Dr. Donald J. Ralston
Jesus wants us to know Him as a Living Presence, as a Divine Reality. We would have heard no more about Him unless we would have studied it from some ancient history book, such as Josephus writings. He would have been some character lost in the misty dust of history on some library shelf. The attitude of the women that came that day was that they came to pay tribute to a dead body. That is what they had come to do. The attitude of the disciples that day was - that everything had finished in tragedy. As far as they were concerned there was no hope, for you remember they were just gathering in an upper room, bewailing what had happened and bewailing their own situation. By far, the best proof that Jesus rose from the dead that day is the existence of the Christian Church. The existence of every Gospel preaching church, not only in this country but around the world, is proof of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, because nothing else could have changed the sad despairing disciples into people of radiant joy and flaming courage, other than the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I am sure you have heard it said that the resurrection is the central fact of our whole Christian faith. Without the resurrection of Christ Calvary would have really had no significant meaning to humanity - it took the resurrection to complete what transpired on Calvary. Because we believe in the resurrection of Christ certain things have transpired, certain things follow that event.
The first thing I would like for us to consider that follows the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the fact that Jesus is not a figure in a book - even the Bible. He is not a just a figure in a book. He is a living presence. Let me say that again - He is a living presence! It's not enough to study the story of Jesus as we would study the life of any other great historical character, ah, many approach that it that way. I've read of even unbelievers, agnostics and atheists that said they've approached and studied the life of Jesus and what they did as they approached it as you would any other historical character. Now it may begin at that point where you study Him as a character in history but it always has to end by you meeting Him personally. That is where it has to end or you really have nothing at all and have no real meaning and significance in Calvary and the resurrection. Jesus is not someone we sit around and discuss and discuss, but He is someone whom we meet in a living encounter and that is the way God wants us to know Him. If you have never met Him that way then today I pray will be the day when you will encounter Jesus Christ as a living presence. That means that the Christian life is not about the man who knows about Jesus but the one who really knows Jesus. There is a world of difference in knowing about a person and knowing a person individually. Let me illustrate - all of us here are quite aware and know about President Clinton from many and sundry reasons - we all know about him but I dare say there is not one of us here that can say that we know him, that we have sat down in a room and had a conversation, a person to person, or had the privilege of shaking his hand and greeting him and talking with him for a few moments. So we can't say that we know him we can say we know about him. Many of you know Billy Graham, know about him. You know about his life and his ministry and his testimony. You have heard him share on various and sundry programs on television and what have you but unless you have sat down, and I never had the privilege of meeting any of the presidents on a personal basis but I can say that I do know Billy Graham in some personal sense. Some years ago when he was visiting this area I was privileged to sit on a couch, just the two of us, in a hotel room before it was the Church of scientology. At that time it was the Jack Tarr Fort Harrison hotel. We sat down on the couch and discussed his preaching and where he was going to be the next week and something about ourselves. It was a wonderful thing and so I can say I not only know about Billy Graham but I know Billy Graham, not in any intimate sense but in a personal sense in talking with him and sharing with him and having a feel about his person. So there is a difference between knowing about a person and knowing a person, on a personal level. The greatest scholar in the world can study all about the life of Jesus and that man is still less than the humblest Christian, without any education whatsoever, who fellowships with him everyday, has communion with him, prayer times with Him, times in the Word with Him and there is a level of personal communication. No matter how many degrees you have behind your name it doesn't have anything to do with intimacy, in knowing somebody. So that is the difference between knowing about Jesus and some people in the church know about Jesus. They have heard sermons and they have gone to Sunday school and whatever but the question is not do you know about Him but the question I want you to answer this morning is do you know him? Do you have any personal relationship with Him? Is there a communal relation with Jesus Christ on a personal level in your life? The first thing that the resurrection does is it makes Jesus a living presence. It makes the resurrection a reality to believer himself or herself.
The second thing following the resurrection and the reality of it was the commission of the church. In Mark 16:15 you remember after he appeared Jesus said to his disciples 1100 ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature." The church according to Mark 16 had certain tasks assigned to it by the Lord Jesus Christ and the church has a preaching task - that is what He was saying. When I say preaching - I am not talking about in this fashion. We are talking about the Word that is used in the Bible by proclamation, that is, a sharing of that and so the church has a preaching task, a proclaiming task. We are to proclaim this message that Jesus gave to us. It is the duty of every church and since the church is made up of individual believers, it is therefore the responsibility of every Christian to tell the story of the Good News that Jesus loves and saves sinners. That is all of our job, not just my job, it is your job. If you claim to be a believer, if you claim to be a Christian, if you call yourself that then it is your responsibility to be a herald of Jesus Christ, heralding the Good News. Sharing the Good News, demonstrating the Good News of the love of Jesus Christ for people. Each of us must assume that duty as heralds of Jesus Christ. So the church has a preaching task.
