The Sunday before Easter, known as Palm Sunday, and Easter Sunday are two of the most joyous occasions in the Christian calendar. However, the anniversary of the final week before Jesus’ resurrection from the dead – the week between Palm Sunday and Easter – is a time for personal reflection. For some, it is a time of remorse, sadness and weeping. For others, it is a test of faith and commitment. It is a time when Christians and non-Christians alike often examine their beliefs.
However, the most compelling evidence that Jesus was, in fact, who he claimed to be – the only begotten son of God, second person of the Trinity – is the testimony of his followers, the changed lives of true believers.
Christianity has more followers, 2.3 billion, than any other religion. Here in the United States, 78 percent of us self-identify as Christians, but how many of us can be classified as “true believers”?
Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father, except by me.” However, a recent survey found that 70 percent of American adults affiliated with a religion believe that “many religions can lead to eternal life.” Only 43.1 percent of us attend church weekly. Only 73 percent of Christians believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God. Only 49 percent of adults who attend mainline Protestant churches describe themselves as “absolutely committed to Christianity,” and 72 percent say they are more likely to develop their own religious beliefs than to adopt those taught by their denomination or church.
Clearly, many of those who self-identify as Christians either don’t know the Bible or prefer to use it like a convenience store where they are free to “pick and choose” what to believe. Perhaps they are trying to have it both ways.
Things really haven’t changed that much since Christ lived among us. On Palm Sunday, just five days before Jesus’ crucifixion, he entered Jerusalem to the cheers of the crowds who had turned out to praise him as the king “who comes in the name of the Lord.” Matthew 21:10 states, “the whole city was stirred.”
By Thursday, things had taken a dramatic turn. As Jesus predicted, one of his 12 inner circle betrayed him. After his arrest, the others scattered. Even the zealous Peter denied that he knew Christ on three different occasions. By Friday, when the cross on which Jesus died was raised, only John, his mother Mary and a handful of women remained by his side.
Jesus addressed those who are trying to have it both ways when he said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.” After the resurrection, the 11 disciples returned and were filled with the Holy Spirit. As a result, they spread Christianity far and wide and were willing to die for their faith. In other words, their lives were dramatically changed. They became “true believers.”
So it is with today. The lives of “true believers” reflect the change. Polls show that “active” Christians are happier, healthier and wiser than their peers. Religiously active couples have better relationships. Christian young people get better graders than the students as a whole.
What makes a “true believer”? It takes a willing heart, someone who is not afraid to seek the truth. Why are so many afraid to examine the evidence for themselves?
Personally, I was afraid God would ask more than I was willing to give. I was afraid God would spoil my fun, so I preferred to be my own God. In John 10:10, Jesus said, “I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly.” In Matthew 11:30, He promised, “My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” Had I overlooked those things?
Being my own god, setting my own course, didn’t work out very well. It never does.
All of us are born with a God-shaped vacuum. Try as we may, we cannot fill it with anything else, and we will never find the kind of peace and happiness that comes through following Him.
In 1 Chronicles 28:10, King David warned his son Solomon, “If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever.” Why not begin this journey today? Perhaps this Easter will be the beginning of your new “abundant” life.