The person and work of Jesus Christ constitute the driving force of life. Aware of our weakness and sin, we have the audacity to approach a God who abides in unapproachable light. Audacity, that is, apart from redemptive grace which lifts us from the miry clay to make us his children. After all, this is where theology and experience converge… in an encounter with the crucified and risen Jesus. The road to deliverance and the pathway to holiness begin here and nowhere else.
Audacity in reaching for God, however, is not limited to the initial steps of faith—what we commonly call “conversion.” The follower of Christ continues to live, move, and have his being in this reality. In other words, beyond the initial step of faith, the experience of Christian men and women include ongoing encounters with the living God. Fresh, disturbing, inspiring, inconvenient—these are some words that may describe such moments. Here is how Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) portrayed one of his post-conversion encounters:
God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, not of philosophers and scholars
Certainty, certainty, heartfelt, joy, peace.
God of Jesus Christ.
God of Jesus Christ.
My God and your God.
“Thy God shall be my God.”
The world forgotten, and everything except God.
So precious was this divine visit that Pascal sewed the parchment record of the above into the lining of his coat—and into every new coat that he wore for the rest of his life. This extraordinary experience transformed him.
Why did Pascal carry the record of his encounter? I’m not sure that we have a definitive answer, but I suspect that it had something to do with a desire to remember God’s presence and power. In keeping with Jesus’ promise, “I am with you always, even unto the end of the age,” we don’t serve an aloof deity who ignores his children. Just the opposite. Every hair is numbered.
This, my friends, is a grand opportunity that we face during this Holy Week … to reengage the reality of Jesus as an ongoing personal encounter.
Think of it this way… what was it that caused a bunch of first-century Jews to boldly declare the death and resurrection of God’s Son? What sort of event must have happened for them to announce that they had beheld the Lord living among them, that the great reversal of sin and death had begun, that God’s kingdom was now in principle established, that the Almighty was pouring out his Spirit upon every tribe, tongue, and nation, and that a new day had dawned? How can one begin to explain such audacious claims apart from a divine encounter?
In fact, the driving force behind apostolic ministry was the realization that Jesus the Savior lives. It is not a dead historical figure about whom we will speak this week. No. It is a risen savior.
Simply put, it is not merely in the past where Christ extends redemption; he also does so in the present. Therefore, while we look back in the coming days to celebrate our Lord’s death and resurrection, let us also look up with earnest expectation, convinced that while Jesus has risen into heaven, he continues to abide with his people, for our good and for his glory.