October 2018   
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Preschool, Children, The Mission (Youth Worship) and Adult Bible Study, Weekly Worker's and Officers Meeting
Bible Search
Ancient Answers
The Resurrection and the Skeptics
Acts 4:8-12, 1 Peter 2:4-5
Easter is just around the corner and once again we are faced with the secularization of the most sacred of days for Christianity.  And the responses to the day are quite astounding.  Some people don’t care, others don’t believe and I’m convince quite a lot don’t know what to believe.
As we saw last week through the words of an ancient ruler named Festus who heard Paul talk about Jesus, there are many at a loss when it comes to trying to make sense of those who claim a dead man is alive.  They don’t know where to begin. 
As a result, there have always been skeptics among us.  Some don’t know what to believe while others simply don’t want to believe.  They certainly don’t want to believe in God.  But if nothing else, Easter is a reminder that God plays by his own rules. He certainly doesn’t always do what we expect.  In fact, sometimes, maybe even most of the time He does what we least expect.
I would say raising the dead falls into that category. You can live a long time and never see that happen. I daresay that no one here has ever seen anyone rise from the dead. I know I haven’t. And if I did see it happen I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t hang around to see how everything worked out!  It’s a whole lot spooky and strange to talk about people coming back from the dead. 
So it’s not hard to understand why there are some skeptics among us.  Take it at face value, and it’s hard to imagine someone coming back from the dead, let alone celebrate that fact and gather week by week to worship the One Who did.  It’s a whole lot more sane to hunt Easter eggs and play with bunny rabbits. 
And you can imagine how it was received when the disciples hit the streets and began to proclaim the message that Jesus was alive.  But that’s exactly what they did.  And no doubt, they encountered their fair share of skeptics. 
This morning I want to zero in on one such encounter found in the book of Acts.  A few weeks after Easter, Peter and John were on their way to the temple.  Now I think it bears mentioning that after the women who first discovered the tome was empty, Peter and John were the first ones to investigate. 
And now, here they are convinced that Jesus is alive.  They have seen Him; they’ve talked with Him; they’ve listened as He spoke. They’ve shared breakfast with Him and they’ve watched Him as He ascends back to heaven. 
They are now fully convinced of the resurrection and that is the theme of their mission and ministry. 
We discover in Acts 3 that as they are traveling to the temple, they met a crippled man who asked them for money. Peter replied with these famous words: “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk” (Acts 3:6).
The Bible tells us the man stood up, completely healed, and began walking and leaping and praising God.
Obviously that drew a crowd and when the crowd gathered, Peter took the opportunity to preach the gospel to them.
When the rulers of the Jews heard about all this, they had Peter and John arrested and held overnight.  And I want you to notice what in particular upset them
Acts 4:1-2
This most likely is a reference to the Sadducees of the day, a particular group of Jews who didn’t believe in the resurrection of the dead.  But I think more than that they are disturbed because it is the resurrection of Jesus that is being preached. 
This guy just doesn’t seem to go away!  They had no use for Jesus when He was alive.  They opposed Him at every turn.  They even went so far as to have Him killed and He’s still causing trouble for them!  And they sure didn’t want any of His followers running around talking about His resurrection. 
So the next day Peter and John were brought before the Sanhedrin—the Supreme Court of ancient Israel. This group of 70 men had—under Rome’s ultimate authority—the power to enforce Jewish law, to try cases, and to settle disputes. Acts 4:7 tells us that the Sanhedrin asked these two apostles a very leading question: “By what power or what name did you do this?” What a question, and what a moment for the Christian movement!
So what will Peter do? He has three choices: 1) He can apologize for making trouble. There’s no way he’s going to do that. 2) He can say nothing and hope for the best. Peter never “said nothing” in his whole life. 3) He can seize the moment to preach the gospel—which is exactly what he does.
He certainly wasn’t going to back down. After all, he’s got the entire leadership of Israel right in front of him. If the early church had hired a PR firm, they couldn’t have rounded up a crowd like that. Money couldn’t buy this kind of audience. It was like having the President, Cabinet, Congress, and the Supreme Court sitting at your feet waiting for you to talk.
To these men who think he’s a dangerous troublemaker, Peter stands up and preaches Jesus. No compromise. No hesitation. No apologies of any kind. What he says doesn’t last very long—only five verses in Acts 4. But these five verses contain amazing truth.
