Resurrection--'heart' of Gospel
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Paul was in jail, not because he had done anything wrong, but because he refused to deny his Lord. The specter of death was imminent. Though his life was spared this time, within a few years he was martyred for his unwavering testimony that Jesus is the Savior of the world.
As he wrote a letter to his dearest friends, Paul declared his intense desire to know his Lord more intimately. His words are powerfully poignant: "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death" (Philippians 3:10).
Paul understood something fundamental. The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the central event of the Christian faith. It is the central message in our Christian witness. It is the source of our hope and the strength of our life.
The power Paul sought was not a quest for political power, financial prosperity or personal influence. It was far deeper than that. He longed to have such a relationship with God that the deepest needs of his heart would be fully satisfied in Christ alone.
-- The resurrection of Jesus has power to revive the broken heart.
A sad reality of human existence is the depth of loneliness many people experience daily. As social beings, we draw strength and purpose from interacting with others. Many have no close relationships with others who fully love and accept them. They have no one with whom to share their deepest and most intimate thoughts.
One day, Charles Weigle returned home from a preaching tour. He found a note from his wife. She had left him, taking their small daughter with her. Overcome with despair, he saw no reason to live, no purpose in life. Over the next few years he frequently contemplated suicide. Some years later, sitting at the piano in his home, his fingers began idly to course their way over the keys. Reflecting on God's sustaining grace, a melody emerged and blended with the words in his heart. Within 30 minutes, he had penned a song -- "No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus" -- that has since comforted thousands:
"I would love to tell you what I think of Jesus,
"Since I found in Him a friend so strong and true;
"I would tell you how He changed my life completely;
"He did something that no other friend could do.
"No one ever cared for me life Jesus,
"There's no other friend so kind as He;
"No one else could take the sin and darkness from me;
"O how much He cared for me."
-- The resurrection of Jesus has power to reclaim the empty heart.
Blaise Pascal, the 17th-century mathematician, philosopher and physicist, observed that the human heart is like an "infinite abyss." After suffering multiple ailments for many years, he was converted to faith in Christ. Following his conversion, he devoted himself to contemplations on theology and philosophy. His most famous work from this period is "Pensees." Reflecting on the vacuum in the human heart, he wrote, "What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself." (Pensees, 148/428) In spite of his brilliance and his contributions to mathematics, Pascal realized that life apart from God is empty. He found his refuge in Christ alone.
-- The resurrection of Jesus has power to save the seeking heart. Of course, the most fundamental message of Easter is "that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures" (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
The Bible contains a series of stories of people in successive generations who were lost, who sinned, who needed a Savior. The great patriarchs and matriarchs of Scripture were flawed and fallen men and women.
Jesus emerges from the pages of Scripture as the solitary figure to rise above the downward pull of sin. As the Son of God, he had infinite capacity to absorb the guilt and shame of the sins of others. His death on the Cross fulfilled God's plan. As a holy God, God demands that sin must be punished. As a merciful God, God Himself provided a sacrifice for sin. The Just One (Jesus) would die for the unjust ones (humanity). He died for you and me! But ... and this is great news ... his death did not end the story! In the ultimate statement of power over sin and death, Jesus rose from the dead. As the resurrected Lord, He stands willing and able to save to the uttermost those who come to God by him (Hebrews 7:25).
A consistent theme of biblical proclamation is that the seeking heart will find its salvation in Christ. Isaiah wrote, "Seek ye the Lord while he may be found; call ye upon him while he is near" (Isaiah 55:6). Jeremiah wrote, "You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:13). Jesus Himself said, "Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28).
When Paul wrote his poignant letter, he expressed a profound truth: there is power in the resurrection! On this Easter weekend, what greater joy could you find than to receive Jesus Christ as your Lord? John the Apostle expressed it so wonderfully in John 1:12: "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name."
Roger S. Oldham is vice president for convention relations for the Southern Baptist Executive Committee.