Mabel said: "I Ain't never going back to that church again. That preacher Ain't got no learn in'. Every time I go there, he either preaches about Christmas or Easter. Don't he have no other sermons?"
Leroy quipped: "Yes, but you have to go on the other 50 Sundays!"
In Japan, young people don't even go on Christmas or Easter. Then, what caused young, bright Tokyo University graduates to gas and kill 5,000 fellow Japanese on Tokyo subways; kill 26 believers who didn't toe their line; kill a young lawyer, his wife and child; buy a Russian helicopter; make all believers wear brain-washing headgear, and drink their leader's bath water?
What made them do this, you ask? Their belief in their "blind savior," Asahara. And how were they first attracted to this savior? By seeing a photograph of him levitating. And what's so great about levitating? It's all about power, super-human power.
To get this power, they had to join his yoga group where they were given a nice, free Indian curry party as a come-on. They joined...and the rest is history.
But the bottom line is: These brilliant young kids lacked power. And this was their way to power. This is the ever-new, but always-old quest for power. Just like the crystals in the New (old) Age Movement. They change "Easter Day" to "Earth Day" and worship the dirt...and wonder why they're depressed.
Here's where the resurrection of Jesus Christ comes in...with the Divine Promise, "And you shall receive power..."
When I was in a high school gang in Chicago, my biggest heroes were Joe DiMaggio and the U.S. Navy. I wanted to join the Navy and be a better baseball player than "Joltin' Joe." I wasn't tall or heavy enough, so I hung from the tree in front of our house and ate bananas to put on weight and get tall enough. That obviously didn't work.
How could I become better than Joe DiMaggio? Practice six hours a day, even with my baseball suit under my school clothes and my bat and glove beside me on the piano bench as I practiced music. And then, like Superman, I'd shed my school clothes and play baseball until dark. Getting better, yet not good enough.
I got Joe's autograph three times and when I met him, I said, "Joe, I plan to take your job. How can I get better than you?" He answered with one word: "Hah!" End of conversation, with a pat on my head.
On the way home, I thought: If I could somehow get Joe DiMaggio's spirit inside of me, then when I play center field like he does, I'll have his spirit and his power. And I could be the best fielder and hit the most home runs.
Well, after my successful high school baseball career, we had tryouts for the Major Leagues and I won a spot. We went to Wrigley Field to play against the Cubs. Since I had worked at and watched 77 games while selling pop corn, I was sure I knew my way around, and thought, "A piece of cake."
But when I got to the batter's box and saw the pitcher, he looked nine feet tall and the mound was at least four feet high! I looked and felt like a dwarf.
Then I prayed (even though I wasn't a born-again Christian): "May the spirit of Joe DiMaggio come into me." I added two verses from Psalms: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths." And, "Delight thyself also in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart." The desire of my heart right then was to hit a home run. The pitcher whizzed one 100 miles an hour and the umpire yelled, "Strike one." Then ball one, ball two. I prayed a little harder, but I never even saw the ball go by. "Strike two," the umpire yelled. "Dear God, if there is a God, help me get a home run," I pleaded.
"Strike three, you're out!" was the umpire's answer to my prayer. "Joe, where were you when I needed you?" So much for the spirit of Joe DiMaggio coming into me! And so much for my baseball career. A lot of prayer, but no power Why? Because I wasn't plugged into the power source. A car with no battery: pretty on the outside, nothing inside.
That's where resurrection power comes in. Do you want power in your life to overcome sin? Evil? That bad habit you can't quit? Here's the answer: Plug in.
But we can receive the spirit of Christ in our hearts to give us victory. When? How? Ask Junji Hattori. He was a member of the secret Communist Party of Japan, a self-proclaimed atheist. His brother, Akira, was a Christian convert and radio preacher. When Akira invited Junji to come hear him preach, he'd answer: "Who needs religion? That's the opiate of the people!"
The answer was: "You do." He replied: "Never!"
Yet, Junji was frustrated being a Communist because he had to clean toilets, deliver newspapers at 2 in the morning and other mundane, but also sometimes back-breaking, nerve-wracking, work. He tried to keep the Communist "Ten Commandments" which were very strict. He lacked power to keep them, so to quiet his brother, he agreed to go to his church on Easter Sunday. Here he heard the Gospel for the first time, that Christ not only died for his sins for three days, but also that He rose up again from the dead through the "Power of an endless life."
