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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...




Easter Changes Everything

By Charlie Self
March 28, 2010

On Easter Sunday, believers around the world will declare, “He is risen!” and friends will respond, “He is risen indeed!” These words echo the angel’s declaration in Mark 16:6: “He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him” (NIV).

This truth has transformed all Christians at all times and in all places. Easter is the event that forever changes history. Somehow the frightened followers of Jesus of Nazareth became the fervent witnesses of the risen Christ. The same Peter who denied his Master three times would be crucified upside down rather than deny Him again. Fearful men behind closed doors saw doors of ministry open to change the world in the courage of the Spirit.


Easter is a historical event

Every year skeptics question the historical validity of the resurrection of Jesus. They accuse the disciples of stealing the body. They suggest mass hallucination or wishful thinking created “Easter faith.” Some assert that Jesus was never killed and lived to an old age, starting some kind of mystery cult! These tired arguments will not stand the honest scrutiny of the facts.

The apostle Paul declared that the real events of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus are the foundation of our faith. Unlike any other religious system, Christianity rests on history. In fact, Paul says that if Christ is not raised from the dead, we are still enslaved to sin and our faith is worthless (1 Corinthians 15).

There are three reasons we can be confident that Easter was (and is) a real event.

First, the testimony of the New Testament writers affirms that the disciples were astonished by the appearances of Jesus. Jesus’ brother James and the apostle Paul had personal encounters with the risen Lord, and Jesus appeared to the Eleven together shortly after His resurrection (John 20:1-20; 1 Corinthians 15:1-8). The Gospels and Epistles were all written within a generation of the Resurrection, and their stories validate the testimonies.

Second, the rapid spread of Christianity authenticates the profound faith of the first followers of Jesus. Somehow whole communities responded in faith to the good news about Jesus! Within two generations of Jesus’ death and resurrection, Christian communities were planted from Great Britain to India, from Spain to the borders of China!

Third, non-Christian witnesses validate the impact of Jesus. We have first-century testimonies from the Jewish historian Josephus and the Roman writer Suetonius that Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate (who was later removed from office for incompetence) and that the message about Jesus was stirring up the Roman Jewish community and spreading throughout the empire.

As we enjoy our walk with the Lord and share our faith with others, we can have confidence that our beliefs are well-grounded and that our faith is not fantasy, but aligned with facts.


Easter reveals God’s holy love

In his classic work Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis summarizes the Cross well: “Jesus’ death puts us right with God.” From the Scriptures we discover that Jesus’ death on the cross …

• Fulfills God’s love and satisfies His justice — our sins are covered, and we are in favor with the Lord (Romans 3:21-26).

• Cancels our sin-debt and defeats the powers of darkness (Colossians 2:13-15).

• Reconciles us to a loving Lord and releases us to a new life (2 Corinthians 5:18 through 6:2).

The Resurrection is God’s full validation of the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Easter demonstrates that …

• Jesus is the first-born among many brothers and sisters — we see our future as we gaze upon the living Lord (Romans 8:29; Colossians 1:15).

• Our Lord conquered death and liberates us from the fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-18; 4:14-16).

• Jesus’ power is working in us today through the person of the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-21; Romans 8:1-17).

Holiness and love come together as God fulfills justice through the atoning work of Jesus and welcomes humble believers into favor through His grace and mercy. No amount of moral or religious effort on our part could ever earn our salvation. Through Christ, we are adopted, forgiven, justified (placed in a position of favor), reconciled, sanctified (set apart for divine purposes), and will one day be glorified in heaven. What a wonderful God we serve!


Easter gives hope for living today

Easter gives us hope for our future — Jesus is the first to be raised from the dead, never to die again. When our Lord returns in glory, we will exchange our mortal bodies for immortal ones, our sorrows for joy, and the pain of death for the eternal pleasure of being united with believers of all ages in the presence of the King (1 Corinthians 15:51-57).

