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Showing posts with label Resurrection. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Resurrection. Show all posts

Thursday, April 16, 2020

I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life

Introduction
The glorious Good News of Easter is that Jesus rose from the grave.  The evil powers of the world threw everything they had at Jesus.  The arrested him, tried him in the middle of the night before a kangaroo court, tortured him, and crucified him.  Judas betrayed him.  His disciples deserted him. Peter denied him.  They threw him in a tomb and thought it was over.  The darkness came.  It lasted all through Saturday and into the early hours of Sunday morning.  But then, then the Light of the World rose up out of the grave!  The shadows were shot through with Light.  Darkness can never over come the Light!  Jesus said, I AM the resurrection and the Life. And he proved it.  Lots of people talk a big talk, but Jesus is the only one who said the big words, "I am the resurrection and the life..." and then also backed those words up with action.

Christians are an Easter people.   Just as Jesus overcame the grave, Christians find hope and resurrection in all circumstances (with God’s help). Though this is not the way we would choose to celebrate Easter, we celebrate it anyway.  And it is a celebration!  Jesus is alive!  Christians are an Easter people and we always find a way to have hope, and life, and joy and peace when none of these things should be possible.  And it drives the Devil crazy!

For nearly 2,000 years, people have speculated about Jesus.  Who was he?  How did he have such a tremendous impact on our world?  How can the people who call themselves by His name be so determined and so able to rise up above the disasters of this life?  How can following this man--a man who was not educated or powerful or wealthy or of a high standing--lead people to find light in the darkest times?  Who is this man and how is he still relevant today?

And so people in our world, non-believers--have try to rationalize it or explain Jesus and the Christian movement away.  They have speculated this or that about Jesus.  However, if we really want to know about Jesus, perhaps we should listen to what he said about himself.  He told us exactly who he is and why he came and why it matters.  Using seven statements in the Gospel of John, Jesus said:

I AM the bread of life.  In other words, I am the only one who truly satisfies our soul.
I AM the light of the world, the one who overcomes darkness.
I AM the gate, the only way into God’s sheltering presence.
I AM the good shepherd, the one who knows everything about us and takes care of us and even lays              down his life for us.
I AM the true vine, the One who makes our life fruitful and sweet.
I AM the resurrection and the life, the one who rises from the grave and gives us eternal life.

Today, I want to share the last “I Am” statement Jesus made.  And this is a very important message to which you need to listen and take to heart.

John 14:6
Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me."

Living in a Pluralistic Society
First, I want to look at the last part of Jesus’ statement, because we must come to grips with this first.  It is very important.  Jesus said, “No one can come to the Father except thought me.”  That is a hard statement for many to accept. 

America is very diverse and that can be a very good thing.  I love food, all kinds of food, and I am grateful in America I can enjoy Mexican food, Italian food, Chinese food, Japanese food, and many other varieties as well.  (You can tell I love to eat!)  And it's not just food.  We have benefited greatly in our country from a variety of ideas, points of view, backgrounds and histories, and philosophies.  And since there is so much variety, we have learned to be a tolerant people who are gracious and allow people the freedom to think and act and even worship in a variety of ways.  This is all good and we should cherish it.
However, along with diversity there comes a danger.  There is the danger that we begin to think, in our quest for tolerance, that all ways are equal and that truth is relative.  In our quest to to get along with everyone, we may begin to believe that everyone is right about everything (for to say someone is wrong would be to offend them or to say some ideas are wrong would be "intolerant").  Is the truth relative?  Does every individual get to decide for themselves what is truly true?  Can my Truth be different from your truth?

In his classic distopian book 1984, George Orwell’s tackled this question when the lead character, Winston Smith, is arrested for thought crimes by the thought police.  The interrogate, O'Brien, tells Wintson Big Brother controls what is true.  Winston argues that 2+2=4.  This is true.  It cannot change.  O'Brien says disagrees.  He argues that if Big Brother says 2+2=5 and society gets enough people to believe it then that becomes the truth.  What do you think?  Does can the truth be changed?  Can 2+2 eve equal 5?

With some things there are is more than one way to skin a cat.  However, not with your soul, not with God, not with the purpose of life, and not with eternity.  Jesus is either the only way, the only truth, and the only life or he is not.  You must decide.  Regardless of whether you accept it or not, Jesus is still the way, the truth, and the life.  Your assent or disagreement to this truth does not change the truth of it in any way.  You do not determine the truth about Jesus.  He is the Great I Am.  He is who He is regardless of what you believe.

