The Historical and Eternal Significance of Easter

Easter has just passed. It is arguably the most significant event of Christendom. Paul, one of the apostles upon whom the pillars of the Christian church are built and author of much of the New Testament, writes that if Christ did not rise from the dead that the Christian faith is in vain (1 Cor 15:17).

Of course, he is but one of the 40 different and independent authors of the Bible whose occupation range from kings, scholars, prophets, even a first-century medical doctor and the equivalent of an academic professor – Paul, who was a Pharisee. The Bible can be thought of  as the Millennial Review – a compilation in 4th century A.D. by the leading scholars of Christendom comprising 66 independent books and letters written over a period of 1,500 years. The Bible has since been  faithfully passed down over the next 1,600 years and in the recent century been translated into about 700 languages and is easily the most printed book at an estimated 2.5 billion copies in print. In the Bible one can read  parallel accounts by different people on historical events – eg Samuel the prophet and the Books of Chronicles and Kings or the Gospels of the life of Jesus recorded in 4 different eyewitness accounts. There is one unified theme running from the first book to the last – that is the rescue of man by the Creator God.

For this mini-historical overview, we start in beginning of time, where the Bible records that God created the earth, stars and the entire universe. Whether it was a literal 7 days or whether it involved a big bang or evolution is not the point – the point is that whatever it was – God initiated or caused and sustains it. Just as there are physical laws that allow scientists to postulate the big bang or evolution theory in the first place, so there is Created Order: that is the Creator rules and there is a death penalty for disobedience. Although the first created humans, Adam and Eve, when tempted by the Devil, the Enemy of God in the form a snake, disobeyed God, they are not destroyed because of God’s mercy. However, God promises that one day “the offspring of the woman” will crush the devil’s authority. Several thousand years later, this promise is fulfilled when Jesus, the Son of God and God Himself is born of a virgin and dies on the cross to redeem humankind from the clutches of the devil.

The story of the Great Flood, recorded in many cultures and religions, described how God sent a flood waters to destroy the world because of man’s constant rebellion against the created order BUT in His love and mercy preserves Noah and his family and the animals. Furthermore, God promises never to destroy the world by waters again and puts a rainbow in the sky as an sign, and there had not been another global flood since. This event shows that  through the obedience of Noah, mankind was saved for a time from total destruction. Several thousands of years later, the ultimate salvation of the world would occur by the obedience of one man, Jesus Christ and this is point of Easter that Christians all over the world celebrate.

Then in around 2,000 B.C., God calls a person out of Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq)  and he responds to the call – his name – Abraham. God makes a promise or covenant with Abraham that all peoples would be blessed through his descendent. Through the next two millennia, God preserves Abraham’s descendants by his son Issac through wars, famines, exiles, political unrest. Eventually in 6 B.C., Jesus Christ is born, he traces his earthly linage to Abraham. And so two thousand years later, God’s promise to Abraham is fulfilled – Jesus Christ was born and died in our place so that the death penalty for mankind’s rebellion is paid in full.   The whole world can be blessed with a relationship with the Creator.

The famous 10 commandments, aspects of which can be found legal systems all over the world including that of the American and that of the British (of which Canada inherited) was given to Moses in about 1,500 B.C. This system of laws contrasted a holy God from his Creation. It spelled out the penalty of disobedience – death, though God by His love and mercy accepted partial payment – through animal sacrifice – for our rebellion. This is the Created Order – even God Himself because of His own nature, keeps to it. Man committed a crime against God and deserved death. 1,500 years later, God came Himself as Jesus Christ to pay that debt – to die in our place so that he is the ultimate sacrifice that we can be right with God. The ancient Chinese understood that and aptly portrayed this in their traditional character for righteousness is 義. It comprises the character of a lamb – 羊- over the character for oneself – 我. Is that not, what Jesus, who is described as the Lamb of God came to do, be a sacrifice for us to attain righteousness – a right relationship with God, the Creator?

