Every year billions of Christians all over the world gather to remember and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday. Jesus was executed by the Roman government on a cross outside Jerusalem for his claim of being the Messiah (Mark 14:61). He had said he would rise on the third day. To his followers’ shock, he actually did! Today, as back then, there are many who don’t believe it.
There are those who make it their ambition to demonstrate that Christianity is a hoax, and that the Church has been deceiving people throughout its history. They conveniently ignore the eyewitness accounts of people who saw first-hand the risen Jesus. They ignore the archeological discoveries, which demonstrate communities, which were transformed by believing in the resurrected Jesus. They ignore the changed lives, which this resurrected Jesus has affected throughout the years. They even ignore the personal experience which people still have with the risen Christ.
The Gospel message is that Jesus Christ (the Messiah) entered the human race, lived as one of us, died on a Roman cross for sins of humanity (even yours and mine!), and rose again by the power of the Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul wrote to the first century believers in Rome: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes; first for the Jew, then for the Gentile” (Romans 1:16). What was true then is still true today. For those who believe, they discover that Jesus is really alive. This is not just a matter of intellectual assent; it is also a matter of belief (of faith). One can learn all the historical, archaeological, and scholarly data, but it always comes back to a simple step of faith. You have to believe. Faith is needed to have a personal experience with the risen Lord Jesus.
Jesus said to the church in Laodicea and he says to us: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20). For those who receive Him today, they discover his resurrection isn’t a hoax on a personal basis. He brings forgiveness of our sins, peace of mind and spirit, and an intimate relationship with the Living God of the universe.
Do your homework! Know the facts, but don’t just leave it there. Enter into a dynamic personal relationship with the God who still raises people from the dead.
As Christians, We Tend to Easily Walk Away from Jesus, but He Rejoices When We Return
Jesus’ Parable of the Prodigal Son – As Viewed through the Eyes of the Young Son: The younger son, firstly, took his inheritance, for which he was not yet entitled, and abandoned his father to move to a “distant country”. These were the actions of someone who abandoned his responsibilities, disrespected his father, broke off his relationship with his father, and then treated his father as being dead. In the “distant country”, the younger son quickly squandered his inheritance through sinful living. Being destitute in the “distant country” that was experiencing a severe famine, the younger son hired himself out to tend pigs (NOTE: For a Jewish person of that period, it was an abomination to work with pigs.). Also, he was starving; therefore, the son ate the food rejected by the pigs.
However, in the desperate situation in the “distant country”, the young son “came to his senses” – he had an inner awakening. As a part of coming to his senses, the son, as described in Luke 15:17-20a, remembered and returned to his father: “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.’ And he arose and came to his father.”.
Jesus’ Parable of the Prodigal Son – As Viewed through the Eyes of the Father: As requested by the younger son, the father gave the younger son his unentitled inheritance; and, without resistance, the father let his young son leave. When the young son “came to his senses” and returned to his father from a “distant country”, the father saw his son returning; and the father ran, thereby disgracing himself, to meet the young son while the son was still a great distance away. The father’s heart was filled with compassion and love upon the return of the young son – the father was expressing unmerited and unsolicited love for his returning son. The young son had disgraced and disrespected his father, and the young son deserved to be punished. However, the father took all the hurt, disrespect, and punishment merited by his young son on himself. The father expressed this punishment merited by the young son when the father ran to his son; accepted and restored the son back into his family without question; and celebrated the return of the young son.
The father, in this parable, demonstrates God’s love that God gives to us when we return to Him from a “distant country” of sin and broken fellowship. When we return to God, we see His love for us, but not for our sins and our actions that broke our personal relationship with Him. We and the young son must face the consequences of our sin when we walk away from God: but through Jesus’ acceptance of the cost of our sins on the cross and our repentance, we can return to the love and fellowship offered by God.
When we return from walking away from God, He rejoices; and there is rejoicing in heaven. God’s perspective, regarding someone who has walked away from Him, is expressed, in Luke 15:31-32, when the father is explaining to his older son why he is accepting and celebrating the return of his young son from a “distant country”: “And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”. This parable clearly reflects that God wants intimacy and a personal relationship with us, and it hurts God when we walk away from His relationship with us. However, God and Heaven rejoice when we repent and return!
As we consider those around us who have rejected and walked away from God, what should we do for them? We should: 1) pray, asking God to invade their life and circumstances to the point they will want to return to Him; 2) love them where they are – we can’t rescue them; 3) “let them go” – they have intentionally rejected God (as the young son rejected his father), and our chasing after them may harden their heart to God; and 4) like the father in the parable, “be looking and expecting” their return – when they return, we need to embrace the one returning, with the love of God, like the father embracing and accepting his young son in the parable.
TODAY’S PRAYER: Keeping the Sabbath, Lord, will require a lot of changes in the way I am living life. Teach me, Lord, how to take the next step with this in a way that fits my unique personality and situation. Help me to trust you with all that will remain unfinished and to enjoy my humble place in your very large world. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Scazzero, Peter. Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Day by Day (p. 129). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
TODAY’S AFFIRMATION: I affirm that because of what God has done for me in His Son, Jesus, I AM FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT. If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! (Luke 11:13).
Scripture Reference (ESV): Luke 15:11-32; Luke 15:7; Luke 15:10.
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