April 2017

The essential resurrection

April 12 2017 by Jim Richards

As a student in a Baptist college I heard in a chapel service that it wasn’t important whether Jesus literally and bodily resurrected from the dead. I was told as long as the influence of Jesus lived on in me, that was the important thing.
 
Denying the miraculous was not uncommon in our Baptist institutions almost a half-century ago. For those who get weary of hearing about battles for the Bible, let me remind you that eternal vigilance is necessary to preserve the truth. The battle for the Bible will never be over until Jesus returns.

Jim Richards


The testimony of Jesus Christ is found in every book of the Bible. The Bible is our only reliable witness of the historicity of Jesus and His words. Jesus’ resurrection was clearly evident on Easter Sunday to Mary Magdalene and the women at the tomb, Peter, the eleven disciples and the two disciples traveling to the village of Emmaus.
 
Easter is a good time to reintroduce others to the literal, bodily resurrection of Jesus as the foundation of the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:3,4).
 
Without the resurrection, the cross is a sad ending of a good man; with the resurrection, the cross is the sufficient sacrifice of the God-man. The apostle Paul put it plainly that “if Christ is not risen, your faith is in vain; you are yet in your sins!” (1 Corinthians 15:17). Without the resurrection, we have no hope; but with it, we have the assurance of eternal life.
 
With the resurrection’s promise of a glorious future, believers will not live in eternity as disembodied spirits but will receive resurrected bodies like Jesus. “We know that when he is revealed, we shall be like him for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). We have much to celebrate.
 
Christians observe the resurrection every Sunday when we gather to worship. A life-changing experience is available with the risen Lord. This is what Christianity is all about. To that end, the living Lord Jesus puts within us a desire to tell the Good News like the women on that first Easter morning.
 
It’s easy to find bad news; let’s be bearers of the Good News. He’s alive!
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jim Richards is executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. This article first appeared at the Southern Baptist TEXAN, texanonline.net, the convention’s newsjournal.)
 

4/12/2017 8:28:21 AM by Jim Richards | with 0 comments



Students & a lifetime of global engagement

April 11 2017 by Stefani Varner

As the church works to fulfill the Great Commission by making disciples of all nations, Christian leaders must ensure that mobilizing students is a major part of that plan.
 
Students are not only the mission force of the future, they are catalytic in global disciple-making today. But sending students overseas on mission trips is not the first step in developing global Christians among churches. Mobilizing the next generation to global missions begins with discipleship in the church. Christians must disciple students to missions.

IMB file photo
As the church works to fulfill the Great Commission by making disciples of all nations, Christian leaders must ensure that mobilizing students is a major part of that plan, writes Stefani Varner (not pictured), who serves on the church initiatives team at the International Mission Board.


As students’ hearts for God’s Word grows, they will begin to understand God’s heart for all people to know Him, which will lead to a heart for the world. Every student needs to gain a global perspective, whether he or she becomes a long-term international missionary, a professional in the global marketplace or a healthy church member who sends and supports others.
 
Here are a few tips for discipling students toward global engagement:
 

Teach students to worship God with their whole lives.

As John Piper says in Let the Nations Be Glad, “Missions begins and ends in worship.” Before students can gain a global perspective, they must develop an unwavering devotion to a global God. Teach students how to abide in Christ and depend on His word for everything.
 

Show students the thread of missions throughout scripture.

Many missions sermons focus on New Testament verses such as Acts 1:8 and Matthew 28:19-20. However, it is important for students to understand the grand narrative of scripture. God demonstrates His plan to redeem the world from Genesis through Revelation. Show students how God’s acts and revelation throughout the Old and New Testament were purposefully drawing all people to Himself.
 

Train students to discern what is true, right and good.

As students develop a biblical worldview, grow in their knowledge of God, and hide God’s Word in their hearts, they will be able to filter information and experiences through that knowledge of truth. This will help them identify false teachings, know right from wrong and have a clear understanding of the things that are of God.
 

Expose students to things different from their norms.

