I would like, at the beginning of this spiritual message, to share very briefly something that refers to the “dawn” of my Christian life: I come from a Greek Christian Orthodox family. When I was still a student at the university, I began reading the Bible. While reading it, I noted that I was not merely an unbeliever but also an atheist. My god was my “I”. A question, nevertheless, was very often coming to my mind, a question that did not allow my soul to be at peace. The question was: “If what the Bible says concerning salvation and eternal damnation is true, then where are you, John, and what is going to happen to you after death? You are called a Christian, but you are not a true Christian, because you don’t believe God’s Word. Besides, your life, although relatively moral in relation to the “human norms”, doesn’t have anything to do with true Christianity. If you are, as you say, a sincere man, why don’t you take the necessary steps so that the word “Christian” is erased from your identity card? You must try to find what is true and what is false. It is very important: Don’t postpone the moment to find out the truth and to take a position on it.”
Desiring to be sincere with myself and, at the same time, to find out the truth I began to read carefully the Bible and at the same time some other books on apologetics against the positions of those who deny Jesus as Christ. An arduous investigation was started but lasted several months. That research was so intense that I began to neglect my university studies.
What led me to faith and to salvation were mainly the Messianic prophecies. My faith was based on them. Men of God among whom prophets, kings, priests, shepherds etc., having lived at various places and different centuries, pushed by the Holy Spirit, prophesied during a period of about one thousand years concerning Christ’s life and ministry in detail regarding His miraculous birth, the place of His birth, His life, His words, His miracles, His crucifixion, His burial, His resurrection, His ascension etc. On the other hand, it was the extra-biblical undeniable and unshakable historical facts concerning the life of Jesus and the life of the people of Israel that helped me, in a complementary way, to believe in God’s Word.
My major difficulty was centered on the authenticity of the Bible and on Jesus’ resurrection because it is written: “And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching [is] empty and your faith [is] also empty (…) And if Christ is not risen, your faith [is] futile; you are still in your sins!” (1Cor.15:14-17). When I was finally persuaded about the authenticity of the Bible (it is not the right moment to speak of) and Jesus’ resurrection, my soul was seized by admiration, fear and trembling. I realized that it required more “faith” (naïveté) to be a foolish unbeliever and an atheist than to be a serious believer. Then I fell on my knees and I asked God for the forgiveness of my sins, the salvation of my soul and took the decision to obey Jesus Christ and not live anymore according to my ambitions and lusts. My research turned into certainties… and into works of faith! All my life was changed. Darkness was replaced by light. Verses, Ro.10:9-10 were accomplished completely: “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” The reason for which I have referred to just a small part of the beginning of my conversion is because Christ’s resurrection was the basis of my faith and the beginning of my new life! The Holy Spirit used the afore-mentioned verses to show me the importance of Christ’s resurrection.
How sad it is, in our days, to see that the cross of Jesus, His resurrection and the invaluable blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins and our redemption, in general, are so rarely preached! Their place is taken by a social Gospel!!! And what should we say about the fact that the house of prayer, the church, is transformed, from time to time, into halls of theatrical presentations, where some preachers exploit cleverly by jokes and other “tricks” the itching ears of their hearers? (2Tim.4:3). The fear of God and solemnity of the moment disappear!
The importance of Jesus’ resurrection
The Bible says that “… there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.” (Ac.24:15). “…Those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.” (Joh.5:29). Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection are not a theory but historic facts. His death and resurrection are the central points of the Gospel (Ac.2:23-24; 3:14-15; 10:39-41; 17:2-3 Rom.1:4) and are emphasized in the Epistles of the apostles: “And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.” (Act.4:33). (Also: Act.2:23-24; 3:14-15; 10:39-41; 17:2-3; Rom.1:4; 4:25; 6:9; 10:9; 1Cor.15:4,17; Eph.1:20; 1Thes.4:14; 2Ti.2:8; 1Pet.1:3; 3:18).
If Jesus is not risen, our faith is vain (1Cor.15:14). The Day of Pentecost, Peter spoke of the necessity of Christ’s resurrection as the accomplishment of prophecies about Him and as a guarantee for our salvation: “Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.” (Acts 2:24). Jesus spoke repeatedly of His resurrection in a clear manner (Mat.20:19; Mrk.9:9; 14:28; Lu.18:33; Joh.2:19-22). The evangelists mention some ten appearances of Jesus after His death; the apostles, also, in their public teaching did not stop speaking of Christ’s resurrection. Example: “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brothers at once; of whom the greater part remain to this present, but some are fallen asleep.” (1Cor.15:3-6).
The Bible gives us a lot of information concerning Jesus’ death and resurrection: I would like to add only two of them:
· “…Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen!..” (Lu.24:5-6)
· “…when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.” (John 2:22).
Jesus Himself is the resurrection and the life
Jesus did not only prophesy that he would be raised from the dead but also claimed that He was also the resurrection and the life: “Jesus said unto her (Martha), I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” (Joh.11:25) In addition, “And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” (Rom.1:4).
