Ask Me How I Know He Lives
Based on the Hymn "He Lives"
Please look at the words to the hymn He Lives found on the screen.
Many of the old favorite hymns have a story that goes with them. This one is no exception so I would like to introduce you to Alfred Henry Ackley, the writer and composer of "He Lives." He was an accomplished musician, hymn writer, and a Presbyterian Pastor. He was born in PA in 1887 and was trained in music by his father and along with his brother Bentley became renowned gospel songwriter.
Alfred pastored in PA for a while then was called to pastor in California. There in 1932 he became a friend of a Jewish man – he would talk to him about story of Christ and what it meant to follow Him. The Jewish man would counter Alfred's witness of Christ with a simple but disturbing statement - "Why should I worship a dead Jew?"
The statement played on his mind as he prepared his Easter message in 1933. "Why should I worship a dead Jew?"
As was his practice on Sunday morning he rose early and went over his morning message a few times. As he was shaving he listened to a famous radio preacher out of New York. The preacher started off his Easter message this way. "Good morning - Easter! You know folks, it really doesn't make any difference to me if Christ be risen or not. As far as I am concerned, His body could be dust in some Palestinian tomb. The main thing is, His truth goes marching on."
Ackley relates that he wanted to throw the radio across the room. Alfred woke the whole house up as he shouted, "It's a lie." His wife came to the bathroom door asking why he was shouting so early in the morning. He explained his frustration with the preacher's sermon.
Alfred preached with a great deal of enthusiasm that day but was still bothered by his Jewish friend and the preacher in New York. He was still troubled even after a wonderful Easter morning. So when he was grumbling about these comments his wife told him - "listen here, Alfred Ackley. It's time you did that which you can do best. Why don't you write a song about it and maybe you'll feel better?"
Alfred re-read Mark's gospel account of the resurrection. In a few moments the words of He Lives just flowed out of him. A few minutes later he was at the piano putting it to music to the lyrics. It was therapy to his soul. He never dreamt it would become one of the church's most treasured Easter hymns.
There seems to be articles and TV shows disclaiming Christ’s existence and His resurrection every year around the time of Easter and Christmas. I can’t write musical lyrics, but I can proclaim the Good News I would like to tell you how I know He lives this morning. But first let us sing together He Lives.
- Ackley wrote this hymn with his Jewish friend and the radio preacher in mind. He was disturbed by the radio preacher and his Jewish friend. He wrote this hymn to communicate his belief in Christ’s resurrection. We can learn a few things about the Christ of Easter as we look at the hymn “He Lives.”
Look at the refrain with me for a moment. "He lives, he lives, Christ Jesus lives today! He walks with me and talks with me along life's narrow way. He lives, he lives, salvation to impart! You ask me how I know he lives? He lives with in my heart."
- How would you answer the question of “how do you know he lives?”
- Look at Ackley's answer - He walks with me and talks with me along life's narrow way.
Matthew 7:13-14 (NASB)
"Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it.  "For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it.
- Christ was the One who inspired the words and music to this hymn. It was Christ speaking to Ackley's heart that produced these words.
- He knew that Christ lives within his heart. He had experienced the resurrected Lord in his heart.
- The verses talk of where Christ is present in the world and works through Christians. Verse 1 for example tells of Christ's mercy and his presence when we need Him.
- Mercy is the unmerited forgiveness that Christ gave us as He died on the cross. He provides us with renewed relationship with Christ.
- When we need Christ - He is there to meet our need. Needs are different than wants, but he is there to meet our needs.
- In verse 2 it refers to Christian care and love. We are the ambassadors of Christ's care and love.
- And verse 3 he tells us to rejoice and sing our praises - eternal hallelujahs to Jesus Christ the King!
- He is the hope to all who seek true meaning for their lives - real meaning is not in some make over or some kind of drug but in Christ.
- Once we accept the true Hope - Christ is ever present to help us. Through His love He demonstrate goodness and kindness.
- That is Alfred Ackley's story - what is your story? Can you say He lives in your heart and that His salvation has been imparted - given to you? As the Sermon title indicates you have the opportunity to ask me why I know He lives. I want to tell you why I know He lives: 1. Intellectually, 2. Emotionally, and 3. Spiritually.
- We all have a rational – intellectual side to us that makes us want understand events and activities. I know He is alive because the vast amount of evidence that exists about His resurrection.