1,000 years after the promise given to King David, one of greatest kings of Israel, Jesus Christ was born a King not in a palace but in a humble stable. At Christmas, we remember that well-known star of Bethlehem which God had made at Creation and placed it at the precise distance and trajectory from earth such that at the exact time of Christ’s birth its light appeared in the night sky so that even astrologers from the East recognised its significance and came to pay homage to the baby Jesus Christ who was king not only of the Jews but also of all Creation.

There are many other examples and historical literature by many authors over history compiled into what we now have as the Bible – evidence pointing to the historical person of Jesus Christ and the evidence that he was crucified and died in A.D. 30 at a place called Golgatha (in Israel/Palestine). Several books by Josh McDowell (Evidence that Demands a Verdict and More Evidence that Demands a Verdict) and Lee Strobel (The Case for Christ) are excellent accounts of how two independent atheist began researching the evidence and how it changed their lives.

More importantly, and this is the reason Christians the world over celebrate Easter – that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. A historical fact researched by many and found to be credible. For the first time reader, it may seem incredulous and you are not to be blamed for that – even Jesus’ own disciples could not believe it when they first found the empty tomb on Easter morning. One – called Thomas – even said unless he touched Jesus’ hands to feel the crater made by the nails that hung him on the cross and Jesus’ side to feel the place where the spear pierced his side to confirm his death – he would not believe. But Jesus did appear to him and over 500 others who believed and that is how we have the Christian church – numbering millions upon millions.

So how does one examine the evidence? Much of the evidence is already compiled in the Bible and one is encouraged to start there. The Bible has an added advantage of having Divine inspiration. In other words, not only do the various authors record the historical events but there is what is known as the author’s (God as the ultimate author rather than the human author) intent – where God Himself has revealed by inspiration the motives behind historical events. The Bible is likely to be reliable because of what its internal consistency – as this overview has highlighted – promises or prophecies made thousands of years before that been shown by later  independent accounts to have come to pass or fulfilled. Therefore, what is says about the future is likely to be true as well.

Furthermore, if the Bible is true and there is a Created Order that exists in the universe. Then it demands a response. Firstly, one has to acknowledge that a Creator or higher power exists who created and hence sustains the universe. This demands a change of worldview but gives hope and purpose of our lives on earth – we are not merely vessels for the propagation of selfish DNA nor do we merely exist for our own personal satisfaction. Secondly, if the Creator God takes such great pains and trouble to come to earth in the form of a man to die for us to take away our sins and to reconcile the Creator with His Creation, then it must be the only way and also important enough for such a rescue to be undertaken for mankind. This also means that the Creator must love His Creation that much to have been willing to suffer what Jesus Christ had to endure on the road to the cross to die for his enemies (remember we were rebels against God deserving death in the first place). This also suggests that the rescue must have been from a great disaster (eternal death) that the Creator God has to go through such lengths to save mankind.

The Bible itself says that all have sinned (that is rebelled against God’s rule and authority) (Rom 3:23) and as the Created Order demands, a crime deserving of death (Rom 6:23a). But God demonstrates – that is he actually does something about it – His love for us in that while we were still sinners or still His enemies in rebellion against His rule and authority, Jesus Christ came to die for us (Rom 5:8), so that we can receive the gift of eternal life (Rom 3:23b). How can you receive this gift? The Bible says that if we confess with our mouth that, “Jesus us Lord”, believe in our heart that God raised Jesus from dead – in other acknowledge Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, then we are saved (Rom 10:9,10,13). John 3:16-17 summaries it nicely – “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, so that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life. ”

If you had missed it before, this is the message of Easter.

How our calling influences our strategy & methods

The issues

We have identified that there are two major issues facing children of today, teenagers of tomorrow and our youth of the future. That is pornography either through the internet or via peer relationships and the second is sexual exploitation of young children, teenagers and youth through sex trafficking.

Our Mandate

At Heart for Youth, our mandate is to empower them by investing in them by sharing the Love of Jesus Christ.

