The Hope of Easter In an Age of Skepticism

The Hope of Easter in an Age of Skepticism
April 6, 2007

We approach Easter. You know, it really strikes me that if the events that took place on that first Good Friday and that first Easter morning, if they actually happened as events of history, then they are clearly the defining events in all of life, in all of history. As Blaise Pascal observed, apart from Jesus, His crucifixion, His resurrection, we cannot know the meaning of life, of our death, of God, or of ourselves. And I would further contend that these Easter events have the power to convert and change the mind and the intellect and to transform the heart.

And this morning that’s what I want to consider, how the cross and how the resurrection impacts the mind and the heart and I want to start with our minds and our intellect because, you know, we do live in an age of skepticism. And it’s interesting, I know a woman who’s still alive, she’s on in her years, and I’ve heard of many people like her who don’t believe that man actually landed on the moon. That it was a hoax. I read about a woman talking about her grandmother who didn’t believe it. And you know, for some reason, some people just don’t have a mental category for moon landings.

And yet, as we sit here this morning, I would venture to say that every single one of us believed that the first landing on the moon and the subsequent landings on the moon actually happened because the evidence is overwhelming of what happened. But have you ever stopped, and this is a great question to ask, have you ever stopped and asked yourself this question? Why do I believe what I believe? You know, what has shaped my beliefs over the years? You know, what are the sources that have formed what I believe in this life? And I’m not just talking about spiritual, I’m just talking about everything that you believe. And are the sources good and reliable?

You know, I think most rational adults try to base their beliefs on what is and what is in harmony with reality. In other words, what’s true. That’s what we seek to, we seek to believe what is true. I think we’ve all left the world of fantasy back in our childhood. We’re now into reality. And if you think about it, so much of what you and I believe in our day-to-day living is, we believe is and we know is true because it’s verifiable. Whether it’s the law of gravity, whether it’s simple mathematics, whether it’s the law of aerodynamics that we believe that allows a plane to take off and fly. But where belief becomes difficult is when you move into the philosophical and the religious. And since I’m going to talk about Good Friday and Easter, I want to talk about spiritual truth and spiritual belief this morning.

There was a famous French skeptic by the name of Jean-Paul Sartre who died in 1980. I remember there was a big write up in The Birmingham News when he died, and he was probably one of the most prominent atheists who lived in the last century. And what’s interesting about Sartre is at the end of his life, he began to waver in what he believed. He began to waver in his belief as an atheist. In fact, some think he renounced it. And 30 days before he died, he was keeping a journal, he penned these words. He said, “The world seems ugly, bad, and without hope. There, that’s the cry of despair, of an old man who will die in despair.” He says, “But that’s exactly what I resist. That’s what I don’t want.” He says, “I want to die with hope, with some kind of faith in something.” But then he says this, it’s very important, he says, “But that hope needs a foundation.” And he’s right. You know, what he’s saying is that faith and belief must have a foundation to undergird it, otherwise it’s blind faith. It’s speculation. And he’s absolutely right. Another way of thinking about this is to think of a lake that’s been frozen. You know, you can have very little faith in thick ice, and it’ll hold you up, but you can also have enormous faith in thin ice, and you can drown. You see, it’s not the amount of faith you can muster that matters up front. It may be tiny, it may be like a little mustard seed as Jesus says it, but your faith must be invested in something solid, something you can stand on, something that’s true.

And as we’re thinking through this, I find that there are two fundamental problems that we as modern people, as modern thinking people, have problems with when it comes to faith and belief. And the first was observed by Blaise Pascal 350 years ago, who was consistently frustrated with the intellectual elite that he hung out with, and he struggled with their arrogance and lack of intellectual integrity. And he observed this problem. He said, “People almost invariably arrive at their beliefs, not on the basis of proof, but on the basis of what they find attractive.” What they find appeals to them. And I’m going to come back to this in a minute, but it’s a real problem.

The second problem is that modern people readily disbelieve in the unseen realm because we’re a culture that focuses on the visible world, on the world of images, on what’s empirical. And as Philip Yancey has noted, for many, they contend that God cannot possibly exist unless He makes Himself visible. And God does not perform for us on our terms.

So, what are the terms that He gives us? What is the foundation that I can build my faith on, my belief on?

