Throughout history, the influence Jesus had on the lives of people has never been surpassed. No other great leader has inspired so many positive changes in the lives of his followers. People who encounter the risen Christ are totally transformed. Their outlook on life is altered forever. Staying true to their faith, they do not hesitate to face hardship, persecution, and even death. Many consecrate their lives to serving others, minimizing their own needs and desires.
First century Christians
Following Jesus’ crucifixion, his disciples were devastated. They had forsaken him in the Garden of Gethsemane to save their own lives. But after they met the resurrected Christ, they were radically changed. Suddenly, they were willing to give their lives to tell Jesus’ story to the world. Many were tortured and killed because they proclaimed Jesus was alive.
Skeptics and enemies were also transformed. Jesus’ younger brother, James, didn’t think Jesus was anybody special. But after his resurrected brother appeared to him, James not only believed Jesus was Lord but became the leader of the Jerusalem church and died as a martyr in 62 AD.
Saul of Tarsus was the chief persecutor of early Christians. He dragged people to prison. When they did not recant their faith, he was a party to their execution. But he had a dramatic encounter with the risen Christ on his way to Damascus and he was transformed from Saul, the enemy of Christianity, to Paul, the main propagator of its message. He left his position of prestige in Jewish society to become a traveling missionary who experienced incredible suffering in order to share the love of Christ throughout the Roman empire.
Roman governor Plinius Secundus wrote in his Epistles X96 that Christians were people who loved the truth at any cost. Although he was ordered to torture and execute them for refusing to curse Jesus, he was continually amazed and impressed with their firm commitments “not to do any wicked deeds, never to commit any fraud, theft, adultery, never to falsify their word, not to deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up.” For centuries, true Christians around the world have stood as shining examples of the standards of truth and love established by Jesus of Nazareth.
Historian Philip Schaff described the overwhelming influence which Jesus had on the subsequent history and cultures of the world: “This Jesus of Nazareth, without money and arms, conquered more millions than Alexander, Caesar, Mohammed, and Napoleon; without science…he shed more light on things human and divine than all philosophers and scholars combined; without the eloquence of schools, he spoke such words of life as were never spoken before or since, and produced effects which lie beyond the reach of orator or poet; without writing a single line, he set more pens in motion, and furnished themes for more sermons, orations, discussions, learned volumes, works of art, and songs of praise than the whole army of great men of ancient and modern times.”
Modern day Christianity
The power of Christ knows no boundary of time or space. In our own age, many skeptics have been convinced just as thoroughly as their first-century counterparts. For example, Lew Wallace, a famous general and literary genius, was a known atheist. For two years, Wallace studied in the leading libraries of Europe and America, seeking information that would forever destroy Christianity. While writing the second chapter of a book outlining his arguments, he suddenly found himself on his knees crying out to Jesus, “My Lord and my God.”
When confronted by solid indisputable evidence, he could no longer deny that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. Later, Lew Wallace wrote the book Ben Hur, one of the greatest English novels ever written concerning the time of Christ.
Similarly, the late C.S. Lewis, professor at Oxford University in England, was an agnostic who denied the deity of Christ for years. But he, too, in intellectual honesty, submitted to Jesus as his God and Savior after studying the overwhelming evidence for his deity. Over the years, he wrote many books to uphold the ideals of Christianity, including Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters.
Many other men and women in our century have dedicated their lives to spreading the Christian message, often braving torture and death. For example, one of Romania’s most widely known Christian leader, Richard Wurmbrand, spent 14 years in prison and was repeatedly tortured for running the underground church under Communist rule.
Even after international pressure secured his release from Romania, he continued to receive death threats from the Communist regime. But these attempts at intimidation did not silence him. He kept publicly spreading the good news of Christ.
Similarly, in Korea, Joon Gon Kim, a well-known Christian leader, witnessed his wife and father slaughtered before his eyes by Communist sympathizers from his own village. He himself was beaten senseless and left for dead. He survived the beating and asked God to give him love for the souls of his enemies. He eventually led 30 Communists to believe in Christ, including the person responsible for the death of his family members.
Not only does the love of Christ impel Christians to face persecution and death but also to work to make the world a better place. Mother Theresa was an outstanding example of a life poured out in the service of Christ. Of her well-known ministry among the poor, she said, “Our work is only the expression of the love we have for God.”
Like her, many others have given their lives to serve the destitute and the outcast, either in their homeland or abroad. William and Katherine Booth, founders of the Salvation Army, believed that ministering to the poor was like ministering to Christ himself. The movement they launched enlisted the tireless efforts of enthusiastic people who wanted to make a difference in the world around them.
All of these Christian men and women have found fulfillment and joy in following the teachings of Jesus. They were transformed when they met Christ and yielded their lives to him. Each of them has made a positive impact on the world. They realize that agnosticism, atheism, and secular humanism hold no true answers. Christianity is still relevant to the needs of today.
What does all this have to do with you? You may also wish to encounter the living God and experience His transforming power. Christ’s desire is to enter your heart and give you a new life in him.