Resurrection Sunday: Finding the Cure, 12 April 2020

Resurrection Sunday: Finding the Cure

Big idea: Resurrection Sunday is all about a cure for sin and death.

Welcome to First Alliance Church Online Worship on this Resurrection Sunday. On Friday, we remembered Jesus experiencing death, a brutal crucifixion on the cross.

Many of you are experiencing pain, loss, and grief today. Jesus certainly knows those emotions. He understands.

You may be filled with fear and anxiety. Today we want to fill you with hope. The message of Easter is that God is with us, miracles do happen, eternal and abundant life is available, and Jesus is alive!

My name is Kirk and this morning our parking lot is empty.
Our sanctuary seats are empty.
But so is the tomb of Jesus Christ!

He is Risen! He is risen, indeed!

We want you to not only watch today…we want you to engage. You can chat, request prayer, give, even raise your hand online. Just for fun, can you chat your zip code right now. I think it’ll be fun to see who’s with us this morning.

I want to offer a warm welcome to our First Alliance family. I miss being with you in person, but great things are happening online. A special shout-out goes to family and friends joining us today, including international friends from the University of Toledo. Go Rockets!

COVID-19 has postponed the baseball season. It has cancelled the British Open golf tournament and the Wimbledon tennis tournament. It has disrupted all of our lives. But it can’t change the greatest story ever told, a story that continues to transform lives thousands of years later, for people all over the globe. Welcome to Resurrection Sunday!

It’s time to celebrate! It’s time to sing! Wherever you are, please join us!


If you could be famous for one thing right now in our world, what would you want it to be? In these interesting times, being a great actor doesn’t really matter. Athletes are irrelevant at the moment. Politicians should be worried about serving people rather than…well, let’s not go there! If you want to earn the attention and praise of humanity, there’s one simple thing you need to do: discover a cure for the virus.

Can you imagine what it would be like to find the cure? I don’t mean a vaccine, but a cure. Lives would be saved. Fear would diminish. The economy would rebound. We could find toilet paper! Perhaps best of all, I could see and hug our granddaughter again!

Although it’s hard to believe, there is something more devastating to our planet than coronavirus. It not only impacts every person on the planet, it has affected every human who has ever been on earth. It’s so common, we often fail to recognize it, though we encounter it every single day. The word itself has drifted from our vocabulary, yet its presence has never been more real. The greatest problem in our world is…sin. And there’s something greater than a vaccine. There’s a cure!

Pastor Kirk, it’s Easter and you want to talk about sin? Yes! It’s the reason we have Easter. Let me back up just a bit.

Why are you here…on this planet? Have you ever stopped to think about the meaning of life? Until recently, most of us have been so busy going to work, watching sports, being with friends, attending concerts, catching a show at the movies…do you remember those things?!?!?

We’ve been so busy…yet now (I’m told!) many people have extra time on their hands, time which inevitably leads us to think, to ask questions, to consider the deeper things in life. Why are you here?

Despite my workload growing through the pandemic, I’ve been pondering the meaning of life more recently. I’m grateful to have answers, but perhaps you’ve discovered there’s more to your identity than your job, hobbies, friends, or wealth.

Though it has its critics, I’ve found the Bible to be the best explanation for reality, the finest source of wisdom, the greatest collection of timeless stories, and the most satisfying book of hope.

In the beginning, God created. That’s how the Bible begins (Genesis 1:1). God made everything we see, from the sun and moon to the trees, dogs, and ants. Then He made man and woman…to take care of creation and—most of all—to have a relationship with us. We were created to know God. I don’t mean know God like we know about our governor or we know about Thomas Edison or we know about Tiger Woods. I mean we were created to know God like we know our best friend or favorite relative.

It seems hard to believe the Almighty would want to have a relationship with us, but that’s at the heart of why we’re here, why we were created, the meaning of life.

One famous document, the Westminster Shorter Catechism from 1648 states the chief end of man “is to glorify God and to enjoy him for ever.” Here are some of the supporting verses:

All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, Lord; they will bring glory to your name. (Psalm 86:9)

For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. (Romans 11:36)

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)

“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” (Revelation 4:11)   

Unfortunately, relationships can be broken. You probably have experienced that in your own life. Is there anything more painful than a broken relationship?

Our relationship with God was broken by sin. The book of Genesis talks about how God created Adam and Eve and they had a wonderful relationship until the tragic event known as The Fall, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, eating fruit from the one tree in the beautiful Garden of Eden that was forbidden. The sinned, they rebelled, and that broke the relationship. It introduced pain and suffering for humanity. It started the mess we know in our world, a planet filled with hunger, homelessness, violence, and—yes—viruses.

We were created to know God, but sin destroyed that relationship. Our sin is worse than any virus.

There are vaccines for virus’. We all know many men and women are hard at work right now trying to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, something that will make our bodies resistant to the virus.

But no vaccine has ever been developed for sin. We all sin. None of us is perfect. We all fail, mess up, forget, fall, rebel, make mistakes…sin. We rationalize it and call it a little white lie. We justify it by saying everyone does it. We mask it by pretending it wasn’t that big of a deal. We blame by saying it was someone else’s fault.

But we all sin. I sin. You sin. And the problem with sin is it eventually leads to death. The sin of a drunk driver might lead to the death of a human body. The sin of adultery might lead to the death of a marriage. The sin of a gambling addiction might lead to the death of a bank account. Worse of all, sin leads to the death of our relationship with God because He is intolerant of sin. He is holy and perfect…He’s God! He can’t get within six feet—within six yards–within six miles of sin!