Well, you know, the Bible says there’s one primary reason we should believe that Christianity is true, and that Jesus is the son of God, and the apostle Paul articulates this very well. He gives in Acts chapter 17, one of the great sermons in the Bible. He’s in Athens, Greece, which is the center of learning, and all these are, you have a bunch of brilliant pagans and they come together, and they discuss things, and Paul comes in and he begins to quote their poets, their philosophers. He does a brilliant job and then he gets to the end of his speech and listens to what he says. “Therefore, having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent. Why? Because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a man whom He has appointed,” and listen to this, “having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”

In the first chapter of Acts, it talks about the fact that Christ presented Himself after the crucifixion. It says He presented Himself alive after suffering and gave them many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of 40 days. In other words, He just didn’t appear once, He appeared to groups of people over a period of 40 days. Well, who did He appear to? This is what Paul says in I Corinthians 15, “I delivered you as of first importance that I also received that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures and that He was buried and that He was raised on the third day according to the scriptures and according to the Old Testament prophecies. And He appeared to Peter and then to the Twelve. And after that He appeared to more than 500 brethren at one time.” And he says, “you can check it out because many of them are alive today. Most of them are alive today, but some have died. And He appeared to James. He then appeared to all the apostles and last of all, to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.”

Paul is saying that the resurrection was a massive, comprehensive argument for belief. And of course, many people today, and I find this happens, is that people want more proof. We want more proof. It’s like Bertrand Russell, the prominent atheist said, what are you going to do, Lord Russell if, when you die, you come face to face with God? And he said, I’m going to complain that He didn’t give me more evidence.

But you know, I think there’s good reason that God has given us what He has given us and doesn’t consistently reign His power down on us. I want to read these words from Philip Yancey. It’s quite fascinating. He says, this is from his book, Disappointment with God. He said, “God’s open demonstration of power in the Old Testament did not encourage spiritual development. In fact, the Israelites in the desert had no need of faith at all. God’s clear presence sucked away freedom, making every choice that confronted them a matter of obedience and not faith. God did not play hide and seek with the Israelites. They had every proof of His existence that you could ask for. But astonishingly, and I could hardly believe this result, even as I read it, God’s directness seemed to produce the very opposite of the desired effect. The Israelites responded, not with worship and love, but with fear and open rebellion.” Listen to this, “God’s visible presence did nothing to improve lasting faith.”

In other words, what he’s saying is that God chose, for the sake of our freedom, He chose to surrender his greatest advantage and that is the power to compel belief. And if you read the four gospels, one of the things that you’ll notice is that the performance of great miracles didn’t readily cause people to have lasting faith. I recently read where Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, and it says a lot of people believed, but a lot of people didn’t. They went straight to the Pharisees. And you see Jesus attract these great crowds of people who want to see the spectacular miracles, but they don’t like His teaching and they often will wander off. It’s like in John chapter six, He has this huge crowd, but then as he begins to teach and talks about being the bread of life, in verse 66 of John six, it says, many of His followers, they grumbled. They didn’t like what He’s taught, he says, and they withdrew. And were not walking with Him anymore.

Now, Pascal was right, people don’t necessarily believe on the basis of proof, but on what they find to be palatable and attractive. And maybe this is true in your life. I think Ravi Zacharias has hit the nail on the head when he says, “Anytime truth involves a total commitment in which you bring yourself to complete humility under the surrender of the will, you’ll always have resistance. And Christ,” he says, “violates our autonomy because He challenges us in every area of our lives.”

Now, I wasn’t planning on, sharing this, but I asked a couple of men if I ought to touch on it and they suggested I did. I’m going to have to, I’m going to depart from my regular text for just a second because I know, I knew inevitably once I was finished, someone would come up, or maybe several of you would come up and ask about this controversial documentary that just was shown on the Discovery Channel. It was made by James Cameron. You know, Cameron won the Academy Award for The Titanic, for producing The Titanic. And he’s put together this documentary with a couple of scholars called The Lost Tomb of Jesus. He’s been on Larry King, he’s been on The Today Show, there was a big write-up about it in the paper. In fact, I’m really kind of curious to know, I’m not asking if you’ve seen any of this.

