Easter 2018 – Believe and Live · Believe – but that begs the question – believe in what? · We all believe in something… Journey tells us not to stop believing – sing it – tony does the music… · I remember going to NAIT – go Ooks! · I didn’t what know I believed in, but I had this feeling there had to be more than just what I could touch and see, there just had to be… you may relate to that. · The reality is we all believe in things we can’t see – things like gravity, like wind – we can’t see gravity or wind, but we can see the effects of it – yet we believe it exists. · We believe in morality, in love, in evil, again these things we can’t see; we only see the effects of them. · We believe the sun is going to come up in the morning, and we believe that one day, eventually this snow will melt because the sun will be out more and it will get warmer, although that’s kind of hard to believe right now. · This morning we are going to talk about believing, specifically we are going to talk about believing in Jesus, because on this day of the year we celebrate his resurrection, in fact at church we celebrate that every Sunday, but specifically we celebrate it today, because when Jesus rose from the dead, he not only confirmed that he is who he said he is, and what he said was true, but he defeated death and grants those who believe in him eternal life. · There are a lot of people here this morning from all different places in life, all different backgrounds, different ages, different cultures, and different beliefs. · Some of you are here because you do believe in Jesus, you have put your faith in him for the forgiveness of sins and you have received the Holy Spirit as the seal of your salvation, you are here to celebrate the amazing gift that God has freely given and to witness to that truth in your life. If that’s you, I pray this message will encourage you on your walk and embolden you to share the life you’ve been given with others. · Some of you are here because you grew up with this message, and it still holds some value for you, although it’s not a major point in your life anymore. If that’s you, I want to encourage you to examine what you believe to be true, why this message has value and invite you to receive and grab hold the gift God has been holding out before you for years. · Others of you are here because you’ve been invited or dragged along with someone and you think this is all fairy tale stuff, if that’s you I want to invite you to deeply ponder and consider what you hear, think about the lives of the people you know who have devoted themselves to Jesus and think hard about what it means if this is true. · Some of you are here because you mixed up the times and thought you were getting chocolate. · This morning I am going to tell you a number of things you already know, you may not acknowledge you know it, or have even thought about it before, but the reason you’re here this morning is because a lot of what I will say, you will already know. · Once we cover the things you already know, I want to uncover the things you may not know, the things that make what you already know make sense. I want to tell you about Jesus and his death and resurrection. You may think that Jesus has nothing to do with anything, but I’m telling you today that it is only when we understand Jesus, can we really understand the world around us. · I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else. C. S. Lewis · And this morning, I want you to see and believe in Jesus and by seeing and believing, that you would have life. Like any good story, this story begins at the beginning… o God creates everything and it’s good § You are created by God – worth, value, purpose § You know this… o Then sin comes in and infects that goodness § I am not telling you something you don’t already know. You know this… o But God has a rescue plan to bring his people back to him o All the way back at the beginning of the Bible, God’s plan was to rescue his people from the grip of sin and death – his plan was to rescue you and bring you back to him. o But there’s a bit of a hitch – God is a God of love, but also a God of justice – sin must be punished. § A good judge wouldn’t just pardon everyone. § All the bad things that people have done to you will be punished, no one is let off the hook, there are many places in the Bible where the writers lament over the success of the wicked, but the wicked do not go unpunished – this is good, comforting news, but also bad terrifying news, because we all have wickedness in us and we have all sinned and all fallen short of the perfect standard of a perfect God and so we all deserve punishment. Our sins deserve to be punished, not just those people out there, but the person right here. The Bible tells us the wages of sin are death, and so if all sin, then all die unless the debt is paid. § So what to do? How can forgiveness be offered and justice be done? Who will pay the price for the sins of the world, who could pay such a debt? · This is the story of the rest of the Bible, and really the story of the universe o We were in this state, sinful, separated from God and unable to pay the debt, destined for punishment without hope. o But God had a rescue plan, a plan that he