Jesus is The Way
You cannot be a Christian by default.  What I mean is, you are not a Christian merely because you were born into to a Christian family or live in a Christian community.  Nor is being a Christian simply adhering to a certain set of beliefs.  Following Jesus is a lifestyle. 

In the very beginning, Christians were not even called Christians.  The term “Christian” was not used until later.  At first, people who followed Jesus and believed he rose from the grave were called members of “The Way” because Jesus said, “I Am the Way…”

The Christian life is a life of action.  Jesus and His disciples lived the Kingdom of God.  Everywhere they went, the brought healing and hope and love.  This is what it means to be a Christian.  We live the way Jesus lived.  We love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and we love our neighbor as our selves.  We listen to guidance of God’s Holy Spirit and do and say as He leads.  Just as Jesus only did what the Father told him to do, so we seek only to follow God’s will for us as well.

And this is the way it is supposed to be.  It brings God’s perfect Kingdom to earth, more and more.  And as we live this way we find healing and hope and incredible fulfillment because it is the very purpose for which we were created.  There cannot be another way.  Jesus is the way.

Jesus is The Truth
Now it could be possible to do all the right things, but to do them for the wrong reasons.  There are many in our world today who have accepted that you are to be kind and loving and a good neighbor and a good citizen.  There are many who even volunteer or give generously to charity.  Some do all these things without believing in Jesus.  (Every person—whether Christian or not—should be eternally grateful that Jesus so fully ushered in the principle of “Love Thy Neighbor” that even those who are not Christian still accept this beautiful Christian principle as true.)

However, it is a dangerous thing to divorce the Way of Christian living from the Truth of Christian living.  For when you separate the Way from the Truth (the way you live from the reason why you live that way), your best virtues slowly erode away.  It is not long before you start asking, “Well, why should I care if COVID 19 kills some old person or someone with asthma or diabetes? I am young and healthy and the coronavirus won’t hurt me.  Why do I need to practice social distancing?”  Or you might think, “Why should I obey the law if I’m cunning enough to break the law and get away with it and not get caught, I will have an advantage over everyone else and I will get ahead.”  I mean, if there is no God and we are just animals and it’s just survival of the fittest, why should a person accept the foolish notions Jesus taught—things like “love your neighbor as yourself” and “the greatest love is shown when someone lays down their life for someone else”.  If you don’t accept that Jesus is the Truth, then why would you follow Jesus' way?  It might all start to look like just a bunch of foolish nonsense.

Jesus is the Truth!  His truths have been admired by people from all religions throughout all time.  These are not the words of a madman or liar.  They are the words of someone more divinely inspired than any  spiritual leader who ever lived.  Could it be, they are the words of the Son of God himself.  That is what Jesus claimed.  He said, "The Father and I are one." (John 10:30)

So if you accept that Jesus us the way, you must also search to know the Truth He taught and the Truth He still want to teach you today.  “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32), for it is a tremendously powerful force when you live the right way and you know why you are living that way.

Jesus is The Life
For those who follow the way of Jesus because of the Truth of Jesus, Jesus is also the life.   He is eternal life, for when these bodies we inhabit eventually wear out, we will be given a new body and live in a new heaven and a new earth God will create.  Just as Jesus rose from the grave, we will rise too!  It is an amazing and liberating understanding that there is more to life than just the few years we live in this world.  There is life after death!  And the promise of God is that all the wrongs and decay and suffering and sickness and sorrow of life in this broken world will be wiped away.  What a wonderful, glorious hope we have!

However, we are not just waiting to die so we can go to heaven and start real life. No. When Jesus is the way and the truth to us, he is also the life right now.  We begin the new life as soon as we start tof follow the way and truth of Christ.  And to the extend we surrender to His Truth and live out HIs Way, we begin to experience the abundant life He has planned, right now.  There is nothing more fulfilling in this life than living out the ways and truths of Jesus, for that is the purpose for which our Creator designed us.

Invitation
I want to invite you to claim Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life for you right now.  Would you allow me to pray for you?