The church also has a healing task. Christianity is always concerned and involved with the individuals personal needs, we cannot get away from that, as caring people, as people who claim to love the One who cared the most. There is the need for physical healing and so we do pray, often times Wednesday night praying for the physical needs of people but there is an even greater need for emotional healing in people. We need healing from the guilt and power of sin more than anything else in the world. That's one of the greatest needs that anybody has is relief of conscience from the guilt of our pasts. Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost the Scripture says and that salvation includes the cleansing of the conscience. That is why Hebrews says that our conscience is cleansed from dead works. Those old dead things of life. God through the Holy Spirit we have a personal encounter and meeting with Jesus. One of the early things is knowing Him as a living presence and then knowing Him as a cleansing person. A person who delivers me from this guilt and condemnation that has crippled my life and made it miserable. Not only that but the resurrection reality includes the promise of His presence. One of the last things that He ever said to His disciples before He left this world, He said this right after the resurrection -"Lo I am with you always, even unto the ends of the earth". Wherever you are I AM, wherever you go, I GO. Jesus will never leave us alone. There is a song, probably in our song book, I should have looked it up this morning, that says No Never Alone, No Never Alone, Jesus promised never to leave us, never to leave us alone, but sometimes we feel that way. At that moment that we feel that He's left us or His presence has been removed from us, it is at that moment that oftentimes the deepest work of God is going on in our hearts and lives. That empty feeling inside is the very thing that makes us examine ourselves, examine our hearts and to see if there is some evil way that grieves the Spirit of God. This is the very crucible of testing - it will determine whether our faith is only a "Fair weather Faith". The Word of God says this "Having done all stand" stand therefore"- It is the opposite of falling, it's the opposite of collapsing, we are to stand when we are in the crucible of testing. When things are adverse against us He says don't collapse, don't give up, don't give way. STAND when you feel like you fall - still stand - having done all - keep on standing. Stand tall, (even if you're short) stand tall. That is the truth of God's Word. Every believer reaches a test in life. There is none of us that can go through life without real testings and you will come to the point, often times and probably you have in the past, those of you who are long in the ways of Christ, you can remember when you reached points in your life when you were tempted to throw it all away - give up - turn back, go back to the old life, like Israel wanted to go back to Egypt. The Bible calls that fainting. I just looked it up afresh and anew this morning. You cannot believe the number of Scriptures on fainting, fainted and faint that are in the Bible. It as a lot to say about the moment when you are ready to faint, by that I mean to give it up, to collapse to give in, to fall, to give up.
Jeremiah was one man who reached that point on several occasions. Jeremiah gives us his own testimony. Here is what he says. Jeremiah 8:18 "Oh that I could comfort myself. For my heart is sick and faint within me." Notice he felt that point of almost virtual collapse. Point of just giving up, failing, falling. That is the idea behind the word faint. He said he needed God's comfort because he felt like he was going to faint. Jeremiah 45:3 he said, "I am faint with my sighing and I find no rest." It was a very anxious time and experience in his life. Lamentations 1:2 he says, My groans are many and my heart is faint." If you read the story of Jeremiah, that is why often times you hear people when they refer to Jeremiah they call him the "Weeping Prophet". He went through so much, you remember how rejected he was through his whole life, his whole ministry was rejected. His preaching was rejected, people turned away from him. At one point they threw him in a well to get rid of him! If you read the book of Jeremiah and you understand the experiences of his life, you'll understand that he reached this wall where Satan would say - give up, quit, it isn't worth it, don't go on! Everyone of us has been hit by that. If you haven't been there hang on you'll be there. Satan will attack you in such a way that you will want to give in, you feel it would be better to turn back! Do you remember how often in Jesus' ministry that experience happened? You remember when the multitude turned away and Jesus with sadness and heart broken turned to Peter and the disciples and He said to them "Will you also go away?" Do you remember that? Will you also go away? That's how many people fainted. That is how many people turn back. Peter gave one of the most remarkable statements of his life because if you remember this it will help you - wont it Len? (He shared with me many of his own experiences of this and has brought this up when we have talked.)
