What Difference Does Easter Make?
There is a section in the U.S. News and World Report, called "News You Can Use", which seems to imply that there is a lot of news you can't use. We live in an society that is a frenzy of facts. So the last thing I want to do today is just add to the amount of information that’s out there. I know that information overload just causes confusion.
It like the grandfather who wanted to see how much his four-year-old granddaughter knew about the Easter story. He put her on his lap and asked, Sweetheart, why do we celebrate Easter? Without hesitating, she said, Jesus was crucified. After He died, His body was put into a grave. They rolled a big stone in front of the opening. A bunch of soldiers guarded the tomb. On the third day, there was a big earthquake and the stone rolled away.
Grandpa started to beam with pride at how much his granddaughter knew about the Easter story but then she continued, When the earthquake happened, the entire town came out by the grave. And if Jesus came out and saw His shadow, they knew there would be six more weeks of winter!
It’s one thing for us to believe the truth found in the Bible, for us to believe that Jesus is who He claimed to be. But what we do with that information is another thing entirely. Do we just have information about Jesus or do we allow that information to change our life? What we need to do this morning is to answer the question, does Easter matter? I mean what difference does it make? If we are focusing this morning on the news you can use, what difference does something that happened over 2,000 years ago have to do with us living in 2013?
I believe that Easter means 3 things for us this morning: First, it means that My past can be forgiven.
Have you ever been half way through a project and wish you could start over? I’m quickly approaching middle age, and I have talked with a lot of people who reach this point and would like a do over. Everyone of us would like a do over about something in our lives. We all have things we wish we hadn't done or said; we all have regrets, we all have guilt.
There is a new movie coming out about Jackie Robinson, the great player that broke baseball’s color barrier. He didn’t have an easy story, he faced hostile crowds in every stadium. Other players would stomp on his feet and kick him. During one game he made an error and the fans went off, shouting racal slurs and throwing things on the field. He stood all alone on second base, totally humiliated.
In the midst of the chaos shortstop Pee Wee Reese came over and stood next to him. He put his arm around Jackie Robinson and faced the crowd. The fans grew quiet. Robinson later said that arm around his shoulder saved his career. We all face times in our lives that are filled with shame or guilt. And like Pee Wee Reese, Jesus comes and slips His arm around us, and bears our shame for us.
Paul writes in Colossians 3:14 He has forgiven all our sins and canceled every record of the debt we owed. Christ has done away with it by nailing it to the cross. This is God's pardon program. He says He nailed it all to the cross. Jesus paid for my guilt, so we can quit nailing ourselves to the cross. He wants to forgive your past.
He says He wants to cancel every record of all debts you owe, all of your emotional debts, relational debts, and sins are all canceled. How long do you remember a bill that's been paid? Do you still struggle and worry about your light bill from last December? Of course not, once the bill has been paid you forget about it. That’s what Paul is saying to you: Once God's forgiven it, I can forget it.
Do you know what I have here in my hand? This is more than just a kids toy, this is an Etch-A-Sketch? If you messed up the picture you just flip it, shake it, turn it over. There would be a clean slate. Did you know there was an Etch-A-Sketch verse in the Bible? Paul writes in Romans 8:1 There is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ. This is God's etch-a-sketch verse; He says, I want to wipe it clean. You can walk out of here today, knowing that every single thing you've ever done wrong up until this point is completely forgiven.
That's good news. That's news I can use. No condemnation! Jesus did not come to rub it in, He came to rub it out. He says, I didn't come to condemn the world, I came to save it. He wants to change you, to help you, give you a new beginning, a clear conscious. That’s why easter matters.
Next, Easter matters because God can manage my present problems.
Are there times that you feel powerless to change the situation; powerless to break a bad habit; powerless to save a relationship, or get out of debt, or manage your schedule? Much of life is unmanageable, and it’s tough to figure out that you can't have it all figured out. But God can, and that's good news. You were never meant to live this life just on your own power. God wants to have a relationship with you.
The same power than enabled Jesus to rise from the dead will help you rise above your problems. The same power that God used at the resurrection can be used in your life right now. You don't know what the future holds. I don't either. I don't know what's going to happen next year, next month, next week. I don't know what's going to happen tomorrow, but it doesn't matter. Because even though it's out of my control, it's not out of God's. He will give me the power to face it.
The Phillips Translation of Philippians 4:13 says: I'm ready for anything through the strength of Christ who lives in me. God is saying that no matter how hopeless your situation is He is willing to help you out. Some of you came crawling in here this morning, you've had a tough week, and you are wondering how you are going to make it through one more. God is encouraging you to continue on. No problem is too big for God. No situation is hopeless if you'll turn it over to Him.
I want to draw your attention to the fact that it doesn’t say I am ready for anything through the power of positive thinking. Or I am ready for anything through the power I poses, or my money, or my good looks. Paul is saying I'm ready for anything through the strength of Christ who lives in me.
That's good news. That's news I can use. The same God that brought our Savior back from the dead, wants to have a relationship with us. He wants us to lean on Him. The same God that said Let there be light, wants to bring light into the darkness of the chaos of our lives. He wants to drive away the fear, and dread and bring us into His light. That’s why easter matters.
