Let’s face it. For those of us who grew up in the church, Bible stories get boring. It’s hard to find a new insight from the Easter story. The sentimental feelings are gone. Sometimes trying to light the fire is like taking a match to a used firecracker. There are no sparks, no noise, no drama, just a tiny flame that burns briefly before going out again.
I have one thing to say to those who claim that they never get tired of hearing the same old Bible stories: Liar, Liar, pants on fire…
But…it is Easter. You can’t ever stop telling the story.
He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!
What those words must have meant 2000 years ago to a small handful of followers who saw the nail prints in His hands. His death had seemed so untimely. They expected their Messiah to throw off the cruel Roman dictatorship. For a few awful days, the only logical conclusion was that Jesus wasn’t the Messiah after all. Just a good man; a powerful prophet; an eloquent preacher.
But the resurrection changed everything. Jesus defied death and He showed Himself to the disciples as proof. The gates of hell had failed at their primary mission since the Garden of Eden—to prevent the birth, redemptive death, and resurrected life of the Son of God.
And in the following days, weeks, and months, the church was born. The fastest-growing movement of all time. [If you’re still reading this I’ll buy you a soda.] The strongest force on earth—the power of grace through faith—gripped the hearts of men, women, and children throughout the known world.
He was alive. Just as surely as they had seen Him go, He would come again. The growing group of believers made it their mission to live and die for His imminent return.
That was 2000 years ago.
A week ago or so I picked up a magazine—something I almost never do—and read an article that left me speechless. Or almost speechless anyway. I wasn’t surprised, but I was amazed as I read about the influence of Christian missionaries around the globe.
After fourteen years of research and study, Robert Woodberry demonstrated the influence of Protestant missions over the past 100 years or so. Where Christian missionaries have been, there is more democracy. There is less illiteracy, less slavery, less poverty, lower infant mortality, less corruption, and higher education levels (especially among women) than in non-evangelized countries around the world.
The research differentiated between “colonialism” and state sponsored church work (which had virtually no effect) with the true influence of the gospel. Woodbury himself described the difference as “shocking.”
The results were so overwhelming that he critically surveyed his research, testing other possible theories and explanations for the marked difference between cultures that had received the light of the gospel and those that had not. There simply was no other way to explain why, for example, literacy (an ingredient of democracy) was so prevalent in Ghana while so lacking in neighboring West Africa. Over a hundred years ago, British missionaries in Ghana had established printing presses, meanwhile missionary work was severely limited in the French-governed West Africa.
As I mentioned, this article was amazing, but not surprising really. It was just a little glimpse of what the church has done since Jesus set Himself apart once and for all from all religious leaders of history by rising from the dead.
Every country has religion. But that doesn’t mean that they have a purpose, a hope, or a motivation to treat other human beings with any level of dignity.
The church is the body of Christ on earth and everywhere that Christians go while glorifying their Savior, they leave our planet a little better than they found it. They give. They forgive. They speak truth. They lift up burdens. They take in orphans. They visit widows. They heal sick. They bring peace to strife. They teach labor for provision. They are good stewards of what is entrusted to them. They are the light that illumines and the salt that preserves.
As Christians, we have not only the manger, not only the cross, but the resurrection. The resurrection set us a part.
Frankly, I don’t need proof that the resurrection changes everything. I am proof.
Let it be said of us that the resurrection still changes everything; that we are still living and dying like our Messiah’s return is imminent. Let us take our ugliest sins to the cross and be set free. Let us regard the suffering of this world as fulfilling a purpose—sometimes disciplinary, sometimes corrective, sometimes growing and strengthening, sometimes testifying of our God in ways we couldn’t have imagined. Let us be the proof that we serve a risen Savior.
Let there be no explanation for us except the resurrection. Let us not give anyone the reason to doubt for a moment that He is risen. Let us be more passionate, more intentional, and more sacrificial in the ways that we bring the good news of the gospel to the world around us.
He is Risen. He is Risen Indeed.
Let us never lose sight of what that means to a broken, needy world.