There’s no vaccine for sin, but there’s a cure.
Jesus is the cure. He is the only person who was perfect, who was sinless. He came not only to teach and set an example for us of what it means to be human, He came to die for us, to become the cure for sin. His death on the cross paid the price, the penalty for our sin. The most famous verse in the Bible says,

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

The cross is the symbol of Christianity. It reminds us of the suffering and agony Jesus endured, not because he did anything wrong, but because we did. He died to offer forgiveness to us. He died to reconcile us to our heavenly Dad. When he died, it looked like hope was lost. It appeared that sin had won. It seemed that evil would rule. But that was Friday.

Jesus’ friends and family who watched him suffer and die didn’t understand what was taking place before their eyes. They didn’t realize death couldn’t hold him. They didn’t know the grave couldn’t keep him. They couldn’t imagine Sunday was coming!!! Here’s what happened…

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. (Matthew 28:1)

There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. (Matthew 28:2-4)

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” (Matthew 28:5-7)

Jesus defeated death.
Jesus defeated sin.
Jesus is the cure.

Here’s what Paul wrote to a church in modern-day Turkey…

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Colossians 2:13-15)

Jesus destroyed death
He shamed sin!
He made a spectacle of satan.
He eliminated evil.

Jesus is the cure for sin.

Here’s the thing about cures: they don’t happen automatically. You need to receive the cure. Usually that means taking medicine, receiving a shot, or undergoing a treatment.

Jesus is the cure for sin, but you must
experience the cure. You must believe Jesus died for you and rose from the dead…and prove that belief by following Jesus, making him not only Savior but also LORD. The cure is not simply about going to heaven when you die. It’s about experiencing heaven—God’s presence—before you die.

You can experience the cure for sin by simply receiving the gift, by saying, “Jesus, I give you my life.” Jesus’ invitation was simple, “Follow me.” Have you experienced the cure? If not, today is a fantastic day to do so. As we celebrate Jesus conquering death, it’s a perfect day for you to experience abundant, eternal life.

I know many of you have been too busy for God. You’ve had no need for God. But now? It’s amazing how one virus can change our world…and us.

I urge you today to experience the cure. Say yes to Jesus. Surrender your life. Repent—turn away—from your sins and follow Jesus. I’m not talking about religion. It’s all about that relationship with God, the meaning of life, the purpose of our creation.

You were made by God.
You were made for God.
You were made for God’s glory.

Some of you have experienced the cure. Maybe you prayed a prayer decades ago in Sunday School or at church camp. Maybe you’ve let your relationship with God drift and it’s time to reconnect. Today would be a great day to do that!

Regardless of where you on your spiritual journey, I want to encourage you to
share the cure. Imagine if someone had the cure for COVID-19 and decided to keep it to themselves. How selfish! How stupid!

Followers of Jesus have the cure for sin, Jesus Christ. We can’t keep it to ourselves. We need to share it—especially now! People all around us are dying—literally and figuratively. Our neighbors are searching for hope. Our friends are desperate for peace. Our families are filled with fear. Jesus is hope. Jesus is the Prince of peace. Jesus is the cure for fear and sin.

Share the cure. Share this video. Share your story. Share God’s story.

I want to give you an action step. On your screen, you can raise your hand. If you’d like to begin your journey today and experience the cure for the first time, please raise your hand now.

If you’ve experienced the cure but your relationship has drifted and you want to reconnect with God, raise your hand now.

If you’ve experienced the cure but kept it to yourself and you want to share it with others, raise your hand now.

Before you go, we want you to know God loves you—that’s what the cross and the empty tomb are all about. Jesus proved his love for you, now you just need to experience and share it.

We love you, too. Our campus is closed, but our staff and leaders remain committed to serving you and your family. More than anything, we want to help you get to know and become like Jesus.

If you’re not on our e-mail list, you can text your e-mail to 419.318.2066.

We have Zoom prayer each weekday morning at 9 AM.

I do a devotional each weekday at 4 PM on Facebook Live…and have some special guests joining me in the coming weeks.

We’ll be back here for FAC Online Worship next Sunday at 10:30 AM, continuing our series on the life of Jesus from the book of Mark.

He is risen! He is risen indeed!

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • You can watch this online worship experience here.
  • Praising Him in Pain, 1 April 2018

    Praising Him in Pain
    D6 Series—
    Songs from the Heart (Psalms)
    Psalm 22
    Matthew 28:1-6

    Series Overview: The Psalms reveal hearts poured out in inspired song

    Big Idea: There’s hope beyond today’s pain and suffering.

    Video: Psalm 22

    I know, you were expecting happy music, dancing bunnies, and chocolate eggs on every seat. Isn’t it Easter? Is this an April Fool’s Day prank? Why are we focusing on the death of Jesus? That was Friday. Yes, but there is no resurrection without a death. There is no Easter without a Good Friday.

    “Good” Friday is the day we remember the death of Jesus, a death prophesied hundreds of years earlier in Psalm 22, our text for today. Hearing those words again, it’s amazing how they were written generations before Christ. They so vividly describe the pain and suffering of Jesus…and apparently David, too.

    Although some churches have an Easter sunrise service, on the first Resurrection Sunday morning, there were no Easter parades, bonnets, or celebrations.

    After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. (Matthew 28:1)

    They were horrified to find it empty! Imagine going to a relative’s grave in a cemetery and finding the tombstone broken and nothing but a hole in the ground. That’s probably how these women felt.

    What a week! First, they watched their hope of a savior die mercilessly on a cross without even a hint of resistance. Then someone stole the body from the tomb? We cannot begin to imagine the despair, the sorrow, …the pain.