Accountability

We believe that it is our mandate to use an Evangelical Bible-based frame of reference to address such issues. Our discipleship and accountability programmes are focused on the teachings, life and death of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We strongly believe in this approach provides the best opportunity for the transformation of our society through its redemption and maintenance of holiness in character.

Being Salt and Light

The follwing is an exposition of what we believe JESUS tells us in Matt 5:1-16 and hence defines how we should carry out our mission at Heart for Youth.


In the beatitudes, Jesus pronounces His disciples as blessed (a state independent on this circumstances, even many were outcasts) because they:

  1. Are given the kingdom of heaven – blessed to be under Christ rule, authority and protection, when they are repent and empty themselves (or at the end of their rope, MESSAGE) so that they have no choice but to trust in and depend entirely on God (5:3)
  2. Will be comforted by God Himself and hence given assurance and hope for a perfect future in the age to come (see 3), when they mourn for sin (their own and that of the world and look forward to redemption rather than are cotent with the present status quo) (5:4).
  3. Will inherit the earth – the new promised land (Rev 21:1), when they are meek and humble towards God and are submissive and obedient to Him (5:5).
  4. Will be filled with righteousness from God when they long (hunger and thirst and will not give up their want is satisfied)  for personal righteousness and justice for the oppressed (5:6)
  5. Will be shown mercy by the Lord who is judge over all (Rom 2:16, 2 Tim 4:1) and has power & authority to throw you into hell (Luke 12:4-5), when they themselves show mercy (5:7) (See also the parable of the Unforgiving servant, Matt 18:21-35)
  6. Will see God when they are pure in the heart  (5:8) because the Lord Himself is holy and pure (1 Pet 1:16)
  7. Will be called Children of God, having his reconciliatory nature when they are live their lives as peacemakers (5:9; James 3:17-18)
  8. Are given the Kingdom of heaven (as in every case above, which is suggested by the bracketing structure of the verses) when they are persecuted because of righteousness (clearly pointing out that their righteousness is obvious and not hidden within – see later) (5:10). By contrast wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9-10)

Jesus then expounds on the last point emphasising it, stating that genuine Christians will reflect His light of righteousness and that will result in persecution because of Jesus (rather than because of our own sin). This is in agreement with Phil 1:27-30 that we will know we are saved when we live out the Gospel in our lives and are (or such that we are) persecuted for it.

The passage of salt and light comes immediately after this and perhaps in Jesus teaching it would not have a heading entitled “salt and light”. Even if it had been a different scene, the author Matthew under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit as he wrote Scripture chose to place it immediately after the Beatitudes as he felt it built on the idea. In both cases, the context is important and should be interpreted in that light.

So although the disciples were persecuted (God allowed it as they had a role to play) they – (Greek: plural and emphatic – meaning “You and only you”) – are the salt. It was without doubt that salt was unique with no substitute, intrinsically precious and valuable with a very important purpose. In the context, we can understand that it prevented moral and spiritual decay just as salt preserves. We recall the works of the prophets who all reminded the people of God’s standard and the judgement when they followed their own ways.

If we are impure and not salty, you can dump a ton of stuff around and we would not make any difference but if we are salty, we will be effective wherever we are 

But Jesus also warned about losing its saltiness. For scientists, we know that chemical salt is salt and cannot lose it intrinsic properties unless it becomes something else. But for the people of the day, salt was prepared from the Dead Sea and impurities and contamination made it lose its flavour and saltiness. Jesus declared those waste to be thrown out and trampled underfoot (5:13). Following on the theme, it would make sense if Jesus is saying if we, though precious and unique, (made pure and holy ie washedsanctified and justified in Jesus and the Holy Spirit – 1 Cor 6:11) get so contaminated by the world (particularly by sexual immorality, 1 Cor 6:9, 13-20)  that we fail to prevent its decay then we are useless.  salt_n_lightFor we were saved for a purpose – to serve the living God (Heb 9:14). I believe that this is firstly about being salt rather than being sprinkled in the world and doing Christian service among non-Christians. Why? Because if we are impure and not salty you can dump a ton of stuff around and we would not make any difference but if we are salty, we will be effective wherever we are – a pinch is sufficient to give flavour. In other words, it is about being holy, poor in Spirit, righteous, meek, merciful etc to the point that others persecute you for it as is clearly described by Jesus in the preceding verses. It is about being rather than doing since it follows the Be-attitudes rather than the Do-attitudes. It is also clear that from our “being” our actions will result praise to the Father (5:16). Our call is to be holy like God (not just better men) to make sure that all glory is given to the Father (5:16).

