Amidst the political turmoil of our world whether it be Brexit or North Korea, climate change or debates about the legal status of life in the womb, we live in disconcerting times. Here in Britain, we observe worrying trends of a burgeoning mental health crisis and a dramatic increase in knife crime amongst young people, leaving us wondering with the Psalmist, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget us forever?” (Psalm 13:1). But as we approach Good Friday and Easter Sunday, we remember that God, in Christ, came into a society very similar to our own and was executed by people just like us. The Easter period reminds us that all the death, darkness, violence and pain in the world were laid upon Jesus, yet nothing could hold him in that grave. Jesus is utterly victorious and electrifyingly powerful. Don’t be tempted to regard him through the eyes of dull religion. Easter shatters the safe boxes into which we put God. In flesh, he walked this earth, suffered and died brutally by crucifixion, in order to offer a way for humanity to be at peace with God. He then demonstrated the viability and reliability of that claim by rising from the dead. Dorothy L. Sayers wrote:
The Christian faith is the most exciting drama that ever staggered the imagination of man – and the dogma is the drama…This is the dogma we find so dull – this terrifying drama of which God is the victim and the hero. If this is dull, then what, in Heaven’s name, is worthy to be called exciting? The people who hanged Christ never, to do them justice, accused Him of being a bore – on the contrary; they thought Him too dynamic to be safe. It has been left for later generations to muffle up that shattering personality and surround Him with an atmosphere of tedium. We have very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah, certifying Him “meek and mild”, and recommended Him as a fitting household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies.
Easter is about seeing Christ as the triumphant Lion of Judah who has defeated death and reigns in glory. I hope that encourages you, as you look to him with faith.
But Easter is also about God coming to our rescue personally. Leslie Weatherhead in his piece “Comradeship” tells a story from the Second World War about two soldiers who were very great friends. One evening one of the soldiers came back to the trench but found that his friend had not returned. Many people had been killed on the front that day. He became afraid, wondering whether his friend had been killed. He asked around, and then somebody said, “I’m not certain that he was killed, but he was so terribly wounded that it was impossible for him to come to the trench. By now he must be dead.” It was getting darker and the enemy was still firing, but the soldier wanted to go and search for his friend. The commanding officer said, “No, this is foolish. If you go out there, you too will be killed.” But the man ignored the officer and went searching for his friend. It was very difficult in the dark and there were hundreds of the fallen all around. He looked and looked and, in the middle of the night, he returned carrying his friend’s dead body on his back. He himself was terribly wounded. The moment he reached the trench, he fell on the floor with the body of his dead friend. The officer came and said, “I told you not to go! Now I have lost both of you. It was not worth it.” The dying man opened his eyes and said, ‘But it was worth it – because when I got to him, he looked at me and he said, “Jim, I knew you would come.”’
“I knew you would come.” At Easter, we are reminded that Jesus did come for us and he does offer us rescue and salvation through his death on the cross. We are not left alone to suffer in this world, because he has come to demonstrate God’s love for us by dying in our place and offering us forgiveness, love, a fresh start and relationship with him into eternity.
This message of the gospel is so precious and so many need to hear it. Through our REBOOT conferences, we have the privilege of sharing the gospel in all its glory with robust evidence, building the confidence of 12-18-year-olds and offering them the chance to ask all their questions about faith and God. We have just been in Belfast (23rd March) and will be in London in September. Please pray for the thousands of young people who will be ministered to through REBOOT around the globe to grow strong in their faith and to take the gospel to their own generation with confidence.
As we look ahead this year, we are also incredibly excited to have been able to purchase the building next door to 76 Banbury Road, our offices in Oxford. With its outbuildings and accommodation, we have a tremendous opportunity to build a new lecture theatre for the OCCA and new office and study space for the ministry.
In 2019, I am embarking on my 21st year with the ministry and am asking myself the question, “How might we see significant transformation for the gospel in a nation or a continent?” I honestly believe that an anointed and well-trained apologist-evangelist can have a multi-generational national impact, through seeing thousands awaken to the truth of the gospel. That is how transformation comes, but it does not happen by accident. At the OCCA, we set out to identify exceptional evangelists from around the globe with a calling to reach their nations and then support their formation in Oxford for a year, where they will grow in the care of experienced apologists, think through the greatest challenges of the day, experience directed spiritual formation, be trained in speaking and responding to questions, and then return home. It is our honour to be faithful to the call and to serve them with everything we have, so that God might be known and loved in the nations of the world.
As we look to the future and consider Jesus’ mandate to take the good news to all, the team here intends to play our part in that vision. We hope that our new facilities will help us to build on and accelerate what has gone before. Perhaps a future C. S. Lewis or John Lennox will come through the centre?
Thank you for standing with us in this vision: we really could not do it without your support. Please continue to pray for our team as we take the gospel into hostile environments, seek to win people for Christ and play our part in raising the next generation of evangelists. May you know the extraordinary love of God poured into your heart this season and may the power that raised Jesus from the dead inspire and move us forward together, as we work together in serving him.
Thank you for standing with us in our vision. We really could not do it without your support. May you know the extraordinary love of God this season!