How many of you are just aware of this? Maybe not even the detail. How many of you are aware of this? Just, okay, well, I want to just make a comment about it because I do think it’s important. The secular media loves this story and what happened was, in 1980, some construction workers in Israel unearthed a tomb that Cameron claimed, and these scholars claim to possibly to be Jesus and several of individuals that were close to Him, and they were all buried together in this tomb. And if that’s the case, then that means there was no bodily resurrection. Now, what’s happened now that the documentary has been made and I even think a book’s been written, you know, scholars have now had a chance to look at the evidence. I heard one interviewed the other day, and they’ve truly shot holes in this because they said the scholarship is so poor, but it is a sensational story. But I want to share with you the number one problem I see with it. And it’s a problem that skeptics have had over the centuries who’ve tried to contend that when Jesus died and they took Him from the cross, that His followers took His body and hid it somewhere or maybe even burned it, and then came out with this unbelievable story that Christ had risen from the dead. And in one sense, that’s what Cameron is saying here, that His closest followers knew that He had not truly risen from the dead. There was no true bodily resurrection. And this is a problem though. The problem for them is how do you explain that the disciples’ sudden burst of courage and the zeal that they had proclaiming the resurrection if they knew it was a lie. Because what they’re saying is they knew, His followers knew that it didn’t happen, that His body, His bones were in a tomb. And furthermore, they would never have allowed themselves to be tortured and executed over something that was a lie. As Peter Kreeft, who teaches psychology at Boston Colleges noted, he said, “Why would the apostles lie if they lied? What was their motive? I mean, usually when you lie, you’re trying to cover something up that’ll benefit you. He says, what was their motive? What did they get out of it?” He says, “What they got out of it was misunderstanding, rejection, persecution, torture, and martyrdom. Hardly a list of perks.”

You know, over the centuries, guys, theories have come and gone. But as one scholar put it, the empty tomb forms a veritable rock on which all rationalistic theories of the resurrection dash themselves in vain.

Now, before I move on and talk about the heart, I want to bring, I want to look at one of the other, I think the most crucial point I’ll make this morning, or one of them and this comes from Dallas Willard. Now Willard is one of the great thinkers in our land today. He was head of the philosophy department at USC for a number of years. He still teaches there even though he is getting on in his years and over his career, which spans many decades, he’s had many debates, many discussions with those who don’t embrace his worldview. He is a Christian and he says one of the things that he’s noted is that people, intellectuals, suffer from what he calls irresponsible disbelief. He says that is choosing to disbelieve in something without a commitment to coming to that disbelief by way of sound reasoning. “The burden of proof,” he argued, “is equally significant for both belief and disbelief. To ignore this is to address reality irresponsibly and foolishly. Yet in our society where skepticism is almost encouraged, belief and unbelief are treated quite differently. We don’t feel compelled to justify our disbelief in the same way we feel compelled to justify our belief.”

In fact, Willard says he believes that most skeptics have never carefully examined the evidence that’s out there. In fact, Armand Nicholi, who wrote that wonderful book, The Question of God; Nicholi teaches Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, and wrote this wonderful book comparing the life of C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud and when he gets to the chapter on God, he says that after doing all, he says Lewis became a Christian and renounced his atheism when, and I quote, “he made a conscious exertion of his will to open his mind and examine the evidence.” And I would underscore he says the key, he says, when “he made a conscious exertion of his will to open his mind and examine the evidence” for what it was.

You know, I read where Albert Einstein said that most people think it’s the intellect which makes a great scientist. And he says, that is absolutely wrong. He says, the key to being a great scientist is your character, your intellectual integrity, your willingness to follow the evidence wherever it leads. And that’s what we’re talking about. You know, back in the year 2002 in the summer, I prepared a talk called “The Bible: Truth or Fiction”. And you know, I was amazed at how so many of my research sources were men who had set out to demolish and discredit the foundation of the Christian faith, primarily the resurrection and in the process came to the conclusion that that which they had set out to debunk was in fact true.

Frank Limehouse gave us a good one last week that I wasn’t even familiar with when he left that book, that little book. I did some research on the author, Jay Norman Anderson, an incredible scholar. He was dean of the law school at the University of London, set out to disprove the resurrection and in the process became a Christian. Josh McDowell, truly believed that Christians were a bunch of buffoons, was challenged to examine the evidence, became a Christian, wrote the very famous classics, two-volume Evidence that Demands a Verdict.