Peter said "To whom shall we go? Thou has the Words of eternal life". If you turn back - what are you going to turn back to? Think of it - right? If I go back from following Jesus - where do I go to the bartender, is he going to help me? Am I going to go back to the old life, to the old ways and the old sins? Did it help you out before? Why do you think you came to Jesus in the first place - because the old life didn't satisfy!! That is why Peter, he with a great deal of insight said "To whom shall we go" if we turn back what do we have to turn back to? "Thou has the Words of eternal life". That is what you have to do when you reach that wall. When you are ready to collapse and you think there is no way over, no way under, no way period! You stand, having done all, stand, stand, stand!
The Psalmist speaks of that moment of desperation and what he did about it in Psalm 119:81 he said this and I quote "My soul languishes and grows faint for your salvation, but I hope in your Word" and there is one of the first insights. What do you do when you are ready to faint - when your ready to give up - when your ready to turn back - when your ready to give in - what does the Psalmist say that he did? "Hoped in His Word", you go to the Word - you go to your Bible, you go seek the promises of God for your soul when you reach that point. There is Hope in the Word of God so when you are ever tempted at some point in your life, remember this message, and you go to your Bible, get your Bible out and as Mickey Holiday's song says, "Get your Bible out and read it and believe it like it is". That is it.
Jonah faced that moment to - that moment of crisis and what direction he had to turn in order to deal with the problem that Jonah was facing, if you remember the story. Here is what he says, in his own words in Jonah chapter 2:7 "When my soul fainted upon me I earnestly remembered the Lord and my prayer came to you." When my soul fainted upon me - here's the other way the other way - here you have two ways out. God's given us some insights how when your ready to faint - what do you do? You hope in the word, you go to the Word. Secondly, you remember the Lord, you remember the Lord Jonah says - and my prayer came. When you go to the Word you remember, the Lord and you start to pray. There is some insights when you feel like everything is collapsing around you and your ready to faint, you remember the Lord, you go to the Word and you start to pray.
Then Jesus gives us the antidote to fainting Luke 18:1 Jesus says, "Men ought always to pray and not to faint". They ought ALWAYS to pray and not to faint. That word faint means to loose heart and give up. So Jesus Himself says what do you do when you reach that moment - you begin to pray, pray with all your heart, you pray with all your soul, you pray with all your might and you hang on, then you stand having done all, to stand!
The writer of Proverbs reveals the problem with our character in those difficult moments when he says in chapter 24:10 of Proverbs -listen - ~If you faint in the day of adversity - your strength is small." If you faint in the day of adversity, when that time comes and you collapse and you turn back - your strength is small. God is teaching you how weak you are. How unable you are to deal with the situation. He is teaching you the way of the cross and the way down, and to look unto Him, and then to realize the very first statement of this message this morning - that Jesus wants us to know Him as a Living Presence, as a Divine Reality - that is it! If you try to face it in your own strength you'll find out how small it is and a day of adversity will just bring you down.
The apostle Paul gives us some help and encouragement for that momentous occasion when tainting begins to hit us. Here is what he says in Galatians 6:9 "Let us not loose heart and grow weary in doing right for in due time and the appointed season we will reap if we do not faint". You will succeed, you will overcome and you will reap at the appointed season. It may not be at the time you want the deliverance - it may be tomorrow but if you stand, if you pray, if you remember the Lord, if you seek Him with all your heart, then you will reap, he says, if you don't faint!
The writer of Hebrews give us the object of consideration in that eventful moment when you reach that fainting point. Here is what he says in Hebrews 12:3 listen closely, "consider Jesus, who endured such bitter opposition from sinners, consider that in comparison to your trials". Whoa did you catch that? Take a moment and consider Jesus - what He went through, when you stand out there next Sunday (for the Easter on the Hill, Passion Play) and you have the ability to visualize just a fraction of what it was really like, consider what He went through and then compare that with your little trial and that should help you get over it! That should help your pity party and your little crying jag. You should be able to soon quickly get over it, when you compare it with His. He said don't loose heart and grow wear, consider Him in comparison with your trials so that you may not grow weary and loose heart and faint in your mind, mentally collapse.
