Everybody loves Easter except bunnies and baby chicks. It’s a ritual of spring! Buds are flowering. Spring fever takes over the beaches. We roll out pastel eggs, baskets and bow ties! We even eat ham, God forbid.
Easter’s origins are clearly a celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. In many languages, the words for "Easter" and "Passover" are identical or very similar. It was early spring when God chose to offer his own son as the sacrificial Passover Lamb then raise Him to conquer death.
Multi-colored Easter eggs, like the shell of an empty tomb, are symbols of death and resurrection. Early Christians stained their eggs red in memory of Christ’s blood spilled on the cross.
Now we have turned our children into scavengers for plastic eggs filled with sugar. This Easter we Americans we will consume enough jellybeans to circle the globe three times. Parents confiscate the chocolate bunnies!
Schools no longer get out for Easter, it’s called Spring Break! I’m not coming down on our spring celebrations and traditions. Most people are just happy winter is over. So Happy Easter!
Today I just want to talk about how to have a happy Easter every day! The Apostle Peter experienced his own spiritual renaissance from a political activist to a passionate follower of Jesus. He was happy about Easter!
In the opening lines of his book He wrote, “Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for.” 1 Peter 1.3 (MSG) that’s Everyday Resurrection!
Paul was a radical antagonist also had a dramatic personal encounter with the resurrected Lord. Here’s what he has to say about the resurrection.
“The Messiah died for our sins, exactly as Scripture tells it; he was buried; he was raised from death on the third day, again exactly as Scripture says” 1Cor. 15.3-8 (MSG) It’s simple: He died, He was buried, He is risen!
To most of his inner circle Jesus made a physical appearance prior to his assent into heaven but Paul’s experience was a bit later and very unique.
Paul had an arresting experience involving blinding light and a voice he recognized as that of Jesus Christ. It was so convincing that he turned about face and became one of the great leaders of the Jesus movement.
One encounter with the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ turned an extremist bent on destroying Christian’s into an articulate and powerful influence.
Paul asserted that the resurrection is what distinguishes Jesus Christ from all other religious figures. “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4.12 (NIV) Jesus’ Resurrection is our Salvation!
Without the resurrection we would be following a hopeless religion.
Paul says, if there’s no resurrection, there’s no living Christ. And face it—if there’s no resurrection for Christ, everything we’ve told you is smoke and mirrors, and everything you’ve staked your life on is smoke and mirrors.1 Cor. 15:13-14 (MSG)
Without the resurrection we have no future to look forward to.
Paul continues, “If Christ wasn’t raised, then all you’re doing is wandering about in the dark, as lost as ever. It’s even worse for those who died hoping in Christ and resurrection, because they’re already in their graves.
Christ’s resurrection is the guarantee of our own resurrection.
Paul says, If all we get out of Christ is a little inspiration for a few short years, we’re a pretty sorry lot. But the truth is that Christ has been raised up, the first in a long legacy of those who are going to leave the cemeteries. 1. Cor. 15. 17-20 (NIV)
Spiritual resurrection happens every day for those of us that put our trust in Jesus. Plus we look forward to a hope filled life beyond this one!
We may face challenges but we wake up to new potential, and purpose every day! The bible says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” 2 Cor. 5.17 (NIV)
Our Resurrection comes in two stages. When we choose to make Jesus Christ the living leader of our life, we are spiritually revitalized. The bible calls it a new birth. It is our spiritual birthday!
My previous quote from Peter, reads this way, in another translation, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” 1 Pet. 1.3 (NIV)
This new birth changes us for this life and the next one. It’s a spiritual transformation! Our life is not aimless and hopeless it is full of living hope. We may continue to experience life’s challenges and losses but we do it with courage and the comfort that only God our loving father can give.
The final stage of our resurrection is mentioned in the next part of this promising verse. Peter says we have a living hope now and in the future.
We are entitled to…“an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1.4-5 (NIV)
So how do we experience our own resurrection? Let me illustrate it with a single verse and a diagram that you can easily share with someone else.
Take the yellow napkin out of your worship folder, borrow a pen and let’s have some fun. Are you ready?
OK Draw a square frame around the edge or your napkin. Then draw two more small boxes on the bottom right and left.
Now write this short verse at the top of your napkin. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6.23 (NIV) This verse is a key verse to understanding God’s relationship with us.
Now write the word “Wages” in the left box.
"How would you feel if your boss refused to pay you the wages that were due to you?" You would want justice—in this case, the wages you worked for. Deep down, we all know that it is only right that we get what we deserve. We earn “wages” from God for how we have lived our lives.
Now write the word “SIN” in the left box.
What do you think of when you hear that word? Sin is more an attitude than an action. It can be either actively resisting God or as simple as excluding Him from our lives. Let’s be honest, has God ever seemed far away?" That's one of the things sin does—it makes God seem far away.
Sin actually means, “Missed the target”. It means we are living amiss from God’s desired relationship with us. There is a wide gap between us.
Now write the word “Death” at the bottom of the left box.
What thoughts come to mind? Death in the Bible always means some kind of separation—in its most basic sense, separation from life. Because God is the author of life, a spiritual death simply means separation from Him.
The next word “BUT” is a critical conjunction here because it means that a sharp contrast in ideas is coming. What we have just looked at is the bad news; “but” what comes next is the good news.
On the top left the good news begins with a “Gift”.
Everybody likes gifts right? "If wages are what a person earns, then what is a gift?" Every gift is free for the person receiving it, but someone still has to purchase it. That’s where God comes into this picture.
This gift is the Gift “of God”.
We can’t earn it and we certainly don’t deserve it. It is from God Himself. It's so special that no one else can give it. How do you feel when someone very special gives you a gift?
The bible calls this gift of God…“Eternal Life”
One side of the cliff is spiritual death or separation from God. The other side is eternal life. Life with God or actually God’s life in us forever!
The gift of eternal life is in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Gifts are special because of who gives them. Jesus Christ purchased the Gift of eternal life for us. He paid the wages of our sins on the cross. He died so we can have eternal life and be reunited with our Father God.
We receive God’s gift by putting our “Trust” in His son Jesus.
A true friend is a friend you can trust. Jesus is offering to be a true friend to us. All we have to do is admit that we are responsible for our sin—that of either of resisting God openly or just excluding Him from his life.
Trusting Jesus means believing that He has power to forgive us for rejecting God. He also cleans up the record of wrongs done in this life. I want to invite you to begin a relationship with God that will last forever.
If you would like some practice learning how to “How to Share Christ's Love Conversationally & Visually” with this One-Verse Evangelism Tool, Go to http://www.navigators.org and select Evangelism Tools.
Now today you can begin your own “everyday resurrection”. You can come alive in Jesus Christ. You may find yourself somewhere in this video.
We are going to pray a simple welcoming prayer, inviting Jesus to take the lead in our lives. Paul tells us how to make this invitation.
He writes, “Say the welcoming word to God—“Jesus is my Master”—embracing, body and soul, God’s work of doing in us what he did in raising Jesus from the dead. That’s it. You’re not “doing” anything; you’re simply calling out to God, trusting him to do it for you. That’s salvation. With your whole being you embrace God setting things right, and then you say it, right out loud: “God has set everything right between him and me!” Rom. 10.9-10 (NIV)