Greg Sheridan widely-respected foreign editor for The Australian. has written an impassioned, informed and utterly compelling case for the truth and importance of Christianity in our lives. He presents a strong argument for the historical reliability of the New Testament, meets the living Jesus there, explores the extraordinary personality of Paul, celebrates Mary’s activism and examines the magnificent richness of John.
Filled with insights, intelligence, warmth and humour, Greg also introduces us to a range of fascinating Christians today, among them political leaders, and young activists offering the radical Christian interpretation of love to their generation. His book explores the journey of those who have been guided by faith, such as Gemma Sisia, whose school in Tanzania has transformed the lives of thousands of children, and the dynamic Chinese Christians pursuing their beliefs under harsh restrictions. He examines where Jesus can be found in popular culture and talks to Christian leaders – Pentecostal, Catholic, Evangelical and others – in Australia, the US and Britain.
At a time when the chasm of understanding between secularism and faith has never seemed wider, Christians is timely, relevant and convincing.
‘At the heart of the Christian story is the truth about the life of Jesus … Greg Sheridan’s book is a good read about Good News.’ Peter Comensoli, Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne
‘If there is ever going to be a Renaissance of Christian belief to save us from the dreariness of much secular humanism, it will come from a book like Christians. I will be buying it and giving it away to believers and sceptics alike.’
Watch this video: an unbeliever who knows and is impressed by Greg’s work as a journalist interviews the author. He now believes there is a valid case for God that needs to be explored.
These words are proof positive Jesus is the Son of God and the only person you can trust for truth about this world and your eternal destiny. He spoke these words shortly before He knowingly went to the The Cross.
“Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since You have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed...
For I have given them the words that you gave me, andthey have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me… I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
We all know that Jesus twelve disciples (fishermen and tax collectors) not the Pharisees and Sadducees went on to transform Rome and then the World with the Gospel (Good News) of Jesus Christ.
Whom will you put your trust in forthe truth of this world and eternal life?
Here we have a megachurch pastor realising that the church has largely failed in its mandate to produce disciples who can produce more disciples but he is yet to realise that the church model he continues to pursue is a major part of the problem. Nevertheless, his new book conveys important truths and the following edited transcript of Stockstill’s interview with The Christian Post where he identifies the differences between cultural Christianity and the biblical mandate to follow Christ is helpful to understand the state of the church. Another observation of Stockstill in this interview; in my opinion, he does not give sufficient recognition to the Holy Spirit and His role in every believers life.
Christian Post: What inspired you to write The Real Jesus?
Stockstill: Three things: 1) I have seen that we live in a cultural Christianity — whether seen in our Christmas and Easter holidays, or in the gospel choir on the Grammys. We are a product of Christianity. I wanted to put the person of Jesus Christ back in the center of what it means to be a Christian. 2) I had an encounter with God in October of 2007 that forever changed my life. I talk about it in the book. 3) Jesus said, “if you love me, you will obey my commands.” That verse pierced me to my core and sent me on a journey of discovering exactly what He taught. This book is all about the man, the model, and the message of Jesus Christ.
CP: Does Western society have different versions of who Jesus is?
Stockstill: Absolutely. … People commonly confuse their church attendance, spiritual habits, and good deeds as a sufficient substitute for their own faith in and relationship with Jesus. Yes, all of those things are great, but unless these actions are the result of an intimate relationship with our Savior, then it’s all for naught. Our faith in Christ should be so flourishing and fruitful that we can’t help but regularly do those things.
Sadly, the idea of Christianity has become a to-do list for many, while Jesus just desires to know each of us more intimately.
CP: How do you keep your ministry focused on the real Jesus despite the many different versions of Jesus that exist in this day and age?
Stockstill: Here at Bethany Church, our mission statement is: “Bringing all people into the life, family, and purpose of God.” If our ministry isn’t bringing someone into a personal relationship with Jesus, connecting them with other believers to do life with, or empowering them to live out the God-given purpose in their life, then we know that what we are doing isn’t of the real Jesus that we read about in Scripture.