Students need to be pushed outside of their comfort zone to experience the incredibly diverse and creative world in which they live. They need to talk to people who have different lifestyles, explore different worldviews and cultures and try new things.
 

Encourage students to pray for the nations.

Students need to recognize the spiritual and physical needs in this world. Then, their efforts to make a difference should begin on their knees. Praying for the nations will instill dependency on God to work around the world. As students pray for the nations, they will get a glimpse of the global church. Then they will be able to unite to support brothers and sisters around the world while also becoming more aware of the needs of their neighbors.
 

Fellowship with students as they learn to live in biblical and missional community.

Students must learn to care for one another, hold each other accountable, spur each other on and take personal responsibility for their own actions, aware of how they influence others. Students need role models to show them how to have fun, resolve conflict, and give their time and resources for the sake of others.
 

Help students understand the purpose and value of the church.

Students need to know that God’s church should be honored and respected.
 
Students should learn to serve in and through the church as they learn that God’s plan is to work through the church to bring the nations to himself.
 

Model for students how to share the gospel with everyone.

Don’t just teach simple evangelism tips and scripts. Instead, they should take students with them and share the gospel in front of them within the normal context of everyday life. They should repeat the gospel to students often in a variety of formats so they know it well and can easily recite it in conversation.
 

Challenge students to do hard things.

Don’t let students settle for the path of least resistance. Instill grit and determination to persevere and solve problems as they come. Help them understand that sacrifice, obedience and determination are all required to get the gospel to the least reached places on Earth.
 

Inspire students to use their gifts, skills and talents for God’s glory.

Students are capable of much more than they are often allowed to do. Be their toughest critic and their biggest fan so they only improve. Help them reach their goals, encourage them to do well in whatever they put their minds to do. Show them ways God can use their skill sets or giftings to reach the nations.
 

Equip students to cross cultures.

Teach students about various worldviews, ask them to study the basics about major world religions, and train them to ask good questions about cultural practices and values. Teach them to communicate with a variety of people and engage them in ministry to internationals on their campuses and in their neighborhoods.
 

Send students to unreached peoples and places.

Students are in a season of life that gives them unprecedented opportunity to go and serve among the nations. Timing, flexibility, health, energy, enthusiasm and creativity all create a window of opportunity to send students. Churches can create an exciting culture of sending within the congregation by using student missionaries to start and fuel mission partnerships. In addition, missionary teams need ready, willing and able students to extend their reach and influence in order to plant churches among unreached peoples and places.
 
For information, go to imb.org.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Stefani Varner serves on the church initiatives team at the International Mission Board.)
 

4/11/2017 9:17:02 AM by Stefani Varner | with 0 comments



Cooperative Program – ‘incredibly thankful’

April 10 2017 by Marlee Isom

Despite being raised in Baptist churches most of my life, the Cooperative Program and North American Mission Board were foreign to me. Before I became a church planter’s wife, I had very little working knowledge of what they are or what purpose they serve.

Today, my understanding of the Cooperative Program and North American Mission Board (NAMB) has deepened. I recognize them as a friend and resource, equipped and eager to maximize efforts in aiding church planters and their families to reach people for the glory of God.

Contributed photo
Marlee Isom, with her husband Bryson and two children, voices a deepened understanding of the Cooperative Program as “a friend and resource” in planting a Southern Baptist church in metro Phoenix.


Bryson and I have been married a little over five years. I knew when he proposed that his passion was to reach as many people as possible with the gospel of Jesus. It was mine too, so we made a good match.
 
Soon after our wedding, we moved from our home state of Texas to Arizona. Six months after we moved, God led us to a small Southern Baptist church plant in North Phoenix called Valley Life Church. We quickly recognized the mighty work God was doing through this church to reach the community with the gospel and were eager to jump on board.
 
