Friday, August 27, 2004

Easter, 2002 (Another Entry from Mark's 'Greatest Hits')

[Below is a column I wrote for Easter, 2002. I hope that you enjoy it.]

His life was a shambles. Some months before, his wife had moved out of the house to live with another man, someone she had met at work. He was devastated. For reasons he couldn't explain, his pain seemed to drive him to seek out the company of friends who were unembarrassed followers of Jesus Christ. He had always dismissed their faith as quaint and naive. Now, he craved their tough-as-nails serenity, their capacity for tackling life head-on.

His friends had given him just what he needed at that time: open arms and listening ears. When he asked how he could possibly get through, his friends said that the only way they knew how was to rely completely on the God Who understands all our pains and all our hopes...the God Who came into the world through Jesus Christ...Who died on a cross on Good Friday...Who rose again on Easter Sunday.

He was skeptical. In his hodge-podge of church experiences growing up, he'd heard it all before in CCD and Sunday School. Yet, when he saw the way his friends had hope to cope because of their relationships with Christ, his skepticism wore down. He asked Jesus to be his God and Savior. He surrendered his whole life to Christ. He learned first-hand the truth of what the Bible says, "anyone united with [Jesus] gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God Who settled the relationship between us and Him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other..." (Second Corinthians 5:17-18, The Message translation)

The Savior Who rose from the dead gave that man new life. Today, he lives with a second wife who loves him completely and who, like him, follows Jesus Christ. Repeatedly over the years, I've watched Jesus bring resurrection power into the lives of people who seemed as good as dead. That's one reason I love Easter Sunday, the day set aside to celebrate Jesus' rising from the dead, the event that happened on the first Easter. Jesus, Who wouldn't stay dead, is in the business of giving new life, just as He did for my friend...and for me.

But like a man named Paul, writing in the Bible's New Testament, I have to say, "If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we [followers of Christ] are of all people most to be pitied." If what the Bible says happened on the first Easter didn't happen, then the faith of Jesus-followers through the centuries and all over the world is as quaint and naive as my friend once dismissed it for being.

That's why his experiences and those of people like him are important. The "little resurrections" that Christ gives to people who call out to Him are signs pointing to how the story will end for those who yield their lives to Him. As was true when Jesus raised from the dead a friend of His named Lazarus, the new lives Jesus gives to His followers show us a fundamental truth that He expressed to Lazarus' sister. He said, "I am right now, Resurrection and Life. The one who believes in Me, even though he or she dies, will live. And everyone who lives believing in Me does not ultimately die." (John 11:25-26, The Message translation)

You may feel unworthy of the love and the new life that Jesus Christ wants to give to you. The fact is, you aren't worthy of it. Neither am I. But Jesus wants to give it to us anyway! He died and rose precisely for unworthy people like you and me. We don't have to do anything to make ourselves worthy of the new life He wants to give to us. The good news of Easter is that if we will simply open up the doors of our hearts to Jesus Christ, He will open up the doors of eternity to us!

If you're a skeptic like my friend had been and I once was, I pray that this Easter, paraphrasing an old Pete Townsend song, you'll let God's love open the door to your heart. You'll get a new life. You'll have the capacity to cope with life in hope. You'll look forward confidently to an eternal future. And you will wonder why you waited so long to let Jesus into your life.


Phyllis said...

Hello! Thanks for visiting my site!
I love your post today. I too am a skeptic turned Christian! Do you mind if I put your blog on my site? I'd like to reference your
message today.

Mark Daniels said...

Phyllis: I enjoyed your site and I would be honored if you put a link to Better Living on it. Thanks and God bless!

Joe said...

Poped in to say hi. Great artical Mark! Have a good day.