SURPRISED BY LIFE!

Dear Follower of Jesus Christ,

In 2011, April brings us “Easter,” the pagan term for what would more aptly be called “Resurrection Day.” At least people get the time of year right, as opposed to “Christmas,” when they have baby Jesus surrounded by shivering sheep. In seasonal climes, Spring is a time when new life colorfully, brightly, and vividly heralds its advent in stark contrast to the coldness and darkness of Winter, which it quickly relegates to a distant memory.

Do your best to put yourself in the place of the women who were the first to reach the tomb of Jesus, their hearts still torn asunder by having watched his torturous death three days earlier. Scripture makes it clear that they came prepared to anoint his body for a proper burial, and that they were in no way expecting what they found. Rather than have to deal with death, they were surprised by LIFE!

Matthew 28:5–8
(5) The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.
(6) He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.
(7) Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”
(8) So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples.

Since that glorious day, the living Lord Jesus has surprised countless pilgrims trekking hopelessly along a dead end path. The to-be-Apostle Paul comes to mind as one whom Jesus joyously jarred out of the rut of ruination and set on the way of life. And then there was you—and I.

Two classic Bible verses proclaim the thrilling truth that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is God’s emphatic exclamation that Jesus is who he said he was: the Son of God. Check them out:

Acts 17:31
For he [God] has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.”

Romans 1:4
and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.

Remember that beginning with Genesis 3:15, the whole Bible is basically the story of two Adams: the first one ruined everything, and the last one is fixing it. What separates Christianity from “religion” (defined as man’s attempts to earn God’s favor) and defines it instead as a relationship, is JESUS CHRIST. And that is why, if we are to make a genuine impact on the world, we MUST do what the early believers did: they preached JESUS and the Resurrection, and made known his desire to be in relationship with people and make their individual lives vibrant and meaningful.

Romans 10:9–17
(9) That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
(10) For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
(11) As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”
(12) For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him,
(13) for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
(14) How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?
(15) And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
(16) But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?”
(17) Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of [regarding] Christ.

Some Christians teach that an unbeliever must confess his sin in order to be saved, but Romans 10:9 shows us that what one needs to do is confess the SAVIOR from sin. Walking toward JESUS is walking away from sin, which one needs his help, strength, and guidance to do. Confession of sin puts the focus on us rather than on the man whose excruciatingly hard work paid the price for our sin and made salvation a gift of grace.

May I suggest that at the root of human sin is a faulty image of God. Hebrews 11:6 (NKJV) shows us that if one is not convinced that God is a “…rewarder of those who diligently seek Him,” they will not come to Him. As the Word tells us, JESUS is the only valid image of the invisible God (2 Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15). No one can truly know God without coming to Him by way of JESUS, who makes God conceivable, knowable, and lovable.

If you are talking about “God” to someone who has no knowledge of Him, your listener is either making up an image (e.g., Bruce Almighty) or believing someone else’s made-up image. Also, the majority of people are mad at “God,” so you are in a hole to start with. But not too many are mad at Jesus, are they? Furthermore, the concept of “God” does not bring people to a decision like JESUS CHRIST does. “God” is almost politically correct, but JESUS is the krisis of life for each man and woman. It is HE who separates people into Yes or No, alive or dead.

2 Corinthians 4:3 and 4 contains the enlightening truth that Satan’s primary goal is to blind people to JESUS, not God (after all, God is already invisible). Why? Because the Devil knows that if he can obscure JESUS, people’s concept of, and their relationship with, God will at best be nebulous. 2 Peter 2:1 (NKJV) shows that Satan’s agents introduce false doctrines “…denying the Lord who bought them….” In other words, the Devil’s doctrinal lies are designed to diminish the magnitude of Jesus’ heroism on our behalf. Consider, for example, how the prevailing beliefs about who Jesus is and the state of the dead do exactly that.

Another reason Satan wants to make Jesus look bad is his unbridled, venomous hatred of The Man now sitting in what was formerly his seat at the right hand of God. Think about it: The Devil first heard of Jesus about 6000 years ago in Genesis 3:15—a human would be born who would eventually destroy him—“I already don’t like him.” From Eden until the birth of Christ, Satan sought to stop the baby from being born, first by trying to destroy all humanity and then by trying to eradicate the bloodline of Israel, but each time God was one step ahead of him, and again and again Satan just missed succeeding.

Finally, after 4000 years of growing vexation, he heard the sound of a baby’s cry, and as he focused all his wickedness on the infant, he must have erupted: “I HATE that kid, and I’m going to destroy him!” Too bad he was drowned out by an angelic choir. His first attempt (using Herod) was foiled, and so was each subsequent attack (the crowd trying to throw Jesus off a cliff, the storms on Galilee, etc.

As Satan’s dastardly, last-ditch plot to murder Jesus unfolded in Jerusalem and played out in the Garden of Gethsemane on that fateful Monday night, his boiling enmity reached a fever pitch. And when Jesus, knowing the time had come for him to die, stepped forward and said to the mob of soldiers, “I am he,” how much pent up, demonic fury do you think Satan unleashed upon him in the next 40 hours? I shudder to think of it.

And at 3 pm that Wednesday, when The Man, battered and bloody, took his last breath and the Fatherly heart of God was pierced to its core, the Devil, loser of every battle with God thus far, went wild. His “victory” celebration raged non-stop for more than 72 hours until one of the dancing demons heard a knock on the door, and opened it. When he found himself looking into the steely eyes of The Man they had just murdered, he gulped, “Uh-oh, the boss isn’t going to like this.”

Little did Satan and his horrible henchmen know that was just the beginning, and that it was going to get much worse for them. About 50 days later they wondered “what the hell” (that’s how they talk) speaking in tongues was all about, and the subsequent wave of healings and miracles that the early Christians pulled off made them realize that those who believed in Jesus as “Lord” were endued with power they could not stop.

When the Apostle Paul first spoke the truth he later wrote in Ephesians about the Sacred Secret: that Jesus would diversify himself in a worldwide body of people, each equipped with the same power he constantly manifested, Satan realized that when he crucified Jesus, he had petulantly sealed his own doom. Now wearing a T-shirt with the words, “THE BIGGEST LOSER” printed on it, he prowls around the earth, seeking whom he may devour before he is locked up for a thousand years, and later annihilated. We too, prowl the earth, seeking whom we may deliver by preaching the Good News and magnifying JESUS CHRIST, the Living Truth.

Does that not make each day a potentially exciting adventure? You can wake up tomorrow knowing that the Lord Jesus watched over you during the night, and that he is glad to have another day to fellowship with you and lead you in his personal curriculum of growth for you. He sees the battle raging within each of us between the old man and the new man, and he remembers being tempted in all ways that we are. Now he loves to come alongside us and comfort us, sustain us, energize us, and guide us in times of tribulation. In short, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

Although it may seem like a contradiction of terms, I believe that each day we can expect to be surprised by life. Why? Because the same Savior who surprised those dear women 2000 years ago by getting up from the dead passionately desires to awaken the fullness of life that he has deposited within you. He longs to help you be like him and do the works that he did, and he eagerly anticipates rewarding you for so doing. HE IS RISEN! Let us rise up and walk in his steps.

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