He Lives!

Two guys walking, talking about the day’s stunning turn of events. A mysterious stranger falls in with them. He probes. They report. He then owns the conversation, holding them spellbound. They invite him to continue over supper. Suddenly they realize who He is.

It was the resurrected Jesus that made their hearts burn within them along the road to Emmaus. I wish I had heard His explanation from Scripture of why he had to “suffer these things and to enter into His glory” (Luke 24). Perhaps He explained that He had to be crushed as a guilt offering in order that “He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, and the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand. As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied” (Isa. 53).

Jesus’ first followers went to jail for proclaiming his Resurrection (Acts 4:2). Revisionist theologians today would explain it away as symbolic, but the first disciples experienced it as a startling, historical, bodily return from the dead. That is central to the gospel: “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain” (1 Cor. 15:14). “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9).

What does Jesus’ Resurrection mean for you? It authenticates His claim of deity, such as “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). Only God could accomplish this one-off feat, which means He can also keep His promises to intercede for you at the right hand of the Father (Rom. 8:34) and to come again for you (John 14:3).

If you visit George Washington’s tomb, you will see this inscription: “I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord. He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26). When someone approached Jesus with a question about dead people, He made them refocus. “He is not the God of the dead but of the living” (Matt. 22:32). As John Newton lay on his deathbed someone nudged him. He said, “I am still in the land of the dying, but soon, I shall be in the land of the living.” The Resurrection means that there is more to your life than the human body.

Presbyterian hymnist Alfred Ackley wrote, “I serve a living Savior, He’s in the world today! I know that He is living, whatever men may say. He lives, He lives, salvation to impart! You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart.” This Sunday, join with believers in celebrating the greatest miracle in history, He Lives!

The Cross

Christians tend to be a little excited this time of year!  Sunday, April 1 is the day we especially celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  But that miracle is meaningless without the cross.

 The Bible notes that the message of Jesus’ death on a cross seems foolish (lit. “moronic”) and scandalous.  God dying may seem inconceivable, but it is literally the crux of the gospel.  “The word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18). 

 What is the cross really about?  It’s about reconciliation and peace between you and God (Col. 1:20).  The cross exonerates you because God nailed to the cross the certificate of debt against you, and makes you alive with Christ (Col. 2:13-14).  On the cross, Jesus bore your sins in His body, so you might live to righteousness (1 Pet 2:24).  It brings people together (Eph. 2:16).  It’s about us.

We know Jesus agonized over his impending death, as he anticipated the weight of the world on his shoulders.  What motivated him?  Love and joy.  “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us” (1 John 3:16).  Jesus, “who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross” (Heb. 12:2).

 At age 95, Billy Graham recorded his final message in a video called “The Cross.”  In it he says, “With all my heart I want to leave you with the truth.  God loves you, and is willing to forgive you of all your sins.  The cross is offensive because it confronts people.  We deserved the cross, hell, and judgement, and all that that means.  Sin is a disease in the human heart.  How can we be set free?  “If anyone is in Christ he is a new creature” (2 Cor. 5:17).  There is no other way of salvation except through the cross of Christ.  Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father but through me” (John 14:6).  Turn from your sins to Jesus Christ, and say ‘I’m a sinner, I need forgiveness.  You’re the only one that can change me.’  Today, I’m asking you to put your trust in Christ.”

The great Methodist hymn writer Charles Wesley wrote, “Amazing love!  How can it be that thou, my God, shouldst die for me?  Fast bound in sin and nature’s night; I woke, the dungeon flamed with light; my chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed thee.  No condemnation now I dread; Jesus, and all in him is mine; alive in him, my living Head, and clothed in righteousness divine.”  By faith, all this can be yours because of Jesus, and the cross.  Rejoice!


The latest mass shooting once again has us debating, “How do we restrain such behavior?” Fueled by the emotion of the moment, the political posturing may answer the question with new laws.

