Larry was a Christian. He was a junior at the Christian high school supported by his church. Larry had a part time job at a hardware store so he could have some spending money and so that he could help pay part of his tuition.
Larry had worked at the hardware store for about a year and a half when a boy named Bill began working there. Bill was nearly the same age as Larry. The two boys often worked together in the basement getting stock priced and ready for display.
Saturday was normally the busy day especially in the spring time. Friday night the two boys could get in some extra hours marking stock.
One Monday Bill found out that Larry had asked for Friday night off. When Larry come to work Bill greeted him with a cheery “Hello” and a knowing grin. “Got a big date coming up, eh?” Larry smiled and quietly said, “No”. Now Bill was really curious. All that evening Bill tried to find out what was happening Friday night but Larry carefully avoided telling him.
Wednesday the boys worked again after school. Larry had decided that he would have to tell Bill what he was doing Friday night. Bill was all set himself to find out, and he started in. Larry told Bill that on Friday he was going to church for a Good Friday worship service. “Church on Friday night? You have to be kidding! You can use the money can’t you? I thought you were saving to get a car!” Bill stopped and Larry said nothing.
Later on that evening the boys were busy working and Bill asked, “Is church really that important to you Larry?” Larry’s answer was “Yes”, and his question was, “Is it important to you that Jesus died on the cross and rose again?” Bill didn’t know quite what to say, but answered that he had always believed in Easter and would probably go to church too. His answer struck Larry because it wasn’t a straight answer. So Larry asked, “What do you believe about Easter, Bill?” Now Bill was stuck. “Well”, stammered Bill, “It’s sort of a sign of new life with spring and everything else connected to it.”
On Larry’s way home that night he was thinking of Bill’s vague answer. Was Bill just embarrassed to talk about spiritual things or was that the way he really looked at Jesus’ death and resurrection? Larry kept analyzing Bill’s response after he was in bed. Larry had never talked with anyone before about spiritual things that didn’t believe just as he did. Bill’s response was so disconnected from the truth of the Bible. It was so mythical like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.
Larry continued to meditate “What would I have said if someone asked me that question?” Larry thought. Larry began to think back about what he had learned about Jesus’ death and resurrection. The Bible is so clear and factual. How could anyone doubt these things?
With that he went to sleep.
The next day Larry thought little about his brief talk with Bill. But one thing he did think about was this, “What if Bill asked me the same question?’’
When Larry went to church with his family Friday night he was more attentive than usual. The pastor preached from John 19:30 where Jesus says, “It is finished’’. The pastor set the historical scene at Calvary. Jesus was on the cross between two thieves. He had been mocked, spit on, whipped and hung on the cross. All of that was real history and Larry believed it. The second point of the sermon dealt with the question, “What had Jesus finished”. The pastor talked about God’s counsel, about our sin, about our disobedience and what we left unfinished, about the satisfaction that God demanded, about the anger of God against our sin and about Jesus bearing it all for us so that He finished everything that God would ever require of us. In the third point the pastor asked the question from Matt. 16:13, “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” Then he asked the question of verse 15, “But whom say ye that I am?”
That was not a difficult question for Larry to answer in his mind, but more difficult to express verbally.
Saturday at the hardware store was very busy so Larry and Bill had no opportunity to continue their discussion. Larry was happy that the subject didn’t come up because he was not yet settled in his heart and mind what he would say to Bill. This troubled Larry. He had always believed everything the Bible taught about Jesus’ death and resurrection. That was evidence that he had faith, wasn’t it?
On Easter Sunday morning the pastor preached from I Cor. 15:17-20. Larry thought the sermon was preached just for him. Many of the things he had thought about were treated in the sermon. Larry thought that “faith in Jesus” meant that one believed that what the Bible said about Jesus was historically true. He found out that there was more to it than that. The pastor showed that the resurrection of Christ was the very foundation of our faith. If Christ is not raised then our faith is empty and powerless. The resurrection of Christ energizes our faith – gives it life. It is because Christ rose that we can believe that what the Bible says is true. But there is more to it than that! The pastor showed that the forgiveness of our sins and our very salvation was inseparably connected with the resurrection of Jesus, “And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.”
Somehow that made the historical facts more real to Larry. He could see that faith was more than an historical or an intellectual assent. Faith implied life and power that does not come from us, but comes directly through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. This meant for Larry then that because Jesus was really alive He was actively working to save His people.
When Larry’s family came home from church they were talking about the wonder and significance of the resurrection. They often did that after church, but today it was more interesting to Larry because he knew what they were talking about. Now he was better prepared to talk with Bill about the importance of the resurrection for himself.
On Easter Sunday evening the pastor preached from Col. 3:1 and 2, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” The pastor showed not only that the resurrection of Christ was an historical fact and not only something that Christ did for us but something that God’s elect children were involved in. The pastor said that the thrust of the first verse was that since we are risen with Christ we have the calling to seek the things that are above. The life of Christ is In us, in fact, verse 4 says that Christ Is our life, i.e., our new spiritual life. Our ability and our desire to seek the things which are above is only because Christ lives in us. If there is no life of Christ in us then there is no interest in and ability to seek the things which are above. I Cor. 2:14 says, ‘‘But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
The pastor went on to show that “seeking the things which are above” is not just some vague, general idea, but that specific and practical content was given to it in the rest of the chapter. He showed what that means negatively from verses 8 and 9; “But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds.” For the positive he quoted verses 12 and 13; “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another. …” In a special way Larry understood and felt the power of Christ’s resurrection in him. Larry was no longer afraid to talk with Bill about the importance of the resurrection of Christ, in fact, he hoped that Bill would bring it up. He would tell Bill that the power of Christ’s resurrection was real because Christ really and historically lived, died and rose again from the dead. Next he would tell Bill that when Jesus died and rose again He actually accomplished complete salvation for His people by taking away the infinite load of sin from them and by bearing away God’s infinite anger against that sin. Finally Larry would tell Bill that the power of Christ’s resurrection was experienced in the lives of God’s people. It gave them the desire to serve God in thankfulness for His grace to them in Christ Jesus. It gave them the ability to seek the things which are above, i.e., in a life of holiness and obedience to God. They also seek the things which are above because Christ is there and He is preparing a place for His own.
Larry was trying to sum it all up when the question of the hymn came to his mind, “You ask me how I know He lives? The answer really fit. “Yes, He lives within my heart.”