I heard a story today.
I had called my dad and we were talking about a minor medical procedure I had to have done. When we come to things like this in our life, we look at our lives. Or we should anyway.
At any rate, my dad has recently preached at a local church where he lives a couple times. Turns out they are looking for a pastor. It’s nothing glamorous; a small country church in a rural county where my parents have recently retired. But they’ve asked him to come back and preach again next week “in view of a call.” Those of us who grew up in the Baptist world will know what that means.
My dad told me he met with their search committee last night. One of the men on the committee said something to my dad that I want to talk about.
This guy went to high school with my dad. My dad is currently 67 years old so that gives you an indication of how long ago that was. Anyways, this guy tells my dad that he heard him pray at a school event back in the day. He said that prayer had such an impact on him that he sort of “followed” my father and his ministry over the years. He told my dad that prayer and my dad’s subsequent life was a life he “wanted to live like.”
As my dad was telling me this story, he got choked up and began to cry. He said, “We just never know where God is going to take us or how He will use our lives.” My response to him was, “Praise God for His grace that is so evident in your life.”
Folks, this was 50 years ago that this dude heard my dad pray and began to watch his life. 50 years. Half a century of faithfulness to God and the ministry of the Word, shepherding God’s people and preaching the clear and pure gospel.
My dad is one of my heroes in the faith. He always has been, even when I was lost and without Christ. Even with the theological differences my dad and I have, he is my hero in the faith. He has never sought out the spotlight. He’s never been invited to speak at some fancy conference. He’s never written any books. What he has done is faithfully preach God’s Word and love God’s people for the vast majority of his life. My dad is my hero.
Our conversation reminded me of a text of Scripture. Actually, most conversations I have with my dad inevitably end up with us talking about Scripture and what God is teaching us by His Word. Those are rich conversations my friends.
But it reminded me of first one text, and then more came to mind. But the first text is from Ephesians 5:15-16. In this text, the apostle Paul says this,
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” (ESV)
Look carefully then how you walk.
Make the best use of your time.
It matters how we live. If we claim the name of Christ, if have been adopted into His family by faith in Him, it matters how we live. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not espousing some sort of do better, be better and God will love you sort of thing.
No, I’ll be clear.
The Bible says clearly that we are saved by grace through faith alone in Christ alone. You cannot earn your salvation no matter what kind of life you live or how good you are. Only faith in Christ will save you.
However, the Bible is also clear that we are to live in certain ways if indeed we are in Christ. Jesus said over and over that our lives and what we do matter. Yes, He said to believe in Him and you would be saved. But He also said to love your neighbor and your enemy and do all that He commands. Every single writer of the New Testament said the same thing.
If we are in Christ our lives should reflect that fact.
You can’t get around that. Obedience, faithfulness, sanctification…these things matter. What you say, what you do and don’t do, where you go and how your life looks matters. People are watching our lives brothers and sisters.
Let us live obedient, bold, surrendered, gracious lives so that others may look at us and our lives and say, “There is one of God’s children. I want to be like them because they are like their Father.”
Soli Deo Gloria!
The hush of early dawn.
Soft voices whisper as though they will disturb. Mary, heavy with grief, lack of sleep, fear…eyes bloodshot from crying; confusion wars with grief. ‘I don’t understand,’ she whispers to herself. She looks quickly to her left at Mary, who walks beside her quietly, eyes down, staring at the dusty, dim path. She looks up briefly, making eye contact.
Despair, pain, loss pours from her eyes along with her tears. “What are we to do now? Where should we go? I don’t know what to do.”
Soft light, leaves visible, a soft breeze picks up. She stops and shifts the basket of spices to her other arm, preparing herself for the reality of what lies ahead.
A closed tomb. A cold stone blocking her view of the body of her Lord.
They walk around the bend in the path and stop in their tracks, frozen.
Soldiers lie strewn about on the ground, unmoving, unconscious. ‘What has happened?’ As her eyes pass over the soldiers, she looks to the tomb…
The stone is rolled away from the entrance. Questions race through her mind in a split second, rushing thoughts, fear grips her…”What have they done,” she whispers.
Flooding the wooded area, light so powerful it crushes her to the ground, blinding her, pushing her down with is brightness. She hears Mary gasping in fear, face down on the ground next to her. She strains to see…movement. Dimly, stirring in the brilliance of stunning bright, she sees two figures.
To describe their appearance would be impossible. Covered in light, at once terrifying and beautiful, two men stand before her. One speaks, his voice like a clear trumpet, “Whom do you seek?” She looks quickly at Mary, who kneels to her left, face down. She cannot speak for fear. The voice sounds again, “Whom do you seek?”
She looks up, holding her hand above her eyes to shield them. “My Master. I come to see Jesus’ body.” What sounds like a chuckle comes from the light, a sound of merriment such as she has never heard.
“Why do you look for the living among the dead,” the voice asks? She squints into the light and, even as the question registers in her numbed mind, the voice speaks again; a triumphant pealing sound as the voice changes pitch, growing deeper, brighter, solid.
“He is not here! He has risen, just as He said.”
The words hang in the air, seeming to take on life, a weight, a heaviness.
What?! What does that mean? Is it true? Can it be true?
She tries to look into the tomb and looks up to the light, only to realize that it is suddenly gone and she is looking directly into the risen sun. Silhouetted by the sun, a man stands before her. She is temporarily blinded and shields her eyes again.
“Who are you? What have you done with him?” Her voice sounds strangely loud, cracking the sudden silence of the morning.
The man speaks, a voice that she knows at once…the pitch of the voice, the inflection of her name she has heard before, a familiar tenderness.
Her eyes adjusted, she looks into the face of Jesus. Suddenly panting, tears streaming down her cheeks, she stares at Him in stunned wonder. Surely she must be dreaming. ‘Wake up!’ Her mind shouts at her. It seems as an eternity but is a mere second that her mind races.
She reaches for His hand that hangs by His side…”Master,” her voice trembles. Even as she stares into His face and reaches for His hand, she sees that familiar smile.
“You must not touch me yet. Go and tell the others, Mary. I will meet the brothers in Galilee.”
And then He is gone.
Running, shouting, weeping, she and Mary sprint into the city, stopping to hug each other in incredulous joy. Running into the house they were all staying in, Mary burst into the main room. Peter and John were sitting on the dirt floor, staring into nothing, vacant eyes heavy with sorrow.
“Peter! Peter, I saw Him. He’s alive!”
Peter looks up, his eyes dead and lifeless, confused.
"Slow down, I can’t understand you when you shout. What did you say?”
She sees John look up. “I saw Jesus. He’s alive. He told me to tell you to meet him in Gali…”
She is almost knocked to the ground as Peter and John bolt out the door. She follows them as fast as she can, falling behind.
Peter is first to the tomb but stops short, falling to his knees before the stone that was the door, weeping, holding his face in his hands. John runs past him and into the tomb.
She watches as Peter gets up and stoops to enter the tomb as she approaches the opening and stands watching. Peter and John stand in front of the slab where they laid His body, staring at the cloths used to wrap him.
“It’s true. It’s all true.”
Peter’s voice whispers into the quiet of the empty tomb. John begins to weep softly as Peter wraps him up in his arms, moving them both toward the opening.
Peter walks outside, staring up into the sky, lifting his arms up as if to touch the blazing sun.
“Come, John. We must tell the others. We have to go. He said to meet Him in Galilee.”
There is no soft whispering as they leave the tomb this time, no shadow of grief, no heavy hearts.
Only joy, laughter, wonder and breathless anticipation…