I love hearing people tell about how Jesus has changed their lives.
Yesterday Marion, Bethany and I spent a few hours with some new friends. They opened their home to us, and we had dinner with them and their four active children, aged 7 to 19. Their hospitality was warm and generous.
My new friend S. was quite open about what his life had been like before he had met Jesus. He had grown up starved for love, in a family that was deeply wounded by alcoholism and other forms of brokenness. His parents cared about him but were too wounded and hardened to know how to give their six children the kind of love that young children need to be emotionally and spiritually healthy. They went to church and were taught to pray prayers by rote, but they had no understanding of what it might mean to have a relationship with a God who loved them. In this atmosphere of pain, S. grew up a drinker and a fighter. At 38 years of age, after several troubled years of marriage, he and his wife N. surrendered their lives to Jesus. Today, 14 years later, S. and N. freely testify to how Jesus has changed their lives. S. told me “My heart used to be hard, but Jesus has softened it”. Their family is very much a work in progress, but they love their children freely and are teaching them to place their hope in Jesus. They are not a “religious” family but they are a believing family. S. and N. serve the Lord in many ways, and are eager to know Him better and share their faith with others who are seeking.
Their lives were a refreshing reminder to me that anyone who is in Christ is a new creation. It’s very evident to me that my new friends are “the real deal”. Pretense is not a part of their character or their lifestyle. When I consider where they came from, I have only one explanation for the life they are now living. They have been redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus from the empty, destructive, pointless way of life handed down to them from their ancestors. Because Jesus lives in them, they are free to live a new life – and they are living that new life, and are determined to go on living it, by the grace of God.
In many respects my testimony is quite different from theirs, but at its core it is exactly the same. A broken man found peace with God through the sacrifice of Jesus the Messiah. Because Jesus lives, I now live a changed life. The change is not yet complete, but my hope is in Jesus the risen One, and I believe He will finish what He has begun. Trials may come – in fact, I am sure they will come – but they will not be able to topple the unshakable rock on which I now stand. I have tasted the new wine of the Spirit of Life, and I look forward to the day when Jesus will return in glory to establish His Kingdom openly on the earth.
How do I know Jesus is alive? The testimony of the New Testament is consistent. The apostles had encountered the risen Lord personally. They were convinced he was alive because they had seen Him with their own eyes, and witnessed His power and glory. In this conviction they were willing to lay down their lives for Him, to tell anyone who would listen about His love and power, and to love even their enemies and persecutors.
I can’t claim to have seen the risen Jesus with my eyes, but I have seen the influence of His resurrection life on those who have given up the illusion of independence and placed their hope in Him. I have seen people healed in body, I have seen broken relationships renewed and shattered families restored. I have seen people set free of demonic powers that had bound their lives for years. I have seen hardened, skeptical hearts softened. I have seen people give up their ambitions and live their lives for the One who gave their lives for Him. I have witnessed genuine community – the bonds of faithful covenant love – among people who have nothing in common except that they belong to Jesus.
Why do I believe Jesus is alive? Because He has proven Himself to me over and over again. Can I prove this to you? No, but He can prove Himself to you, if you are willing to surrender control of your life and place your hope in Him.
Some will say this is too foolish, too simple. I say it is the truth that has changed my life, and I no longer want to live for anything else or anyone else. This is the only hope that change and death cannot destroy. Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.