would carry out the only way God can – perfectly. He would come himself, and he would pay the debt himself, and he would triumph over sin and death once and for all so that his people could know him and enjoy him forever. o So he came – we call that Christmas o He didn’t come as a warrior, or a king, or a president, but as a baby born in a manger and his name is Jesus, God in human flesh. o And he grew and he lived a perfect life – the life we were meant to live but couldn’t, didn’t because of sin. He completely followed the law of God and was without sin, spotless, righteous. o But he didn’t just come to live and give us an example to follow, no, no, no, that wouldn’t work – we didn’t need an example to follow, we needed a savior to come for us. We didn’t just need someone who we could emulate; we needed someone who could rescue us. We didn’t just need someone who showed us how to live, we needed someone who could bring us from death and sin and make us alive. We didn’t just need someone who could cleanse our heart, we needed someone to give us a new heart, someone who could fight the final battle with death and sin and claim victory over them both. o And this is exactly what Jesus did and he did it all perfectly and he offers it all to us – he is our savior who came for us, he is our rescuer who sought us out, he gives us life in his name, he gives us a new heart and he has claimed victory over death and sin and he lives forevermore! o But how did he do all this? The crucifixion o Well, remember we said that sin must be punished or there is no justice – and the only God worth following is a God who punishes evil. o On Good Friday we remembered Jesus’s death on the cross. This baby from the manger who was now all grown up, this man who had lived a perfect live – the only one ever in the history of the world – now hung on a Roman cross, beaten, mocked, crucified and killed. At first glance you may think, there is no justice here, an innocent man was put to death because he stood against the powers of the day. And from a purely earthly perspective, that’s what it looks like. o But look deeper, that is not what is happening at all. Jesus said that he came to give his life as a ransom for many and that he would give up his life for his friends. Jesus came to die so that we could live – his death was the payment for the sins of the world for your sins and my sins. o Here’s God in human flesh dying so that you could be forgiven, paying your debt. What great love God has for you! For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but shall have eternal life. For God sent his son into the world to save the world through him – Jesus hung on that cross with the weight of the world’s sin on his shoulders, every evil thought and deed, every bit of abuse, every murder, every lie, everything was poured out on him, and at that moment when the rulers thought they had ended his life, it was really the end of sin. In this earthly injustice, cosmic justice was done and Jesus paid it all – he finished it. o But that was Friday, this is Sunday, on that day we mourned his death and on this day we celebrate his resurrection. The resurrection o You see Jesus paid the price for sin on the cross and took away its power forever, that is good news, that you don’t have to pay the price for your sin, that if you believe in Jesus your sins are forgiven, being paid for on the cross – that is really really good news! o But Jesus still lay in the tomb – death seemed to have the final word still, at least that’s what his followers thought at first – they scattered during his trial and went into hiding after his death. But death couldn’t hold him, the grave couldn’t keep him because on Sunday, he rose. o Of course death couldn’t hold him, it had no claim upon him. Jesus said he had the authority to lay down his life and take it up again – not the words of a good teacher, but only words that could be uttered by God. If someone walked around today saying that they could die and come back to life, we wouldn’t follow that person as a good moral teacher, we would commit them to an institution. Jesus did not the leave the ‘good moral teacher’ option open for us. But he didn’t just say he would come back from the grave, he actually did it! If you think that Jesus is simply a guy who had some good things to say about love and peace and that’s it, then you don’t know the real Jesus. o Jesus defeated death, and those who follow him have defeated too – he won the victory and we get to participate in it by faith. We don’t gain eternal life by being good enough, or by doing religious acts or rituals, we don’t gain eternal life by being part of an organization or by following all the rules, we can only have eternal life because it is a free gift from God it is only by grace that we are saved through faith, not by works so that no one can boast. If we could somehow be good enough to get to heaven on our own, then Jesus died for nothing but our laziness – if it was just about us working hard enough and trying hard enough so that we could be good enough, then Jesus died for nothing. But he didn’t die for nothing – we can’t make it up that mountain on our own so Jesus came down and got us. o After Jesus rose from