    I fear we’ve sanitized the Bible, telling stories to children as if they are fairy tales rather than real, raw accounts of people just like you and me who are altogether familiar with suffering and grief. David, who penned Psalm 22 which opened our gathering, was a real, historical figure with real emotions. He felt despair, sorrow and pain…and wasn’t afraid to pour out his heart and tell God. Likewise, the first followers of Jesus felt despair, sorrow, and pain at the beginning of the first Resurrection Sunday. It was yet another day to remember the loss of the One they hoped would overthrow the Roman Empire and save them. It was another hopeless morning of shattered dreams. It was another reminder of the horrors of watching their leader suffer and die, butchered and hung up for all to see, naked and tortured.

    Whether you are a member here or a first-time guest at First Alliance Church, I know one thing about you: you know pain. We’ve all experienced it in the past, are experiencing it now, and/or will experience it in the future. Like King David—and Jesus—perhaps you have felt forsaken by God. You wonder if there is any reason for hope in the midst of your mess. Maybe this morning you’ve been feeling out of place, thinking you’re the only one struggling on a day when everyone is happy, happy, happy.

    There can be no resurrection without a death—no Easter without a Good Friday. So before our party begins, we pause to remember the death of Jesus, the mourning that occurred both on Friday and Sunday morning.

    King Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes:

    There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance, (Ecclesiastes 3:1-4)

    Today we remember the death of Jesus, following his instructions on the day before his death to take the bread in remembrance of his body that would be broken, and the cup in remembrance of his blood that would be shed for us. If you are a follower of Jesus, we invite you to eat and drink with us in remembrance of Christ.


    There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. (Matthew 28:2-4)

    The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. (Matthew 28:5-6)

    Can you feel the change in this room, the shift in the atmosphere? From darkness to light. From despair to hope. From death to resurrection.

    Here’s the big idea:
    there’s hope beyond today’s pain and suffering. I know in a group this size many of you are experiencing pain and suffering. Maybe this is your first Easter without a loved one. Perhaps you’ve been battling a physical illness. Some of you are in a financial mess with tax day around the corner. Still others are experiencing relational challenges. I get it. I’ve been through all of those things…and some are very real to me at this moment. Jesus gets it, too. Nobody knows pain like Jesus.

    I believe one of the greatest obstacles to people trusting God is simply understanding how a good God could allow pain and suffering. If God loves us, why doesn’t He heal everyone, send angels to prevent drunk driving accidents, ensure beautiful sunny weather (at least on Easter!), and provide for all of the starving children in Africa.

    I don’t have time today to answer every question related to God, but there are three things you must know about God and pain:

    1. Nobody knows pain like Jesus.
    One of his best friends denied even knowing him three times. Another friend betrayed him, selling him out for thirty pieces of silver. In his greatest time of need, his “followers” abandoned him. He was beaten. Spit upon. A crown of thorns shoved into his skull. He was mocked. And that was just the beginning. Crucifixion was the most horrific torture known in the Roman world. Even worse than the emotional and physical pain, Jesus bore our sins. He suffered the greatest of all spiritual anguish. This is God, choosing to die…not because you and I are good, but because we are sinners in need of a Savior.

    But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

    In most other religions, the god or gods are distant. They may live in heaven or paradise or someplace removed from earth. Our faith teaches that

    …God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16-17)

    Jesus entered our world as Emmanuel, God with us. The writer of the book of Hebrews tells us

    …we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. (Hebrews 4:15)

    Jesus was sick, tired, hungry, and was tempted. He spent 33 years on our planet experiencing every emotion we experience. And He knows pain.

    2. God is with us in the midst of pain. I know, it doesn’t always feel like it. I went through a season in my life when I wanted to take the letter “Y” out of the alphabet because it seemed all I did was ask God, “Why?” If He was really with me, why didn’t He intervene, fix my problems, heal my daughter, fill my bank account, restore my relationships. As your pastor, I must say there are many things about God I don’t understand. I still ask, “Why?” But I’ve also learned that God loves us and can be trusted. He has His reasons, and often we just need to wait to understand them. We can trust God in all circumstances because He is the Sovereign Lord of all, which leads to my third point:

    3. Your story is not over. Today you may feel like it’s Good Friday…death and sorrow. It doesn’t feel good because you’re the one being crucified, criticized, abandoned, abused, mistreated, or simply suffering. The good news—the great news—is Jesus didn’t remain on the cross. One of the distinctions between Catholic Christians and Protestant Christians is Catholics often show Jesus on the cross, the crucifix. Most Protestant crosses are empty, reminding us that He is no longer dead. Our symbol should be an empty tomb, but that would be a strange thing to wear around your neck, I suppose! But today we celebrate because Jesus did not stay in the grave. The story did end on Friday…and your story is not over, either.

    One of the greatest elements of the death and resurrection of Jesus is redemption. Redemption is clearing a debt. It’s buying one’s freedom. It means being saved from sin, error, or evil. Jesus died to redeem you, to pay the penalty of your sin, which is so radical it’s amazing. Christ is our redeemer. He bought our freedom…from sin and death. Before He died, he cried out, “It is finished!” It wasn’t a declaration of defeat, but of victory. The Greek word literally means, “Paid in full.” Hallelujah!

    Jesus died, and because Jesus died He invites you into a relationship with your Creator. Because Jesus died, He invites you to repent—turn from your sins and pride and selfish living—and following Him. Surrender your life. Let go and let God.

    Because Jesus is alive, He invites you to experience life that way it was designed to be lived, a life filled with love, peace, joy, and hope.

    And make no mistake…Jesus is alive! If Jesus is dead, I have no hope. Dead people can’t do anything for me. The Bible says

    And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world. But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died. (1 Corinthians 15:17-20)

    Some people believe Jesus didn’t die. If He didn’t die, I have to pay for my sins on Judgment Day which is coming for all of us.