CP: What can someone do to identify how they might be following the wrong gospel?
Stockstill: To be a Christian means to be a little Christ. The only way you can be a little Christ is if you study Him, follow Him, obey Him, and allow His Spirit to transform you into His image.
Simply put, if you have a religious tradition, but not the things I mentioned, you may be on the wrong track!
CP: Along with being a pastor, you’re also a worship leader. Does being a worshiper help your connection with God?
Stockstill: For sure! Whether I’m leading or not, there’s no doubt that entering into the presence of God through worship is powerful.
There are many instances in the Bible where praise preceded a breakthrough. No matter what it may sound like, declaring whose we are and who He is will always create an environment where God can work in our lives and reveal Himself to us.
A Jesus-centered mentality has changed how I lead worship. When I lead in worship, I focus all my attention on Jesus. His presence follows.
CP: What do you say to those who might not believe in real-life encounters with the son of God?
Stockstill: It’s human nature to doubt and play the “what if” game. However, Jesus Himself said, “Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.” When you pursue Jesus, and not just what He offers, you can’t help but encounter who He is.
For those with their own questions, I encourage you to seek out Jesus wholeheartedly for your answer(s) because you’ll soon experience for yourself everything that He is and wants you to become in Him.
CP: Why do you think people do not have a real, raw and relevant relationship with God? What are the roadblocks? How can we cultivate that?
Stockstill: Life happens, and it’s so easy to get wrapped up in the things of today. Intentionally creating time and space for any relationship is difficult. With a world full of distractions, it’s no wonder that people lack authentic relationships with others and God. You may be doing a bunch of good things but that doesn’t mean you’re doing what’s best. And it’s hard to know what’s best unless you’re in constant communication with who has given us His best. Being still and knowing that He is God is most definitely easier said than done.
We can’t hear His voice unless we’re close to Him and have removed ourselves from the things of this life. Until we are disciplined enough to create space for God, it’s crazy to think that we’ll know Him fully. Jesus was intentional about His relationships with others and even sought refuge in a garden to get clarity from His father, so shouldn’t we learn to do the same.
CP: What are the benefits of being a true disciple of Jesus and not just a fan?
Stockstill: Being a disciple of Christ means that we have everything through Him that God’s Word promises. As His sons and daughters, we will never be without because we are one with Him.
A fan of Jesus may temporarily experience these things, but being His means that it’s ours for eternity.
This one Scripture says it all: Jesus is God’s son, He is heir of all things, He is the creator of all things, He reveals the Father to us as Jesus is the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person. He upholds all things by the word of His power. He is the one who has purged our sins, salvation is only through Jesus. Jesus sits at the right hand of our Heavenly Father in heaven.
‘God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers, by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He hadby Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.’ Hebrews 1:1-3
What about Romans 8:14-17, it tells us what Jesus has accomplished for us: we have become children of God to whom we cry out ‘Abba, Father,’ and that as such we are now joint heirs with Christ. Joint heirs with exceedingly great and precious promises, through which we have become partakers of the divine nature and inheritors of the everlasting kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:1-11, 2 Peter 1:4).
This gem from Dr Paul Cedar of Love to Pray is appropriate here: “Prayer to our Heavenly Father should be our greatest joy, it is our highest privilege and our greatest venture.”
Acts 5.40-41, “when they (Sadducees) had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.”
After being beaten, Peter and the other apostles were rejoicing.
The same spirit in the Apostles is in us. So, we have the power to stay faithful and rejoice, if we acknowledge His presence and ask Him.
1 Peter 4.12-13 “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed.”
Our hope is in the knowledge that Christ has already won the victory over Satan and that He made it possible for our Heavenly Father to send the Holy Spirit to be all we need to be overcomers during the coming tribulation and trials. Also, we know that His glory will be revealed at His second coming and that Biblical prophecy reveals we are in the “last days” prior to the final seven years before Jesus’ return, spoken of first in Daniel’s 70 weeks prophecy.