The resurrection constitutes a public testimony of Christ and an evidence of the acceptance from the Father of His redemptive work. It is a victory over death and over sin and over Satan for all His disciples. If Christ is risen the Gospel is true; and if he is not risen it is false. Our justification has been obtained by His obedience until death, and therefore, He has been raised from the dead (Rom.4:25). His resurrection is proof that Jesus made a total atonement for our sins by His precious blood. It is also a promise and a guarantee of the resurrection of all true believers (Rom.8:11; 1Cor.6:14; 15:47-49; Php.3:21 1Jo.3:2). As He lives, they will also live. He was declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead (Rom.1:4 and Joh.2:19; 10:17). So, if Christ was not risen, the whole plan of redemption would be a failure for now and for eternity, but now, Christ is raised from the dead and He became the precursor of those who are dead. Yes, it is for this same reason that the Bible is true from Genesis to Revelation. The kingdom of darkness has been defeated, Satan fell like a lightning from the sky and it is the triumph of the truth over error and over wickedness!
The importance of the blood of Jesus
Later, I understood that the Christian faith does not rely only on Jesus’ death, resurrection and His whole ministry but it is equally based on His miraculous birth by the Virgin Mary (Isa.7:14 and Mat.1:23). If Jesus was not born by the intervention of the Holy Spirit, the human polluted by sin blood would be in His body; He would not, therefore, be able to live a sinless life and would be Himself in need of forgiveness and salvation. His blood could not become ransom for many:
· “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” (Eph.1:7)
· “…Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood.” (Re.1:5)
· “This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Mat.26:28). Also: 1Pe.1:18-19; Col.1:20; Heb.9:22; Rom.5:9; 1Jo.1:7; Re.1:5; 12:11).
It is said that Luther, during a serious illness, seemed to see Satan coming to him with a great scroll on which were written all the sins and errors of his life. Looking at him with a triumphant smile, he unrolled it before the saint: “These are your sins. There is no hope of your going to heaven.” Luther read the long list with growing consternation, when suddenly it flashed upon his mind that there was one thing not written there. He said aloud, “One thing you have forgotten. The rest is all true, but one thing you have forgotten: The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sins.” (H. F. Sayles)
His miraculous birth and His resurrection are, consequently, the two pillars of our Christian faith. Each and every true Christian must accept, by simple and sincere faith, these two great “miracles” in order to be counted as a true believer! He who believes in Jesus’ resurrection and does not believe in His birth from the Virgin Mary through the intervention of the Holy Spirit and vice versa is fatally mistaken!!!
The non-believer’s position and that of the believer vis-à-vis resurrection; their future
Jesus Christ died for our sins, but He is not dead anymore. He is risen, indeed! God raised Jesus up by His power to demonstrate that Jesus has, by His death, paid the price for our sins. He is living and you and I can now enjoy His love and the blessings of His sacrifice.
· The prophet Isaiah predicts: “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He [was] wounded for our transgressions, [He was] bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace [was] upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isa.53:4-6);
· Peter, the apostle declares: “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit” (1Pet.3:18).
· The apostle Paul confirms: “…when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” (Ro.5:6).
He died in your place and my place so that we might be spared from God’s judgment. His resurrection is the seal of approval that Christ paid by his blood for our sins. He offers us salvation and a new life of peace and joy. By faith in Him, we can join the millions of people that believed His promise: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” (Joh.5:24). Jesus cries out, “…I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.” (Joh.11:25). It is also written, “…He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (1Joh.5:11-12). This is why Paul the apostle said: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; [it is] the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Eph.2:8-9). Yours and mine is now the challenge to believe! God exhorts us, therefore, by this countersign:
· Recognize sincerely and with godly sorrow that your sins have separated you from God (Ro.3:23);
· Understand that God loves you, and that Jesus Christ died for your sins: “…God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (Joh.3:16);
· Receive the risen Christ in your life by faith and trust Him as your Savior because: “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (Joh.1:12).
Let us put, therefore, Jesus at the center of our celebration. There is no Easter without Jesus! Unbelievers consider Jesus’ death and resurrection as foolishness; believers accept it as truth and receive salvation by God’s grace. And let us never forget what is written in the Bible in a very solemn way: “He that believes on the Son has everlasting life: and he that believes not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God stays on him.” (Joh.3:36)
If the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1Cor.1:18). For the believer, it is the promise of eternal life. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us (Ro.8:34). Our Savior and Lord lives and we will live eternally (Joh.14:19) because “…we have now received the reconciliation.” (Rom.5:11).
If we are true Christians, we must live a life worthy of Him (Col.3:1). This world passes away as well as its lusts and ambitions. One day, one blessed day, when our earthly house, [this] tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens (2Cor.5:1). One day, one day when God’s love that has adopted us as His children, will make us to be like Jesus, for we shall see Him as He is (1Jo.3:1-2), He will wipe away every tear from our eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain… (Re.21:4).
Now, all those that believe in Jesus’ words and trust in Him receive the Holy Spirit that guides them in all truth, intercedes in their favor, comforts them and helps them when they cross difficult moments in their life. Let’s praise Christ; let us thank Him; let us honor Him; and let us obey Him with all our heart, soul and mind. God gives His Holy Spirit to all those that obey Him: to all those who obey Him by repentance and by trusting Him in everything.
Let us give our all to Christ who gave His all to us. Amen!