Friday, April 18, 2014

Easter. A Fork In The Road

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The late Dr. David Seamands: missionary, pastor, seminary professor and author often told this story:

A Muslim had heard the message of Easter in his village in Africa. He accepted Christ.

Some of his friends asked him, "Why have you become a Christian?" He answered, "Well, it's like this. Suppose you were going down the road and suddenly the road forked in two directions, and you didn't know which way to go, and there at the fork were two men, one dead and one alive---which one would you ask for directions?"

This Easter millions in our world and our culture stand at the proverbial "fork in the road."

Some thoughts for those who stand at that fork---and for those who have moved on.

1. The message of Easter is personal, not religious.

Those who take direction from the dead voices and reject the message and the Man of Easter will suffer "everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power" (II Thessalonians 1:9). But for those who take His direction, there is hope and the promise for "an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you" (I Peter 1:4).

2. The message of Easter is spiritual, not political.

Dr. George Sweeting often told of an incident in the early 1920s when Communist leader Nikolai Bukharin was sent from Moscow to Kiev to address an anti-God rally. For an hour or more he verbally abused and ridiculed Christianity, the Bible and those who were Christians.

When he concluded, some felt he had laid ruin to the whole structure of the Christian faith and believed those in the crowd were depressed and even spiritually destroyed by his lashing.

He then asked the crowd of thousands if there were any questions.

An Orthodox church priest rose and asked to speak. He turned, faced the crowd, and in his loudest voice gave an Easter greeting, "He is Risen."

The thousands rose to their feet with a clear and forceful response, "He is Risen Indeed."

3. The Message of Easter is "Truth."

Pilate could not find the "Truth". In search for a compromise, he asked (John 18:38) "What is truth?"

He was looking at Truth, but did not recognize Him.

He stood at that fork in the road. He put Truth on trial. And he took direction from the dead, not the living.

Among the spiritually dead who were providing direction was Annas, a corrupt former high priest of the Jews, who in giving Pilate direction, broke several of the very Jewish laws he proudly proclaimed to uphold. For example; he held the trial in his house, he tried to induce self accusations against the defendant, and he physically struck the defendant who had been convicted of nothing at that point.

The "Truth" was then led to the reigning high priest, Caiaphas, who just happened to be Annas's son-in-law.

Caiaphas broke 7 Jewish laws while claiming to uphold it. Sounds familiar doesn't it? (1) The trial was held in secret, (2) it was carried out at night, (3) it involved bribery, (4) the defendant had no one present to make a defense for Him (5) the requirement of 2 or 3 witnesses could not be met, (6) they used self incriminating testimony against the defendant, and (7) they carried out the death penalty against the defendant the same day as the trial.

All these actions were forbidden by the Jewish law they claimed to uphold and represent.

"Truth" is still on trial for many. Will you take direction from the dead or the "Living?"

Ravi Zacharias, Bible teacher and Christian apologist says, "The fact is Truth matters, especially when you're on the receiving end of the lie."

I would add. Eternity is a very long time to be wrong.

A socialist from Europe was visiting America for the first time. His host took him around to all the historical places in Washington DC, Virginia, Philadelphia, Gettysburg, Boston---you know all the places. They saw the Constitution, The Declaration of Independence and other documents that framed our country.

As the European was preparing to leave he expressed his appreciation for the personal tour his host had given him but offered that he didn't care much for the violent and "harsh" history of this country. He wasn't sure that what he had seen was really the symbols of freedom.

He said it was undignified and unrefined. Not at all as he had imagined.

As the host dropped him off at the airport he said, "My friend, what you saw is not on trial, you are."

Pilate and the corrupt religious leaders believed they were judging Jesus---and Truth, when in fact they were the ones being judged.

And the One they convicted will one day judge them, and they will be judged by the Truth that could have set them free had they accepted Him.

Pilate took direction from the "dead man." He chose the wrong fork in the road. And he evidently never came to the knowledge of the Truth.

Eusebius, the historian and Bishop of Caesarea, recorded the fact that Pilate ultimately committed suicide sometime during the reign of emperor Caligula.

4. The message of Easter is Reevaluation, Redemption and Forgiveness.

To those who have chosen the wrong path, Christ welcomes you with open arms and nailed scarred hands.

No matter how far down the secular path you've traveled, He welcomes you, asking that you accept Him as who He said He was, the Son of God. Believe in your heart that He died for your sins and was resurrected from the dead. Receive the Truth and you will receive Life. Eternal life.

Some would say, I've traveled too far down the road of progressive secularism, I couldn't even find my way back. I've taken others down that path as well.

C.S. Lewis had the same experience. He was lost on the path of atheism and secular progressivism. And as a professor he had not only walked this path himself, but had led many there as well.

In his search for Truth, he came to accept Christ for who He is.

C.S. Lewis later wrote, "We all want progress, but if you're on the wrong road, progress means doing an about turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive."

5. The message of Easter is Joy and Hope and Life.

If you have taken direction from the "Living Man" and are walking the path of life with Him, you are joined by over 2 billion other Christians today, around the world who are also walking that path.

Rejoice. He is risen.

Charles Wesley expressed it like this in the Easter Hymn that he wrote in 1739 that is sung today in magnificent cathedrals, large and small buildings and open fields where Christians gather:

Christ the Lord is ris’n today, Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heav’ns, and earth, reply, Alleluia!
Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once He died our souls to save, Alleluia!
Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!
Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids His rise, Alleluia!
Christ hath opened paradise, Alleluia!
Soar we now where Christ hath led, Alleluia!
Foll’wing our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like Him, like Him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!

Be Hopeful. Be Joyous. Be Blessed.