July 2, 2012

First Lessons

A radio preacher said that new Christians often have amazing encounters with God and surprising answers to prayer. He said this happens because God is teaching them. After they learn the lesson by sight, then they are better able to walk by faith. In other words, as we become more mature in our faith, we have less visible demonstrations of God and more opportunities to trust Him without them. 
This is a biblical reality. God knows how to build and sustain our faith. He first did this right after Jesus rose from the dead.
He(Jesus) presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. (Acts 1:3)
The disciples needed assurance that He was alive. The Bible says Thomas expressed that he had to see Jesus for himself. The others needed to see Him also, even though there is no record of them saying it. How else could they be certain they were not imagining things because of emotional and wishful thinking, as they later were accused? 

Jesus accommodated them. He not only appeared to them and other believers, He stayed with them for forty days. A day or two with someone who should be in a tomb might be the fantasy of a grief-stricken person, but forty days? That was enough to put all fears and doubts out of their hearts. This is a prime example of what the preacher said. God was teaching them the fundamental reality of Christian faith; Jesus rose from the dead.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. (1 Corinthians 15:3–8)
Paul included the resurrection in the above passage that describes what was of “first” importance. He also included the fact of Jesus’ appearance to him and to more than five hundred others. From that first “lesson” those who saw Him never doubted the reality of Jesus being alive.

However, as early as A.D. 55, some were questioning that Jesus rose from the dead. No doubt these were people who had not seen Jesus for themselves. Paul had to tell them that unless they believed what the others saw and proclaimed, then their “faith” was useless, with or without a “lesson” to verify it.
Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:12–19)
In my Christian life, the first lessons included a profound revelation of Jesus and who He is. After that, God showed me that He would use all things that happened in my life to shape me into the image of His Son. Other Christians might have different first lessons, but for me, those two (and a few others) have made a lasting and deep impression on my faith.  

Lord, I’m always amazed at Your wisdom. You know what Your people need to see and hear so that we can walk through life trusting You, no matter what happens to us. The early disciples often were challenged on the reality of Your resurrection. I often have been challenged on my belief in Your identity and regarding the purpose of many events in my life. Those first lessons have kept me certain of what I believe about You and about Your goals for me. Thank You!

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