Most recently, Lee Strobel, who many of you are familiar with, after he graduated from Yale Law School, headed up the Legal Affairs department of the Chicago Tribune. He described himself as a decadent atheist. His wife, over the course of time, became a Christian in our life, radically changed. And he said, I quote, “I set out on an all-out investigation to show her that she was wrong. I read books, I interviewed scholars all over the country, and after several years, the evidence began to point to the unthinkable, that this might be true.”

He’s now a minister in Chicago, has written the book, The Case for Christ and The Case for Faith, both, which I believe will become classics. One of my favorites is Sir William Ramsay. Ramsay is probably one of the most famous archeologists to ever, ever live. And he did all of his diggings in Middle East. Ramsay was an atheist, the son of atheists of great wealth. He received his doctorate from Oxford. He committed his entire life to archeology and was determined to undermine the validity of the Bible. He set out for the Holy Land with the hope of discrediting the Book of Acts. It was written by Luke. He felt like Luke who was a historian and a doctor, a physician, who put, there’s so much detail in the Book of Luke in the Book of Acts, which makes up, by the way, 25% of the New Testament. And he says, he was going to discredit Luke. In his diggings and through his study Ramsey uncovered hundreds of artifacts which ironically confirmed the historicity of the New Testament record and finally in one of his books, he revealed that he’d become a Christian and he shocked the archeological community. And this is what he said about Luke.

I quote, “Luke is a historian of the first rank, not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy. This author should be placed along with the very greatest of all historians.”

And then just one more, I really like this because it’s a guy named Frank Morrison, an English journalist wrote this book, it has truly become a classic, it’s called Who Moved the Stone. In fact, Lee Strobel says this was one of the keys which led him to faith. And Morrison was an English journalist, and he was going to write a book. He began writing a book and let me just read to you the preface. He was going to write a book seeking where he was going to examine the last seven days of Jesus’ life and seek to discredit it. And he says, “This book is a confession. It’s the inner story of a man who originally set out to write one kind of book and found himself compelled by the sheer force of circumstances to write quite another. It’s not that the facts themselves altered for they are recorded imperishable in the monuments and in the pages of human history. Somehow the perspective shifted, not suddenly as in a flash of insight or inspiration, but slowly almost imperceptibly by the very stubbornness of the facts themselves.” And I like the way he said this because this is my conclusion. “The resurrection is a stubborn fact that seems to hang around as year after year, century after century, skeptics try to discredit and undermine it. And though they’ve tried, they fail.”

And if you struggle with the issue of faith and belief, I challenge you to focus on this central issue because it will truly impact your mind and your intellect and your belief.

And what I want to share with you right now, just to wrap this little piece up and then I’ll move to the heart and then we’ll finish up is worth you coming to here. I think this is so important from Philip Yancey. He says this, he says, “I’ve learned about magnifying glasses because I’ve got this big dictionary and the words are so small, I can’t read them without the magnifying glass. When I train the glass on a word, the tiny print shows up crisp and clear in the center or focal point while around the edges it grows progressively distorted. In an exact parallel. Jesus has become the focal point of my faith. And increasingly I’m learning to keep the magnifying glass of my faith focused on Jesus, His death, His resurrection. In my spiritual journey, as well as in my writing career, I have long lingered out in the margins.”

That’s what we do often, we linger out in the margins, “pondering unanswerable questions about the problem of pain and suffering, the conundrums of prayer, God’s providence versus free will and other such matters. When I do, everything becomes fuzzy. But when I look at Jesus, His life, His death, His resurrection, it restores clarity to my faith.

Now I want to shift gears and to take just a couple minutes, this won’t take long, and talk about how the events of Easter can transform the heart. And I’ll start by reading a verse from the book of Hebrews where the writer says, but we do see Him, Jesus, who was made for a little while lower than the angels, and because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.

I want to read that again. By the grace of God, He might taste death for everyone. You know, I contend that when the Gospel of grace truly penetrates your heart, it’ll change you, it’ll transform you.

And I want to close our time together by sharing with you three short stories that I think will drive this point home. And the first comes from an article that was in The Wall Street Journal back in January of this year. It was titled, “How Do You Repay a Hero’s Sacrifice?”

Kelly Miller has the dream once or twice a week. He’s on patrol in Iraq searching a white Toyota Land Cruiser. The driver lunges out and grabs Corporal Miller’s squad leader Jason Dunham around the neck. The Iraqi and Corporal Dunham tumbled to the ground in a ferocious hand-to-hand struggle. Corporal Miller beats the insurgent with the police baton and another Marine races over to help. The Iraqi then drops a hand grenade.

