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I think I can capture the essence of a follower of Jesus in two words: changed and grateful.
I purposely did not describe a Christian as: holy, righteous, loving, caring, peaceful, generous, or humble. A true disciple of Christ will become more and more like this—over time. But the more telling description is that something happened, something changed. He or she may still be a tad nervous, irritable at times, a tightwad, or whatever. But there has been and continues to be an ongoing change, and that process of change will inevitably become transformation.
Prior to Jesus’ Easter resurrection Peter was so prideful he bossed Jesus around (Matt. 16:22). But he was changed:
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” (1 Pet. 5:6)
James, Jesus’ little brother, chided Jesus, mocking him, daring him to go show himself in Jerusalem, if he was really the Messiah (John 7:3-5). But James was changed:
“James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ …” (James 1:1)
Just to be clear, we’re not talking about the kind of change that just sort of happens anyway as we get older: “I don’t cuss as much, drink as much, fly off the handle as much, or lust as much.” We mean a real heart change. A plate-tectonics heart shift. You and I know the difference, and if you have to ask yourself, “Have I experienced this?”—then most likely you haven’t.
Has anyone saved your life … at the cost of their own? Has someone rescued you from a sure death? I cannot imagine how my life would be affected. But I do know one thing: I would be eternally grateful.
Here is an excerpt from the 1999 Columbine High shooting accounts:
Dave Sanders was the only teacher slain. “He saved my life,” one student cried out. Another student was shot in the leg and Sanders dragged him to the side with bullets flying. “He was the one jumping over the kids, getting people out of the way. Now we’ll never see him again.”
After telling students to get down, then running to help others, he was shot by the killers. He was pulled away by several students and the last thing Sanders said to them was: “Tell my daughter I love her.”
Do you think any of those students will ever forget Dave Sanders? Do you think their parents remember him only casually? Is it possible that they would only remember him when they are in trouble or have a problem—or mainly just on Sundays?
If they did forget his brave sacrifice, there would be only one word to describe them: ingrates.
Sitting at a pub in Woodstock, England, were three men in their 80’s, each with a pint of Best Bitter in front of them. But there is a fourth pint at the table in front of an empty chair. The men salute and touch their glasses in a toast to someone who is not there. When asked what was going on, they said this:
“Back in WWII we were in a hellacious firefight with the Krouts. Suddenly a German grenade dropped into our trench. We froze in horror. Our friend Collin did not freeze. He jumped on the grenade right before it exploded, saving our lives. Each year we gather here on this date to honor Collin. He is a hero, our hero, and he saved our lives. Our gratitude is eternal. We will do this until we die.”
And each Easter we gather to remember our hero, Jesus, who jumped up on that horrible cross for each of us—for you.
We can learn from Jesus. Yes, we can study his teachings and seek to emulate him. But is he your hero? Has Jesus rescued you? Has he saved you from eternal damnation? He has me. He covered my body so the bullets would not hit me. He jumped on Satan’s grenade so I could live. He marched right up to the cross, took the beating and took my blame.
He took my blame.
May this Easter become the starting point—or re-energizing point—of a new life for you. A changed and grateful life, leading to a transformed life, full of joy and positive energy, and the overwhelming love of your hero, Jesus.