Dear Father in Heaven, please help the person reading this today to claim Jesus as their Way, their Truth, and their Life right now.  Help them to surrender all that they are and all that they have to You right now.  Forgive them of their sins.  Save their soul.  Renew a right heart with in them--one that truly desires to follow You completely and obediently.  Help them to know how much You love them so they will love You completely and seek to love their neighbor.  For I ask these things in Jesus name. Amen.

Closing
Cling to the hope of the resurrection.  Even in darkness, even in social isolation, even with fears and anxiety looming around, even in sickness, even in the face of death itself, the glorious hope of Easter is that Jesus rose from the grave and we will rise with Him!

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

I AM the Resurrection and the Life


Introduction
I preached this message at the Easter Sunrise Service last Sunday.  It was early in the morning and the sun was just rising.  It is the first service of Easter.  It recalls the dawning realization for the first disciples that the crucified Jesus was no longer dead or in the grave. He is risen and alive.  Such news is so wonderful and extraordinary, it takes time to comprehend.

John 20:1-16
Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”
Peter and the other disciple started out for the tomb. They were both running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He stooped and looked in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he didn’t go in. Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings. Then the disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in, and he saw and believed— for until then they still hadn’t understood the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead. 10 Then they went home.
11 Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in. 12 She saw two white-robed angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. 13 “Dear woman, why are you crying?” the angels asked her.
“Because they have taken away my Lord,” she replied, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”
14 She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. 15 “Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?”
She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”
16 “Mary!” Jesus said.
She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”).

A Sunrise Moment
Just as the sunrise dawns new light on the day, Mary finally saw the light the moment the resurrected Jesus spoke her name.  It took a few moments.  No wonder.  No one expects to visit a grave to remember and honor the dead and then find they are not dead, but alive.  Mary is overwhelmed with grief and depression.  All she can think of is how they murdered her beloved Lord.  She assumes the someone has taken the body.  She doesn't notice the "men" she speaks to inside the tomb are angels.  She assumes the man she sees outside the tomb is the gardener; she doesn't realize it is Jesus.  That is, not until he speaks her name.  But in speaking her name, Jesus, the Light of the world, sheds light on the darkness that engulfs Mary.  She immediately recognized her Lord, Jesus.

Do you remember the words Jesus spoke to Mary’s sister, Martha, when Jesus raised their brother, Lazarus, from the tomb?  Jesus did not come when Lazarus was sick and Lazarus died.  When Jesus finally arrived and Mary and Martha were grieving, they said, "If only you had come, Lazarus would not have died."  But Jesus consoled them, saying in John 11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying."  Let's look at his word to themclosely.

I AM… 
These are the same words God said to Moses when Moses asked to know God's name.  God told Moses from a burning bush, "Tell the people 'I Am' has sent you.  This is the name you shall know me by for all generations."  The name is mysterious, but recalls the unchanging character of God.  He is who He is.  He is not defined by our beliefs or doubts.  He simply is and He is the one who defines reality.  And Jesus says, "I AM".  Jesus is God.

I AM the Resurrection… 
Because Jesus is God and rose from the grave, we have the hope of eternal life.  John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only son so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."  Just as Jesus rose from the grave, we too can rise to new life--even after this life is over.

I AM the Resurrection and the Life… 
However, we aren’t just waiting to die so that we can start our real life.  When we follow Jesus as Lord, we start real life now.  For we were created by God to worship and serve God.  And we live fully to the extent we do that in this life, even as we long for and hope for the Day we shall be set free from this broken world to live eternally with God when He creates a new heaven and a new earth.  You are never more fully alive than when you live your divine purpose. 

Anyone who believes… 
We must believe in Jesus and trust him.  Our resurrection and life does not happen automatically.  It happens as a result of God's grace and our faith.  Therefore, trust in Christ and start living today and hoping for resurrection.

Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying… 
 We all die, but there is eternal life for those believe in Christ. However, there is a second sense to what Jesus is says. Remember, Jesus also said, "If anyone wants to follow me, he must take up his cross every day and follow me." And he also said, "If you cling to your life, you will lose it. But if you lay down your life, you will truly live." So, we must deny ourselves and let our own selfish ambitions die so that we can come alive in Christ and begin to truly live. Christ's way is infinitely better than you own plans. You must trust him and follow him, even when it means dying.

Conclusion
So, let’s cling to the hope we have because of the resurrection because Jesus said, "I AM the resurrection and the life."