The force of the explosion lifts Corporal Dunham in the air, his back arching forward, arching before he falls back toward the brown dirt road.

And I read what actually happened is he took his helmet off, put it over the grenade and then laid down on it.

Corporal Miller then wakes from his dream. Almost three years have passed since that grenade exploded for real. But the images are never far from his mind. The insurgent, the explosion, and the friend who intentionally took the brunt of a live grenade and gave his own life to save Corporal Miller’s. The adrenaline of combat, the pain of hot shrapnel, the guilt of making it home alive. At the White House on Thursday, President Bush will present Corporal Dunham’s parents with the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for military valor. The first such award for a Marine since Vietnam and the ceremony will enshrine Jason Dunham for posterity as one who loved his brother more than himself.

And then listen to this.

And out in the audience will sit Corporal Miller, a 23-year-old, still struggling with what it means to receive that much love.

You know, can we really fathom this? The idea that someone would take a grenade and give his life for you. You know, Jesus lived the life that we should have lived, and He died the death for us that we should have died. And therefore, the Christian doesn’t receive the judgment and the condemnation that he clearly deserves because Christ took it for us on the cross. He took the grenade for us so that we didn’t have to. And He offers this love to us. And it’s important to know, you can’t earn this love, you can’t achieve it. It has to be received.

Now the second story is a powerful story as well. And it’s from a movie. And the movie is called “The Third Season”.  It was made in 1999. It won all kind of awards, and it involved several different stories that come from Vietnam, it was set in Vietnam, right after the Vietnam War in the early seventies. And I want to read to you just a real quick summary of one of the stories. Because its powerful. It’s about a cycle driver named Huy. He makes deliveries by bicycle, and he is very poor.

And he loves this woman, Lan, who’s a beautiful prostitute. They both have unfulfilled desires and lead unfulfilled lives. Huy dreams of one day having Lan as his wife. But Lan is trying to sleep her way out of the life she hates so much. She hates the poverty and the filthy life she’s in and she longs to go to this clean, beautiful life of the people who live in those elegant hotels where she comes and gives herself sexually to her customers. And she always has to leave because they never let her stay overnight. Yet it’s not working for her because the more she gives herself to prostitution in order to get out, the more she’s brutalized and enslaved. But then Huy enters a cycle race and to everyone’s surprise wins the grand prize and a large sum of money. And there’s so much he can do with the money, but he blows it all on one thing.

He rents an expensive room in one of the expensive hotels and he pays Lan’s fee to come be with him. And of course, those who watch the movie, I’m sure expect some steamy love scene, but they are shocked when the two people get to the room and he tells her he doesn’t want to have sex with her. He tells her that he has only purchased her a place as an actual guest in the world she dreams of joining. And he asked her only permission to watch her fall asleep. And slowly and comfortably, she falls asleep, and he’s gone when she wakes up the next morning, having demanded nothing from her except the chance to fulfill her desire to belong. And what’s interesting in the movie after this, something snaps in her. She finds she can’t go back to that life of prostitution. And the reason is, is she experienced for the first time someone who used their power to serve her and not to use her.

And it changed her. It changed her life. She got a new sense of dignity that her life really mattered. You see, what happened in the in Lan’s life is that she had been changed by the transforming grace of selfless love.

Now guys, think about the power of God. You know, we live in a galaxy called the Milky Way that has a hundred billion stars in it. It’s a hundred thousand light years wide. And a light year is 6 trillion miles. And our galaxy, the Milky Way, is one of the smallest galaxies of 200 billion galaxies in the universe. And what is so hard to fathom is that the God Who holds these galaxies in His hand came and died for you and for me. As small and as insignificant as we appear in this vast universe, instead of crushing us because of our sin and depravity, He came to serve us and to give His life as a ransom for us. You see, what He did at the crucifixion, He was tortured, He was stripped naked for all to see. He was spit upon; He was beaten. In other words, He sacrificed His honor to demonstrate His love.

And I would ask you this morning, do we really grasp this? And if this is really true, how should I respond to Him? How do I respond to that kind of love?

