaven, the angel said in Acts 1:11, “…Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” Even the angels testified to the fact of the resurrection. Again, who would not live and die for these facts? Remember the angel at the open tomb? He rolled that boulder away and used it as a pulpit to preach the resurrection. “Come, see the place where the Lord lay.” Not where He is, but where He did lay. “Come and see the empty tomb.” Let the critics answer this. It is said that when the tomb that people believe Jesus was laid in was discovered, the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, there were some scientists who used chemicals to find evidence of human decay. They used these chemicals to find human decay in that tomb and in a hundred closest tombs. Human decay was found in all of the hundred, but not that one. Listen to me, God’s people don’t need a chemical test. If someone were to ask me, “How do you know He lives?”, I don’t mean this lightly, and I don’t mean to spiritualize it, but I know it because He lives within my heart. I can pray. The Bible says if you are not saved, or if you are not right with God, He won’t hear you. When I pray, God answers with peace, or with an unbelievable answer to prayer. At times, God will show me something that seems so humanly unwise to do, but I do it and it is absolutely correct. He is real. Christians see His handiwork, they experience the fact that He is alive. Turn to John chapter 14. These are some of the most exciting passages in the Bible. There is such a difference in Christ’s grave and others. I’ve been to Washington’s grave; I’ve been to Lincoln’s grave; I’ve been to Teddy Roosevelt’s grave. I’ve been to all kinds of graves. But I go there and say, “Washington is buried there.” Or, “Lincoln is buried there.” I could take you to the Chesterton cemetery and say, “My mom and dad are buried here.” But when you come to Christ’s grave, you have to say, “He’s not there. That’s where He was for a short time, but He is not there.” Now look at John 14:1-6. Listen to Jesus, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.” Here’s Thomas again. He “saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” Jesus promised that, yes, He was going to heaven, but He said, “I am going to come back. After I get finished building your mansions, I’m going to come back. I’m going to get you.” What a wonderful day that will be! The Bible says the trumpet will sound, and the shout will be heard. Christ is coming back. We who are alive will rise up. Those who are in the grave will go up just a little bit before us, and we will meet together in the air. I Thessalonians chapter 4 verse 13 is a passage I read every time I have a funeral. I read it at the grave site. What an encouragement! “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep…” Notice when he talks about death, he talks about being asleep, because the idea is that they are not gone. “...that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.” It’s like Jonathan Kephart. Oh yes, you miss him. It breaks your heart that he died as such a young man. But we don’t have to sorrow like the world who has no hope. “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” When my father died I comforted myself with those words. When people in this church die, I comfort myself with those words. How can anyone who says they believe the Bible live for this life? This world is not my home. I’ve got a house over on the other side of this property, but that’s not my home. I’ve driven by the house I grew up in and lived in all my life until I got married, but I didn’t want to go in. There were other people there. It was only brick and mortar, it was not my home. I have no real home on this earth. My home is in heaven. If my home were here on this earth, if that’s all I had, I’d be going nuts. I’d join the others and pump up on drugs because I could not face this world. I’d join the others getting drunk, I could not face this world. I might even be one who would kill himself; I couldn’t face this world without Jesus Christ. This world is not my home, and it doesn’t have to be yours either. The most wonderful thing about heaven is that I’m going home to be with Jesus and all my loved ones. I praise God my loved ones are saved and made real professions of faith. You read in the Bible about the golden streets, and I think they will be wonderful. You read about the big, giant gates of pearl. I used to think each one was made of many pearls, but it’s one giant pearl. I want to see it; but that’s not what draws me to heaven. I’m sure our palaces, made for us personally, will be wonderful. I’m going to run through and shout, “Look what Jesus built for me!” But that is not what draws me to heaven. The thing that draws me to heaven is that it’s my home. I’ll be going home, and Jesus will be there. My wife will be there, and my children and their mates. Lord willing, my grandchildren. My mother and my father, everybody who means anything to me. We’re going to go to heaven. If you read your Bible, this time on earth is just a blink, a twinkling of an eye. Heaven is for eternity, forever. Listen to me if you don’t know that you are saved. Life on earth here, if you really look at it, is only for one reason. You are given a short period of time to say, “Yes, I will accept you as my Savior,” or, “No, I’m going to reject you as my Savior.” Then you are going to live for eternity—not millions, not billions, not trillions of years, but for eternity—in either heaven or hell. Turn to John 5:28. When you talk about this subject of the resurrection, not only the saved will be resurrected to go to heaven, but the unrighteous—those who have not accepted Christ as their Savior—will be resurrected and go to destruction. Jesus is speaking here in John 5:28-29, and He so clearly says, “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth: they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” The dividing line of where we go when we are resurrected is what we’ve done—good or evil. Now immediately, the moral man would say, “That’s what I think. I’ve been good. I’ve been faithful