    Some people believe Jesus is still dead. If He is still dead, I have to pay for my sins. I’m hopeless.

    But nobody ever survived a crucifixion, and hundreds saw Jesus after He died and was resurrected. They talked with Jesus. They ate with Jesus. They wrote about Jesus. They gave their lives for Jesus, refusing to deny the resurrection.

    Jesus loves you.
    Jesus died for you.
    Jesus wants to be your friend.
    Jesus wants to be your king.
    Jesus wants to be your God.

    Religion is about doing things to earn God’s approval. Jesus flipped religion upside down. He did the heavy lifting. He died so you can live. If you could be good enough, he wouldn’t have needed to be crucified. Our faith is not about works, but rather faith, taking a step of faith and trusting Jesus to be the leader of your life, to be LORD.

    If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)

    I want you to know my best friend, Jesus. I want you to have a great life now, and great life after you die. Jesus offers both. If you invite him to be your God, your LORD, your leader, he will show you what life really means. He will guide you, be your friend, forgive you of all you have done wrong, and give you peace…and love.

    I know some of you are experiencing deep pain, loss, and trials. Jesus knows pain. I can’t magically fix every challenge you face, but God understands, God is here, and we are here…to love and serve you, to be the hands and feet of Jesus until He returns.

    Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)

    We can praise Him even in the midst of pain because He understands, He is with us, and our story is not over.

    Good Friday was agonizing for Jesus but good for us. He suffered and died for us. And Resurrection Sunday is good because of Good Friday.

    Jesus is alive. Our redeemer lives!
    Jesus is here through the Holy Spirit.
    Jesus is returning.

    And now we celebrate. We praise. We worship. We party! Our Redeemer lives!

    Credits: some ideas from: D6

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Full Life Now, 27 March 2016

    Full Life Now
    John 10:10

    Big Idea: Jesus didn’t just die so we could go to heaven, He died so we can live now!

    Jesus didn’t just die for our future. He died for our future, present, and past. Eternity has begun.

    Today is the first day of the rest of your life, and it’s a life God wants to be abundant, fruitful, exhilarating, and full.

    He is risen! He is risen indeed!

    My name is Kirk and I’m thrilled you’ve chosen to spend your Resurrection Sunday morning with us! There is no greater day on the calendar than today. This is our Super Bowl, New Year’s Day, Summer Vacation, Mardi Gras, Memorial Day all packed into one 24-hour period. Today is the ultimate celebration of life.

    We often take life for granted…until it is threatened or lost. We live life day after day, perhaps wishing for a better job, better weather, better relationships, or a better car. We’ve all been fed the message that the pursuit of happiness is something we all deserve, and nearly every advertisement is designed to convince us we’re not living life to the full until we have their product or service.

    But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s back up. Why are you here? No, not why are you in this place at this time, but why are you on this planet? This question has haunted people for generations. What’s the meaning of life?

    Earlier we saw a promo for Alpha, an interactive exploration of this question I have experienced several times. Whether you’re an atheist dragged here today by a family member, an agnostic searching for answers, or a follower of Jesus looking to deepen your faith, Alpha is a fantastic way to deepen your spiritual life.

    Life. There’s that word again.

    Easter is the day we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Here’s the way one enemy of early Christians who later followed Jesus describes it:

    I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him. (1 Corinthians 15:3-8, NLT)

    With all due respect to other faiths, unlike many religious figures throughout history who are no longer living, the message of Christianity is that of a living God, a God who conquered death. It’s the foundation of our faith. Without the resurrection, Christianity is, uh, dead. Paul, quoted earlier, continues…

    And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world. But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died. (1 Corinthians 15:17-20, NLT)

    Today we celebrate that Jesus is alive. His resurrection surprised many, but 700 years before the birth of Jesus Isaiah prophesied that Jesus

    • - Would die (Isaiah 53:8b)
    • - Would be crucified between two thieves (Isaiah 53:12)
    • - Would be buried in a rich man’s tomb (Isaiah 53:9)
    • - Would resurrect from the dead (Isaiah 53:10-12)

    On Friday we remembered the death of Jesus on the cross. It’s important to remember why He died.

    “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16, NLT)

    Jesus died for every man, woman and child…Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, atheist, Christian, and agnostic. He died so our sins can be forgiven. He died to pay the punishment we deserve to pay for our evil deeds. He died to reconcile us to our perfect, holy, heavenly Father who sent Him.

    This is love.
    This is life.

    Have you experienced the love of Jesus?
    Have you experienced the life of Jesus?

    The passage says those who believe—those who surrender their life to Jesus—will have eternal life.

    Years ago I heard the story something like this:

    God loves us.

    We sin and are separated from a perfect, holy God who cannot tolerate sin.

    Jesus died in our place, to forgive us, to reconcile us to God, to make us holy and pure.

    We need to believe in Jesus, receiving the gift of eternal life He offers us.

    This is all true, but it leaves one lingering question…

    What do we do now?

    If Christianity is just about what happens after we die, what do we do in the meantime?

    If Easter is about a past event and eternal life is about the future, what about now?

    Jesus said,

    The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)

    He came that we would have
    full life now. We are promised an eternity with God. That’s fantastic, but He wants us to experience full life now.

    A life with
    hope—hope that someday every wrong will be righted, that every war will cease, that justice will prevail, that peace will come.

    A life with
    joy—not merely happiness but a deep sense of contentment no trial or tragedy can erase.

    A life with
    love—unconditional acceptance from our heavenly Father which allows us to love and forgive others, not because they or we deserve it but because we’ve been given the ultimate gift of love from Jesus…His very life.

    A life with
    meaning—realizing we’re not an accident but cherished children of Almighty God who created us in His image with dignity, value and worth.