Finally easter makes us realize that my future can be secure.
Gas prices are on the rise, the national debt is in numbers so big that we cannot begin to comprehend them, the job market is fluctuating, and we are all getting older. Everyone here this morning and watching on the internet could fill a notebook with the struggles and fears that we face every day. Even those of us who refuse to complain, have our share of problems and struggles in our lives.
So many of us are consumed with tomorrow that we don’t have time to think about what comes after. There is this sobering passage written by wise King Solomon in Ecclesiastes 7:2-3, It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart.
Pretty heavy stuff, if you ask me. What I find interesting here is that he doesn’t say that it’s more desirable, or joyful, or fun to enter into the house of mourning, it is better because it serves as a reminder to us all that this is not the end, but our Lord has prepared a place for everyone once we leave this world. At the end of the day we will all have to deal with death. In the end everybody dies. And the truth is that I'm going to die someday and so are you. But sometimes we get so busy in the here and now we don't stop to think about what's going to come.
There are a lot of misconceptions about heaven. And truthfully many of us aren’t really excited about going to heaven because we don’t understand what is it really going to be like. The Bible tells us that Heaven is a place of joy, because we will be in the presence of our joyous God. I think we miss that point, we talk about the holiness of heaven and the glory of God, but we miss the ecstatic joy. We understand that there will be no more pain and no more evil, but something in the back of our minds whispers that it might just be a little boring.
Where did we get this idea that heaven was about flying around through the clouds playing harps? To tell you the truth, if that is what heaven was all about I wouldn’t be interested either. In Luke 15 Jesus tells these three stories about things that are lost and then found. The first story is about a man that has 100 sheep and loses one, so he goes on a search until he finds it. Then there is a woman who has 10 coins and loses one and searches until she finds it. Finally there is a dad that has two boys and both are lost, one is lost in a foreign country and one is lost at home. All three of those stories talk about the great joy in heaven when one sinner repents.
I believe in heaven there will be meaningful and purposeful activity. I believe there will be indescribable joy. When Jesus was on earth He said that His purpose in coming was, so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. If that was His desire and purpose on earth, how much more is it His purpose in heaven. But I don’t think that we get it.
One of the great things about being a dad is watching my boys grow up. The transition from baby, to toddler, to adolescence has been a wonderful wild and exhausting ride. We celebrated every time something big happened. When the boys learned their colors, or letters, or numbers we celebrated. When they began to sound out words and begin to read we went for happy meals.
Now, when they were first learning these basics, these building blocks for what would come later, would it have made much sense for me to hand them a copy of To Kill A Mockingbird and ask them to explain the struggle of racial prejudice in the Deep South? What if when they were learning their numbers I asked them to solve a few problems from a calculus book? You would think I was a bit mad wouldn’t you?
In the same way, God could tell us what it will be like in heaven, but it would be impossible for us to understand more than the basic concepts of having our tears wiped away, no more death, and the joy that comes from being in His presence. That’s why Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 2:9, No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.
If it was not for the hope of heaven, life would be very difficult at times. We live in a broken world that can only offer sadness, sickness and despair. But we have a hope of a future that is secure. Because of easter we have hope to face the realities of life. Heaven is the hope of what God has for me tomorrow that enables me to face today.
Now the Bible says there are two ways that you can get to heaven. Plan A is to earn it. That's the performance plan. To earn it you have to be perfect, never committed a sin and you must be able to say that you have always done the right thing over your entire lifetime. Are you willing to say that you always make the right decision, always say the right thing, that your perfect? No one????
Well then let’s look at Plan B, and that is to trust Jesus, to accept a relationship with Him. He was the only perfect person who ever lived because He was God. He came so we could know what God is like. By trusting and establishing a relationship with Him we get to live in His goodness.
Everyone of us must come to God and say, Lord, I'm scrapping Plan A. I know that I'll never earn my way to Heaven. I know I'll never be good enough. So I'm asking You to work Plan B in my life. Jesus, I want to trust You, follow You, get to know You and have a relationship with You. That's how Easter makes a difference in your life.
All of us are here today for many different reasons. Some of you came because it's the thing to do. It's Easter, you find a church and go. Some are here out of habit. Others of you came maybe because a friend invited you, somebody who really cares about you. It doesn't matter why you think you came here. You're not here by accident. God brought you here today so that He could communicate to you, He needed you to sit still so He could say you matter to Me. I understand everything about your life. I want to have a relationship with you. I sent My Son to die for you. I want you to get to know Me. I desire a relationship.
Easter matters, because it is the basis of our faith. People of faith will gather today all around the world to celebrate the glorious truth that our Savior died to save us from our selfishness and sinfulness, and then arose from the dead to give us hope.
Questions For You To Consider
How does guilt develop in the heart of a believer?
What is the cure?
Romans 8:1 There is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ. Jeremy said this was an Etch-A-Sketch verse, how can we have our page clean, so that we can start over?
How does the resurrection give you a purpose?
What is the relationship between being convinced that Jesus is alive and being confident of Jesus' power?
Why is repentance so important? (Remember that repentance is turning around, being radically different, if you are the same old person, then you haven’t repented)