We are now entering the season of Lent. Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras) is over and the season is set to prepare our hearts and lives for the passion of the Christ.
For many years now, I have made it a practice during this time of the year especially to ask people what the resurrection of Christ means to them. The answers I have received generally are rather amazing. Some very vibrant Christians have enthusiastically embraced the concept as being all-important, and essential to their faith and to their lives. Others – most, I am sad to say – just seem to take it in stride and either verbally or through their body language indicate that it does not seem to be that big of a deal. Yes, they believe Christ arose, and yes, that fact is essential to their faith, but so what? It really does not matter for now. It does not make a difference in their lives today.
At that point in the conversation the subject often changed to politics or the economy, or the place where we live here in central Florida, or in many cases the places where they came from before moving to central Florida.
But the fact is that the resurrection of Christ is all-important! The fact that Christianity is the only one of the world’s religions which celebrates the fact that its founder is no longer in the grave, that centuries of skeptics searching have not discovered another tomb with the remains of Christ in it — that fact is amazing!
No matter what you may think of his private life, author Ravi Zacharias has written an excellent book entitled “Has Christianity Failed You?” In that book (pg. 105-107), Zacharias points to one of the greatest proofs for the truth of Christ and the reality of his resurrection: the changed lives of Christians. He writes: “During the course of nearly 40 years, I have traveled to virtually every continent and seen or heard some of the most amazing testimonies of God’s intervention in the most extreme circumstances. I have seen hardened criminals touched by the message of Jesus Christ and their hearts turned toward good in a way that no amount or rehabilitation could have accomplished. I have seen ardent followers of radical belief systems turned from being violent, brutal terrorists to becoming mild, tenderhearted followers of Jesus Christ. I have seen nations where the gospel, banned and silenced by governments, has nevertheless conquered the ethos and mind-set of an entire culture.”
Then in his own words Zacharias lists examples of Christ’s power to transform lives:
· In the middle of the twentieth century, after destroying all of the Christian seminary libraries in the country, Chairman Mao declared that … Christianity had been permanently removed from China, never to make a return. On Easter Sunday in 2009; however, the leading English language newspaper in Hong Kong published a picture of Tiananmen Square on page 1, with Jesus replacing Chairman Mao’s picture on the gigantic banner, and the words “Christ is Risen” below it.
· I [Zacharias] have also been in the Middle East and marveled at the commitment of young people who have risked their lives to attend a Bible study … I have talked to CEOs of large companies in Islamic nations who testify to seeing Jesus in visions and dreams and wonder what it all means.
· The British author A.N. Wilson, who only a few years ago was known for his scathing attacks on Christianity, celebrated Easter [in 2009] at a church with a group of other church members, proclaiming that that the story of the Jesus of the Gospels is the only story that makes sense out of life and its challenges. [Wilson said], “My own return to faith has surprised none more than myself… My belief has come about in large measure because of the lives and examples of people I have known, not the famous, not saints, but friends and relations who have lived and faced death in light of the resurrection story, or in the quiet acceptance that they have a future after they die.”
· Matthew Parris [a British atheist who visited Malawi in 2008] wrote an article titled “As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God.” [Parris wrote], “I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa… I used to avoid this truth … but Christians black and white, working in Africa, do heal the sick, do teach people to read and write; and only the severest kind of secularist could see a mission hospital or school and say the world would be better without it.”
Jesus Christ changes lives. The fact that he is alive today is significant. Years ago, I heard of a man who was an alcoholic before he came to trust Christ as his Savior. When asked if he believed in miracles, the man simply said, “You bet I do! And Jesus Christ is the miracle-worker! Before I came to know Him, I was a raging alcoholic spending every dime I could on booze. But once I trusted Christ, He changed my alcohol into furniture (for my home) and clothes (for my children) and food (for my children). Jesus Christ is a miracle worker extraordinaire. He changed my life.”
That’s the message of Easter: The resurrection of Christ is important because he changes lives, delivering us from sin and giving us hope for tomorrow.
Has He changed yours?
Chuck Tabor is a religion columnist for The Times-Gazette and a former Hillsboro area pastor who now resides in Florida. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.