Listen to what he says:
Acts 4:8-12
Now in this paragraph, we find exactly what skeptics need to hear.  It doesn’t matter if they are first century Jewish skeptics who were leaders in Judaism or 21st century skeptics living in a post-Christian America., here we find what they need to hear because here we learn exactly who Jesus is.
First, we learn that he is …
1. The Rejected Stone
First, Peter answers their question in verse 10. They wanted to know by what authority or in whose name this healing was done. 
Peter says, “Jesus”.  And Peter could have stopped right there.  Who did this? Jesus did. End of discussion.  But Peter doesn’t stop there.  Somehow we didn’t expect He would, right? 
Knowing he might never have a chance like this agin, he continues his answer in
verse 10b-11
In these two verses Peter says four things to the Jewish leaders:
1. You crucified Jesus (literally true).
2. God raised him from the dead (also true).
3. His power healed this lame man (also true).
4. You rejected God’s stone of salvation (also true).
Verse 11 is actually a quotation from Psalm 118:22, which speaks of a rejected stone becoming the cornerstone. Jesus himself used this same Scripture when he gave the Parable of the Landowner just a few days before his crucifixion in Matthew 21:33-44.
The image comes from the ancient quarries where highly-trained stonemasons carefully chose the stones used in construction.
No stone was more important than the cornerstone because the integrity of the whole structure depended on the cornerstone containing exactly the right lines. If the cornerstone was not exactly right, the entire building would be out of line.
For that reason, builders inspected many stones, rejecting each one until they found the one they wanted. Rejected stones might be used in other parts of the building, but they would never become the cornerstone.  
Peter is saying that Jesus is the rejected stone whom God made to be the cornerstone of salvation. The Jewish leaders rejected him, but God not only accepted him but put him in the position of highest honor.
Here is the shock of it all: These men who should have known better didn’t recognize him for who he was. They made an appalling mistake that became an eternal catastrophe. To reject Jesus means that you have rejected God’s cornerstone. Since the cornerstone is the foundation, anything you build upon a wrong foundation will itself also be wrong.
Let me be clear about this. It is not enough to say that Jesus was a good man or a fine teacher or an excellent religious leader but not the Son of God. If he isn’t who he said he was, then nothing he said can be trusted.
Two thousand years ago the “builders” rejected Jesus. It still happens today.
Some of you may recognize the name Robert W. Funk. Mr. Funk was born in Evansville, Ind., on July 18, 1926, and earned his bachelor's of divinity and master's degrees at Butler University and its affiliated Christian Theological Seminary and his Ph.D. at Vanderbilt University. He was a Guggenheim Fellow and a Senior Fulbright Scholar.
He taught at Texas Christian University, Harvard Divinity School, Emory, Drew University and Vanderbilt before settling at the University of Montana in 1969.
He gained most of his notoriety a few years back when he founded the Jesus Seminar which was a group of about 200 “Bible scholars” who met twice a year to discuss what they called "the search for the historical Jesus."
Funk invented a system in which the scholars voted on the reliability of biblical passages using different colored beads: red for accurate beyond a doubt, pink for probable, gray for possible but unreliable and black for improbable.
When the counts were tallied, there were gray or black beads for 82 percent of Jesus' biblical sayings, and 84 percent of his deeds. By a vote of 25-1 they also declared that Jesus did not literally and physically rise from the dead.
Of the resurrection, Funk said, “The likelihood is that the body of Jesus suffered the usual fate of a crucified victim. 
He was either left on the cross as carrion for scavengers … or at best, his crucifiers may have given him the hasty burial afforded criminals in an unknown, shallow, common grave.
A few comments are in order. Despite his great learning, Professor Funk is a fool. The children in our Sunday School know more than he does because they know that Jesus literally rose from the dead. I say we ought to flunk Funk!
He is a perfect illustration of what Peter said in Acts 4. The builders are still rejecting God’s Stone—2000 years later. There is a lesson here for all of us: Not everyone who claims to be a Christian really is.  By the way, Funk is now keenly aware of the truth regarding the resurrection since he died in 2005. 
Not only is Jesus the Rejected Stone, he is also …
2. The Living Stone
verse 10
So how could the name of Jesus heal the crippled man? It could happen only because Jesus rose from the dead and is alive. The simple truth is dead men don’t heal anybody.  But He is identified not only as a stone, but the stone is alive! 
I don’t think Peter ever forgot this moment when he stood in front of the rulers of Israel. It must have made a huge impression on him.  Listen to what he said many years later when he wrote the letter we call First Peter.
