A Word from Pastor Oren - April 2014
Since returning from my trip to the Holy Land in March, I’ve been asked on several occasions, “What was your favorite part of the trip?” I have had a difficult time answering the question because I have not been able to narrow it all down to one single thing that I loved most. It was a whirlwind of a trip as we hit so many of the “highlights” of the biblical sites and locations. To finally see with my eyes what I have only imagined in my mind has been hugely beneficial to me as I study God’s Word. There are so many details and geographical and historical elements to the biblical narrative that we simply can’t imagine accurately. After putting an actual real-life picture with the biblical evidence (albeit not exactly as it was thousands of years ago), my understanding of what the biblical writers were trying to communicate is much clearer.
But as I have given more thought and consideration to my favorite aspects of my pilgrimage, I can say that the places that meant most to me were the two that mean the most to us all: The place of the cross and the empty tomb. Without a doubt, the cross and the tomb mean more to Christians than anything else because our salvation in Christ and relationship with God are anchored in what took place at Golgotha and the Garden Tomb. I saw so much in Israel that I am thankful for, and I learned such a great deal in the few days I was there; but to see the place of the cross and the empty tomb were probably most moving for me.
Now that we are home and trying to collect our thoughts about all we have seen and heard, I’ve spent a little more time thinking on the power of the cross and the empty tomb of Jesus. Later this month (April 18 & 20), Christians all over the world will commemorate and celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus. Of all the holy days we take part in during the year, Good Friday and Easter Sunday are our most special, as we recognize all that Christ has done on the cross to pay the penalty of the debt we owed to God for our sin, and then upon his resurrection Christ Jesus secured eternal life for all those who place their trust in his death and perfect atonement for us. Jesus bled and died at “the place of the skull” on behalf of sinners like you and me so that our life could be hidden with God forever (Colossians 3:3). And he rose victorious over the grave as he walked out of a borrowed tomb, located in a garden nearby where he was crucified, which secured forever eternal life for all who trust in him (John 6:40). Jesus made good on his promise and God will forever uphold the covenant he made with us through the blood of his Beloved Son. We are truly saved by grace through faith in Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9).
I wonder: do you know him? What I mean by that is, “do you know the risen Christ?” We can travel to Israel and see all of the amazing places where Jesus walked and where Christians suffered and died and where God did amazing and miraculous things. We can hear the stories and understand more of the history behind the scriptures. Christian pilgrimage to the Holy Land is special and wonderful and I will treasure the time I was given to spend there. But knowing Jesus is the real treasure, isn’t it? For He is not Lord of “holy places” but of holy people (1 Peter 2:9-10). He does not dwell in buildings made with hands; rather, he dwells in and among his beloved people (Romans 8:9). God isn’t located in a temple or a tomb; rather, we can meet him whenever we seek him when we look to Jesus. And knowing Jesus isn’t the same thing as knowing things about Jesus. Knowing Jesus is not the same thing as appreciating Jesus. The truth of the matter is that you can take dozens of trips to Israel and learn just about everything there is to learn of the history and significance of every single biblical site with great appreciation, and yet be no closer to Christ Jesus than you were before you arrived the very first time. God is searching for worshipers who will worship him in Spirit and truth and only those who meet God through Jesus will be saved (John 4:23-26). Do you know him?
How can you know Jesus? Believe His Word. Those who believe and trust the Word of Jesus are wise and satisfied (Matthew 4:4 & 7:24). Believe that Jesus died in your place to save your life for the glory of God. Surrender your life. Any and every person who comes to God by faith in Christ is safe and secure in Him. Therefore, your life is to be lived in such a way that testifies to the world that you serve a risen Savior (Luke 9:23-25). Serve him with your whole heart. The only way to express the change that has been wrought in your life is to serve Jesus by loving and serving others (Mark 10:44-45). Do you know “about” Jesus or do you personally and intimately know the risen and reigning King of Kings? I pray that you do. Give your life to him today and you will know him, love him, and treasure him. I pray that your Good Friday is both solemn and celebratory. I pray that your Easter Sunday is joyful beyond words. Keep your eyes fixed on the cross, for Christ is your salvation. And keep your hope anchored in the empty tomb, for He is not there. He is risen!
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