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The Importance of Jesus

Jesus the Game Changer  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Jesus makes all the difference once we realise the reality of what he has done.

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Robin Hood

If I said to you “steal from the rich, give to the poor”, who would come to mind? <Robin Hood>
Robin Hood of course is one of those characters from history from whom we have very little evidence. There are a few early references found in some ballads and poems dating from the late 14th and 15th century.
Despite any lack of historical evidence, it’s possible to debate whether the notion of stealing from the rich and giving to the poor is a good thing or not.
Whether that’s true or not, and I’m not going to debate that now, the answer stands completely separate to whether an historical figure called Robin Hood actually existed, and whether he actually said such a thing or not.

Thinking of Jesus like Robin Hood

Now quite often, it would seem that we can easily think of Jesus in such a way.
We can think of some of the lessons he taught. We can debate whether it’s good advice or not, but whether the lesson stands or not, is completely different to whether Jesus was a real person or not.

Jesus record linked with historicity

Can I suggest that with Jesus, that is not the case. Jesus was not about giving some good advice which we can throw into the mix with the other great thinkers throughout history.
Rather, what makes Jesus so special is that his very existence on earth, and the things he did while on earth make all the difference. You can not rightfully separate the teaching of Jesus with what he did.
That’s because the moral lessons resulting from the Jesus gain their force because Jesus gave to us first. It’s one of the most significant aspects of why Christianity stands apart from the other major religions of this world.
Therefore, we don’t debate the ideas of Jesus in some abstract way, rather it is all linked to whether their actually was a person called Jesus of Nazareth, who was the son of God and died and rose again for us.
Everything rises and falls on whether this is true or not. If Jesus didn’t exist, or he didn’t die and rise again, then our whole teaching is futile.
Sure, we might be able to salvage a few feel good messages, but without the story of Jesus being a real historic figure, it would ultimately lack any substances and would be subject to anyone’s opinion.
Therefore as Karl Faase said in the introductory video, it becomes very important for us to establish that Jesus was indeed a real figure, and his death and resurrection really did happen.

The Reasons for trusting Jesus

Now, I’m going to race through some of these reasons now. I’ll race through them because for those involved in the mid-week groups, we’ve already explored them, and if any of you want to dig further, I can recommend some good books for you to read.

Jesus was a person in history

it’s actually not my intention to go through all of the arguments this morning for why this is trustworthy.
Some of those arguments were considered in the mid-week groups. If you want to go into even further depth, there are books you can look at, such as “The Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel. This is a great book that looks at why the Bible is in fact reliable, why we can be sure that Jesus was who he said he was, and why a literal resurrection of Jesus best fits the data of what we know.
Well, the first fact to establish is if there actually was a person called Jesus of Nazareth. This one is actually quite easy, or at least we can establish it with as much, or usually even more certainty than many of the other historical figure from that period, including people like Julius Caesar.
I’d actually recommend the book, even if you already believe, because in it, you can find great reassurances to what we already know in our hearts.
This is because we have verified documents dating to very close after Jesus left which vouch for his existence, many of which where written by people who you weren’t believers, such as Tacitus, Josephus and Pliny.
Even secular scholars today almost all unanimously agree that a man named Jesus, as recorded in the Bible, did in fact exist.

Jesus story was recorded accurately

Once we establish that Jesus was an actual real person, we then need to learn what he was on about, which we can do through the four gospels.
But this of course presents us with another difficult - how can we trust that what they wrote for us was actually what happened.
Well, there are quite a lot of arguments we could put forward to show how they could be trusted, but let me just highlight one of them - and that is that from within the gospels themselves, we can read about their intentions to faithfully record them down. In Luke’s bb, this come in the opening four verses which describe his careful work in recording everything.
In John’s gospel, it comes at the end where he describes his motivation for writing, noting that it was because it was first witnessed, then written down, so that we may believe and have eternal life.
Now this argument in and of itself doesn’t prove the reliability entirely, but you would need to have reason to suspect that they wanted to lie about what they saw and heard.

Witnesses gave their life

Which brings me to the next point, which is to suggest that if they did in fact want to lie, the lie they came up with wouldn’t actually serve them well - which is evidenced by the fact that all but one of the twelve apostle died as a martyr.
You see, if you were going to make something up, you probably wouldn’t make it so that you become a servant with a good possibility that you will die. If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead and the Holy Spirit wasn’t given to us, then the story made up would be useless. It wouldn’t have gained any traction and would have died off a long time ago.
While the deaths of each of the apostles is a little sketchy, it seems clear that each of them would have been preventable had they just recanted what they said about Jesus. The only logical reason that they didn’t, is because they sincerely believed it to be true.

Jesus changes lives

There is a lot more that could be said about how we know we can trust the records that we have about Jesus, but I want to move now to consider that at the end of the day, we have countless testimonies about how Jesus has changed their life.
For those who attended the mid-week groups, you would have heard three contemporary stories of people from around the world whose life was changed because of Jesus.
Even if you didn’t attend the groups, many of you here could testify yourself of how Jesus has changed your own life, and those of others that you know and love.