The church’s vision is to “Make disciples. Plant churches.” It was a matter of time before Bryson’s desire to plant was married to a real opportunity. When my husband started his paid internship with NAMB, we were in an unusually challenging season of life. Bryson worked long, tiresome hours as a car salesman to make ends meet, so our time with him at home was minimal. Our family had expanded to include a feisty little boy and I was expecting baby number two. I knew that if all went according to plan as Bryson worked to plant a church in three years’ time, our family would be well supported by NAMB which poured so much genuine love and care into its church planters.
 
That was two and a half years ago, and in the course of time God has used NAMB to encourage, equip and enable our family to begin this journey of church planting. Today my husband has planted the fourth Valley Life Church here in the Phoenix area, and we’re so excited to help build a legacy of making disciples and planting churches.
 
Friends and family often ask me about our church plant and how I feel about Bryson being a pastor. Sometimes their excitement for us is coupled with a sympathetic caveat about how hard it will be on the family since pastors are often “on call.”
 
For our family though, it is the opposite.
 
We are so incredibly thankful to the Cooperative Program, which has directly helped Bryson get ahead of his fundraising needs by financially contributing to our church plant. For the very first time in five years of marriage, he has a job that consistently allows him to spend precious time with his family. Honestly, we are only a few weeks into this new life. Bryson and I are calling it the honeymoon phase because it has been so sweet.
 
Now that he is able to devote the bulk of his time to our church plant, a huge load has been taken off my plate. For one, I love his job. It doesn’t steal hours away from our family and I recognize the good fruit Bryson’s work is producing in our marriage, our children and the people who make up our church. Knowing our family’s financial needs are met affirms the dream God has given me to raise our babies without the need to find an extra job to pay our bills.
 
Being a Southern Baptist church planter has been such a blessing. I am grateful to Southern Baptist churches who participate in the Cooperative Program, to NAMB, to our sending church (Valley Life Tramonto in metro Phoenix) and all those individuals who have helped our family during this exciting new season of church planting.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – For resources related to the Cooperative Program, go to sbc.net/cp. Marlee Isom and her husband Bryson are being assisted by the Cooperative Program and North American Mission Board as Bryson plants Valley Life Church Camelback in the metro Phoenix area. This article and others highlighting the Cooperative Program are posted at talkCP.net.)
 

4/10/2017 9:09:57 AM by Marlee Isom | with 0 comments



It’s time

April 7 2017 by David Coombs

I am a new International Mission Board (IMB) trustee and, having now attended three trustee meetings, I am struck by the gravity of the responsibility we as Southern Baptists have for the people we put on the mission field and the lost people of the world to whom they are called to share the gospel.

David Coombs


The IMB has approved a balanced budget that includes adding missionaries for the first time in nine years. My prayer is that Southern Baptists would focus on the task at hand as never before taking the gospel to the people of the world who have not yet heard.
 
God has always called us, as followers of Christ, to give our best. I have marveled at the quality of individuals God has called to the mission field – those who are being sent by us as Southern Baptists. When I was in business and now on a church staff, I would have hired any of these individuals we are sending to the mission field.
 
At the most recent board meeting, I sat across from a couple at dinner with a 1-year-old boy. They are headed to a tough place in the world. I asked about their background and preparation for the mission field and learned that Daniel* earned a degree in engineering from Georgia Tech and Cindy* earned an interior design degree from Georgia Southern. Daniel attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and worked at an engineering firm to support his family through seminary.
 
As I listened to the testimonies of these soon-to-be missionaries, I heard the word “obedience” over and over. Their obedience to the call demands our requirement to unite and financially support Southern Baptist missions efforts to send even more. We are sending the most qualified and the best trained – and nothing less is required of us here in our churches.
 
During a previous board meeting, I listened to Nathan* and Ellen* tell how the Lord led each of them, independently, to the call to missions. Nathan holds a degree in electrical engineering from Florida State and was successfully working in an engineering firm. Ellen holds a psychology degree from Florida State and was working there as a researcher when God called them. They left their careers and with their nine-month-old baby, Carrie*, are following the Lord in obedience to their call to the mission field.
 
