And Their Eyes Were Opened: A Life-Changing Encounter with the Risen Christ

If you are an unbelieving skeptic about the resurrection, you’re not alone.  So were the first followers of Jesus,

But these words [the report of the empty tomb] seemed as an idle tale, and they did not believe them (Luke 24:11).

Theirs was a raw but open faith.  When they encountered and communed with the risen Christ, their eyes were opened,

When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. [31] And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him . . . (Luke 24:30-31)

I pray that many professing Christians’ faith would be strengthened on Resurrection Sunday.

Maybe you are on the opposite end of the spectrum.  Arms crossed, as it were, when it comes to embracing the Christian faith as your own.  Naturalism has gripped your sensibilities and so you reject a system of faith that centers on supernatural events like the resurrection of Jesus.  It is true that Christianity is a supernatural religion but it is false to believe that the natural world and this life is all there is.  My prayer for you is that God would take your unbelief and skepticism and grant you belief and conviction in the resurrected Christ by means of repentance and faith,

testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21)

If Jesus is not your Savior, He will be your Judge in the life to come.  The resurrection is proof of this, as the Apostle Paul told the Greeks in the Athens,

The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, [31] because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead (Acts 17:30-31)

Receive the gift of forgiveness of sins and eternal life that Jesus offers–now–while you have breath.  As Jesus Himself said,

to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me (Acts 26:18)

and

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. [17] For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. [18] Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (John 3:16-18)

God receives all who come to Him, even if they come seeking the living among the dead,

It is, therefore, an astonishing display of the goodness of Christ, that he kindly, and generously presents himself alive to the women, who did no wrong in seeking him among the dead.  Now if he did not permit them to come in vain to his grave, we may conclude with certainty, that those who now aspire to him by faith will not be disappointed . . . (John Calvin, Commentaries, 17:340).

John Calvin’s comment on the resurrection narrative is nothing more than an echo of what Jesus said in the Gospel of John,

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out (John 6:37)

I pray that you will enter into a personal relationship with Christ.  Belief in the resurrection of Jesus is essential to conversion,

. . . if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9)

Once you have received Christ as your Savior, then you can join the joyful and victorious chorus of millions of Christian voices, who exclaim on Resurrection/Easter Sunday,

The Lord has risen indeed . . . (Luke 24:34)!

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Evolution = Hopelessness to the Sufferer

On suffering and the “why” question, the 6.9 out of 7.0 agnostic Richard Dawkins essentially says don’t bother asking.  In his final chapter of The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution, Dawkins expands on each line in Darwin’s last paragraph of On the Origin of Species.  As Dawkins develops the line “From the war of nature, from famine and death,” he argues that nature has a “serene indifference” to suffering.

Yes there is grandeur in the view of this life, and even a kind of grandeur in nature’s serene indifference to the suffering that inexorably follows in the wake of its guiding principle, survival of the fittest (Richard Dawkins, The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution [New York: Free Press, 2009], 401).

This is the best evolution has to offer to the suffering human race; this is best bedside comfort Darwinism offers a dying person.  Give him credit for consistency.  Nevertheless, indifference to suffering is part of the DNA of natural selection.   What an arid, inhumane worldview.

Contrast this to the Christian worldview in which there is a Creator, who is neither detached nor indifferent to human suffering.  In fact, He entered into it by sending His son, Jesus Christ to live and die among us.  His Son suffered on the cross and rose again on the third day so that suffering brought on by sin would one day be entirely eradicated.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. [4] He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:3-4).

Ideas have consequences, don’t they?  One may argue that on its face evolution is scientifically sophisticated (though this premise is not at all firmly or finally established).  Even if it were, it is absolutely useless for offering hope to a suffering human race.

The Gospel in Song

I plan to begin a “So Great a Salvation” (Hebrews 2:3) sermon series on Sunday, May 8, Lord willing.  I will preach five sermons from five great salvation texts in the Bible: Matthew 1:21; John 3:16; Acts 16:30-31; Romans 10:9-10; Ephesians 2:8-9.  I am so excited to proclaim the gospel from these texts!

I love gospel-centered hymns and songs, both old and new.  Charles Wesley’s “Arise, My Soul Arise” and “And Can It Be That I Should Gain?” rank among my favorites.  There are some new ones that I appreciate too.  For instance, “His Robes for Mine” is one that I really enjoy.  The text contains rich theology.  The tune has a pleasant, thankful, and majestic mood.  Here’s the text:

His robes for mine: O wonderful exchange!
Clothed in my sin, Christ suffered ‘neath God’s rage.
Draped in His righteousness, I’m justified.
In Christ I live, for in my place He died.