A film which will hopefully give you a clearer vison of Jesus and will inspire you to love Him more dearly. If nothing else, I hope it drives you to want to know more about the book of Revelation which is ultimately the book of the Revelation of Jesus. It is the last book of the Bible and it needs to be the book we know best in these last days so we know Him and what to expect will happen on this earth before He appears.
You need to connect with Maranatha Ministries (download their app) to get great teaching on Biblical “end times” prophesied events. Make sure you work through the Maranatha series on Daniel. It will prepare you for the coming series on Revelation. I am confident that God has raised up both Dalton Thomas and Joel Richardson to prepare His church for His second coming. I met Joel at an “end times” convention in Texas and we have corresponded over a number of years now. Joel and Dalton have been working together for a number of years now and it has been interesting to see how God has expanded each of their ministries as they have been faithful with the tasks God has given them.
“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” John 11:21-27
Jesus made a promise to Martha that not only was there a resurrection, but that Jesus himself was the resurrection and the life, and that faith in him would result in eternal life. It’s why this same apostle John, would go on to write the greatest summary statement in all the Bible:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
Paul said, if there is no resurrection then we are to be pitied. “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” 1 Corinthians 15:19
“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.” 1 Corinthians 15:3-6
IT’S WHY WE HAVE HOPE
Paul is recording the central claim of Christianity: Jesus proved his divinity by dying on the cross and rising again, thereby validating everything he said about the resurrection. It’s why we have hope that we who believe in Jesus will see our brother again, that this is not the end. The key here is the list of witnesses: after his resurrection, Jesus appeared to Cephas (Peter), the twelve, then 500 at one time, many of whom were still alive fifteen to twenty years later. It’s like Paul is saying: fact-check me on this one. I know it’s an outrageous claim, but go and talk to the witnesses yourself.
If someone stood up today and started claiming: there were no attacks on 9/11, a plane never flew into the side of Pentagon, even though that was almost twenty years ago, there are thousands of witnesses here that were there and could contradict that. 1 Corinthians is written twenty years after the event of the resurrection, with witnesses still alive, who saw Jesus alive after his death and burial and resurrection. And because Jesus rose from the dead, everything changes!
Here’s what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians about how Jesus’ resurrection secures our own resurrection:
“So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.
When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.“ 1 Corinthians 15:42-44, 54-57
Second Temple-era synagogue unearthed in northern Israel
The recently discovered ruins of a first century synagogue in Israel confirm historic accounts of Jesus’ life found in the New Testament.
Located near Mount Tabor in the Nahal Tavor Nature Reserve in the lower Galilee at a site called Tel Rechesh, the synagogue ruins date back to the time of the Second Temple period, which ended in AD 79 when the Romans attacked Jerusalem.
Motti Aviam, a senior researcher at the Kinneret Institute for Galilean Archaeology at the Kinneret College on the Sea of Galilee, explained in a statement the significance of the Tel Rechesh excavation find.
“This is the first synagogue discovered in the rural part of the Galilee and it confirms historical information we have about the New Testament, which says that Jesus preached at synagogues in Galilean villages,” explained Aviam, as reported by JNS.
Haaretz noted that while there have been seven other synagogues from the Second Temple period discovered before, the one at Tel Rechesh is the first to be found in a rural instead of urban setting.
“Inscriptions and historical sources show that the synagogues of the period were used for meetings, Torah readings and study, rather than worship. They had neither Torah ark nor regular prayer services,” reported Haaretz.
“One source mentioning synagogues is the New Testament, which states that Jesus ‘went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues.'”
In an interview with YNet News, Aviam explained why the findings at the Tel Rechesh site “makes the place very important for Christians.”
“During the same period Jesus was still a Jew who observed Jewish rituals and requirements and like many rabbis, he delivered sermons in synagogues. Christianity which developed after his (sic) placed an emphasis on his sermons at synagogues in the Galilee.”
Aviam added that he hoped “that when the work is completed the place will constitute a tourist attraction for Jews and Christians alike.”