As we sat in the room visiting, Ellen’s mother stood out in the hall holding Carrie. Her mother could not stop the tears. You see Nathan and Ellen had already spent three years in West Africa as short-term church planters, where they had buried their first baby, Christopher*. Now they had surrendered to a lifelong missionary career to go back to the country where Christopher is buried to take the gospel to that part of Africa. Ellen’s mother was not the only one with tears.
 
It’s time to focus and “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” Matthew 28:19–20.
 
*Names changed.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Coombs is administrative pastor of the Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church and a trustee of the International Mission Board.)
 

4/7/2017 10:13:42 AM by David Coombs | with 0 comments



Five lessons from raising kids overseas

April 6 2017 by Maggie Kirkpatrick

My daughter was two when we first arrived in East Asia. Eighteen months later, our son was born with the assistance of local midwives. Even from the earliest days, I loved how God painted on the blank canvas of my family’s life using East Asian themes and colors.
 
That was 27 years ago. Now my children are adults who have moved to mission fields of their own. I didn’t realize it during their childhood, but experiencing life overseas with my kids taught me meaningful lessons about cultural adaptation, reentry to the United States, and growing older.

IMB Photo

 

Kids find their own ways to adapt to their overseas environment

My daughter used to joyfully sing at the top of her lungs on the back of her dad’s bike as he pedaled in tandem with his new local friend. As she grew, I watched her carry the same enthusiasm into many cultural experiences and embrace every moment.
 
Conversely, my son pulled his baseball cap down farther over his eyes each time we went outside. He found safety under the brim. Over time, however, I realized something else was happening under there. He was becoming a keen observer of people and culture as he quietly watched, learned and engaged in his own way.
 
I discovered that they each have personality-driven ways to encounter people and culture. I found both of their approaches to cultural adaptation both acceptable and adorable.
 

Children need preparation for reentry to the United States

My daughter and I walked into her classroom together for her first day of American public school during our family’s temporary furlough. As I joined the other moms in the back of the room, I saw my daughter grasp her pencil and line up with her second grade classmates. I suddenly realized I had not coached her in the mundane task of pencil sharpening. I thought I had surely failed and the pencil would be her undoing.
 
Yet, there she stood, craning her neck around the kids ahead of her and watching them insert the pencil into the sharpener and grind their Number 2 to a perfect point. I watched her take a turn, and with a whirl of the handle, she too completed the task.
 
In that moment, I recalled coaching her to be a good observer when she encountered something she didn’t understand about American culture, and that’s exactly what she did. Perhaps I wasn’t a failure after all. She was a champion to me that day as she emerged from the pencil queue, victorious over her cultural challenge.
 

God gives them everything they need when they need it

As an eighth grader at a public middle school in the United States, my son encountered many difficult situations and peer pressures that he hadn’t previously experienced in East Asia. Rather than retreat in this new territory, he used the cultural observations skills God had given him to thrive in the middle school setting. He allowed God to instruct and enable him to stand firm as he thoughtfully engaged with this new culture and chose friends and activities that closely fit his moral compass. Looking back, I see that God protected and instructed him throughout his eighth grade experience far better than I could.
 

My children’s realities don’t have to be the same as my own upbringing

As a family we lived firmly in the culture where we served believing that God wanted all of us to be there. I had a simple faith that even though I might not understand the implications and impact that living cross-culturally would have on my children, I could trust God with the results – with their lives.
 
I remember one particular moment of counting the cost. During a stateside assignment, I longed to stay to keep our daughter in public school and in the wonderful church programs for children. But I knew in my heart it wasn’t the life she would have. The things she would miss out on in the United States paled in comparison to God’s desired reality for her life.
 
My kids’ geographical and cultural context helped develop their understanding of the world, their future roles in it, and their relationship with an entirely trustworthy God. And I became at peace with that reality.
 
I adjusted to and learned to love my new role in their lives
 
When they began attending colleges in the United States, I cried and clutched framed photos of them to my chest while wailing, “I needed more time to love them! I wasn’t through having them close to me!”
 