Chorus:
I cling to Christ, and marvel at the cost:
Jesus forsaken, God estranged from God.
Bought by such love, my life is not my own.
My praise-my all-shall be for Christ alone.

His robes for mine: what cause have I for dread?
God’s daunting Law Christ mastered in my stead.
Faultless I stand with righteous works not mine,
Saved by my Lord’s vicarious death and life.

His robes for mine: God’s justice is appeased.
Jesus is crushed, and thus the Father’s pleased.
Christ drank God’s wrath on sin, then cried “‘Tis done!”
Sin’s wage is paid; propitiation won.

His robes for mine: such anguish none can know.
Christ, God’s beloved, condemned as though His foe.
He, as though I, accursed and left alone;
I, as though He, embraced and welcomed home!

Another modern song that expresses the gospel in its simplicity is “The Gospel Song” put out by Sovereign Grace Music, originally written for teaching the gospel simply but accurately to a child, which you’ll catch in the tune.  Here’s the uncomplicated but marvelous gospel text:

Holy God, in love, became
Perfect man to bear my blame
On the cross he took my sin
By his death I live again

I hope your meditations on the glorious evangel will be sweet and motivating as you seek to “proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” by the gospel (1 Peter 2:9).  May it never cease to be “of first importance” in our lives, in our preaching, and in our churches (1 Corinthians 15:3).

The Wrong Name

 
The recent hanging of Saddam Hussein as a news story has seen its zenith come and go. As predicted there has been outrage and eulogizing from Saddam loyalists to smiles and elation from those who despised and experienced the brutality which characterized his dictatorship. One sentiment that is scarcely seen is sadness. You just don’t find many pictures of bitter weeping and mourning his death, though there are a few. To put it bluntly, many people hated him. There is one account throughout the whole event that caught my interest. It has been reported that just before the floor dropped out of the gallows he was reciting the “‘Shahada,’ a Muslim prayer that says there is no god but God and Muhammad is his messenger, according to an unabridged copy of the same tape, apparently shot with a camera phone and posted on a Web site. Saddam made it to midway through his second recitation of the verse. His last word was Muhammad” (“Saddam Hussein’s Brutal Reign Ends in the Gallows“).  He died with the wrong name on his lips as he entered eternity. He now knows salvation is not in Allah and Muhammad but in the true and only God, Yahweh, and His Son Jesus Christ.I felt in my heart an odd sort of compassion for the former dictator of Iraq. A compassion that he did not know the One before whom he would stand in judgment in a few breaths. This was a very pointed reminder that anyone who dies without Christ will spend an eternity in hell, whether they were a vile dictator or a morally upright person. Though many people hated him, God loved him enough to send His Son to die for his sins – and yours, and mine (John 3:16). It was a grim yet necessary reminder that we need to view our neighbors, our friends, perhaps our family, the cashier in the grocery store, the waitress at a restaurant, the co-worker who sits next to us, the vendors with whom we do business as sinners who are perishing unless they appropriate the person and work of Christ by faith for their sins. This is the good news of the gospel. Those who do not hear or receive it will also die with the wrong name on their lips.

We take heart in the gospel for it remains “the power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16). However, how does the gospel go forth? God has chosen us to be His mouthpiece (Romans 10:14). The word of God will go forth and accomplish its purpose in each heart as God chooses. Augustine said “The locked up heart cannot keep you out. No matter how hard and stiff a man’s heart may be, it cannot resist the touch of your hand. You unlock it whenever you wish, whether for mercy or for justice” (Augustine, Confessions, 5:1). What greater confidence can we have in the gospel than the fact that God goes before it? Duty is ours to share the gospel (2 Corinthians 5:20), conversion belongs to God by justifying the sinner (Romans 3:26).

Why then has the evangelical church become so determined to add garnish to the gospel (as if it needs it)? How about living a life that becomes the gospel (Philippians 1:27) so that the power of the gospel is evident in our lives. The witness of a life truly changed by the gospel is far more powerful than a power team who throws, lifts, jerks, and squats thousands of pounds to “wow” people into listening to the gospel. The Thessalonians admonish us that the responsibility to spread the gospel rests upon all Christians not just the “professionals” (1 Thessalonians 1:7-8). Let us be reminded the simplicity of the gospel trumps Madison Avenue-the pure, simple, beautiful, powerful gospel can change lives in the 21st century just as it did in the 1st century. Acts 4:12 “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”