Easter means different things to different people. For some it’s about bunnies and eggs, completely secular. For others, it’s about family get-togethers, represents comfort and the warmth of home. And to a few, it’s just another day, completely atheistic, God is not involved. But to many, especially those of us gathered here and in churches all over, it’s much more than those things. To us, there is a connection with something greater. There is a meaning that is much deeper. This year I want to challenge you to not just be reminded of the story, to not just observe the day, but to experience the difference Christ can make in your life. Most, if not all, of us are familiar with the story of Christ and his suffering on the cross. We probably know that he died on that cross for our sins. And we know that we observe Easter to celebrate his resurrection from the dead.
We talk much of his death and its importance, his sacrifice, his atonement, his payment, but it’s his resurrection that brings power to the story. Without the resurrection, it’s just the story of another great teacher who was loved by the masses, but misunderstood by the establishment. Without the resurrection, it’s the story of a misguided prophet with a Messiah complex who ran afoul of the law. Without the resurrection, it’s just another religion.
Today, I want us to look at the benefits that Christ’s resurrection brings to us. If we’re going to experience it, we need to know what we’re looking for. We need to know what that difference looks like. In Romans 6, the Apostle Paul is describing what it looks like to be alive in Christ. To experience the resurrection in our own lives. Have you ever wanted a new life? A whole new identity, a witness protection program. A chance to start over, leave the old behind, the mistakes, the pain?
Romans 6:5-7, “Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin.”
That’s new life! We may not get a new id card with a new name and address, but we get something of more eternal value and importance, we get set free from the power of sin. The scriptures say that the wages of sin = death. So the power of sin brings about death. If we are set free from sin’s power, then we get to experience life!
1 Corinthians 15:21-22: “So you see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man. Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life.” WOW!
Some might ask, “Then why do people still die?” Because physical death is really not part of the equation. We measure life quantitatively, i.e. we measure it with length of time. We celebrate life annually. We throw parties. But God measures life qualitatively, i.e. he measures it with purpose and meaning in light of eternity.
2 Corinthians 5:15 “He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.”
Where else can we find purpose and meaning than in living for something / someone greater than ourselves? Where else can I find eternity other than in Christ, the one who defeated death and rose from the grave? The Message says it like this: “He included everyone in His death so everyone could be included in His life. A far better life than people lived on their own.” 2 Cor. 5:15 What is this better life Jesus offers? It’s more than what we classify as the Good Life. Good home, family, job, health.
God brought you here today to give you more than the Good Life. There is something better. There’s way, way more than just the Good Life. Good Life is okay, but there’s more. You were made for more than that, you were made for a better life. That’s a life of purpose and meaning. A life that is no longer enslaved to sin and death. No longer enslaved to the hurts and habits that bring about death. That’s the kind of life Christ died and rose again to give you. He rose again to empower you to live. And we really live when we find our life in Him. But we all know that we can’t experience life without hope. Without hope we lose our will to live. Without hope we lose purpose and meaning. Without hope we lose our enthusiasm, our joy, our peace. But the good news is that the resurrection of Christ gives us a fresh hope.
Romans 6: 8-11, “And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.”
Someone said, “We can live several weeks without food, days without water, and only minutes without oxygen, but without hope, forget it.” We need hope to live. Do you know what it feels like to feel hopeless? It’s a dull, throbbing ache in your gut. It’s a heavy, sinking feeling on your shoulders. It’s overwhelming and depressing. This is where most who commit suicide find themselves. They see no way out, no other option, no hope. “Because Jesus was raised from the dead we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven – and the future starts now.” 1 Pet. 1:3-4 (Msg) Truth. You will never find hope living for yourself. You weren’t made to live for yourself. In fact, the more selfish and more self-centered you are, the more miserable you are. You were not made to live for you. You were made to live for God.
Hope is found in things that last. When you’ve been working hard and your stomach is growling and your insides are longing for something real, something substantial, do you hope for candy or do you hope for a steak and potato? You want something that will fill you up, fulfill your hunger. Likewise, we need something real to fulfill us. Material things don’t/won’t last but eternal things do.
Remember what we read earlier – “Jesus died so we would no longer live for ourselves but for Him who died for us and was raised to life for our sake.” When you start living for God that’s when you discover real happiness, meaning, significance, purpose, and value in your life. When you fill yourself with something real and substantial that’s when you experience fresh hope. The resurrection conquers hopelessness. It gives you purpose and meaning. It gives you a reason to live. And when you learn to have a fresh hope anchored in a new life brought about by the resurrection of Christ, that’s when you will experience a Transformed Faith.
Romans 6:12-14, “[Therefore] Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God. Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.” Therefore, because the resurrection of Christ gives us the opportunity for new life and fresh hope. Don’t be controlled/enslaved to sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God. That’s a transformed faith! Faith is not an intellectual acknowledgement in the existence of a supreme being. Faith is not even believing that Jesus died on the cross and rose again.
Faith is being willing to completely submit to God. Faith is an action word. “Do what is right . . . sin no longer . . . live under the freedom of God’s grace.” That is what it means to experience a transformed faith. It’s moving beyond an intellectual form of Christianity, beyond religion, and into a life and hope that changes the way you live and breathe. Ephesians 1:19-20, “I pray that you will begin to understand the incredible greatness of his power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.”
Notice this resurrection power is for us who “believe him”. Not believe “in” him. There’s a difference. We can believe in God, yet live as if he doesn’t exist, can’t we? It happens all the time. It’s called “practical atheism”, recognizing and acknowledging that God is up there, that he created it all, and that he’s got it all in his hands, but not living for him, not living a hope-filled, transformed life.
Practial Atheism tries to do without God, to get us to live without seriously thinking about God for days or weeks or months. It wants us to live and walk and work and breathe without God. It wants us to get so wrapped up in living a comfortable life that God rarely, if ever, enters the picture. Practical atheism wants us to treat God like a pilot treats a parachute, knows it’s there but hopes he will never have to use it. It’s not an outright denial of God; it is more of a subtle disregard for God. It’s taking God for granted. What does practical atheism look like? Worry, ungrateful, unbelief, prayerlessness, selfishness, disobedience. A transformed faith believes God. It’s taking God at His word. It’s living according to the power of God in our lives. It’s giving ourselves completely to God.
Hebrews 11:8, “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” That’s like selling your house and everything in it, jumping in your car, and taking off on the interstate until God says, “Okay, stop here. This is where I want you.” That sounds nuts! But that’s a transformed faith. It’s saying, “God, I and everything I have are yours.” There’s freedom in that. And be honest, doesn’t that stir a sense of excitement and adventure in the hearts of you? It’s that whole “Born to Be Wild” feeling. I’m not advocating that we sell everything, buy Harleys, and head out on the highway (though, that might be fun). But I am saying that the resurrection of Christ is not something to be observed or acknowledged. No, it’s much more . . . it’s something to be experienced.
Because of the resurrection of Christ we have the possibility of new life, fresh hope, and transformed faith. That’s the difference Christ can make. Don’t settle for another nice little Easter service, accept the challenge. Experience the life, hope, and faith that Christ brings.