I wanted to know all the details of their everyday lives. We had been such a tightly-knit family. Yet, I gratefully watched God help them transition to independence. Even now, they still take on life in similar ways to their childhood methods – one with a vibrant enthusiasm for the culture du jour and for making new friends, and the other with quiet determination to learn, understand and relate to the people and culture around him.
 
I cherish watching them continue to embrace their God-ordained life with the same delightfully personalized approaches. And I’ll continue learning more about them and about our faithful God who keeps adding his strokes to the canvas of our lives.
 
Learn more at the International Mission Board’s website, imb.org.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Maggie and her husband have served and lived in East Asia for more than 27 years.)
 

4/6/2017 9:57:05 AM by Maggie Kirkpatrick | with 0 comments



Resurrection life: Christ will always be more than enough

April 5 2017 by Renee Swope

I was completely blindsided after being called into a meeting at my church with another woman in leadership who had been upset with me for months. But sadly, I had no idea until she told me in our meeting that morning.
 
Months earlier, someone told her I didn’t agree with her leadership style. But that wasn’t what I’d said in a team meeting with several other leaders. Our women’s ministry director had asked my opinion about leadership training, and I shared my thoughts, but nothing I said was directed at her.
 
We both volunteered countless hours in ministry, pouring our hearts and lives into women in our church.
 
All the while, we were on the same team, and I assumed we fully supported one another. But now the trust we had built for years was unraveling.
 
Driving home, my spirit felt crushed.
 
It felt like I just didn’t have it in me to keep pouring out with the risk of being misrepresented and misunderstood again. I wasn’t strong enough or resilient enough. And I was exhausted from the hurt I felt and hurt I had caused.
 
That afternoon, I sat in my home office in tears. Laying my head down on my desk, I told God, “I can’t do this anymore. I’m done.”
 
After telling Him all the reasons why it was time for me to quit, a truth buried deep in my heart rose to the surface: “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:19b-20).
 
With my eyes closed, I pictured Jesus crucified. Arms stretched wide and willing. Willing to give His life no matter what it cost Him. Willing to be misunderstood, misrepresented, questioned, rejected, betrayed and hurt beyond comprehension.
 
Tears streaming down my cheeks, I thought about Jesus on the cross. And I sensed Him asking me to die to my fears and let Him live His life and grace through me.
 
My eyes still closed and dripping with emotion, I saw the scene of Golgotha with Jesus nailed in cruciform.
 
But this time, there was a shadow of the cross behind Him, and I sensed the Holy Spirit telling me to lie down on the floor in the shadow of the cross.
 
I had never had this kind of encounter with God, but I sensed it was His way of showing me how to die to my fears. How to live crucified with Christ and find strength in His resurrection power, exchanging my brokenness for His humility and strength.
 
Lying in the shadow of the cross, I rested and waited for strength to get up again, strength to stand at the crossroad and decide: Would I walk away from God’s calling on my life or allow Jesus to live His life through me? Would I protect myself from getting hurt again or live by faith in the One who died for me?
 
On our own we aren’t enough. Not strong enough, resilient enough or humble enough. But Christ in us is more than enough.
 
Jesus didn’t die on the cross just to get us out of hell and into heaven. He died on the cross to get Himself out of heaven and into us!
 
That is resurrection life – and the very place we get our enough. When we’ve been crucified with Christ, we no longer live, but Christ lives in us, and the life we live, we can choose to live by faith in the One who loved us and gave Himself for us.
 
By God’s grace, I chose to die to my fears and rise again in His courage by relying on Christ in me to navigate this very difficult relationship, leadership, and ministry situation.
 
It was far from easy, but I can look back and say it was good because God was in it, and over time our friendship was restored.
 
Relationships are hard. Being misunderstood and misrepresented makes it especially difficult to stay the course and pour ourselves out for Christ and others. Jesus knew it would be because He faced the same temptation to walk away. Yet, He stayed the course and He stayed on the cross.
 