Thursday, April 20, 2017

Jesus Rises from the Grave

Introduction
Where do you find ultimate meaning in life?  Do you even think such a thing exists?  That is the subject of today’s message.  The Christian faith promotes a relationship with Jesus as the way to ultimate meaning in life.  The Disciples thought they had found ultimate meaning, but then they suffered the great disappointment of Jesus' arrest, crucifixion, and death.  Suddenly, their faith was called into question.  On that first Easter morning, they were still in shock, trying to figure out what was going on.   

Slides – Luke 24:1-12
1But very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. So they went in, but they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. As they stood there puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes.

The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day.”

Then they remembered that he had said this. So they rushed back from the tomb to tell his eleven disciples—and everyone else—what had happened. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and several other women who told the apostles what had happened. 11 But the story sounded like nonsense to the men, so they didn’t believe it. 12 However, Peter jumped up and ran to the tomb to look. Stooping, he peered in and saw the empty linen wrappings; then he went home again, wondering what had happened.

The Empty Tomb
At Easter, we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the grave.  But in this Easter reading, Jesus does not yet appear.  The women went to put spices on the dead body of Jesus; but when they arrive at the tomb, Jesus is not there.  Peter rushes to the tomb to see the body, but Jesus is not there—dead or otherwise.
Usually when I think of Easter, I think of the radiant, resurrected Christ smiling and saying, “I told you so!  I told you I would come back to life!”  But here in this passage, we have only an empty grave and a pile linen.  It is the absence of Jesus in the passage that strikes me.  For those of us who know the way the story ends—we want to jump right to the point of acknowledging that Jesus is alive.  But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  
            As I pondered this passage, it occurred to me that these twelve verses illustrate three common attitudes people have toward spirituality.  First we have the women—Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James.  They didn’t come seeking the risen Jesus.  Such a thing never occurred to them as a possibility.  They were looking only for the dead body of Jesus.  It was customary in that day to put fragrant spices on the body of the dead as a way of honoring those who had passed—much the way we place flowers on the graves of our deceased loved ones today.  We don’t go to our deceased grandma’s grave with flowers expecting to see her risen to life.  We go to remember the dead.  And so it was for the women in this passage.  They sought only to remember a dead Christ, not to see one risen in power and glory.

Dead
It strikes me how much that attitude prevails in church people these days.  These women came to the tomb in grief and sorrow.  They were looking for a dead man’s body.  They are like people who go through the motions at church, but aren’t truly seeking the living Christ.  They say and do the right things, but they only come to pay tribute to a dead man.  Their lives do not display the power and glory of the risen Christ and they do not reach their full spiritual potential.  It doesn’t matter how many flowers or spices they use to make it look or smell good, it’s still just dead and lifeless.  No wonder people turn away from a church that worships God like that.  

Alive
But then, the women in our story saw something amazing that dramatically altered their state of mind.  They saw two men in dazzling clothes that appeared and told them the good news—Jesus is not dead!  He has risen from the dead, just as he said he would!  This sight seized their attention and they forgot all about their religious duty to put spices on a dead body.  Suddenly, they were filled with excitement and hope and they rushed off to share this astonishing story with the Disciples.
I have known quite a few church-goers who for years just went through the motions. They really didn’t come to church expecting anything exceptional. They were—in a sense—just seeking a dead man’s body. But then something shook them from their spiritual slumber and they forgot about their dead religion and started seeking the risen Christ. And suddenly, they began to worship and live with a new passion. They even begin to tell others about their wonderful new experience of life. 

Disbelief
Next in the story are the Disciples.  If we examine them, we also see an attitude that is common in our day and age.  They took the women’s story to be nonsense.  The Greek word Luke uses to describe the women’s story is the same that Greek physicians used to describe the babbling of a fevered and insane mind.[i]  And that is how the disciples took the women’s story—it seemed like nonsense to them.  You can almost hear them saying to the women, “Why, just this morning you were going out the door, carrying all your spices to put on his dead body.  Now you claim he’s alive?!?  You must be sick with grief.  You're not making any sense.”
This is much the same as cynics in our time who say there is no real meaning to life (or that such meaning is unknowable).  They shrug off the stories of those who claim to have had deeply spiritual experiences.  Yes, and many people in our age look at the church and scoff.  They think these stories Christians tell about changed lives and divine power is a bunch of non-sense.  “Why, I’ve seen the way you worship at church,” they say.  “It’s boring and lifeless and dull.  If you ask me, you’re just worshiping a dead man.” They dismiss the church; they dismiss Christ; they refuse to believe. 

