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Jack Graham - Why I Follow Jesus?

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    Jack Graham - Why I Follow Jesus?
TOPICS: Easter

My message today from the twenty-fourth chapter of the Gospel of Luke chapter 24, is a testimony of my own faith. Why I personally follow Jesus. I heard about a guy who went on a vacation to the Holy Land. He took his wife and his mother-in-law. Now unfortunately while he was in the Holy Land, his mother-in-law passed away, and so what to do? Well, the undertaker said you can ship her body back to the states; it will cost you $7500, or you can bury her here for $150. Well, he thought about that for a while. He said, "Okay, I want to ship her back to the United States". He said, "How can that be? It cost so much. Why would you do that"? He said, "Well, I heard about a man 2000 years ago who was buried here in Israel, in the Holy Land. On the third day He came out of the grave, and I just can't take that chance"!

Happy Easter to all the mothers-in-law! We love you! Jesus did come out of the grave and it's crucial that you believe this, because everything in our faith is hinged on the history and the reality of the resurrection. If Christ is not risen then we have no faith, but because Christ is alive we can live, and to live abundantly and eternally. And so in the twenty-fourth chapter, let me give you a bit of a background here. The twenty-fourth chapter of Luke, this is the evening of the resurrection. Christ has come out of the grave at dawn on the first day of the week. The tomb was empty. Some women had arrived first, early to anoint His body, and the angel was there and said Luke 24:6, "He's not here; He is risen". Later, Peter and John rushed to the tomb; they found the same condition. The tomb was open; the stone was rolled away, but Jesus was gone. And then the word began to spread throughout Jerusalem.

Now hopes were dashed and and dreams were destroyed when Jesus died on that cross. So many had hoped that He was the Messiah and now it seemed that everything was gone. And so at the end of that first Easter there were two very confused and really despondent followers of Jesus, who were walking along the road that is known as the road to Emmaus on their way to a village called Emmaus. In fact verse 13 says: "That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. And they were talking with each other about all these things (note) that happened".

Now the first reason I follow Jesus is because of historical reasons. The fact is these things actually, literally happened! The Christian faith is not built upon legend or lies, folklore or tales or fables or superstitions or Christian propaganda, but on the reality, the fact that there was a man by the name of Jesus who walked on planet earth! When Jesus questioned them, these two men, concerning their conversation on the road, and asked them the things that they were talking about, they said in verse 19: "And he said to them", these are the words of Jesus, "What things"? And they said to Him, "Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet, mighty in deed and word before God and all the people". No one ever did the things that Jesus had done, "the mighty in deed"; no one had ever said the kinds of things that Jesus had said; the life that He lived, the words that He said were so powerful that these have changed the world! And the events that happened are historical events.

Now this is critical to the Christian faith because ours is a historical faith. It is a faith that is built upon facts! And the fact is that no reputable scholar or otherwise believes that Jesus somehow did not exist, that He was a myth or a legend of some kind. Yes, He lived and secular history corroborates that fact. The Gospel writers are clear on this. The fact that the Church was birthed and thousands of people initially began to spread the message, the flame of the Gospel around the world; the effect of Jesus on history! He is the Creator of humanity; He is also the Author of history. All of history is divided by Jesus: BC and AD. So because of historical reasons we can believe: the eye-witnesses, the empty tomb, the effect of the Gospel upon the world, the early church. Yes, Jesus lived and there's plenty of evidence to believe that Jesus came out of the grave.

Acts chapter 1, verse 3: "He presented Himself alive to them after His suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God". And so very quickly, and certainly we could take a great deal of time talking about the historical realities of the resurrection and of the life and the death of Christ, but this is why I believe! I have been studying the Christian faith for a long time now, and I believe now more than ever that, yes, Jesus lived. I mean you may not believe some of the things that are claimed about Jesus but you must admit for a fact Jesus lived! So I believe and follow Christ for historical reasons. But secondly, I follow Jesus for biblical reasons, scriptural reasons. These two men were despondent as I mentioned, and they had lost hope.

Maybe you have lost hope and you wonder if you're going to make it, and these men had hoped that Jesus was the Messiah, the One who would deliver Israel from the cruel barbaric tyranny of Rome, and from their own religion. They had heard rumors about the resurrection and then as Jesus was walking with them, somehow, this is mystery; we don't know how this happened exactly, but they didn't recognize Him. They didn't realize that they were with the risen Christ. So as Jesus is walking with them and as they are discussing their despair and their depression and the seeming defeat of the cross, Jesus then said: "O foolish ones and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory"? And watch this, verse 27, "And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself".