This Easter, let’s remember Jesus’ willingness to give up His life for us, knowing He would rise again and, therefore, we could, too.
 
Let’s receive the resurrection power Christ offers as we open our hearts wide to Him and the life He wants to live through us. Let’s allow Him to be our enough, for indeed He is.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Renee Swope is Craving Connection, a new release from B&H Publishing, and best-selling author of A Confident Heart. This article first appeared in HomeLife, a publication of LifeWay. Learn more at LifeWay.com/magazines.)
 

4/5/2017 7:40:44 AM by Renee Swope | with 0 comments



Six ‘common sense’ reasons to support the Cooperative Program

April 4 2017 by Mike Creswell

Churches do not give to the Cooperative Program (CP).
 
Rather, churches fund missions, church planting and numerous other ministries through the Cooperative Program.
 
CP is not a destination for dollars but a channel for missions support.
 
CP allows churches to set aside a percentage of their income into a shared pool of funds so that, in partnership with other Baptists, they can accomplish a wide range of kingdom ministries they could not possibly accomplish alone.


Through the Cooperative Program, North Carolina Baptists partner with some 16 million Baptists in 46,000 churches for the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) three primary ministries: international missions, North American missions and the six SBC seminaries, including Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary here in our state.
 
So that’s CP. A church agrees on a budget and sends money through that budget to support a variety of ministries. It’s that simple. It’s common sense.
 
Here are six “common sense” reasons to support the Cooperative Program:
 

1. CP is biblical.

From the book of Acts in the New Testament, we see how the early churches cooperated to send and support missionaries.
 

2. CP allows churches of all sizes to contribute.

Small churches that could not send even one missionary can have a part in the greatest missions support system ever created. But even big-budget churches with thousands of members can accomplish more in partnership with other churches than they could manage alone.
 

3. CP is amazingly effective.

Since it started in 1925, CP has enabled thousands of independent-minded, autonomous churches to unite together in missions and ministry causes. CP has enabled Baptists to establish schools, hospitals, orphanages and many other ministries we agreed on, all while leaving the autonomy of local churches unimpeded.
 

4. CP has enabled Baptists to do big stuff.

Consider that our churches – where the overwhelming majority average well under 200 members – established some huge ministries. When Baptists decided they needed seminaries to train pastors and missionaries, they established six of them. Now all six SBC seminaries rank among the nation’s top 10 seminaries by enrollment, collectively equipping more than 18,000 students.
 
Consider that our International Mission Board (IMB) sends thousands of missionaries into some of the world’s most dangerous places to share the gospel. The IMB has also been a leader in identifying unreached people groups and figuring out how to get the gospel to them.
 
Consider that through our North American Mission Board, we as Southern Baptists helped start about 40 percent of all new churches that were started in the United States last year. That works out to an average of two new churches every day, 365 days a year.
 

5. CP is efficient.

Every financing system has costs, whether you call it overhead or administrative costs. Administration and overhead of the SBC comes to less than 3 percent of its budget. And that includes having those huge annual meetings in June each year.
 
State conventions’ costs are similar. While some of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s (BSC) staff are focused on administration or support, most are directly involved in ministries that help existing churches minister more effectively or help new churches get started.
 
In other words, they are focused on ministry, not overhead. Compared with most non-profits, BSC’s overhead is shockingly low.
 

6. CP is flexible.

We all talk about how rapid change is these days. Turns out that the seemingly old-fashioned system of having an annual meeting to set next year’s budget is quite compatible with a changing society.
 
Ministries can be added, dropped or otherwise adapted as conditions change. For example, the 2017 budget is quite different from the one 10 years ago.
 
Many churches will recognize Sunday, April 9 as Cooperative Program Sunday. It might be a good day to ponder and thank God for what a bunch of autonomous Baptist churches have been able to do together by following what the Bible teaches and being willing to partner with other Baptists.
 
It might also be a good day to ask God what He may be leading your church do in the future. Consider that if all of the approximately 4,300 churches in our state that are affiliated with the BSC increased CP giving by just 1 percent, it would produce an additional $6 million each year for missions and ministry.
 
