Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Bethany Bullet - April 29, 2014

A Five Tool Christian – Open Heart

In baseball a “five-tool” player is one who has an arm like a cannon, can run like a deer, has a glove that gets everything, and can hit for both power and average.  Opening Day of the baseball season comes with hopes of a line-up filled with “five-tool” players. 

Easter is our Opening Day! 
V  Because the tomb was open so are the arms of God. 
V  Because the tomb was open so is the gate of heaven. 
V  Because the tomb was open so is a life of faith.

The life of faith both rests in and flows from an Open Heart. 

Thomas was familiar with the Easter message.  He had heard it over and over again.  For a whole week he had been bombarded with the Gospel message – familiarity ONLY bread contempt!  We don’t know when the Easter tradition began of responding to the words, “Christ is Risen!” with the words, “Christ is Risen, Indeed!”  I wonder if it was that first week.  Every time Thomas stood to stretch did someone say, “Christ is Risen!” Only to have another disciple respond in a loud voice, “He is Risen, Indeed!” 

As the candles were extinguished and sleep began to take hold of them one would whisper, “Christ is Risen!” and the rest before they slept would whisper in return, “He is Risen, Indeed!”  I don’t know, (but of this I am certain) for an entire week Thomas, who knew everything there was to know about Jesus throughout His entire ministry, heard clearly the Easter message about the resurrection.

One profound truth this obvious reality teaches us is that faith is NOT information (knowledge) about the Lord and what He has done.  Thomas had all the information in the world.  He had been with the Lord throughout His ministry.  He knew the exact moment Jesus was arrested and he was standing in the garden with Him when it happened.  He not only knew the location of the grave, he also wept with all who wept as they returned from the tomb in which their dead Master was hurriedly buried.  Now after 7 days of this, Thomas had become intimately familiar with their assertion of the resurrection! 

Faith is not knowledge about Jesus; nor does faith believe that the information one possesses is accurate. 

What Thomas doesn’t say upon hearing the disciples words are as important as what he does say!  Notice Thomas does not counter, “Do you hear yourselves?  This is lunacy!  Sure He survived a storm on the sea and escaped the crowd on several occasions – but no one survives a Roman crucifixion squad!  This is impossible.  IT DIDN’T HAPPEN; YOU’RE WRONG! HE ISN’T LIVING.  HE IS AND EVER SHALL BE …DEAD!” 

Why is it that Thomas doesn’t question the historical possibility of a resurrection?  

I believe it is because Thomas had witnessed a pair of resurrections previously! Most likely he was aware of a third as well.  The daughter of Jairus had her life given back to her.  Thomas was not in the room when it took place, whether or not Peter, James or John told the others were unaware…but how do you keep that kind of news to yourself?  Even if they did, even if Thomas didn’t know about it until he read about it in a fellow disciples Gospel,  He was with the Lord when Jesus stopped a funeral procession, opened up the casket and gave back to a widow her only son who had died.  Thomas was also a central figure in the Lazarus event.  He knew Lazarus had died, he knew that Jesus’ life was in danger, and he is the one who said, “Let us go with him that we may die with him.”  Then contrary to every law of nature, instead of a few more being buried and interred with Lazarus, the dead brother of Mary and Martha escapes death and exited the tomb, he (Lazarus that is) was Risen!  INDEED Thomas knew that to be true!  A historical factual resurrection was a historical factual possible reality when Jesus was around. 

Thomas doesn’t say you’re crazy, lying or deluded.  Because Jesus has done this before!  Resurrections and Jesus go together like – baseball and hot dogs!  Rather Thomas says, I WON’T BELIEVE.  Though I have knowledge, though I have evidence that historically these things can happen, and perhaps the evidence is even overwhelming that this one did happen, still I won’t believe it unless I see, unless I touch, unless…

Faith is not knowledge, it is not even assent that the knowledge possessed is actually true, faith is a personal conviction that what God has done, He has done for you.  I believe Thomas didn’t yet hold the conviction that it was for him.  The doubt wasn’t the knowledge about Jesus, nor the agreement about what God can do, Thomas knew that, what he lacked was a personal conviction that causes one to cry about Jesus, My Lord and My God!  Of course, today we recognize and celebrate that that is how Thomas’ recorded discipleship ended.  He didn’t say, “By golly you were right boys.”  Thomas final words were not, “Oh it is true!”  His story doesn’t end with an “Amen to what they said and what we all know will teach.”  No, Thomas’ story ends with a personal testimony, about a personal conviction that caused Him to cry in Jesus’ presence, “My Lord and My God!” 

Holy week, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday happened because God so loved the world, but faith, faith, is a conviction that HE LOVES ME! 
V  That His blood was shed on account of my sin! 
V  That His holy life was lived because my living has so often been unholy;
V  That His grace and forgiveness are for me because I need it as much as any doubter ever has!
V  Faith is a personal conviction that because HE rose I will rise and that because He lives I WILL LIVE in and through and for Him!

It is from an Open Heart, a heart opened by the Spirit that clings with confidence to the promises of God in Christ that each was met for all collectively but also for me personally; that the rest of the tools flow and we get in the game.

-Pastor Kevin Kritzer


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