We’ve just celebrated Easter yesterday, proclaiming Christ is risen! and in many of our communities and churches we will continue to celebrate over the next number of weeks proclaiming this truth, singing this truth, sharing this truth with neighbors and family members and friends. This is the good news, the gospel, that Jesus is risen from the dead, according to the scriptures (1 Cor. 15:1-4ff).
But when it comes to evangelism and sharing the gospel with unbelieving friends, neighbors, and family members, we often get hung up on the peripheral details. How do we explain why homosexuality is sinful? Why do we believe in creationism? Why should abortion be illegal? I’m not saying those aren’t hugely important questions, but we oughtn’t get sidetracked from the central question which is: Who is Jesus and what happened to Him? And why does it matter?
Fundamentally, we are testifying to the truth that Christ is Risen. That’s the bottom line. If that’s not true, then we’re still in our sins and all our preaching and evangelism and witnessing and apologetics is worthless (1 Cor. 15:14). But Paul knows that Jesus really is risen from the dead because he saw Him. Paul got his life interrupted by Jesus.
But Paul’s personal testimony should be no different than any other Christian: “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace which was bestowed on me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than all [the apostles], yet not I, but the grace of God which was in me.” (1 Cor. 15:10)
In other words, Paul knows Jesus is alive because Jesus interrupted Paul and turned his life upside down. The grace of Jesus overtook Paul and hasn’t been gently patting Paul on the head. The grace of God has been effective, powerful, and working him over. Paul isn’t bragging about what he’s accomplished; he’s pointing to the obvious proof that Jesus is alive. Paul’s been all over the Mediterranean preaching the Risen Christ because the Risen Christ has been all over Paul, compelling Him to do it.
So as you think about what it means to be a witness of the resurrection, a follower of the Risen Christ, you ought to think about it the way Paul does. How has Jesus interrupted your life? How has His grace pummeled you, overwhelmed you, unsettled you, turned your world upside down? In other words, where have you seen Jesus? How were you forgiven? When were you in the dark, groping, tripping, and stumbling your way through life and Jesus blasted His light into your life? When were you enslaved to sin and Jesus broke you out of that prison cell? How have you experienced the grace of Jesus in your life? The answer to that question is one of the simplest ways to proclaim the gospel.
You know Jesus is alive because once you were lost and now you are found, once you were blind but now you see. Once you were weighed down by guilt and fear, and now you are free, now you are clean. That’s the fundamental issue, and everything else falls out from there. It’s all about sin and grace, the cross and an empty tomb. Homosexuality, abortion, evolution, and all the other hot topics flow directly from Easter. And our primary interest in talking about them should be an opportunity to talk about Easter.
But apart from Easter, our stance on those issues doesn’t make any sense. Our position is fully entrenched in the fact of the resurrection of Jesus. Our position makes absolutely no sense to the current cultural crusaders. They, like Paul, think they’re doing God’s will. And they, like Paul, need Jesus to interrupt them and shine His light on them.
And that’s why we tell them about Him. That’s why we tell them He’s alive. Jesus is real. And we know He’s alive, we know He is real because His grace is alive and real. We know He’s alive because we’ve met Him, and His grace has invaded our lives.