Given all this, doesn’t supporting CP seem to be a good idea for your church? And doesn’t increasing your church’s Cooperative Program giving just seem like common sense?
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mike Creswell serves as a senior consultant with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.)
 

4/4/2017 1:42:44 PM by Mike Creswell | with 0 comments



Three commands from an empty tomb

April 3 2017 by Steve Gaines

The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you’” (Matthew 28:5-7 NASB).
 
Springtime is here. Dogwoods and daffodils bloom as winter retreats and warmer days are welcomed.
Across America, churches will soon be packed on Easter Sunday.
 
Why?
 
Easter is about forgiveness and hope through a sacred death and an empty tomb. Easter is about the grimness of the grave being overcome. It is about Jesus Christ rising bodily, victoriously and eternally from the grave.
 
Behold our resurrected Lord triumphantly displaying the keys to death, hell and the grave in His nail-scarred hands! No wonder Easter is the annual apex for all Christians.
 
No other religion dares to make such claims. Muslims readily admit that Muhammad is dead. Buddha and Confucius are also in the grave, as is Joseph Smith. But after Jesus died, He rose from the grave, never to die again.
 
The women who followed Jesus to Jerusalem from Galilee had gone to the tomb to properly anoint their Lord for burial. There they found an angel who gave them three significant commands:
 

The first command was “Do not be afraid” (v. 5).

 
Those women came to the tomb wondering how they would remove the stone so they could anoint Jesus’ body (cf. Mark 16:1).
 
But when they arrived, an angel had already rolled the stone away (cf. Matthew 28:2).
 
Jesus was not there – He had risen! And because He had risen, there would never again be a valid reason for fear. As Bill Gaither’s song says, “Because He lives, all fear is gone.”
 

The angel’s second command was “Come, see” (v. 6).

 
There was nothing to hide. Jesus’ body had not been stolen. This was no gimmick or fabrication, as the Jewish religious leaders in Jerusalem slyly suggested (cf. Matthew 28:11f).
 
Jesus was really alive.
 
The angel rolled the stone away, not to allow Jesus to leave the grave, but to let the women and everyone else to look in! Jesus’ burial proved His actual death. His empty tomb proved His actual resurrection. Now everyone could “come, see” for themselves.
 

The third command was, “Go quickly and tell” (v. 7).

 
The Good News of Jesus’ resurrection demanded sharing. The angel’s words at this point were similar to those spoken by Jesus after His resurrection and prior to His ascension: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15, NASB). Jesus had risen from the grave and His disciples were commissioned to take that Good News to the ends of the earth.
 
As they proclaimed the gospel message, people repented of their sins, believed that Jesus died and rose for their salvation and received Jesus as Lord and Savior by calling on His name in humble prayer. The book of Acts describes how those early disciples boldly shared the gospel from Jerusalem to Rome in just three decades. They could not stop speaking of what they had “seen and heard” (cf. Acts 4:20).
 
Today we who follow Jesus must continue to tell the world the saving message of His death, burial and resurrection (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
 
No religion in the world claims anything like Jesus’ empty tomb. His vicarious death and victorious resurrection are what make the Good News “good.”
 
The angel’s three commands echo through the centuries, calling out to us this Easter season. By faith, with spirit-ears, we still hear His commands:

  • “Jesus is alive! Do not be afraid!”
  • “Jesus is alive! Come, see!”
  • “Jesus is alive! Go quickly and tell!”


Southern Baptists, that is the message of Easter!
 
That is what we must share with our lost neighbors. We must tell everyone that there is hope, healing and forgiveness for anyone who comes to Christ in repentance and faith, and that salvation comes from the bloody cross and empty tomb of Jesus.
 
Do not be afraid. Come and see. Go quickly and tell.
 
Have a glorious Easter!
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Steve Gaines is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of the Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church.)
 

4/3/2017 3:03:02 PM by Steve Gaines | with 0 comments



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