What a walk! For the seven mile stretch these men are walking with Jesus. He begins to explain to them out of the Scriptures, out of the great stories of the Bible who He is, and portrayed in all of the stories of the Bible! I hope you've been watching the Bible series. I think it's been a fantastic thing! It's a really strong adaptation of the Bible, a dramatic presentation of the Bible, and it is action-packed, as you know, and it is filled with adventure and faith and forgiveness and the message of redemption; and it's been incredible to see the Bible come alive! I've loved the Bible sense I was a small boy. But even now, even this, just to see some of these stories, high definition stories that are done so well. I've been encouraged by that. But imagine the Bible series that these men experienced when they walked with Jesus and He showed them in all the Law, in all the Prophets, in all the Scripture those things concerning who? Himself! Why? Because of all of the truths of the Bible, and the Bible is true! Of all the truths of the Bible, the ultimate truth is that Jesus is the key to unlocking the meaning of the Scripture, because all of the Bible is about Jesus from beginning to end, from Genesis to Revelation! It is the story of Jesus! It is the greatest story ever told!

And so all of these epic Old Testament adventures and all of these great stories that we read in the New Testament, in the miracles of Christ, in the birth of the church, and the growth of the Christian faith. All of that is to teach us this one central lesson: Though the Bible is written by forty different authors, chosen by God, called by God, inspired by the Holy Spirit over 1600 years, though God preserved the text through the generations so that what we have is the veritable word of God, there's still just one message, and it is the message that God loves you and that God sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross and to rise again on the third day. And all the stories of the Bible in illustration and type, picture, prophecy, portrayals, all of that is to introduce us to the real hero of the Bible and His name is Jesus! Jesus is what the Bible is all about!

So when He showed them in "all the Scriptures those things concerning Himself" they believed ultimately for biblical and scriptural reasons. And so do I; I do believe the Bible. I've been studying it seriously for 40-50 years, and the more I study the Bible, the more I read the Bible, and the more the Bible reads me, the more I believe in the trustworthiness of Scripture. Now some people say, "Well, you know, I believe in Jesus; I'm not sure about all those other guys who wrote the Bible". Well, then you've got a problem with logic, because Jesus believed the Bible! In fact, some of the most difficult stories for some people to believe, Jesus clearly believed. Adam and Eve, for example; Noah and the great flood; Jonah and the great fish, Sodom and Gomorrah. All of that Jesus talked about; He believed it! Jesus said, "My word is true"!

And so when I read my Bible and God begins to step off the pages and into my life, I believe for scriptural reasons! I trust the Word of God! Thirdly, I believe for spiritual reasons, and I follow Jesus because of spiritual reasons. Now there is a word here that says in verse 31 that their eyes were opened and they recognized Him. Now after they invited him into their home along the way, ultimately their eyes were opened and physically they realized they were in the presence of the risen Christ and that was a spiritual miracle. The Bible calls that the new birth. And I believe and follow Jesus because that miracle has happened in my life when the Spirit of God opened my heart and opened my eyes to recognize Jesus, and receive Jesus into my life.

Maybe you're thinking, "Jack, are you really expect me just to, you know, just to believe all these things and believe in the resurrection, and sort of just close my eyes and just hope against hope that it's all true"? No, I don't expect you to do that. You can't do that! You can't believe on your own. You know, you can't just decide, "Okay, I'm going to believe all of this". The Spirit of God must convince you, convict you of your sin, and then bring you into Christ, opening your eyes so that you see. And in that moment when God opens your heart and opens your eyes, that spiritual life is regenerated in your own heart and in your own life. Did you know the Bible says that no one can say Jesus is Lord except the Holy Spirit enables us? Jesus said the Holy Spirit, the Helper will come and He will lead you to all truth. So it's not just believing intellectually, historically or even biblically until the Spirit of God moves in your life and converts you and changes you from the inside out.

This is why I follow Jesus: for historical reason, for scriptural reasons, for biblical reasons, and yes, for spiritual reasons. But there's one more reason I follow Jesus and that is for personal reasons. He changed my life. You read this story and as these men reflected on their experience on the Resurrection Road, they said, "Didn't our hearts just catch fire? Didn't they just burn within us when we walked with Him on this Resurrection Road"? They were inflamed, impassioned by the living reality, the presence of Jesus in their lives. They encountered Easter when they met the living Lord. And that's my prayer for you, that you will not only believe intellectually, it's important to know the facts, but beyond the facts, the force and the power of the resurrection to change you from the inside out.

And I tell you, and I've been following Christ on this Resurrection Road for a good while now, through the tears, through the fears, good days and bad, through pleasure, through pain, through sorrow and in joy, I have discovered that He is always present, especially in the darkest hours of the night, especially when we, like these men, have almost lost hope. It was a dark day in my life, in our family's life that took place now forty-two years ago. I tell that story in my "I am second" video. I don't think we've ever showed it here in the service. But I brought it to give it to you today because it tells you why I follow Jesus.

