“And he said, “Who are you, Lord?”
Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending the St. Cloud Area Mayors Prayer Breakfast hosted by the Christian Business Men’s Connection – Northland (CBMC) which hosted Lee Strobel as the keynote speaker. What a wonderful speech he gave! I also attended the evening session which was an expanded version of the morning speech and a Q&A afterwards. Furthermore, I had the opportunity to visit with him along with a handful of people before the evening session. What a wonderful man. Nothing flashy at all. In fact, you wouldn’t pick him out of a crowd. However, he does stand out in that he has a powerful message of redemption through his journey of understanding the gospel.
There were 1,000 people who attended the morning session and 1,300 the evening – far more than any year before. Why do you suppose that was? It wasn’t that the organizers were better marketers this year. It wasn’t because they didn’t have celebrities the years before. I think it was because people love the simple language Lee Strobel uses in explaining the gospel. He demonstrates that Jesus is relatable, reasonable, and reliable. Bottom line is that it makes sense.
He does this by showing how one simple tenant of our faith – the resurrection of Jesus – actually happened. Now, he did this with lots of evidence from a multitude of sources, all of which were used to demonstrate four primary points – The Four E’s:
• Execution. All the experts who honestly assess the historical record – Christian, agnostic, and atheists – agree that Jesus was killed. He was a man and he was executed.
• Early Reports. Historical documentation of this event date back to within months of the actual event. There is no chance that any of our understanding is mere legend.
• Empty Tomb. Everybody admits the tomb was empty. The Romans wanted Jesus dead. The Jews wanted to keep him dead. And, the disciples had neither the motive, means, nor opportunity to remove the body.
• Eyewitnesses. There were 515 documented, verifiable witnesses of the resurrected Jesus. Furthermore, those around the event, both believers and non-believers, friend and enemy, recorded that these early followers did, in fact, believe and attest that they had personally witnessed the resurrected Jesus. This wasn’t a story that was made up at some later date, even centuries later.
As Strobel explained, the resurrection is rational and believable when honestly examined. Now, what we do with that is up to us. Do we reject it as hogwash? Well, that would prove our unwillingness to be honest with historical facts, the quality of which would overwhelmingly convince anyone of other historical events. To deny it would be like denying the American Revolution.
No, the rational response is to believe it. But belief in and of itself is of no benefit if it is merely head knowledge. Look, knowing how to save for retirement is different than actually saving for retirement, right? Strobel didn’t quote a lot of scripture, but he did quote this verse:
John 1:12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,
He used a simple equation to explain this:
Believe + Receive = Become
It’s not just a matter of head knowledge. The bible teaches us that even demons believe (James 2:19). No, this knowledge must be internalized if eternal life is to be given.
Now, I want to pause here for a moment to address those who once walked with the Lord but no longer do. There is great pressure from family, friends, teachers, co-workers, and the world all around that tells us that this Jesus business is garbage OR that it is not good to take it too far. There are tons of people who may be OK with religion and even are regular church goers yet will not embrace what the bible teaches about Jesus. They will pick and choose what they think God should be like. Theirs becomes a fabrication of a god of their own choosing. Furthermore, their message may be one of love, peace, and tolerance until the truth of the bible is presented.
Yet we see when the truth is embraced, people are changed. Some, like Lee Strobel (and me) are hardly recognizable from that which they used to be. One thing is certain, if you are a child of God’s, Jesus will change you. Consider that 1,000 people got up to be in St. Cloud at 6:30 am yesterday morning. It was cold, dark, and snowing. Yet, they came to hear a message of encouragement. Then, 1,300 came that night. That’s a lot of people in this area to hear one guy tell a story. Why did they go?
I’ll tell you why – because there is great hope in Jesus. Look, life is very, very difficult. Anyone who tells you it isn’t is a fool or lying to you. Life can be terrifying. It can be overwhelming. Then, to top it off, our own actions give us lots of problems. We don’t do as we should, so we lie about it. We do things we are ashamed of. We try to fool ourselves by saying we don’t care, but that doesn’t work. We try to find comfort in things or people, but none of that solves the hole that is in our heart. All of us have that problem.
Friend, there is nothing in the entirety of creation that will soothe this emptiness, truly soothe it, apart from the healing that comes only through Jesus. Yes, we may patch ourselves up and call it good, but complete healing is only available through Jesus. Why? Think about it. Why would God allow man to be truly satisfied with ANYTHING apart from himself? God alone is perfect. God alone made everything, and God alone can fix everything. God won’t allow another to take his place.
Is it any wonder we are miserable when we run from him? Yes, even believers will run from God. But, here’s the message I want to give to someone out there today. You can run from God, and maybe you are afraid to turn back. Maybe you’re ashamed that you ran. Maybe you are afraid of people in your life that you love who will ridicule you if you go back to Jesus. Maybe you don’t feel that you even believe anymore. Who knows the reason! Yet hear me on this. No matter why you left or why you stay away, God will ALWAYS welcome you back with open arms. He will NEVER criticize you for leaving, and he will always forgive you if you simply ask him in sincerity.
That’s the message of the bible, from front to back. The pages are FULL of God beckoning wanderers to return home. That’s the whole point of Jesus’ story of the Prodigal Son. That boy greatly insulted his father and squandered it all in foolish, sinful living. Even so, look what Jesus tells us:
Luke 15:20-24 And [the son] arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
If you have walked away – for whatever reason – and think you cannot return, whether pride, shame, guilt, or fear, please know that God has not abandoned you. His heart aches for you to return, and soon. Your sin is of no concern; that’s what Jesus came for, to make good for all that. God desires you to come home, the sooner the better. Never mind what others will think of you. God is the only one that really matters. Jesus makes this all possible.
Deep down, you know this. Cast off all the doubt and fear and return to Jesus today. Please.
Copyright © 2019 Scott Powers