to my wife. I haven’t been immoral. I’ve been a good husband. I’ve been a good father. I’ve been a good citizen and neighbor. Therefore, I’m entitled to eternal life in heaven.” But turn to Romans 7:18, and listen closely. According to the Bible, God’s definition of good is much different from man’s. According to God, the natural man, the unsaved man, cannot do any good thing. Romans 7:18 says, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.” This is the Apostle Paul saying, “That which I would do, I cannot do.” According to God, only one can do good, and He is God. One pigpen compared to another might be very good. But the finest pigpen compared to your home would be disgusting. Compared to other human beings you might be very good; but compared to God Almighty, all your works (and this is the Bible, not me) are as “filthy rags.” Go out and find a nice, refined clean hog to live with you and be your companion. Sleep with him, eat with him. You say, “No, not even the finest hog in the world.” Compared to God, there are not “best” human beings either. The Bible says in Romans 3, “…all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” If you want to see God’s view of man, take chapter 3 and read it. Romans 3:10 says, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one.” That’s me, that’s you. That’s everybody who has ever walked the face of this earth. “There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” Do you understand what the Bible is saying? “Not one.” That means this preacher. That means you. Not one can do good. The only good thing that we can do is accept Christ as our personal Savior. God died on the cross for you, and the reason He died is to cover your sins with His blood. We are all sinners as we just read. The wages of that sin is death. Somebody had to pay for those sins; and God sent His Son. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” God sent His Son to die on the cross. That’s why John 3:16 is the most famous verse in the Bible. Let me say it again. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Notice the word “world,” and notice the word “gave.” You can’t work your way to heaven. He gave, it’s free. Then He rose from the dead to prove that He is God. One last verse in John chapter 5 verse 24. Listen to Jesus here. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life…” You hear my word, you believe it. If you believe it, you are going to do it. “... and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” Again, let me quickly give you the gospel in a nutshell. First, we are sinners. If you don’t think so, look at Romans chapter 3. We are sinners. You say, “I’m not a sinner. I keep the Ten Commandments.” Do you know the Ten Commandments? One is to obey your parents. Did you ever disobey your parents? Of course you did. You broke it right there. One is that you are not supposed to lie. Have you ever lied in your life? Of course you did. I could go down the line. We are sinners. “…all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” The wages of that sin is death. People say, “I believe the Bible, but I don’t believe in hell.” You don’t believe the Bible if you don’t believe in hell, because this Book talks more about hell than heaven, trying to warn us. The Bible talks about the rich man in hell crying out for just one drop of water in his torment. The Bible talks about casting the unsaved into the lake of fire and brimstone forever and ever. Don’t say you believe God but not hell. You have no right to say that. This is His Word. So we are all sinners, and we are all going to die. We were going to go to hell if God didn’t do something. That is what this sermon is about. “…the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Notice the word “gift.” You cannot earn your way to heaven. It’s free. If you try to earn it, you won’t make it. What is that gift? His death on the cross. There’s a film today. It may be the film that brings in more money than any other. I’ve not seen it, and I’m sure it is not totally accurate according to the Bible. More than one person has died from watching the depiction of Christ’s death. They died from the horror of it. All kinds of people make all kinds of decisions when they see the depiction. It’s rated “R.” Why? Because depicting the death of Christ is horrible. The Bible says that He was not recognizable as a human being, He was so beaten. He did that for you and me. If there were no heaven and no hell, and I knew that Jesus did that for me, and then said, “Would you accept Me?”, I would accept Him. But there is a heaven to gain, and there is a hell to shun. That is why we have an invitation, and that is why we have people who can answer your questions with their Bibles. Just remember, He died that His blood would cover your sins. I don’t even understand it completely. I’ve been a preacher for all these years, and saved all these years. God said, “You are a sinner. You are going to go to hell; and the only way you are going to be saved is if I send My Son to die on the cross and He sheds His blood for you, and you accept that death.” It’s as simple as that. You say, “It’s too simple.” There it is. There’s no other way. God didn’t want to make it hard. He didn’t want to make a high hurdle. God wanted you to be saved. “For God so loved the world...” He loves you! He loves you so much He sent His Son to die that horrible death; and then He said, “All you have to do is receive Him.” The Bible says, “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God...” It’s as easy as that. If I were going to give you this Bible, all you would have to do is receive it. That’s all. I believe. I receive. Thank you. Nothing else. Not church membership. Oh, you ought to be baptized, but that has nothing to do with salvation. You ought to join a good church, but that has nothing to do with salvation. There are a lot of things you ought to do, but they have nothing to do with salvation. The only thing that has to do with salvation is He died for you, and you accept that death, that free gift of salvation. That’s all.

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