The next verses about Jesus referring to us as the light when He Himself was “The Light of the World” (John 8:12; John 9:5) clearly suggests that we are to carry on the work of Christ by letting the light of Christ shine through us just as a town on a hill cannot be hidden (5:14). Like a town on a hill acting as a landmark, we are to be lights in the dark world, like moral & spiritual compasses always pointing to and living out Christ’s standards as found in His Word, the Bible. While images of saints on stained glass correctly convey the idea that we must let the light of Christ shine through us,  most people inside the building admire the stained glass itself rather than the sun. As someone preached before, would not a plain and simple clear glass lamp do a better job of letting most of the light shine through, drawing attention to the light within? Just like having the treasure of the Gospel in jars of clay to show that the power is from God (2 Cor 4:7).

The preceding verses in the beatitudes clearly suggests that for most of the attributes we need to strive to attain (by the power of the Holy Spirit) and hence are active – eg mourning, hungering for righteousness, being merciful, being meek, being poor in spirit, being peacemakers rather than passive (ie poor in Spirit and being persecuted). We need to take an active part in ensuring our actions and attitudes  do not cover the light of Christ within – that is living a life of purityrighteousness and love. That is what it means to live out our salvation (Phil 2:12-23), to live up to what we have already attained (Phil 3:16) and that we should run in such a way to win the prize (1 Cor 9:24). Our actions should stem from being holyrighteous and loving, living in forgiveness and also should reflect our value and identity in Christ.

Jesus left no doubt as to the purpose of the light and our role as light of the world – that a lamp is not to be hidden under a bowl but put on a lamp stand to give light to everyone in the house (5:15). Hence, we need to illuminate the darkness in the world not by simply by taking up social causes but by living out & exemplifying scripture (Thy word is a lamp – it guides, Psm 119:105) to illuminate the injustice and then tend to the needs of the oppressed without being polluted by the world as in James 1:27. We do it such a way that it must be clear to people that the light comes from Christ within so that they may see our good deeds and glorify the Father in heaven (5:16).

Conclusions

1. Our actions should stem from being holy, righteous and loving, in forgiveness and also should reflect our value and identity in Christ.

2. Disciples of Christ who live out our salvation and live up to their value in Christ are the keys to the preservation and illumination of society, drawing people to Christ.

3. When we focus on the being Christ-likegood deeds will flow to either cause some to praise God or will be at odds with the world who will retaliate with persecution.

Our current calling

It is important that the calling that we were first given in 2002 be written down to remind us of our vision and direction for the organisation.

Heart for Youth was set up to help a Christian charity in Romania to build a family home for two children in particular. Florina, the foster child of the Todos family and Mihaela whose adoption was blocked when Romania closed its doors to foreign adoption in 2001. The formal structure was a move to demonstrate transparency and accountability for the large sums of money that we entrusted to us by supporters for the work in Romania.

It was clear that we were to empower others to work with children, teenagers and youth to make a difference in their communities. Initially, we had to be very involved to start a movement of change in circumstance but our role and calling is not to build an empire but to inspire and empower others to take up the challenge and run with it. Heart for Youth passes the torch on when our time is done.

Furthermore, it is reflected clearly in our motto that the sole motivation behind these efforts is the sharing of the Love of Jesus Christ. We believe that only under the transforming love of Jesus Christ can whole communities be changed.

Though the focus of each project is local and focussed, our aims and objectives are address issues which are not limited by geographical nor social boarders.