This is not the first major find in Israel this year connected to the times of Jesus. In March it was reported that several artefacts from the first century Near East were located in an orphanage in Jerusalem.
As Jesus Himself claimed the Bible is inerrant. It is God’s Word to us, it can be trusted from Genesis to Revelation.
“I pray to get to know the will of God, because then the prayers have more chance of coming true — I mean, that’s the thing about prayer,” Bono told interviewer Gay Byrne, RTE ONE Television. “We don’t do it in a very lofty way in our family. It’s just a bunch of us on the bed, usually, we’ve a very big bed in our house. We pray with all our kids, we read the Scriptures, we pray.”
Byrne presses Bono on his perception of Jesus — Was he divine? Did he truly rise from the dead? Bono answers in the affirmative.
“[Jesus] went around saying he was the Messiah. That’s why he was crucified. He was crucified because he said he was the Son of God. So, he either, in my view, was the Son of God or he was nuts. Forget rock-and-roll messianic complexes, I mean Charlie Manson-type delirium. And I find it hard to accept that whole millions and millions of lives, half the Earth, for 2,000 years have been touched, have felt their lives touched and inspired by some nutter. I just, I don’t believe it.”
When asked if he believed Jesus made promises that would come true, Bono replied, “Yes, I do.”
Married to Ali for thirty two years. They have four children with whom they share their strong faith in Jesus. A family that prays together stays together.
As well as thorns and thistles being a very real physical component of the cursed world that we all now live in, they carry further symbolic negative overtones throughout the Bible, firmly pointing back to the Curse in Genesis. Their symbolic meaning also creates problems for those who do not read Genesis as a true historical account, as the negative biblical overtones associated with thorns and thistles are integral to their historical origin at the time of the Curse. Without the connection to their historical origin, their symbolic meaning becomes empty and vague.
The numerous references to thorns and thistles throughout the Bible remind us of the historical Original Sin and Curse that followed. The negative biblical overtones associated with thorns and thistles after Genesis 3:18 are demonstrated in their representation as obstacles, punishment, or serving as a reminder of sin and its consequences. For example:
In Numbers 33:55, God warned the Israelites that if they did not drive out the inhabitants of the land of Canaan, allowing them to remain, the Canaanites would be an obstacle to them. They would be, “thorns in your sides”. Proverbs 15:19 again uses the imagery of thorns as obstacles, saying, “The way of the sluggard is like a hedge of thorns, but the path of the upright is a level highway.”
The New Testament also uses thorns and thistles in reference to the inner workings of the worldly heart, corrupted by sin. In the parable of the sower, Matthew 13:3-8 some seeds “fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them” (v. 7). Also, the outward expression of that worldly heart which apostatizes from Christ is likened to a barren wasteland, which, “if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned” (Hebrews 6:8).
The ultimate fulfilment of the symbolism that thorns and thistles have in the Bible is found in Matthew 27:29:
“And twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ ”
Here the governor’s soldiers placed a crown of thorns on Jesus’ head, to mock him as the King of the Jews. Oh, if only they had known both what they were doing and the symbolism that their actions entailed! Thorns were not present in the original very good world, but the Roman soldiers didn’t have any trouble finding thorns to place on Jesus head. Thorns that were a direct result of man’s original sin are now found in abundance in a world that is steeped in sin. What the soldiers unwittingly did was hugely significant. There is nothing random in the Bible; every word that has been written in its pages is significant. The crown of thorns vividly symbolised the curse of sin being placed on Jesus’s head. It immediately takes the reader back to Genesis, reminding us of why Jesus went to the cross, to take the penalty for sin on our behalf. He died as the perfect sacrifice for our sins, so that the Curse that God had pronounced upon this earth because of sin, can be removed for those that believe in him, and that ultimately creation itself can be redeemed. “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” Romans 8;20-21. Christ’s actions will blunt every sharply pointed thistle and thorn as well as the other effects of the curse. The Christian can shout, “O death, where is your sting?”