It’s sort of a domino question, as some wonder how to restrain the lawmakers. Sir William Blackstone influenced early American legal theory, arguing that eternal, immutable laws of good and evil, i.e. natural law, govern lawmaking. In the early 20th C., Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote Supreme Court opinions based more on “the felt necessities of the times,” unrestrained by the original text of the U.S. Constitution.

Regardless of the theory of jurisprudence, godlessness leads to chaos, which leads to more laws which cannot fix the original problem. Prisons are full of people who were not restrained by the most cleverly crafted laws. More to the point, the shooter at Douglas High in Parkland Florida broke numerous laws.

Even the law of God did not restrain him. “You shall not murder” (Ex. 20:13). Everyone has a God-given awareness of morality, a conscience that will be friend or foe “on the day when God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus” (Rom. 2:14-16). Self-interest does not always restrain either. British psychiatrist Theodore Dalrymple said, “How many people does each of us know who claim to seek happiness but freely choose paths inevitably leading to misery?”

The solution is “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:2). It resides inside the believer and effects a cognitive change. “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws upon their heart, and on their mind I will write them” (Heb. 10:16). John Piper explains it this way: “Real obedience to God is made possible through the work of Christ for all who believe in Him. God does the decisive work of taking out the heart of rebellion and putting in the heart that loves the commandments of God.”

Same idea: “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Gal. 6:16). “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal. 5:24). “You may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust” (2 Pet. 1:4).

People who belong to and walk with Christ Jesus inherit a certain restraint, evidence of God’s grace. This is the Kingdom of God coming, His rule in your life. Even if you don’t believe it, you should hope that a disturbed, angry loner with access to a gun does. Better to be confronted by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, which is the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22). Against such there is no law.

Billy Graham

I never met him, but he was dear to me. I grieve his passing.

Billy Graham held the respect of the world’s powerful people, yet he thought of himself as a simple farm boy called by God. If ever I was tempted to doubt the authority of the Bible, the identity and work of Christ, or the reality of eternal life, I knew that a man of such stature believed. He is now part of that “great cloud of witnesses” (Heb. 12:1).

I’ll miss those stadiums filled with people from all walks of life. Before the civil rights movement of the 1960’s, he made sure race was no barrier to participation in his events.

I’ll miss the baritone voice of George Beverly Shea (d. 2013). “I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold. I’d rather be His than have riches untold. I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands. I’d rather be led by his nail-pierced hand.”

Someone would offer a testimony of faith. One was Louis Zamperini, the Olympian and WWII POW who was saved at the Los Angeles Revival in 1949. He returned to Japan and led some of his captors to Christ, and later founded a ministry to wayward boys.

I’ll miss Billy Graham’s prophetic voice declaring, “The Bible says…” He never failed to mention the historical event that authenticated his message, the cross of Christ. Rev. Graham explained once that he doesn’t transition his message to an ending invitation. He is giving the invitation from the start.

You would hear something like this: “God loves you! Christ shed his blood on the cross for you. ‘Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved’ (Rom. 10:13), the Bible says. Repent from sin! You won’t be the same once you come to Christ. Come by faith to receive Jesus as your Savior and Master. Make your faith public right now. Your bus will wait.”

Cliff Barrows (d. 2016) would lead the choir singing, “Just as I am, without one plea, but that Thy blood was shed for me, and that Thou bidd’st me come to Thee.” The aisles of the vast stadium would flow like waterfalls with people willing to identify with Christ. Millions stepped into that aisle to begin their walk with Jesus.

The world is a better place because of Rev. Graham, but his only boast is in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (Gal. 6:14). We grieve, but not “as do the rest who have no hope” (1 Thes. 4:13). He closed his autobiography talking about heaven. “I look forward to seeing Christ and bowing before Him in praise and gratitude for all He has done for us, and for using me on this earth by His grace – just as I am.” Goodbye, Billy Graham. We will see you soon.