    A life with
    security—knowing nothing we can do can make God love us more than He already does…and nothing we can ever do can make God love us less.

    A life with
    grace—undeserved favor from our Father just because He loves us but won’t force Himself upon us which is why we must receive the gift of life, Jesus.

    Religion is spelled D-O. It’s all about what we try to do for God.

    Christianity is spelled D-O-N-E. It’s about what God has done for us.

    When my son was younger he wanted to learn about other religions. I said, “Go for it! Study other religions. We are the only ones with grace. Every religion says you must pray, study, eat or not eat, drink or not drink, do certain things…and hope God will love you. Only Christianity has grace.”

    The Bible says

    God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. (Ephesians 2:8-9, NLT)

    It’s all about Jesus, His death, and His resurrection. One of the most popular songs is called “Amazing Grace.” Grace truly is amazing. You cannot earn it. You cannot do things to get it. You cannot work for it. You cannot buy it. Like any gift, you can only accept or reject it.

    Will you accept or reject the gift?
    Will you accept or reject Jesus?

    Do you want to continue to be in control or are you ready to
    let go and let God…be God and King and LORD?

    God’s love, His forgiveness, His grace…they are incredible! They are the reason for Easter. Today is a celebration of life…eternal life, full life, dynamic life.

    Are you living a full life now? I love what N.T. Wright says…

    …we should make Easter a forty-day celebration. If Lent is that long, Easter should be at least that long, all the way to Ascension. We should meet regularly for Easter parties. We should drink champagne at breakfast. We should renew baptismal vows with splashing water all over the place. And we should sing and dance and blow trumpets and put out banners in the streets. And we should invite the homeless people to parties and we should go around town doing random acts of generosity and celebration. We should be doing things which would make our sober and serious neighbors say, “What is the meaning of this outrageous party?”

    I’m embarrassed to say I’ve met boring Christians. That should be an oxymoron! We have more to celebrate than a sports victory, a job promotion, or a birthday. Followers of Jesus should throw the best parties…and live the best, most fulfilled lives.

    Jesus told one woman…

    Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; (John 11:25)

    Jesus is the resurrection.
    Jesus is the life.

    Know Jesus. Know life.
    No Jesus. No life.

    Ironically, many have died simply because they claimed Jesus was alive. He didn’t come to make bad people good. Jesus came to make dead people come alive. When we die to ourselves, our agendas, and our pride and fully surrender our lives to Jesus He is able to do more than we can ever dream or imagine. It may not always be easy, but we are never alone. He promises to be with us always. He promises to lead us and guide us. He promises to give us full life now…and forever.

    You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

    Because He LIves, Easter 2015, 5 April 2015

    Big Idea: The resurrection changes everything!

    The Butterfly Effect

    chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state.” So states Wikipedia.

    Put into plain English, the Butterfly Effect, attributed to Edward Lorenz, is a belief that a butterfly’s wings flapping eventually create a typhoon that hits land on the other side of the world.

    A snowflake by itself weighs nothing, but enough of them will collapse oak trees and roofs.

    A woman named Rosa Parks simply sat on a bus and sparked the Civil Rights movement.

    Ten years earlier, a man named Jackie Robinson was court-martialed (and acquitted) for not moving to the back of a bus.

    You might call this butterfly effect a chain reaction. One event can change everything. No event changed human history like the resurrection.

    Because He lives. One moment in history about two thousand years ago changed everything. You could argue there were two. The first was the death of Jesus.

    There is unanimous agreement among scholars that Jesus died. He was given an honorable burial. That the tomb was discovered to be empty. That there were post-mortem appearances of Jesus by the disciples. With the exception of Muslims who believe Jesus never actually died on the cross, virtually every scholar will tell you a historical person named Jesus lived, taught, and died. The primary controversy surrounds our celebration today—His resurrection.

    Church history is full of creeds, statements of faith. Perhaps the oldest creed of the Christian faith comes within three years of the death of Jesus (see James Dunn). It was recorded in Paul’s letter to the people in Corinth.

    For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)

    • Christ died for us
    • Christ was buried
    • Christ was raised again

    Much is made of the death of Christ, and rightfully so. We remember it each month as we engage in communion or the Lord’s Supper or the Eucharist (call it what you like!). What Jesus accomplished on the cross was immensely important. But it was not enough.

    The cross seems to get most of the attention. People have turned the horrific object of torture into a religious symbol, even a celebrated piece of jewelry. The real focus should be on the empty tomb, an image that is, admittedly, a bit more complex to depict! Still, perhaps we should wear empty tombs rather than crosses around our necks!

    When I was in Jerusalem several years ago I was curious about the place where Jesus died. There are two common possibilities, one now inside The
    Church of the Holy Sepulcher and another outside the city, a hill that looks like a skull. Both are interesting sites, but I wanted to see the empty tomb!

    He is risen!

    Paul was a Jesus freak! He was a leading Jewish leader named Saul who persecuted Christians…until He encountered Jesus. His witness alone is tremendous evidence of the resurrection, for dead men are not known to speak, and only lunatics would be persecuted for a lie, a myth, or a mirage as he and so many others were, including countless martyrs…simply for the belief in the resurrection. Paul wrote

    But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:12-19)

    There are many “ifs” in those verses! It’s hard for me to imagine life without the resurrection. Paul continues to state things in the positive.

    But* Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:20-22)

    * when you see a “but” in a sentence, usually the only thing that matters is what follows!

    Our faith is based on not merely a life or a death but on the resurrection. The resurrection is not only the true center of the Christian faith, but it signals God's initiative in the renewing of creation. The resurrection both embodies and empowers the destiny of God’s people as divine image-bearers from now to forever.