It was summer of 1970. I was in a place called Crowell, Texas, back side of nowhere really. I was out actually preaching a youth revival when my brother called. He said, "Jack, you need to come to Fort Worth. Our dad's been hurt". He said, "He's been hit with a hammer". I can remember the night that he died, and literally the last time I walked in to see him and gripped his hand, asked him to squeeze my hand. It was a moment. There's a sense in which you think that your father is going to be there forever, and I believe every, you know, man, young boy believes their father is indestructible. And that's the way I felt about my dad. He squeezed my hand ever so faintly and I can't help but say that when I walked out of there I thought that's the last time I'm going to see him alive.

My story really is happy days, growing up in the fifties and sixties in Arkansas and then in Texas. Those were the days of black and white television and "Ozzie and Harriet" and "Leave it to Beaver" families. Well, that was our family really. And my dad was a good strong dad. I spent a lot of time with my dad. We had a little drive-in called The Dandy Dog, little small town in Arkansas, and I spent lots of hours, you know, running around his apron strings there at that drive-in. My dad was a Christian man, led us to church. He wasn't, you know, dad dropping us off to church and going somewhere else. He closed down his drive-in on Sundays so we weren't working on Sunday. We were in church. My dad was always proud of me. He never missed a ballgame, never was too tired to play catch. Never seem to get upset if I was hanging out at his workplace. So he really was my dad but he was also a great, great friend. I'm real thankful that I had the dad that God gave me.

I came to Fort Worth, Texas as a young man, as a teenager. We moved over here and I got all caught up in this youth ministry, this movement really that was happening in the late sixties. The Jesus movement was connecting from California and in the midst of all of that with student camps, youth camps, mission trips, I began to sense God calling me. It was a compelling. It's hard to describe but it's just a sense of "If I don't do this, you know, I'm going to die. If I don't do what I sense God is calling me to do, then I'm going to miss the reason that I'm here". It was summer of 1970, that was 38 years ago, and I was out actually preaching a youth revival when my brother called so. I was in the pulpit doing what God had called me to do, and excited to do it. But never imagining that our whole family was about to be, you know, thrown head first into one of the greatest trials of our lives.

My dad had a hardware store. He worked for Buddy's Hardware in Fort Worth. A shoplifter came in and ended up with a hammer in his hand and bludgeoned my father in the parking lot. My father lived for ten days. We waited and waited, praying each day that he would recover. He never regained consciousness. After ten days he did pass away and went on to heaven. Went down to the little chapel at Harris Hospital, walked in there by myself, late in the evening. And I can tell you this, that I sensed the presence of God in that room like few other times in my life. In the darkness of that night and the incredible loss of that moment and just traumatic experience of my dad being murdered, and now we're the victims of violent crime. And all this happiness and growing up, now just everything caves in. Obviously, my mother's devastated; we're all devastated.

And yet in that room that night the Spirit of God dealt with me in a very powerful way. I became extremely committed to lighting a light in the world in the midst of darkness, and you know, the man who killed my father was 24 years of age. Why the anger? Why the rage in his life? I had to learn lessons of forgiveness. When you are a victim of someone else's violence, you learn to deal with your feelings and your emotions on that. And I did. I refused to be resentful or bitter or angry. It's a terrible thing to lose your father. I can say that my father, having left in this way, the wound of that, the grief of that, the hurt of that God heals.

I believe what happened that evening when my father died, is I truly surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus in my life, and allowed Him His rightful place of preeminence and power in my life. And as a young minister that's an important life lesson to learn, in that it's not about me, it's not about my ministry, it's not being professional. It was an important lesson for me to learn and that's always been the desire of my life. That people would see Jesus in my life and ministry. And the only way that can happen I know is for Him to be first. For me to get out of the way, and let Him have His rightful place in my life. I'm Jack Graham and I am second.

Would you bow your heads with me, every head bowed and every eye closed. I can tell you you're listening to a man who is convinced that Jesus is who He claimed to be. That He died for me and rose again for my eternal life and to all who believe in Him. I stand with the Apostle Paul who said, "I know in whom I have believed". And I am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed unto Him until the day I meet Him face to face. I'm convinced, I'm committed. And I can tell you, you know maybe sometimes you look up here and you see some of us who are preaching and leading and you think, well you know they don't have many problems everything's been great. Well, let me tell you something, we have been abundantly blessed, our family, we're so grateful. But we've known sorrow and pain and loss and hurt but every step of the way the living Christ has met us there. And I don't want you to take another step in your life without Jesus. So if you want to receive Christ pray a prayer something like this.

Lord Jesus I believe you died on the cross for me. I believe you rose again on the third day.

The Bible says whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead you will be saved. So say:

Jesus I trust in you, Son of God, Savior of my life. I believe you died for me, rose again and I welcome you into my life and I want to live for you in the power of your spirit until you come for me.

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