Hope
            But then there is Peter.  He hears the women’s story and he rushes out the door to investigate for himself.  And when he arrives, he sees that indeed the stone is rolled away and the tomb is empty.  All that’s left are the empty linen wrappings.
It’s ironic how things turn out.  According to Luke, Peter is the only one who runs to check out the women’s story.  Peter was not a particularly “spiritual” person in the sense we might think.  He was not a monk or priest or holy man of any sort.  He was a fisherman, a sailor, a common worldly man.  (Today, we use the expression, "He cusses like a sailor" for a reason.)  By Peter's own estimation the first time Peter met Jesus in Luke 5:8, Peter exclaimed, “I am too much of a sinner to be around you.” And yet it is Peter who goes to look in the tomb when all the other Disciples dismiss the story.  And it says when Peter saw the tomb was empty, he went away wondering what happened.
Peter reminds me of people in our age who are sincerely looking for meaning in life.  They may or may not consider themselves to be particularly “spiritual” people, but something prompts them to take a deep look at themselves and they recognize, “Huh… Something really important is missing.  I wonder where it is.”  And they start to honestly search.  They might look in quite a few places.  They might look for ultimate meaning in their career.  They might look for it in another person—a spouse or a friend.  They might look for it in a cause or in a family or in some other place.  But everywhere they look, they find only an empty tomb.  Where is that Most Important Thing that they crave? 

Which Are You?
The Christian faith teaches that life’s ultimate meaning is found through a relationship with Jesus Christ.  But some people miss out on the fulfillment that comes from a relationship with Jesus because they are like the women.  They are really only looking for a dead man.  Others are like the Disciples; they think the story of Jesus’ resurrection is a bunch of non-sense.  And still others are like Peter—they hear the good news, investigate for themselves, and discovered that the tomb is indeed empty.  Who do you resemble?
Are you looking for a dead man instead of a risen Savior?  Is your religious devotion helping you experiencing the life changing power of God or are you just trying to put sweet smelling spices and flowers on something dead?
Or maybe you are like the Disciples; you think all this talk about a risen Savior is just a bunch of non-sense.  You think, “There is no Higher Power and people don’t change.”  Maybe you’ve dismissed Christ and the church.  If so, I hope you will listen.  I hope you will take an honest look for yourself.  Maybe then you will see that there are a lot of empty, meaningless tombs in your life.  Maybe then you will say to yourself, “Huh…  Something important is missing in my life.  But maybe it’s out there somewhere.  Maybe what those Christians say is really true.  Maybe Jesus is alive.  And maybe Jesus is what I really need.”   

Dear God,
            Thank You for glorious hope of Easter—Christ is risen, just as he said.  Help us to see the empty tomb.  Jesus is not there.  Help us to see the lifeless parts of ourselves where Jesus cannot be found.  By Your grace, help us to surrender these to You, to let them go so that we can experience the divine, life changing power of the risen Christ living in us.  In Jesus name I pray.  Amen.



[i] William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, the Gospel of Luke, revised edition; page 292

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

An Idle Tale?

Luke 24:1-12 [Slides]
1But very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. So they went in, but they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. As they stood there puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes.

The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day.”

Then they remembered that he had said this. So they rushed back from the tomb to tell his eleven disciples—and everyone else—what had happened. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and several other women who told the apostles what had happened. 11 But the story sounded like nonsense to the men, so they didn’t believe it. 12 However, Peter jumped up and ran to the tomb to look. Stooping, he peered in and saw the empty linen wrappings; then he went home again, wondering what had happened.