1 Peter 2:4-5
Here again we have these two images joined together.  Jesus is not just the Stone, He is the Living Stone and as such He is the Source of Life.  Not only is He a living stone, but He makes living stones of us.
Listen:  A dead Jesus can’t save anyone, but a living Christ can change your life.  In fact, He not just can, but He will. 
C.S. Lewis said, “Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
And it’s not just about the here and now. 
Hebrews 2:14-15 tells us that Christ came to free those who were enslaved to the devil through the fear of death. On Crucifixion Day it looked like the devil won, but on Sunday Jesus won the only battle that really mattered.
The resurrection tells us how it is all going to end for the child of God. Those of us who’ve read the end of the Book know the difference between a dead stone and a living stone. 
If you haven’t, you need to know we win.  And knowing the ending helps us deal with what comes in-between. You may have some difficulties to deal with and you will.  Not everything you face in life will be pleasant but we will overcome it if our faith is in the One who rose from the dead. That’s what it means to call Jesus the Living Stone. It gives us courage to face life and even to face our death.
Finally, Jesus the Rejected Stone became the Living Stone who is now …
3. The Cornerstone
Acts 4:11
The cornerstone was the first stone laid.  It’s placement determines the placement of every other stone.  Everything begins and ends with him! If you miss Jesus, you’ve missed everything God has for you.
In fact, that is exactly what Peter says in
Acts 4:12
Now I know we aren’t supposed to say things like that.  In this modern age of tolerance and diversity and political correctness, it is considered unacceptable to talk about, not just Christ, but anything in such restrictive terms. 
But I would suggest not saying what Peter said is exactly what got us in the mess we’re in to begin with. 
Underline two phrases in verse 12: First, Peter said, “Salvation is found in no one else.”  And then he adds, “There is no other name by which we may be saved.”
That’s extremely limited, very restrictive.  There is no one else and no other name other than Jesus that can provide salvation. 
That means you can’t cry out to anyone else and have any hope of salvation. Not Buddha. Not Confucius. Not Krishna. Not Mohammed. Not anyone else but Jesus.
It is “Jesus only and only Jesus.” He is the only Savior God has and only through faith in him can you escape hell. Now let’s bring that to a very sharp focus. 
That means you cannot reject Christ and have any hope of heaven.  You cannot look at any other religious leader for salvation.  You cannot combine Christ with anyone else or anything else.  You are not free to make up your own religion.  You cannot save yourself.  There is no other group or organization in the world outside of Christianity that has the truth. 
If you will come to God, you must come on His terms and His requirement is that approach must be made only through Jesus.  I cannot emphasize how intentionally exclusive and restrictive are these words.  They mean exactly what they say. There is no middle ground when it comes to Jesus.
Last week, I shared with you some of the testimony of the late Chuck Colson.  After his conversion, he began a ministry called Prison Fellowship.  We partner with them every December to provide Christmas gifts for the children of prisoners through Angel Tree. 
During his ministry one time, he visited India and was given the opportunity to preach to huge crowds made up primarily of Hindus, the predominant religion of India. He said he found the people fascinated by the story of his conversion and very responsive when he spoke about Jesus in general terms. But when he spoke of Christ’s resurrection, the mood changed.
He wrote, “When I was in India last fall I had many opportunities to tell what Christ has done in my life. The thousands of faces in those predominantly Hindu crowds would nod and smile as I shared my experience. Hindus believe all roads lead to God—if Jesus was my guru, that was fine. They all had their gurus, too.
But when I spoke of the reason for my faith, the resurrection of Christ, the nods would stop. People’s expressions changed and they listened intently. The fact of the Resurrection demands a choice, one that reduces all other religions to mere philosophies.”
That is exactly right.  As long as Jesus is dead, then he’s just another leader who lived and died and is revered by his followers. But if he really rose from the dead, then he stands alone and no one can be compared to him.
So here is the Easter message reduced to one sentence based on Acts 4: He was rejected, He rose from the dead, God made him the cornerstone of salvation and He is the only way to be saved.
You may say, “I don’t accept that.”  Then you will die and go to hell.  It’s just that simple.  You can doubt it or you can accept it, but there is no middle ground when it comes to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. 
He is either the rejected stone or He is the Cornerstone.  But either way He is the Living Stone of Eternity who awaits your decision today. 
Let’s pray.
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