Paul’s conversion

Each of those stories are really powerful, but there is one story in particular that I want to focus on, and that is the story I read earlier from the book of Acts, and it is the story of Saul (or Paul’s conversion).

Clarification on name

Actually, before we continue, I will just clarify a small matter regarding his name. Prior to his conversion, he is referred to as Saul, but when he comes back into the main narrative of Acts, being , he is then referred to as Paul. It would seem that both were his name, but because we are most familiar with him being called Paul, as that is how he always refers to himself in his letters, I’m going to mostly call him Paul, even though our text uses the name Saul in
If you actually read a bit more closer however, you’ll see that it says that he was known by both names, with them being different forms of the same name.
For the purposes of this message I’ll refer to him as Saul, because that’s what he’s referred to in the passage, but just be aware that Paul and Saul are the same person.

About Paul

So what do we know about Paul prior to his conversion.
Well, we know that he was a prominent Pharisee who had been well educated and was very zealous for God.
As was unfortunately the case for many of these well studied people, their status within the religious system blinded them from the truth, and so even though they thought they were being zealous for God, what they were actually doing was being zealous for protecting the system - a system that God had altered in the person of Jesus Christ.
This was exactly the case with Paul, who when to great efforts to stamp out anything that threatened their system, and there was no bigger threat then the one presented by the resurrection of Jesus.
For him, the talk of the resurrection of Jesus was not some distant thing that happened in the deep past, rather it was something that happened in the very recent past and the talk of it threatened his power base.
He couldn’t see the truth because he was blinded by his own sin.
In , we read about perhaps the first martyr of them all being Stephen. And what we read at the end of this account is that Paul is there, giving approval as they cast the stones that kill Stephen.

The road to Damascus

Well, as we move into chapter 9, none of his religious fervour has abated, in fact, if anything it has increased. He now is asking permission to take his campaign to end the madness to other towns, in particular, he has Damascus in his sights.
But this is where everything changes.
While he is on his journey, suddenly, a light from heaven flashes around him, and he falls to the ground.
As he falls to the ground he hears a voice speaking to him.
It’s the voice of Jesus who cried out asking him why he is being persecuted.
As you can imagine he is somewhat confused, and so he cries out - “Who are you, Lord?”
The answer he simply, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting, now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do”.
There’s a curious little thing that happens now.
Spiritually, Paul had been blind to the truth about Jesus, but now he can spiritually see. But at the same time, his physical ability to see, which had never been a problem, is temporarily taken from him, and for three days he is blind.

The realisation it is true

You see, with this one incident, everything changes for Paul for one simple reason - he knows it to be true.
The story continues showing how Paul was then led to a man who helped him to see, but I just want to dwell on this initial occurence that Paul had with Jesus on the road.
You see, for many people, we can have spiritual blinkers on. It’s not until those blinkers are taken off that we realise that the truth was staring us in the face the whole time.
Though for Paul it was a very dramatic experience involving bright lights and Jesus himself, but for most of us, it is far less dramatic, but no less real.

My own experience

My own experience bears testimony to this. You see, I grew up in a Christian family. From an early age I believed that Jesus died and rose again so that I may have new life.
Yet I still remember a time in my early years of university when I started reading the bible with Fiona, and it suddenly hit me. Everything started falling into place and I realised that it was all true.
I wouldn’t necessarily call it my conversion - certainly I would have counted myself a believer before this time, but it was a culmination of everything, it was as if God took those blinkers off my eyes so I could see.
The precise nature of our experience is going to vary from one person to the next.
But one thing that I would say occurs in every experience is the realisation that what we know about Jesus is true.
That’s not to say there will never be any doubt, but it is to say that the overwhemling knowledge that Jesus did die and rise again for us will far outweigh those doubts. It’s a change of the heart.

What this means...

When such a change happens, it is not just a minor change in view, rather it completely affects how we see the world.
It affects how we relate to one another. It affects the way we acts and speak. It affects the way we approach the world in general.
And this is exactly what we are going to look at for the remainder of this series that will lead us up to Easter.
Next week we will look at how we understand equality because of what Jesus has done.

Conclusion

Jesus really is a game changer. He didn’t just give us a few neat little lessons that we can learn from, rather he changed the whole system.
The lesson from today is that what we know about Jesus is reliable, and we have lots of evidence to back this up.
But ultimately, we know it is true when our spiritual blinkers are taken off and we experience Jesus for ourselves.
If you’ve felt that you’ve never experienced what it is to know in your heart that Jesus really is there for you, then I would urge you to speak to me or another committed Christian that you trust.
I would love for the opportunity to pray for you so that you can experience the life changing knowledge that Jesus died and rose again for you.
Let’s pray...
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