By Pastor Chris Baker, Centralia First Baptist Church
I write to you bearing good news and bad news. We are separated from God because of our sin and not only that but because he’s a just and righteous God we are under His wrath. Because he is just and righteous, God has to punish sin. Without Easter all of us would be destined to spend our eternity in a place called Hell separated from everyone you ever loved; enduring the wrath of a righteous and angry God.
That’s bad news. Easter is the good news.
The resurrection is the most important event in the history of mankind. God displayed His commitment to redeeming helpless people by putting His Son in their place. 1 John 2:2 says that Jesus himself is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world. Jesus was sacrificed in our place to appease the wrath of God and Romans 8:1 tells us that because of the events of Easter there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. Charles Wesley wrote these lyrics in 1739: Where, O death, is now thy sting? Once he died our souls to save Where’s thy victory, boasting grave? Soar we now where Christ has led, Following our exalted Head, Made like him, like him we rise, The story of Easter is that God sent His one and only son, Jesus Christ—who came as fully God and fully man—to rescue a people for Himself. Jesus was not born with our predisposition to sin, he lived up to God’s perfect standard, and died as a sacrifice in our place.
God poured out the wrath that was destined for you and I on His own Son so that we could enter into a relationship with Him forever. That’s why John 3:16 can say that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him will have everlasting life. That’s what we learn when we look back at that first resurrection Sunday, when—on the third day after the crucifixion Jesus’ followers went to His tomb to mourn but the stone had been rolled away and He was alive again.
That’s the message of God’s love. Look how it diverges from the message the world sends you: We live in a world that constantly tells you you’re inadequate. You’re not smart enough, not attractive enough, not rich enough, not happy enough, not healthy enough. Yet when we had absolutely nothing to offer Him, God gave His Son in our place. Jesus died willingly in our place. That’s the message of Easter. We see an act of love so radical that we have to be motivated to respond to it. We respond first, the Bible tells us by acknowledging that we need salvation and the Jesus alone can save.
Romans 10:9-10 tells us that if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Through His Holy Spirit God grants us the grace to believe this statement by faith and we go from spiritually dead to spiritually alive in Jesus Christ. He no longer looks on your failings, he looks on Christ’s finish work on your behalf. But we need to know that when this confession is truly made it will have life-changing effects. It permeates everything that you do. It changes the way you go about operating in this world. When you place your faith in Jesus Christ as your only hope in life and death it changes how you interact with God and how you interact with people.
The truth of the Gospel demands our obedience to its call. If you truly understand the Gospel it will permeate every fiber of who you are. It will change how you treat your spouse, you kids, your parents, your boss and co-workers, your teachers, it will impact your innermost thoughts when you’re alone. The gospel demands that we yield our former way of life and live like as a new creation.
That doesn’t mean you’ll never sin. But you’ll have a new desire for holiness. The message of Easter is that Jesus died willingly in your place and God raised Him from the dead on Easter Sunday some 2,000-plus years ago and that He has raised us up along with him so that we are no longer spiritually dead but we are alive to God and will be alive with God for eternity. The penalty for your sin is paid for today and you are covered by the righteousness of Jesus Christ. This gospel calls for response. Some of us need to meet Jesus Christ for the first time, some of us need to repent, others are, like Abraham, right in the middle of your test.
You have faith in God and He’s allowed circumstances into your life that put that faith to the test. Notice that Jesus didn’t journey alone. He surrounded himself with 12 men and shared his life with them. God didn’t give you the gift of faith, send a challenge into your life to refine your faith, and expect you to face that challenge alone. He’s given you the Holy Spirit and he’s also given you a church family. Some of you need to let others in on your struggle so that we can bear it alongside you and come out the other side with a testimony to His goodness. We have health struggles, marriage struggles, family struggles, work struggles. You don’t have to bear those burdens alone. What’s God doing in your life this Easter? In this moment how is He calling you to respond?
This is a great week to discover what God is doing in your life alongside folks just like you. Any one of the numerous churches in our town would love to celebrate Easter with you this year!