That if you trust in Christ as your personal Savior, He would not only forgive you of all your past sins, but also give you the "power of an endless life," which means that when you die, you will live again. Mean while, you'll have power to live the Christian life.
He heard: "He that liveth and believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die." Do you believe this? On the spot, he said, "Yes" to Jesus. His life was transformed by the Spirit of Christ, changing him from a Communist to a Christian. Would you believe, today, 30 years after, he is pastor of a church in Shikoku and a radio preacher himself, because he got the power he sought. And so can you. Christ is not a dead Jesus hanging on a cross. "Jesus, where are you when I need you?" The answer is: "He is not here. He is risen. Why seek ye the living among the dead?"
That's why "Pop" Ross, who passed out more than 9,000,000 Bible tracts in Tokyo, would never pass out any that didn't have the resurrection of Christ in them.
Without that, Jesus is just another nice guy, a prophet to the Muslims, a great teacher to the Buddhists, but nothing more. "Without the resurrection, Christianity falls flat on its face and has no power to redeem or save you or anyone else," Pop said.
I remember at one of the 9,000 meetings that I've preached in Japan, in Akita. I gave a simple message of salvation and asked those who wanted to receive Christ as their Savior and become Christians that night to come forward. One of the eight who did was a wild-eyed lady. After prayer with those who came, I opened it for questions and she said, "I'm starting a new religion. I need seven gods: Buddha, Confucius, Edison, Jesus, Abraham Lincoln, Einstein and one more. Then I plan to become the founder of a new religion. Do you have any advice for me?"
I said, "Yes." She took out paper and a pencil to write down my answer and I said, "First, die dead for three days and then rise up again and then people will believe you."
Her last word was, "Eh?"
Sam Gallagher writes: "Listen to Napoleon speak this Easter from the grave. A letter written by Napoleon Bonaparte to one of his generals (who considered Christ only a great moralist and genius) from exile on the isle of St. Helena, his last earthly home.
"Now that I'm here, fastened down alone upon the rock, who fights my battles and conquers empires for me? Do men think of me? Who exerts himself for me in Europe? Who has remained faithful to my name?...Such is the fate of great men!...Of Caesar and Alexander; and then we are forgotten. How many judgments are passed on the great King Louis XIV. Scarcely was he dead when he was left alone in the solitude of his bedroom in Versailles...he was no longer their master, but a corpse, the tenant of a coffin and a grave. Such is the approaching fate of the great Napoleon! When an abyss is there between the depth of my misery and the eternal reign of Christ who is preached, praised, loved, adored and living throughout the universe! Can that be called death? Is it not, rather, life?"
"Where is the power? Where are the thrones of past world conquerors? Come see the place where their bodies were lain, and there rests the answer. The worms ate their flesh and dust returned to dust. Their kingdoms decayed and vanished with their leaders! Now 'come see the place where the Lord lay.' 'He is not here, for He is risen.' (Matthew 28:6)...'God raised Him from the dead' and 'Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Savior.' (Acts 13:30 and 5:31)
"Napoleon died in despair. Christ died a victorious death where He paid the full wages for your sin. He now lives at God's right hand and invites you to share His eternal kingdom with Him, built on love and truth..."
In Communist Russia they tried to supplant Marx for Christ, but 70 years later, like a spring thaw, millions of hidden Christians; those not massacred; this Easter greet each other with "He is risen!" And they answer with, "Yes, indeed!"
Red China expelled missionaries and killed and jailed Christians. Today there are 50 to 70 million underground Chinese Christians.
Christians, converted Jews and Nestorians, came on foot to India, China, Korea and Japan in 199 A.l)., all the way from Iraq. Why? Because Jesus died for sin and rose again. "He's alive" was their message.
The old song says, "Saturday night is the loneliest night of the week." But Easter Sunday is the loneliest day of the year in Japan. Christmas in noisy because of the decoration cakes. But Easter? You can't find it unless someone tells you. That's why in 1962, a colleague, Bill Clark (former Cadillac salesman turned lay-preacher), and I prayed about putting Easter on the map. We thought about the early morning Easter Sunrise services. Well, why not do it here? So, we rented the Seibu and Isetan Department store roofs in Shinjuku and Ikebukuro. And it's continued on yearly since then.
There is free power to make us free from the burden of sin. Reach out and take it by faith this Easter.