the dead he appeared to his followers numerous times and then to over 500 people over the course of 40 days. I would argue that there is no other event in ancient history that is as well attested to than the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In fact, if you spent any time looking into it, you will find that the resurrection of Jesus has more evidence for it than most of the history you believe without questioning. o He really did rise bodily from the grave! He came back to life – not as a spirit or an angel, but as a person with a body! Because he came back to life we can have hope that those who have faith in him will come back too! We can have hope that there is more to life than just what we can touch or see, that there is hope for life after death, and that hope is found only in one place – through belief in Jesus Christ! o This is the miracle of Easter, this is what we celebrate today, that he is risen and he lives today, and he is still in the business of saving souls! Jesus Christ died for your sins, was raised to life three days later and lives forever interceding for us before the Father. There is no other way to heaven apart from Jesus Christ. o This is not just good news, it’s great news! It means that we can stop striving and trying to save ourselves and put our faith in Jesus who has done the work to save us. It means we don’t have to be the perfect man, the perfect woman, the perfect wife, the perfect husband, mother, father, or whatever. It means that even in spite our sins, God loves us and at just the right time, even when we were still in our sins, Jesus came and died for us. o It means we can life a free life, a life with purpose – to know God and enjoy him forever – to know our creator and be known by him – to live according to his plan for our lives, which is the only place where we find deep, lasting joy, peace beyond understanding, and limitless love. o You are loved beyond measure, who else has died for you, even more – who else, knowing all your deeds and thoughts has died for you? o Jesus’s death and resurrection sets us free from following religious programs or organizations that tell us we have to toe the line and mind the rules in order to get to God – it opens the way fully to everyone and Jesus only asks one thing of us – believe. Doubt and belief o But you might say – all that stuff sounds good, but I just can’t believe – or I want to believe but I have so many doubts. o There is nothing wrong with doubt – doubt is what brings us to the truth, it’s what starts an investigation into the truth. o Have you ever heard an urban legend and you think – I doubt that’s true? So what do you do, you look it up on google to see, you investigate it and come to a conclusion. o If you do that with something as silly as an urban legend, why wouldn’t you do it with something as serious as your eternal soul? o Don’t just sit there in your doubts, but find out the truth. And not this subjective truth you’ve been taught exists, like something can be true for you and not for me. Seek the real truth the objective truth, Jesus tells us that if we seek him, we will find him. o And let me tell you, when you find him your life will be forever changed. If you’ve already found him you know this to be true. It’s not that life becomes rainbows and unicorns with no troubles at all, no, we will have troubles in this world, but we understand there is purpose in those troubles, and that even in the worst of troubles there is a God who is not only in control, but who is with us in the valleys of life, who has gone before us even to the grave and who lives forever. o I want you to doubt, doubt the idea that this is all there is, doubt the idea that there is no purpose, doubt the thought that you are alone and unloved, doubt the things you have been told about having to do certain things to get to heaven. o Doubt those things and look for the truth, the truth that is only found in Jesus – find the truth that Jesus has come for your rescue, find the truth that you can have eternal life, find the truth that there is more to life than just this and find the truth that you are loved, forgiven and made new through the cross of Jesus Christ. o We are all invited into this new life, this salvation. You don’t have to clean yourself up first, for Jesus cleans you. You don’t have to get your life in order first for when you put Jesus first; the rest of your life begins to fall into order. You don’t have to go through some rituals, you just need to believe, and by believing you will have life in his name. Belief leads to life o But that brings us all the way around to our initial question – believe in what? o Believe that Jesus Christ is God who came to earth in human form, lived a perfect life, was crucified on the cross as a punishment for your sins, rose from the grave three days later and lives forevermore. o And when you believe, let me invite you just as Jesus invites us, to come and follow him – find life abundantly, find freedom, find peace, find forgiveness, it is waiting for you, and it’s true. This is not a solitary life, but one lived out in community of others who follow Jesus. We can have this life, this forgiveness, this promise, all because he is risen!