    So What?

    The resurrection is everything!

    I recently bought a book called
    Risen: 50 Reasons Why The Resurrection Changed Everything by Steven Mathewson.

    1. To Give Us Eternal Life (John 11:25–27)
    2. To Show His Power over Death (Acts 2:24; Romans 6:9)
    3. To Heal Us (Acts 4:10)
    4. To Receive the Blessings Promised to David (Acts 13:34)
    5. To Forgive Our Sins (Acts 13:37–38; 1 Corinthians 15:17)
    6. To Elevate His Power and Authority (Romans 1:4)
    7. To Justify Sinners (Romans 4:23–25; Acts 13:39)
    8. To Give Us a New Way to Live (Romans 6:4, 8–11)
    9. To Unite Us with Him in His Resurrection (Romans 6:5–8)
    10. To Make Us Fruitful (Romans 7:4)
    11. To Give Life to Our Mortal Bodies (Romans 8:11)
    12. To End Our Obligation to the Flesh (Romans 8:12–13)
    13. To Provide Us with Future Glory (Romans 8:18)
    14. To Set Creation Free from Its Bondage (Romans 8:21–22)
    15. To Adopt Us into God’s Family (Romans 8:23)
    16. To Intercede for Us at God’s Right Hand (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:23–25)
    17. To Fulfill the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:4; Luke 24:44–47)
    18. To Make Our Faith and Preaching Worthwhile (1 Corinthians 15:14–15)
    19. To Guarantee Our Future Resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20–23; 1 Thess. 4:14)
    20. To Destroy All Other Powers through His Reign (1 Corinthians 15: 24–27)
    21. To Destroy the Enemy of Death (1 Corinthians 15: 26, 54–57; Luke 20:36)
    22. To Give Us a Reason to Endanger Our Lives (1 Corinthians 15: 30–31)
    23. To Deliver Us from Self-Indulgence (1 Corinthians 15:32)
    24. To Give Us Heavenly, Imperishable Bodies (1 Corinthians 15: 42–48)
    25. To Clothe Us with His Image (1 Corinthians 15:49)
    26. To Give Us Immortality (1 Corinthians 15:53)
    27. To Overcome the Power of the Law (1 Corinthians 15: 56–57)
    28. To Make Serving the Lord Worthwhile (1 Corinthians 15:58)
    29. To Give Us Hope in Hard Times (2 Corinthians 1: 8–11)
    30. To Give Us a Greater Purpose in Life (2 Corinthians 5:15)
    31. To Let Us Experience God’s Mighty Power (Ephesians 1:18–20)
    32. To Display God’s Amazing Grace (Ephesians 2:6–7)
    33. To Bring Victory into Our Intimacy with Him (Philippians 3:10–11)
    34. To Make Us Full in Him (Colossians 2:9–12)
    35. To Reorient Our Desires (Colossians 3:1–2)
    36. To Let Us Appear with Him in Glory (Colossians 3:4; Acts 1:11)
    37. To Enable Us to Kill Our Old Way of Life (Colossians 3:5–10)
    38. To Rescue Us from Coming Wrath (1 Thessalonians 1:10)
    39. To Serve as Our Eternal Shepherd (Hebrews 13:20; Revelation 7:17)
    40. To Give Us New Birth into a Living Hope (1 Peter 1:3; Acts 23:6; 1 Thess. 4:13–14)
    41. To Glorify the Lamb of God (1 Peter 1:18–21; Acts 3:13–15)
    42. To Show That Death Does Not Stop Us from Living (Matt. 22:30–32; Rom. 14:9)
    43. To Confirm His Words about Being Raised to Life (Matthew 28:5–7)
    44. To Continue the Mission of God (Matthew 28:18–20)
    45. To Share His Presence with His Followers until His Return (Matthew 28:20)
    46. To Teach More about the Kingdom of God (Acts 1:3)
    47. To Prove God’s Commitment to Justice (Acts 17:31)
    48. To Make Possible the Judgment of Wicked (Jn 5: 28-30; Acts 24:15; Rev. 20:11-15)
    49. To Give Him Complete Supremacy (Colossians 1:18; Revelation 1:4–5)
    50. To Provide Life in the Unfiltered Presence of God (Revelation 21:3–4, 22; 22:1)

    Because He lives…we are alive.

    • literally true via creation (John 1:1-4)

    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. (John 1:1-4)

    • figuratively true in that we have abundant life (John 10:10)

    The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)

    • eschatologically true (John 11:25-26; John 3:16)

    Jesus said to her [Martha], “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. (John 11:25-26a)

    For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

    • Because He lives…we have a future

    • a future with Him, forever

    Because He lives, resurrection is possible. All things are possible.

    Today is the greatest day on the calendar! It’s bigger and better than Christmas, your birthday, the Super Bowl, and Groundhog Day combined!

    Everything changed on Resurrection Sunday and because He lives, there is hope for all of us.

    • Because He lives…we have hope.

    To Show His Power over Death (Acts 2: 24; Romans 6: 9)

    • nothing is impossible for God
    • sin and death have been conquered
    • what should we fear?
    • bad news is temporary
    • the best is yet to come
    • God is working NOW (Jesus is alive!)

    As a pastor on Easter I’m supposed to tell you because Jesus rose from the dead,

    • there’s hope for you dead marriage
    • there’s hope for your dead financial situation
    • there’s hope for your dead relationships
    • there’s hope for your dead-end job
    • there’s hope for your dying body
    • there’s hope for your dead emotions

    Because He Lives (Amen)

    You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

    Awake My Soul, John 12:1-18, 31 March 2013

    Big Idea: God has a habit of resurrecting the dead.