Easter is the sign that God’s future reign of righteousness, peace and joy (Romans 14:17) is already working in every believer and every community where Jesus is Lord and the Holy Spirit is welcome. Easter hope motivates our service for the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58) as we literally bring the future into the present!

Missionary Ray Bakke says it well: “God began with the Garden, and He will end with a city. He is not taking us back to Eden, but forward to the New Jerusalem.”

This means that all of our Christian life vibrates with eternity, and every act of kindness, every good word, every moment of service and witness is a signpost to the future. As we offer ourselves wholly to the Lord (Romans 12:1,2), we see that …

• When someone receives Christ, a radically different future begins for that believer as faith, hope and love start transforming from the inside out (1 Corinthians 13).

• When we pray for healing, we are anticipating the day when all will be healed. When God touches our bodies today, the power of the future is working so we can serve Him with joy (Isaiah 53:5; James 5:14; Revelation 21:4).

• When we minister in compassion, from the cup of cold water to the rescue of those who are impoverished and oppressed, we are walking in Jesus’ steps of liberating grace (Micah 6:8; Luke 4:16-21).

Let’s live with confidence in our living Lord, knowing that our belief in the Resurrection is well-founded. Let’s live with conviction, humbly grateful for the salvation Christ bought for us. Let’s live with compassion, welcoming the future reign of Christ into every present moment in the power of the Spirit.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!


Dr. CHARLIE SELF is associate professor of church history at Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield, Mo.

Testimonies excerpted from the iValue video “Salvation (Personal Testimonies).”




Changed Lives

 

Greg Aiken
I was very involved in the church youth group and other activities. I had the opportunity to go to Wake Forest University in North Carolina. At the time, I felt pretty strong in my faith. But when I got out there I didn’t know anyone, and I made the mistake of not getting plugged into a church or a Christian group on campus.

I made friends with students who didn’t share my values, and I got caught up in the whole party scene and drinking and girls. There was no happiness. There was a lot of depression. There was really no difference between me and someone who had no Christian background. The last semester in college I studied in Spain and got even farther from God.

When I came back home, I went to church. I can’t tell you what the pastor was talking about, but I remember God prodding my heart. How have you been living? Who have you become? I went home from that service and spent time in my room repenting and asking God to forgive me and take over my life. God is so ready to forgive. I experienced that so clearly.

 

 

 

Rod Dodd
My wife and I were fairly successful in our business. But there was something missing in our lives for the first 10 years of our marriage. We didn’t think we were going to have children. Then Karen made the announcement that we were going to have a child. Three and a half years later, we had our second son. We felt very blessed.

We placed Ronnie, our 5-year-old son, in a Christian nursery school. He started coming home and asking if we could pray before dinner. Then he wanted to read a Bible story he brought home with his books and say a goodnight prayer before bed.

One night he climbed up into my lap and asked me, “Daddy, when are you going to get saved?” I thought, I’m a good person. I asked Ronnie, “Who told you to ask Daddy that?” He said, “Nobody.” I said, “Now don’t lie to me.” And I saw the tears in his eyes. “Daddy,” he said, “I love you, and I don’t want you to go to hell.”

I began to feel under conviction throughout the day and when I’d go to my construction sites. One Sunday morning I got up before the family and turned on the TV. I don’t remember who it was, but a preacher pointed his finger at the camera and said, “Dads, I’m talking to you. What do your wife and children see in your life?” I went and woke up Karen and said, “Would you like to go to church today?” We both accepted Christ as our Savior.

 

 

 

Debbie Hedgcorth
I didn’t have any hope. I was waking up and smoking a joint or doing a line. But a neighbor would come and pick me up for church because she saw I didn’t have a car. We were reading the Book of Nehemiah in Sunday School, and it talked about how they were rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem and how they confessed their sins. And God’s Word became so real to me. I finally stopped trying to bargain with God. I confessed to Him that it was my fault that I was on drugs. I knew, even though I couldn’t hear an audible voice, that God would forgive me and give me a brand new life. He did, and He restored my marriage and saved my husband.

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