Which leads me to my last story as we conclude. Again, another true story, another war story involves a friend of Tony Campolo, who is a minister who lives in London. And he says, this friend was getting on, it was at Victoria Station, a train heading somewhere out. And it was in the middle of the day. There were very few people on the train except two men in front of him. And one of them you could tell, was kind of sickly and had a blanket around him. And all of a sudden, he fell out into the floor, and he had a seizure, and he shook violently. But the friend very patiently picked him up, put him back in the seat, put the blanket around him, and calmed him down. And he turned around to the minister and said, I really apologize to you. We never know when these seizures are going to come. And they got into a conversation.

And it turns out these two men riding on the train together were close friends in Vietnam. And he shared his story. I’m going to read it to you because it’s powerful.

He says, we were in a major battle, and we were both wounded. He says, I lost my leg. He pointed to his right leg. He says, this is an artificial leg. But I’ve learned to walk on it very well. My friend here had half of his chest blown away by a hand grenade. There was shrapnel all through his chest. And every time he moved, he experienced great pain. The helicopter that was supposed to rescue us was blown out of the sky by an enemy rocket. And with that explosion, we knew that all hope for rescue was gone. It was then that my friend somehow picked himself up. He screamed in pain with every move he made, but somehow, he stood to his feet. And then he reached down and grabbed hold of my shirt and started pulling me through the jungle. I tried to tell him to give up on me. I pleaded with him to save himself if he could. And I kept telling him there was no way he was going to get us both out of the jungle. And I’ll never forget him saying, Jack, if you die in this jungle, I’m going to die here with you. And I don’t know how he did it, Mister, but step by step, scream by scream, he pulled me out of that mess, and he saved my life.

And the minister was just so taken back. He said, that’s the most incredible story I’ve ever heard.

He said, what happened was I moved back to the United States, moved back to New York where I’m from. He lives here in London. And he said, about a year ago, I heard about his condition. He said, I have no family, no wife, no children. So, I sold my condominium in New York. I sold all my belongings, and I moved here to take care of him. And the minister was just blown away. He says, this is an incredible story.

He said, ah, it is really nothing. He said, after what He did for me, there is nothing I wouldn’t be willing to do for Him.

You know, if you think about it, shouldn’t this be my attitude towards Christ? More significantly, is that my attitude towards Him? Am I humble with a heart that everyday overflows with gratitude, with the desire to serve Him and live for Him?

Now, this is what happens when the Gospel truly penetrates your heart. That’s your attitude, that’s your heart. And yet, what I’ve realized is that for so many of us here in the Bible Belt, the Gospel has penetrated my head. In other words, I believe it, because I believe it, I go to church. But for so many, it’s never made its way down into the heart. And therefore, it’s never really impacted my life. And if that’s the case, then I need to ask myself a very serious question. Am I truly in right relationship with God? And if I died tonight, do I know where I would spend eternity? If you wrestle with this or struggle with this or don’t know, that’s why we have these Investigative Studies. I encourage you to go through one.

And I want to leave you with this final thought. It comes from Jack Welch, the renowned former CEO at GE. He had a principle that he applied upon getting that CEO position a number of years ago. And he said, this is what transformed General Electric. This one principle. And it’s a great principle and I want to apply it to what I’ve shared this morning. Welch said, if you want to be strong, if you want to be healthy, if you want to be vibrant, you have to, and I quote, “look reality in the eye and then act upon what you see with as much speed as possible.” In other words, look at what is real. Look at what is true and act upon what is true. Not the way things appear to be, but the way things actually are.

And guys, this morning, I would share with you, this is spiritual reality. This is true of our lives. Our days on this earth are numbered and God has offered to each of us through His unbelievable love and grace and sacrifice the gift of salvation. But we must acknowledge our need for this gift because we’re sinful men and we have to receive it into our lives and into our hearts for it to be real. Knowing this one fact, that death closes the door to God’s grace. Let’s close in prayer.

Lord, we are truly humbled by the incredible love that You’ve demonstrated towards us. The thought that the God of the universe would become a man and would be tortured for us. Lord, I pray that we would closely examine our hearts and ask ourselves this question, has this message, has this truth penetrated my heart? Realizing I can’t achieve Your love, I can only receive it. I thank You for these men here, all the many friendships. We thank You for Easter. As we enter it, we pray all these sayings in Christ’s Name. Amen.


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