After a break we have the first talk from John Lennox – mathematics professor, super apologist and person voted ‘person most desired as grandfather’. His talks are on ‘The Church in the 21st Century’. The first part contained a big challenge to stay faithful to the Word of God in believing it to be the God-inspired message of salvation.
‘A flame that spreads – the word and the spirit’
Problem: the undermining of faith and confidence in the message, so people are tempted to give up.
Acts is a story of the beginning of what Luke describes as what Jesus continues to do and teach through his spirit.
We see a pattern in the 6 sections of the book.
Luke defines Christianity in the context of opposition.
As Christianity goes out into the Gentile world it faces opposition as it confronts pagan religion, politics, and Christianity insists it’s different from all of it.
However, Christianity gets accused of causing violence and turning the world upside down.
Our world today is not so different from the 1st century Roman Empire.
Rome had a legal system that was not so favourable to Christanity. It got accused of lots of things. The Roman world was very libertarian and Christian ethics clashed with it. That raised many questions then, as it does now.
So why did the apostles insist on saying things that they new would raise criticism? Why do they insist that there is no other name? Only one way? Why couldn’t they just leave people alone? What were the issues that they stood for? Why were they so important?
The simple fact of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
We need the same courage and the same resource.
The message hasn’t changed, nor the world.
The word of God was the catalyst
The word of God continued to spread; the number of the disciples increased greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith. Acts 6:7
You will not get the church going without the word growing.
Today we are claiming that God has spoken.
But we are tempted to ask, ‘has he really?’
This is where the attack against us is at its worst. If this is shaken, then everything is undermined.
Doubt is sown. The issue at stake in all of our hearts is a matter of certainty. Faith is a dynamic thing. As you look back over your life does certainty increase? Has the word grown?
Luke writes to give evidence on which his faith can rest. The atheist cries ‘where is you evidence?’ We need to get evidence out into society. The world needs to hear that there is evidence.
Richard Dawkins says, ‘The only difference between the Da Vinci and the gospels is that one is ancient, and one is modern.’
But that’s not true! There is evidence! So people need to know about it because people are following Dawkins and Hitchens!
Now Lennox turns to the resurrection account in Acts 1.
Vs. 3 – he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs
The birth of Christianity is an enigma for any historian who doesn’t take seriously Christianity’s own testimony – the resurrection. Either it is the supreme fact of history or a hoax. If it isn’t true then the whole of Christianity is a fraud. Dawkins said in a debate with Lennox about the resurrection, ‘how petty’.
Well it’s only petty if not true.
As Christians we believe it to not only be true, but to be the most significant event in the history of the world. But do we still believe it? Or has our belief been undermined?
Notice what Jesus did. He presented himself alive. That’s not the same as discussing the resurrection. Their experience of Jesus’ teaching over 40 days was an experience of the one standing among them who is the resurrection and the life.
As pastors we get under pressure. The very thing that ought to be a priority, reading the Bible, becomes a bundle of notes for sermons preached, talks given.
But we can’t just study Scripture to do our job, we must study scripture to get to know God. Soak your mind in the word of god until you hear the voice of God.
If God doesn’t speak to authenticate himself what else is going to do it?
Paul constantly reasoned for the gospel but in the end if God doesn’t authenticate himself through his word there’s a problem.
As a young man, Lennox had a problem with the inspiration of scripture.
It wasn’t that he didn’t believe it, but that he did.
Technical belief in inspiration is a precarious situation for life.
We must not let the enemies on the inside or the outside shut us up.
We will not get the church growing without the Word growing.