- There are many studies that have addressed the validity of Christ death and resurrection and it is called apologetics. C.S. Lewis, Josh McDowell and Lee Stroebel are a few notable authors and speakers. The bottom line that occurs in these studies is that the Christ of the New Testament lived, died and was resurrected.
- For those that theorize that Jesus never really died they need to look at Roman scourging and crucifixion. Roman executioners were grimly efficient – in other words the person was dead before the body was claimed made sure that the person died. If not it would have cost them their own life.
- Other historians than the New Testament writers wrote of Jesus’ death and those that say He never died. I say prove it. The evidence is that He died. The evidence is that He did die and was bury in a borrowed tomb.
- Resurrection proof is in the appearance of Christ to over 500 people. Most of the time 2 eyewitnesses is enough to legally convict or free a person. What about 500 eyewitnesses.
- The other aspect is this – would you die for a lie? The disciples died for their faith. Here is the real kicker – if this was all a lie the church would never have continued. In the face of Roman persecution the Church emerged.
- If you need more rational - logical proof I would be glad to sit down with evidence that demands you to make a decision about what you are going to do with the living resurrected Messiah.
- If you would ask me how I know that He lives I would tell you that He lives within my heart. This is an experience, a feeling I am not sure anyone of us can explain. But I feel His presence.
- How do I know that? I have lived with out Him and now live with Him and there is a big difference between those two states of being. One is existence the other is living.
- Experience is one of the best teachers I know and I feel His presence because of having experienced His grace, love and forgiveness. You could argue against my experience all you want – is that going to change my experience? NO – the experience is mine. No one can take that away.
- The other way I know that He lives is from a spiritual side. God designed us spiritual beings in need of having a relationship with Him. Our design is not complete if we are not in relationship with Him. Without Christ there is a void. We are cheating ourselves if we don't deal with the spiritual side.
- People look all over the place to find contentment and happiness. Look at all the reality shows that are on TV.
- Before you can have a spiritual makeover you have to allow the Master Designer in to your life so He can re-create you.
- My own story is rather simple - I was raised in the church as a kid - I lived outside His promise until I was 17 years old. I wasn’t necessarily a bad kid but I wasn’t living a Christian life except on Sundays.
- In between my Jr. and Sr. in high school I came to grips with my own life and decided I wasn't thrilled with the direction I was heading. As I examined my life I discover that I was a spiritual mess. But Christ was being made alive through many individuals:
- the teachings of my parents - of course as a kid I wasn’t necessarily listening & didn't necessarily do as they wished
- the witnessing of Christianity all around me - Sunday School teachers, scout leaders, two spiritually wonderful Christian grandmothers,
- a close Christian friend who died in his Freshman yr. of college
- Ray Saunders – a Young Life leader
- Christ the Light of the World & The Bible made a whole more sense than the way I was going.
- So if you ask me, "How I know that He Lives?" I will tell you this after almost 41 years - I still recognize that He changed my life. I was there and I know that He transformed me and He still is working on me.
- You can mock Christianity like some do calling into question His resurrection.
- You can say to me that you believe in a dead Jew that was a great moral teacher if you want to
- You can call yourself an atheist or an agnostic
- But I know that Christ changed my life. You can argue all you want to against Christianity but you can't argue the fact that Christ transforms lives.
If Christ is not transforming your life at this moment I have a simple formula for you to be adopted into the family of God.
Believe + Accept = Become
- Believe in the resurrected Lord.
- Accept that Jesus is who He says He is; that He Lives and can give us life.
- Christianity is based on what Christ has done for us - it is called grace.
This grace is available for all of us to receive. Jesus offers over and over the free gift of eternal life and forgiveness. We have to accept the gift. In so doing we will become a new creation - adopted into the family of God.
I have become a son of God. And you can become a son or daughter of God too.
Words and Music by Alfred H. Ackley
I serve a risen Savior, He's in the world today;
I know that He is living whatever men may say;
I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer,
And just the time I need Him, He's always near.
In all the world around me I see His loving care,
And tho' my heart grows weary I never will despair;
I know that He is leading thro' all the stormy blast,
The day of His appearing will come at last.
Rejoice, rejoice, O Christian, lift up your voice and sing
Eternal hallelujahs to Jesus Christ the King!
The hope of all who seek Him, the help of all who find,
None other is so loving, so good and kind.
Please click here for slides to accompany the sermon.