Hebrews 12:5 again the writer says "Do not loose heart and give up and faint when you are corrected by Him". Now he teaches us there is a corrective element in your adversity. God is doing something in your life! God is working on you! You don't know what it is - wish I really knew. Lord, it I could only get through this and over this real quickly - what are you trying to teach me? What are you trying to say to me? You know often times when these trials really come - if we would say that, God, is there something I can learn from this real quickly (so that you don't have to hang me out on this wash line for very long). Lord, teach me, give me an open heart, give me an open mind. Teach me your ways oh Lord. He is correcting us. Part of that adversity is your correction. It is the discipline that God is doing to your life.
Then I want to close with Isaiah, it is a little lengthier word, but I can't read it any shorter than the truth. Isaiah tells us about losing heart, he gives us the final statement in instructions, in this matter. Isaiah 40:25, I'll start there, it doesn't say anything about that in these first two verses - so if you say I don't get the connection - the connection is first God is telling you who He is, you have to understand that - right? You have got to know what kind of person can get me through this. I need to know what he is like and what he is capable of, so that is what he does in this verse 25. "To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?" says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of His great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing." So He says I want you to know the person that is going to get you through this is the Mighty One. Look up to the heavens when you see all those stars and you see all those universes spinning around in their orbit - I'm the one I put them there. I keep them spinning, I keep them all in correction. There is none of them missing. Okay, it your the one now when I'm ready to faint, if your the one I'm going to come to, then you are more than capable, the Mighty One, mighty in strength. Then we get to the heart of the matter. "Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, 0 Israel, (Oh does that sound like home huh?) Does that sound familiar? What are they complaining about? My way is hidden from the Lord. God doesn't know what is happening. He doesn't understand what is happening to me. He doesn't know what is going on. That is what they were saying. My way is hidden from the Lord, my cause is disregarded by my God, He isn't paying any attention. Have you ever felt like that? God isn't even paying attention to what I am going through. He has disregarded my cause. Then God makes a statement "Do you not know? Have you not heard?" The reason God usually asks that is because the answer is yes we don't know, that is our trouble, we really don't know. "Do you not know? Have you not heard?" The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, (you may but He doesn't). So when you are fainting - He isn't. When you are tired He isn't. When you are weary - He isn't, and His understanding no one can fathom. Now catch this, we get right into the heart of our thought. "He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint." Isaiah summed it all up - told us the whole story. You are coming to the Everlasting Creator. When you get weak and weary and your ready to give it all up, collapse, faint, turn back, say it doesn't work, Gods has disregarded my cause, He doesn't even know what has happened, my way is hidden from Him. All of that - you know you go through all that, now you may not admit to it, cause you don't want anybody to think your that carnal. You don't want anybody to know your that big of a sinner, but it all goes through your mind. That is why one of the verses we read - you remember fainting in your mind, you may not even say it but you can faint up here in your mind. You may not even articulate it. You won't want other Christians to know that you are that weak, ah but we are. Aren't you glad that God says He remembers our frame that we are but dust. Aren't you glad that He is a God of grace, who cares for you and loves for right where you are, as you are, in your need. So if you didn't know why you came this morning, maybe it is because God knew you needed to hear this word. originally, if you were to look at the title of my message, originally it was typed as "The Resurrection" and I was going to speak on the resurrection. If you notice a hand written word - it says "The Resurrection Reality", because God took us to say that the resurrection was more than a doctrinal fact that took place in history. The resurrection is a reality to the believer. To you and to me in the situation where we are, as we are in our need. So if you were here this morning and you were tempted to give up and collapse, and give in and turn away from your faith and go with the crowd - Jesus sent you here so that you would hear this. That you would get strength, that you will not give up in the day of adversity, but you will stand, go on, and on and on. Let's pray.
Maybe Jesus is not a living presence to you, that is why you really can't get strength. My beloved friend, until you personally know Jesus, not know about Him. You may have gone to church all your life - you know about Jesus but I am not talking about that. I am talking about - have you met Him? Is He real to you? Do you talk to Him? Do you know what it is to fellowship with Him? Do you know what it is to go to His Word and read the Word and then let God talk to you and you talk back to God, knowing Jesus is a living presence. If you don't know Him as a living presence this morning, I want to invite you to come to Him, as a living presence. Will you do that? Will you just say to Him right now these words - Lord Jesus, make yourself real to me. Show me yourself, let me know you, both as Savior and God. Deliver me from my sin, forgive me and come into my life and change me Lord Jesus. I pray that God will increasingly make that real to you.