An Idle Tale?
            Verse 11 is the key verse for this blog.  In the NRSV it says, “But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.”
            When the women told the Apostles they’d found an empty tomb and two men dressed in dazzling robes saying Jesus had risen, the Apostles dismissed it as an idle tale.  They didn’t believe.
             And that’s the way many people view the Easter story today (maybe some of you view it that way too).  You think, “It’s a great story.  It’s inspired a lot of people.  But it’s just a story—an idle tale.”  
            What if that’s true?  What if Jesus was just another nice guy?  What if he was just another figure like the prophets and kings and great world leaders who taught us some good lessons and then died and the story ends?  What if Jesus’ bones are still lying in an unmarked tomb somewhere in Palestine?
            Peter had to see for himself.  It was too important a question to leave unanswered.  So Peter jumped up, ran to the tomb, and looked inside.  He saw the tomb was empty, save for the empty linen wrappings.  And he went back home puzzling over what had happened.  He still had not seen the “risen” Jesus.
            We have to be like Peter in this story.  We have to go and look for Jesus ourselves.  It’s too important a question to just write off as an idle tale without an investigation.

Why I believe Jesus is Alive
            Now, every person has to decide for themselves if Jesus is really alive.  I have decided he is.  But I can’t decide for you.  No one can decide for you.  You have to decide for yourself.  But I would like to share with you why I believe Jesus is alive; and maybe this will encourage you to have the faith to see the risen Christ.  So briefly, I want to share 7 reasons I believe Jesus is risen.
 
First of all, I asked God to show me the Truth and He did.  I grew up going to church and knew the story of Jesus.  But when I was 20-years-old, I really began questioning the validity of everything I had been told about Jesus and Christianity.  What if it was all just idle tales?  So I prayed to God to show me.  I prayed with all sincerity, “God, show me the Truth—the only Truth that really is.  I’m willing to reject everything know if You will show me the real Truth.”  And I began a quest to know the Truth.  I studied about Christianity, the Bible, other religions, and even atheism.  And what I found was the Christian faith Jesus brought to our world makes sense.  I found I believed it was the Truth God wanted me to know.  God answered my prayer.  As Jesus said, “Seek and ye shall find.  Knock and the door will be opened to you.”

The second reason I believe Jesus is risen is Jesus changed my life.  I was not a very good person growing up.  I had a terrible temper.  I was violent.  I enjoyed being “bad” and looked for ways to actively rebel.  I bullied other children.  I was a vandal and a thief.  Now, I understand i was just a child and how "bad" can a child be?  It wasn't the degree to which I was bad that mattered.  It was the path I was on; it was the trajectory of my life that wasn't good.  If I had stayed on the road I traveled as a child and as a young teenager, I would have lived a very immoral life.  I do not know how it would have turned out, but it would not have been godly at all.  I know how it turned out for many of my friends who stayed on that road.  Some went to jail.  Some fell into addictions.  Some wasted years of their lives before they turned around.  Some died and others committed suicide.  Some I know are still wasting their lives in rebellion to God.
That could have been me, but my path changed because I decided to follow Christ.  I became a Christian when I was 8, but it wasn’t until I was 17 that I started actively following Jesus down a different path—a path to life instead of death.  I am who I am today because Jesus is alive and not dead.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not perfect.  There’s still a lot that needs to change.  But because my Jesus lives, I know I’m gonna get there One Day!

The third reason I know Jesus rose is because I have been resurrected.  I don’t mean that I have died and come back to life—though I know that will happen at the end of my days on earth.  What I mean is, I have faced times in my life when my strength ran out, when I just couldn’t go on.  I have even wondered at times, how can I continue to be a minister.  But then Jesus fills me with new life, new energy, and I come back stronger than I was before.  That kind of resilience is not because of me—it’s the resurrected Christ living in me.  It’s the power of Jesus who conquered death and rose from the grave that empowers me to rise from any gloomy situation in this life and will one day even raise me to new life when my body wears out and I die.

Fourth, I know Jesus is alive, because I have seen miracles.  I don’t have time to recount all the times I have seen Jesus intervene through miracles.  I have seen people healed.  I have seen doors open that should have been closed.  But let me just tell you one miracle that involved people in this church.  
In 2013, when we took a group on a mission trip to El Salvador, we carried thousands of dollars of medicine with us to treat illness among the people we went to serve.  And just as our plane was about to take off from Atlanta, we learned from our partners in El Salvador that the paperwork for our medicine did not go though and our medicine would be confiscated at customs in El Salvador.  Our whole team prayed and asked our friends to pray too.  When we arrived in El Salvador and worked our way through customs, the authorities allowed everyone on our team to pass right through without checking our bags for medicine.  The only person they stopped was Jason Denson.  They asked him if he had any medicine in his bag and he said “yes”.  The guard opened his bag, glanced right at the medicine, and then closed the bag and told Jason he was free to go.  Our team loaded the bus as fast as we could and left to begin our week of mission work with all of our medicine intact.  That is the work of a living Savior, not a dead man still in a grave.

