The Never Ending StorySeries: Once Upon A Time. James Dewhurst December 15, 2019
Once Upon A Time
The Never Ending Story
Today, as we jump into week 3 of our Advent season, I want to share a message with you titled: The Never Ending Story!
Last week, I shared one of my favorite childhood stories, which was the Three Little Pigs. Today, I wanted to remind us all of one of the most popular stories in American literature, which was also one of my most favorite stories growing up. Does anyone remember Goldilocks and the Three Bears? It is the story of a young girl who went walking in the woods and came upon a house with no one home. She decided to go inside and try out 3 bowls of porridge until she found the one that’s temperature was “just right”. After eating she tried out three different sized chairs to rest in until she sat in the smallest one, which was “just right”. After it broke, she went upstairs and tried out all three of the homeowner’s beds, and found the smallest one to be “just right”. When the owners came home, who was a family of bears, Goldilocks was found upstairs sleeping in the little bear’s bed. Startled, Goldilocks ran quickly out of the house, into the woods.
While this fictional story teaches us a great moral on manners, it sadly comes to an end!
Did you know there is a story that not only never ends, but adds new chapters daily?
How do we know the story of Jesus is Real? To test the legitimacy of the biblical claims about Jesus, there are several factors to consider. The first is history. The most notable secular historians around the time of Christ were Flavius Josephus and Cornelius Tacitus. The Jewish historian Josephus records the unlawful death of James who was the brother of Jesus called the Christ. He also states that Jesus did surprising deeds and was condemned to death by Pilate. Tacitus, the Roman historian, records that Christ was put to death by Pontius Pilate, during the reign of Tiberius. These two historians, who had no religious bias in any of their writings, confirmed exactly what the Biblical writers said happened to Jesus. Historians place the birth of Jesus between 7 and 2 B.C., as a part of the peasant class in a small village called Nazareth. While there was a great controversy over who Jesus was, there was no debate about his existence!
Archeological findings are also a powerful tool in regarding the story of Jesus. While the existence of the town of Nazareth, where Jesus supposedly grew up, was debated by scholars for years, archeologists were able to unearth stone houses, tombs, a cistern and even evidence of Roman crucifixions. Not to mention the debated Shroud of Turin!
One more powerful resource regarding the story of Jesus is the documented 1st-century persecutions and martyrdom of Jesus’ followers. By the end of the first century A.D., the number of Christians in Jerusalem had been reduced to between 25,000-60,000 and were forced to scatter for survival. Foxes Book of Martyrs records that under the 14-year reign of the evil Roman emperor Nero, from 54-68 A.D., those who confessed to being Christians were brutally tortured. They were used for sport and torn apart by wild dogs, nailed to crosses, and at night lit on fire to serve as evening lights in Rome. I cannot imagine thousands of Christians choosing to endure persecution for a made-up man!
What is unbelievable, is that the persecution of Christians continued for the next 250 years in Rome, and instead of the message of Jesus dying off, it spread like wildfire!
A Christian leader once said – “Martyrdom is not the end, it’s only the beginning.”
Christian author Tertullian – “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the church.”
21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (ESV)
Although history, archeology and persecution or death are powerful proofs of the existence of Christ, the most powerful of all is the willingness of people to live for him!
How did the early church survive? For hundreds of years, Christianity was an illegal religion in Rome. In an empire of 3 million people, where any commitment to Christianity was a death sentence, the story of Jesus exploded. How? Without church buildings, social media or any kind of marketing, Christians met underground in urban homes, and one by one, shared the gospel of Jesus with their neighbors. But it wasn’t just the story, it was their lives that made the difference. The early Christians changed!
Justin Martyr, a noted early Christian theologian, wrote describing believers: “We formerly rejoiced in uncleanness of life, but now love the only chastity; before we used the magic arts, but now dedicate ourselves to the true and unbegotten God; before we loved money and possessions more than anything, but now we share what we have and to everyone who is in need; before we hated one another and killed one another and would not eat with those of another race, but now since the manifestation of Christ, we have come to a common life and pray for our enemies and try to win over those who hate us without just cause.”
*Witnessing doesn’t work until our lives preach a louder message than our lips!*
The early Christians were a walking, breathing advertisement of the power of Jesus, in a dark and oppressive world.
2 Corinthians 5:17
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (ESV)
17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. (ESV)
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (ESV)
There is no better marketing campaign on planet earth than a changed life!
The story of Jesus is the greatest ever told because it keeps changing lives!
In 1910, there were an estimated 600 million Christians around the world. Today, a little over 100 years later, that number has almost quadrupled, with 2.3 billion Christians!!!
Who would have ever thought a baby born in a manger would gain 2.3 billion followers?
The greatest evidence for the existence of Christ is YOU!
When people have truly been touched by the power of Jesus, two things happen:
1.They are Free!
Luke 4:18 to “Set the captives free”
We learn three truths about the existence of freedom in our lives from Scripture:
> True freedom comes only from Jesus!
Jesus declared in John 8:36 “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
> Freedom is an event and a process!
John 8:31-32 (NIV) “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
2 Corinthians 3:17 “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
If we allow God’s Spirit to work in us, he will reveal areas of bondage to free us!
We can’t ignore the Word or the Spirit of God and expect to live in the freedom of God!
> Freedom has to be guarded!
Although America declared freedom by signing the Declaration of Independence, in 1776, that freedom has had to be defended every single day since it was signed!
Galatians 5:1 “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
2. They are Bold!
One day people brought a man to Jesus in Mark 7 who was deaf and mute! After Jesus spit on his hands and touched the man, he was instantly healed. Although Jesus tried to keep his publicity low and asked him not to go talk about, that man wouldn’t shut up!
Romans 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.”
The reason the story of Jesus has no ending is that changed people keep talking!