For the last three of weeks, we’ve been thinking about ways to prove the deity of Christ. Before that we proved that the Jesus of Nazareth was a real person. For the last two weeks we looked at Biblical statements and evidence about Jesus’ deity. And before that we also looked at the evidence for deity from Jesus’ trial for blasphemy. Was Jesus crucified because he conspired to destroy the temple? Was he crucified for claiming to be God? That may have been the charge and the conclusion, but actually…. He was crucified because the Jewish leadership didn’t want to acknowledge that he was the Christ.
This morning, let’s return to things that we might share with a non-believer in order to make him think about Jesus – His deity and His salvation. And our primary thoughts are about His influence. If we can get people to think about what Christ has accomplished through His people since His death, we might open a door to discussions about Who He is.
From your experience, would you say that Christians and churches are perfect? Despite those imperfections, those are the tools that the Lord uses. Does the Bible teach the existence and persistence of an evil Devil in the world? Despite the work of Satan to block the work of God, and despite the poor tools that the Lord has been forced to use, think about some of the things that He has accomplished in the last 2000 years through His people and His churches.
Here are some of the things that the modern Western world owes to Christ and Chritianity: How many hospitals do we see in the scriptures or in ancient history? Public hospitals, were essentially begun during the Middle Ages. And those hospitals were not started by atheists, but Christians. Universities generally speaking also began during the Middle Ages. And many of them were started by Christians for Christian purposes. Literacy and the education of the masses was started in order to give the common man the opportunity to read the Bible. In fact the Bible was very often the primary text book for reading classes. Other things include: representative government, particularly as it has been seen in the American experiment. The separation of political powers. Civil liberties. The abolition of slavery, both in antiquity and in modern times. Compare Western Society to that of the East, where the influence of Christ has been significantly less. Modern science has its roots in the desire of Christians to better understand God’s creation. The settlement of the New World by both the English and the Spanish. Benevolence and charity; the Good Samaritan ethic. Higher standards of justice. The high regard for human life, which makes the growth of abortion and euthanasia so incomprehensible. The civilizing of many barbarian and primitive cultures. The codifying and setting to writing of many of the world’s languages. The greater development of art and music. The inspiration for the greatest works of art. The countless changed lives transformed from liabilities into assets to society because of the gospel. The eternal salvation of countless souls! The reformation of millions of lives.
Despite all the differences in the theology of the people who accomplished these things, what did they believe about the deity of Christ? What did Jesus think about Himself?
Listen very carefully to the following quotation: “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a mad man or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
Who would you guess made that statement? (C.S. Lewis, professor of English literature at Cambridge University; former agnostic. From “Mere Christianity.”) Why are quotes like this so important? (The average skeptic would be more willing to listen to Lewis, than to an evangelical Christian.)
If those claims are false, what two things does that say about Jesus knowledge about those claims? He either knew or didn’t know that they were false. If Jesus knew that his claims were false, what sort of person was He? (Liar, hypocrite, demon, fool.) Should we be sorry that such a person was executed? Why should we consider Him to be a demon, if he was deliberately lying? (He told people to trust Him for eternal life.) If Jesus did not know that his claims were false what should we conclude? (He was deluded, a lunatic.) If Jesus’ claims to deity are true, what does that mean? (That he is Lord.) If that is true, then what are the two alternatives given to us? (Accept or reject.)
Someone has said that the measure of a person’s insanity is the distance between what he thinks he is and what he actually is. If a person thinks that he’s the best in his field, he may be nothing but an arrogant fool. If he thinks that he’s Napoleon, then he’s probably on the edge of insanity. If he thinks that he’s a butterfly, then he’s definitely insane. If he thinks that he is God, then he’s even more than insane; he’s demonic.
If Jesus Christ claimed, or permitted people to say, that He was God, and He was not, should He be considered a moral man who established an helpful religion? If Jesus was a liar and a con-man, how can we explain the fact that He has left us with the most profound moral instruction and the most perfect example of human religion? If Jesus was a liar, should we try to undo all the good that has been done in His name?
If Jesus is not a liar or a lunatic, then he must be just what His followers said that he was:
Matthew 16:13-16 – “When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
John 11:25-26 – “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.”
John 20:26-31 – “And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.“
Mark 1:1 – “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
Hebrews 1:1-3 – “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.”