Number five, I have had personal encounters with Jesus.  I always feel Jesus is personally present when I pray earnestly.  Now, Jesus has never appeared to me in a bodily form.  I’ve never touched his nail scarred hands like Thomas did in the Bible.  However, when I talk to Jesus, I know he is present in a special way—and I am as sure of his presence as I am that you are here with me today.  I have also heard him speak to me—not in an audible voice—but I have known he was speaking to me, telling me something, comforting me, or guiding me to answers.  It was a Voice from outside of myself, something divine that was a higher power than anything found in this world.
Once, when I was a pastor of a small church and had reached a very low point in my ministry and was so worn out I didn’t know how to keep going, I prayed and Jesus encouraged me as I listened to a praise song.  The words of the band became the voice of Christ as they reminded me, “I Am a Friend of God!  I am a friend of God!  I am a friend of God!  He calls me friend!”  And the words became Jesus’ words to me.  “Don’t give up!  Remember, you are a friend of God!  He can carry you through this.  He has great plans for you.”  
Dead men don’t speak.  Dead men can’t make their presence known.  Dead men can’t encourage you and give you strength to persevere.  I serve a Risen Savior and he calls me friend!

A sixth reason I know Jesus is alive: I have known many people who have been completely transformed by Christ.  I have friends who have been delivered from addiction that they couldn’t beat on their own.  I have known lives that—like mine—have been changed from selfish pursuits to godly lives; and these have changed not only their lives, but have saved their families too.
I know one woman personally, who was molested as a child and grew up very wounded and damaged because of it.  (I will not share her name, but my wife and I know her personally.) And in her marriage she struggled for years because of her own baggage and because of her husband’s sins too.  And she became promiscuous and cheated on her husband and was months into divorce proceedings and a custody battle over their children.  And then, because of the miraculous life-changing power of a risen Christ, she and her husband somehow reconciled and she found healing from her wounded sexuality and they have been happily married now, following Christ together, for around 10 years since that whole episode.  Christ is alive and changing lives everyday!

The last reason I believe Jesus is alive is because of history. Since the beginning of the world, civilizations have risen because of their economic, political, and military power.  But just as soon as they rise, they quickly fall.  At the time of Christ, the Romans were the greatest power in the world.  No one could stand against them.  And yet, Jesus—who was by all worldly measures insignificant, who had no political power, no army to command, no wealth to speak of, who never wrote a single book or held a single governmental post—changed the world by being executed and buried in a grave after only 3 years of active ministry.  A dead man could not do what Jesus did.  Many men and women in history have impacted the world through martyrdom, but Jesus turned the world completely upside down because he not only died, but also rose to life again.  And so the very empire that condemned Jesus to death, embraced his religion within 300 years.  And the Christian faith, which started out as only a handful of followers proclaiming their dead leader had risen, became the largest religion in the world—over a quarter of the world’s population adheres to Christianity today.  This came about because our Lord is not dead, but alive. 

Seeing is Believing

These are some of the reasons I believe Jesus is alive.  What I've shared are not scientific arguments or theological reasons (though there are those as well).  What I've tried to share are my own personal experience.  I am like those first women who went to the tomb and saw the angels proclaiming Jesus had risen.  I am like Peter who ran to the tomb and found it empty and later saw the living Jesus for himself.  Jesus is alive!  He is no longer in the grave!
You may hear my message and think it’s all just nonsense.  You may think it’s just an “idle tale.”  But don’t just dismiss it.  It’s too important. If what I’ve said is true, it changes everything.  And if you are hungry to see him, Jesus may appear to you too.  But you’ve got to be like Peter who ran to the tomb to see if the “idle tale” had anything to it.  And you’ve got to have eyes of faith to see.  You’ve got to let go of your cynicism.  You’ve got to have the faith of a child (as Jesus said).  That goes against human nature; more so in some who are more skeptical than others.  You’ve got to want with all your heart to know the Truth and ask God to show you the Truth.  You’ve got to be willing to be changed and know that Jesus can change you.  Then maybe you can start to see the miracles as you surround yourself with other believers who have been transformed by the power of the risen Savior; and you may encounter the risen Lord for yourself.