    Happy Resurrection Sunday! Many refer to it, appropriately, as Easter, though others find the pagan roots of the name disturbing. Whatever you call it, it’s a great day…and a great time of year. For many of you, today signifies the end of lent and you can go back to eating meat or watching TV or whatever you gave up for the season. Today signals that it’s time to be spring, whether it feels like it or not!

    “Our Lord has written the promise of the resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in spring-time.” - Martin Luther

    You may not know it, but today is actually the unofficial first day of spring, also known as baseball’s Opening Day (though the Tigers don’t start until tomorrow). Of course, the real celebration is that of the resurrection of Jesus. This is the Super Bowl, Academy Awards, 4th of July and New Year’s Day all wrapped up in one celebration, a celebration that comes once a year but is actually celebrated every day for followers of Christ.

    We’re in the middle of a series studying the Gospel of John, a biography of Jesus written by one of His best friends, John. Last week we were in chapter 12. Today we are skipping ahead to chapter 20. The seven chapters in between tell the account of the week beginning with Palm Sunday that included the Last Supper, the crown of thorns, the crucifixion, and the resurrection. In future weeks we’ll go back to them, but following our remembrance of Christ’s death on Good Friday, we jump to the resurrection account.

    Let me state up front that if Jesus did not rise from the dead, we are wasting our time—not only now but every time we gather, every moment we pray, and every minute we spend reading the Bible. The resurrection is the pivotal moment in human history, the day in which everything changed, literally.

    Paul, once one of the greatest enemies of the movement of Jesus Christ, became one of His most ardent followers and said

    And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. (1 Corinthians 15:17)

    Put another way, if Jesus is dead, our faith is dead. Our hope is dead. Our life is dead.

    But for more than 2000 years people have been searching for the dead body of Jesus and what have they discovered?

    Nothing! Nada! Zip!

    What a difference nothing makes!

    God has a habit of resurrecting the dead.

    John 20:1-18

    Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” (1-2)

    So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) (20:3-9)

    Peter and John raced. John says he won!

    No thief would’ve taken the time to fold the grave cloths!

    Then the disciples went back to their homes, but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. (10-12)

    They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

    “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

    “Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

    Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

    Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

    She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). (16)

    He knows your name, too!

    Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

    Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her. (17-18)

    I think it’s great that women are the first people that see the resurrected Jesus. He did so much to liberate women and this is no exception. They are the ones who get to tell the eleven disciples that Jesus is alive!

    God has a habit of resurrecting the dead.

    Jesus is not the only example.

    Last week in John 12 we looked at the story of Jesus raising His friend Lazarus from the dead. Jesus was not the first—nor the last—person to come back from the dead. There are elements of The Walking Dead that are real!

    Matthew’s biography of Jesus includes one of my favorite images in the entire Bible.

    And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

    At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

    When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:50-54)

    Matthew’s Jewish readers would recognize this bizarre episode of the Walking Dead as similar to yet another example of God resurrecting the dead. The account is found in the Old Testament book of Ezekiel. The context is the people of Israel, an exiled nation longing to return to their homeland.

    Ezekiel 37:1-14

    The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

    I said, “O Sovereign LORD, you alone know.”

    Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.’” (4-6)

    So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them. (7-8)

    Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet — a vast army. (9-10)

    Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.’”

    God has a habit of resurrecting the dead.

    But your dead will live; their bodies will rise. You who dwell in the dust, wake up and shout for joy. Your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead. (Isaiah 26:19)

    “At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people — everyone whose name is found written in the book — will be delivered. Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. (Daniel 12:1-3)

    God has a habit of resurrecting the dead.

    Jesus’ death and resurrection have a strong theological meaning for Matthew...and for us. God is restoring Israel, and on the back of Israel, He is restoring the nations, the Gentiles...us! Jesus’ death and resurrection were not isolated events in ancient history, but the most powerful and vivid reminder that our God is the God of salvation and restoration.

    It’s easy to dismiss the resurrection of Jesus as merely an historical event. He came back from the dead, but He’s God, right?

    Yes, but God has a habit of resurrecting the dead—not only Lazarus and Jesus and these dry bones, but also us today. As a pastor, I’ve had a front row seat watching God at work, resurrecting the dead. Here are a few examples:

    1. My friend who was on the verge of hopelessness and despair, lonely and broken. Since she surrendered her life to the risen Christ, she has come alive. Her soul has been awakened and she’s a new creation.

    1. Several years ago some dear friends approached my wife and I and said their marriage was a wreck. Lies and infidelity had invaded their relationship. After years of hard work and the risen Christ, their marriage has come alive. Their relationship has been awakened and they are not only together but now helping other seemingly hopeless marriages.

    1. In 2009 a family I know had more than $300,000 in medical bills that were not covered by insurance. Aside from their mortgage, they ended the year debt-free as God awakened their finances.

    What about you?
    What is dead that only God can resurrect? A relationship? Your career? Your broken body?

    Don’t misunderstand me. God is not a cosmic genie waiting to obey our every command. He is, however, the author of life (Acts 3:15). He is life. As we saw a few weeks ago, Jesus said

    “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

    Did you catch that? Jesus
    is life—the way, the truth, the life. He is the only way to the Father. He is the only way to life.

    Jesus did not die on the cross just so we could live comfortable, well-adjusted lives. His purpose is far deeper: He wants to make us like himself before he takes us to heaven. This is our greatest privilege, our immediate responsibility and our ultimate destiny. - Rick Warren

    God has a habit of resurrecting the dead.

    He wants to offer you life—eternal life…and rich, wild, and abundant life now (John 10:10). He wants to awaken your soul. He wants you to live a life of freedom, faith, hope and love. Jesus died so that you might have life!

