Author and Composer –Alfred H. Ackley, 1887-1960.
I serve a risen Saviour; 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.
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 within my heart.
In all the world around me I see His loving care,
And though 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.
What a glorious day it is to believe in Him! – to know that He walks beside us and converse with us every step of the way. To have His mighty hands guiding and shielding us from all attacks of the evil one and to know that we are safe under His everlasting arms.
My wife Enid has been singing this song every morning the past one week and now I just want to sing this song every morning too; to walk into the new day in celebration of all that this truth meant. Let us praise and adore Him for our Redeemer lives and cares deeply for us. Let us stand up for Him today! Live for Jesus and Jesus alone!
Jesus died and rose again! He died for us – to bring us into fellowship with God. He rose from the dead and now lives forever within the hearts of all Christians. To explain how we know? Not easy! Because it is an experience. The Bible said, “O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him. Psalm 34:8”.
The History Behind this hymn: “Why should I worship a dead Jew?” This challenging question was posed in 1932 by a young Jewish man who had been attending evangelistic services conducted by Alfred Ackley (1887-1960) in California. That question played on Alfred’s mind as he prepared his Easter Sunday message. Rising early to prepare for the day, Alfred flipped on the radio as he shaved and was astonished to hear a famous liberal preacher in New York say: “Good morning—it’s Easter! You know, folks, it really doesn’t make any difference to me if Christ be risen or not. As far as I’m concerned, His body could be a dust in some Palestinian tomb. The main thing is, His truth goes marching on!” Alfred wanted to fling the radio across the room. “It’s a lie!” he exclaimed. His wife rushed into the bathroom, asking, “Why are you shouting so early in the morning?”
“Didn’t you hear what the good-for-nothing preacher said?” Alfred replied. That morning, Ackley preached with great vigor on the reality of Christ’s Resurrection, but later that night, he was still thinking about his friend’s question and the morning’s radio sermon. “Listen here, Alfred Ackley,” his wife said at last. “It’s time you did that which you can do best. Why don’t you write a song about it and then maybe you’ll feel better?” Alfred went to his study, opened his Bible, and re-read the Resurrection account from Mark’s Gospel. A thrill went through him, and he began writing the words to “He Lives”. A few minutes later, he was at the piano putting it to music. It has been a favorite of evangelical congregations ever since.
The significance of the event: The challenging question posed by a sincere young Jewish student led to this great wonderful hymn. He was attending evangelistic meetings conducted by the author and composer of this hymn, Alfred H. Ackley. Alfred Henry Ackley, was a pastor in California, when he was preaching in special nightly meetings. A Jewish young man attended the meetings and became interested in the saving message of Christ. After the message one night, the young man pressed Ackley with the question, “Why should I worship a dead Jew?” Mr. Ackley quickly gave the response, “He lives I tell you, he is not dead, but lives here and now! Jesus Christ is more alive today than ever before. I can prove it by my own experience, as well as the testimony of countless thousands.”
The young Jewish student eventually accepted the living Christ as his own personal Saviour. Because of the events surrounding this experience, Mr. Ackley read the gospel accounts of the Resurrection account as found in Mark 16:6, “He is risen, He is not here!” with fresh insight. The words “He is risen” suddenly took on new meaning. Soon he expressed in song the thrill within his own soul and mind; the indwelling presence of the living Christ. Mr. Ackley later said, “A thrill filled my soul – a glorious experience I will never forget. As I thought on the reality of his everlasting presence right there in the room with me, I could hold back no longer and began to write the verses and music to “He lives”.
Therefore, from the thrill within his own soul came the convincing song–‘He Lives!’ The scriptural evidence, his own heart, and the testimony of history matched the glorious experience of an innumerable cloud of witnesses that ‘He Lives,’ so he sat down at the piano and voiced that conclusion in song. He says, ‘The thought of His ever-living presence brought the music promptly and easily.'” And since its first publication in 1933, “He Lives” continues to inspire Christian congregations with the truth that one of the most compelling proofs of the Resurrection is the daily demonstration by believers that Christ’s divine life is now being evidenced in our very bodies.
H. Ackley was born on January 21, 1887, at Spring Hill, Pennsylvania. He received a thorough education in music, including study in composition, at the Royal Academy of Music in London, England. As a performer, he was recognized as an accomplished cellist. Following graduation from the Westminster Theological Seminary, Ackley was ordained to the Presbyterian ministry.
Even while pastoring churches in Pennsylvania and California, Ackley maintained a keen interest in the writing of gospel music. He died on July 3, 1960, but during his lifetime, Ackley wrote more than one thousand gospel songs in addition to aiding in the compilation of various hymnals and songbooks.
But the song for which the Christian church will ever be grateful is this one. It thrills our hearts with its triumphant message and silences the skeptic and the scoffer with these words of personal experience:
“You ask me how I know he lives? He lives within my heart!”