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April 14, 2012

Knowing Christ on a personal level

"Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?" (Luke 24:32)

At this writing, another Easter Sunday has come and gone. No doubt the account of Jesus' resurrection was re-told countless times last Sunday through the preached word, written about in columns like this, portrayed in plays re-enacting this great historical well-documented event, joyously sung about in churches around the globe and shared in innumerable spoken conversations.

The message of the risen Savior is the centerpiece of the Christian faith. Scripture tells us what is "of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures."

The Bible also declares that "if Christ had not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is our faith." It goes on to say "if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied."

Thank God for the next verse, which says, "but Christ has indeed been raised from the dead" (1 Corinthians 15:3-4; 14; 17-20). The reality of Christ is an undeniable, historical fact, further attested to by hundreds of eyewitnesses to his life, miracles, death, burial, resurrection and ascension. Beyond these proofs regarding Christ, are the millions of believers whose lives have been transformed by his saving power. Believers can readily testify to knowing Christ on a personal basis. The Bible tells us that the "Spirit of Christ" dwells in us, resulting in a personal relationship with him, and "The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children". (Romans 8:9,16).

With these thoughts in mind, we take a brief look at two men who met Jesus shortly after his resurrection. The record of this meeting is found in Luke 24:13-35.

They were on the road to Emmaus, talking about recent events. Jesus showed up and walked with them, but they didn't recognize him. A conversation ensued about reports concerning Jesus rising from the dead. Jesus ended up going with them to where they were staying and had a meal with them. He broke the bread, gave thanks, and gave it to them. At that moment, God opened their eyes to recognize it was Jesus. Immediately he disappeared. This brings us to that point where they said their hearts were burning within them while he talked with them on the road and opened the Scriptures to them. They could hardly wait to go tell others about this experience. They had met the Savior of the world! Humanity's greatest need is to meet Jesus, not just know about him, but know him personally and experience him daily.

There are times and ways we can meet Jesus. We can meet him in fearful times. The disciples, who were full of fear after Jesus' death, met him after his resurrection, behind closed doors. We can meet him in times of disappointment. The two men met him on the road when they were downcast over his death. We can meet him when things seem hopeless. These two men felt their hopes were dashed when Jesus died. But at their lowest moment, Jesus showed up. We can meet Jesus when we need forgiveness. Jesus had appeared to Peter that day, the one disciple who had earlier out of fear denied knowing Christ, but later experienced Christ's forgiveness of his sin of denial.

There are ways we can meet Jesus. We can meet him through God's Word. Jesus explained the scriptures to the two men on the road. We can meet him through divine revelation. Their eyes were opened as Christ broke the bread. We can meet him through everyday life as he reveals his hand in our lives and speaks to us in our spirit.

We can experience Christ. The two men said their hearts burned within them when they were with Jesus. It was an experience to share. They did not hesitate to go testify to having seen the risen Lord. Jesus walked with these two men on the road of their disappointment. He talked and spent time with them, and restored their joy. He will do the same for all on their own journey of life if they will but invite him.

The good news is that faith in Christ is not futile. Jesus said "Repent and believe the good news." (Mark 1:15). For those who will turn to him in such faith, they can be saved and have a sure hope in Christ.

The Rev. Jim Wheeler Sr. is an Assemblies of God Evangelist.

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