    You can listen to the podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

    He's Still Alive! 8 April 2012

    If you could have dinner with one deceased person other than a relative or Bible character, with whom would you dine? Why?

    There are so many great historic figures that have changed the world. A few of them include

    • George Washington
    • Thomas Edison
    • Henry Ford
    • Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
    • Rosa Parks
    • Steve Jobs

    They have had tremendous influence on our lives, but each has one thing in common—they can do nothing further to change the world. Their work is done. They are, by definition, history.

    As much as I love President’s Day, MLK Day, and other celebrations of great men and women, this day is different. Today is a celebration of Jesus. He’s still alive!

    The Story

    For decades Christians have been complaining about the commercialization and secularization of Christmas. I love Christmas, but as much as I appreciate Jesus’ birthday, today is the real day of celebration. Whether you call it easter or dismiss the pagan roots and refer to it as Resurrection Sunday, there is no greater celebration than that of a risen Jesus.

    But did it really happen? Did Jesus really conquer death? The whole of the New Testament revelation rests on the resurrection as an historical fact.

    Consider this...there was a very educated, respected, religious man named Saul. He was so zealous about his Jewish faith that he led the execution of countless Christians who threatened the organized religion of the day. God gripped his heart, changed his name to Paul, and this is what the former skeptic wrote:

    For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance : that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. (1 Corinthians 15:3-7)

    Not only were there hundreds of eyewitnesses of Jesus after His resurrection, many died for their simple testimony to that fact. It would be foolish to die for a lie.

    Paul continues a few verses later

    But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:12-19)

    If Jesus is dead, let’s all go home!

    But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:20-22)

    He concludes

    If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” (1 Corinthians 15:32)

    Friends, because Jesus lives, we have hope. Because Jesus lives, we can face tomorrow. Because Jesus lives, we can discover meaning, and purpose and joy.

    The Resurrection is the defining moment in the movement of Jesus, and arguably of all human existence.

    By definition, faith is involved in following Jesus, or any, uh, faith! Jesus’ posture was always one of invitation. He said, “Follow me. Come and see.” Today He is still inviting men, women and children to follow Him. Notice I didn’t say obey a bunch of rules or engage in organized religion. His invitation is to Himself. It’s to know Jesus.

    Unlike George Washington and Rosa Parks, it is possible to know Jesus, because Jesus is still alive!

    There are two things that make Jesus unique from other world religions. First, He is alive. I can’t prove it 100% today, but for more than 2000 years people have been searching for His dead body and have come up, uh, empty. If Jesus is dead, our faith is dead. Our hope is dead. Our future is dead.

    Second, following Jesus is truly about a relationship with God, not a religion. Religion is spelled D-O. It’s what people do to earn God’s favor, access to paradise after death, and the approval of their peers. Tragically, there are many people that practice the religion of Christianity, working hard to be good enough for a perfect and holy God, which is impossible! Jesus despises the religion of Christianity!!! Why, because it’s not what you DO but what has already been D-O-N-E on the cross. Only following and knowing a perfect Jesus who died on the cross for you can grant you reconciliation with God and the ability to know your Creator. It’s not enough to know about Jesus. You can know Him today!!!

    Is your head filled with knowledge, but your heart empty? Have you been pursuing the religion of Christianity rather than the relationship of knowing Jesus Christ.

    Paul, the writer of the letter we read earlier to the church in Corinth, wrote this to the people of the city of Philippi:

    I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:10-11)

    Paul was not content with knowledge of Jesus or religious gatherings and practices. He wanted to know Jesus, and you can only truly know a person who is living. Paul knew that Jesus understood suffering and death. Rather than a distant Creator, Jesus knows what it’s like to be human, to experience pain, to laugh and cry, and to journey through life. He’s not above it, He lived it...and He’s living today!

    I can tell you from personal experience that my life changed when I went from knowing about God to knowing God. Amazingly, my faith is more than just reading about history in the Bible and trying to follow the rules. Every day is a new adventure of literally doing life with Jesus, because He’s still alive! Do you know Him?

    No one can remain neutral regarding Jesus' resurrection. The claim is too staggering, the event is too earthshaking, the implications are too significant, and the matter is too serious. We must each either receive or reject it as truth for us, and to remain indifferent or undecided is to reject it. (Mark Driscoll)

    Some words of encouragement or inspiration for celebrating Easter and beyond, from N. T. Wright's "Surprised by Hope" (pp 255-257):

    But my biggest problem starts on Easter Monday. I regard it as absurd
    and unjustifiable that we should spend forty days keeping Lent,
    pondering what it means, preaching about self-denial, being at least a
    little gloomy, and then bringing it all to a peak with Holy Week,
    which in turn climaxes in Maundy Thursday and Good Friday… and then,
    after a rather odd Holy Saturday, we have a single day of celebration.

    All right, the Sundays after Easter still lie within the Easter
    season. We still have Easter readings and hymns during them. But
    Easter week itself ought not to be the time when all the clergy sigh
    with relief and go on holiday. It ought to be an eight-day festival,
    with champagne served after morning prayer or even before., with lots
    of alleluias and extra hymns and spectacular anthems. Is it any wonder
    people find it hard to believe in the resurrection of Jesus if we
    don’t throw our hats in the air? Is it any wonder we find it hard to
    live the resurrection if we don’t do it exuberantly in our liturgies?
    Is it any wonder the world doesn’t take much notice if Easter is
    celebrated as simply the one-day happy ending tacked on to forty days
    of fasting and gloom? It’s long overdue that we took a hard look at
    how we keep Easter in church, at home, in our personal lives, right
    through the system. And if it means rethinking some cherished habits,
    well, maybe it’s time to wake up. That always comes as a surprise.

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