Happy Easter. Isn't this one of the greatest ironies in life? We celebrate what Jesus did over 2000 years ago. It was the single most horrific event followed by the single most glorious event in history. And yet today most of the world treats what took place to God's own Son as either a fable or as a joke.
What am I talking about? For one, our culture has replaced this solemn occasion as some holiday to entertain children. There's the Easter bunny and egg hunt and candy and so on and so forth. For some it's a time to get together with family. Not all these things are bad really. But they've seriously diminished the significance of the day. But again, we've done the same with Christmas, haven't we?
I hope...no, I pray...that aside from these distractions that all my family, friends, relatives, loved ones, etc. will be able to consider Easter for what it truly represents. I have no doubt that everyone knows about the cross, what happened to Jesus, how He died and rose again 3 days later. What I'm concerned about, though, is if that event (which transformed the world in ways that are earth shattering) has actually transformed their lives in much the same way.
Consider this. God so loved the world... What does that mean to you? Is that an emotional feeling? It's so much more than that. It's an unconditional love that is committed to action. The actual definition is:
selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love, the highest of the four types of love in the Bible.
But what's so special about God's love is that He gave... We don't think about that much, do we? People who have done nothing but live selfishly and contrary to His laws and commands (such as stealing, lying, coveting, using God's Name inappropriately, putting family, spouse or job before God are all sins you should know) and yet God gives. But not just any gift. For the Father, the gift is His Son. For Jesus, it's Himself. Would you lay your life down for anyone? How about wicked people? How about Hitler, Stalin, or the most vile person you can think of? Would you die for them? Would you take the punishment for their sins? I mention these people known for evil. But we're guilty too. In fact, or sin is just as bad. We don't see it that way because we look at it from a human perspective. But with God, no one is righteous. We all have sinned and are deserving of death. The wages of sin is death. But guess what? The gift of God is eternal life through His Son.
God has given us a gift. The most important and significant gift ever. But what has the world done with God's gift? The Bible says that the gift is for those that believe in Him. Him who? Jesus. In reality, not many believe. Believing doesn't merely mean you think about it and conclude it's real. It's faith moved into action. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. You hear Scripture (God's Word) and you do what He says...His way and on His terms. In a nutshell, that means surrendering your will for God's will. Sounds like slavery, doesn't it? As a matter of fact, it's a lot like that. Except that in this case it's a choice to be a bond servant. Are you willing to be that for God no matter what? Jesus said that we must consider the cost before following Him. Why would He say that...if that cost wouldn't be a big deal? It can mean losing your family, your job, or even your life. Often it places you in positions that you're not comfortable with. Dealing with and confronting your sin and sometimes others.
Let me say this though. This doesn't mean you're earning your way into God's favor and that's how you receive His gift. No. It means you accept what Jesus has done on the cross at Calvary for your salvation knowing He was the only One who could pay your debt. It's a gift after all. What it does mean is that as a result of receiving God's gift your life will dramatically change. And it will often involve sacrifice.
So I ask again. What has the world, or more importantly...you, done with God's gift? Most ignore it. Some mock it. Some others say they accept it but don't really mean it. It feels good to them to say they love God and that God loves them. But no real change has taken place in their life. The whole idea is to surrender to God, remember? Remember that definition of love? Can you honestly say you love God that way? It will change you. Jesus called it being born again. You have an old life that you turn from (repent) and you have a new life where you live for Jesus. It sounds easy but can be the hardest thing you've ever done. That is where the rest of the world falls. They are the true believers. Which one are you? Can you honestly say there was a time in your life that you made a choice to follow Jesus and that your life changed? That you're no longer living for yourself, the world or others but that you're living for Jesus? Trust me, you would know. If you don't know, you need, and I mean NEED, to find out. Don't wait and don't procrastinate. It's that important.
Why does this matter? What's the big deal? There's a down side to not choosing to believe and follow Jesus. The Scripture says that whoever believes will not perish... Perish from what? The thing is is that sin needs to be dealt with. God would not be a just God if He didn't punish sin. You might ask, so where's God's love in that? Well, He does love the world, the people that is. But that doesn't mean He can tolerate sin and disobedience. He's also a Holy God. He can't act against His own nature. His holy nature demands that He deals with sin through judgment. Anything less would mean He is not truly holy or completely righteous. He wouldn't be God. God loves us, though, and THAT is why He has provided us a means to escape His wrath. But those who reject (and that sometimes means just not making a choice which is a choice in itself) God and His gift will be judged. That's like a person going to court defending himself on his own behalf. Instead of relying on a mediator to take his place and take the ruling meant for him, he instead decides to go on it his own. BIG mistake.
That's why Jesus did what He did on the cross. That's why we celebrate Easter. Those who truly know what Jesus did for us are humbly and eternally grateful. God offered the gift and we accepted. We're not worthy because our sin deserves God's wrath. But Jesus took our place, our sin, our judgment for that sin, and died in our place as punishment for our sin. And in exchange? He gave us His righteousness so we can be justified before a Holy God. Again, we were not deserving but it was a gift we gladly received. And desperately needed.
That is why Easter is so important. It's not some trivial event to be mocked or ridiculed or even to be made light of. It's truth. There is no other event more important. There is no other way to receive forgiveness and eternal life. It's all about Jesus. There is no other name under heaven, given among men, by which we must be saved.
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.