Sermon Manuscript …
The Dangers of Believing in Easter!
It’s Easter! We made it! Today is the day. We are finally here. I’m excited for many of you here who will enjoy some very special celebrations today with family and friends. There is fun, baskets, meals, hunts, candy and more awaiting many of us here today, but also danger. That’s right, real serious danger. Like building your house on a fault line, or letting your kids play with a gun. Like testing an electrical socket with your tongue, or like petting a strange Doberman named Bloodfang.
The real meaning of Easter is dangerous, but most of us today ignore the danger hoping it will go away, or we have no idea any danger exists, or we choose to become apathetic to the danger figuring we’ll beat the odds.
It is just my observation, but I have detected in our culture as we move toward Good Friday then Easter and all they represent–there are a lot of people who start saying, “Here comes the season of spirituality. Now is when I have to contend with, ‘Was Jesus Christ who He said He was–did He rise from the dead?’”
And just when they’re ready to do business on that, Easter apathy rolls over them and they say, “Wait a minute, what difference does it make anyway? So what if Jesus is who He said He was (God in a Bod), and okay, let’s say He did die in our place and then come back from the dead–is that really going to change the way my alarm goes off tomorrow morning? Is it going to change my situation at work? Is it going to affect the outcome of the final four? Or will it affect how many weeds come up in my yard now? What affect is Easter going to have on my life?”
In 2009, a lot of people just roll over in their hearts and go back to spiritual sleep, never realizing how dangerous that decision is. They may say a prayer at their family meal, choke down a chocolate bunny with thanks, or at best go to church, but very few realize the dangerous implications of Easter. So this morning I am going to take a risk and briefly tell you some things the way I’d talk in a locker room full of guys who said, “Give it to us straight.” I’m going to show you from God’s never-wrong Word, the Bible–that the resurrection of Jesus Christ that we celebrate on Easter has sweeping effects on your life. In fact, to ignore this day as just another excuse for Hallmark to make a buck is deadly.
Some of you at this point are saying, “What in the world do you mean, Chris? What’s dangerous about Easter?” If the resurrection is true, then there are some serious implications to how we look at and live our lives in 2009. What are they? Briefly let me share four dangerous facts.
#1 Biblical Christianity is true and every other religion in the world is false
I’m going to start subtle–that’s a big statement, isn’t it? Biblical Christianity is true and every other religion in the world is false? Does that rattle your cage? Can you see how the real Easter is dangerous?
I’ll never forget sitting in front of the TV with my dad in the late 60’s as we watched a news reporter stick a microphone in the face of a shaggy-haired quarterback from New York, sitting on the side of a swimming pool, and he said, “I think the NY Jets are the best football team in the world.” That was before the days athletes were allowed to be arrogant, so the reporter got all nervous and said, “Well, Joe Namath, I guess we’ll all find out tomorrow at the Super Bowl, won’t we?” and Joe said, “Yes, we’re going to find out and I’m going to prove it.”
People couldn’t believe it. Anticipation for the game went to a fever pitch since everyone wanted to know if Broadway Joe was going to do what he said he would do. And only 24 hours later everyone found out. The whole world was watching, because Joe Namath had put himself on the line, and they won.
Jesus Christ lived 33 years on earth. He taught thousands of people about love, ethics, eternity, marriage, money, relationships and suffering during His last three years of public ministry. The public marveled at what Jesus had to say–they wondered at His miracle-working power, and they were awed by His personal integrity. But they choked every time He told them He was God in the flesh, the Savior of the world. Only lunatics or liars make that kind of claim unless you are God in a Bod. People had a hard time believing Jesus’ claims, until one day the Lord threw down the gauntlet.
In Matthew 12:40 Jesus said to those who wanted proof, “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Those Pharisees understood what Jesus was saying, since in Matthew 27:63 they came to Pilate to convince him to put a guard at Jesus tomb. “They said, ‘Sire, we remember when He [Jesus] was still alive that deceiver said, “After three days I am to rise again,” so guard the tomb.’”
All throughout the gospels Jesus taught He was going to rise from the dead. In Matthew 16:21 it says, “From that time Jesus Christ began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes and be killed and be raised up on the third day.” Jesus said, speaking of Himself in Mark 10:34, “And they will mock Him and spit on Him and scourge Him and kill Him and three days later He will rise again.”
When Jesus said this, people were jolted. I’m sure some said, “Excuse me? You want to take that back?” Golfers would say, “You want a mulligan on that one?” But Jesus stuck to His word and that prediction led to a first-century Super Bowl-like showdown, because everyone was going to know in about three days’ time if Jesus was who He said He was. Is Jesus God in the flesh? Is He the only way we can know God and get to heaven?
If Jesus comes back from the dead, then what proof would anybody in history ever need? A resurrection after redeeming the sins of mankind was a big W in the scores column of proof. But if He dies and stays dead, then He is utterly exposed for being what He would have been–yet another self-appointed Jim Jones or David Koresh–a cleaver phony with a neat bag of tricks. And in this Super Bowl, Jesus did die for the sins of His own on a cross, just as He predicted.
Good Friday happened just like He said it would, so people started counting the days. Day 1, He’s still dead. Day 2, He’s dead and gone. Day 3 then boom, Easter Sunday morning hits and the resurrection occurs. He bursts forth from the tomb. He did it! A group of ladies went to the tomb on Sunday morning, but what they saw was an empty tomb and an angel who said to them in Matthew 28:6, “He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said.”
The first implication of Jesus resurrecting from the dead involves the nature of truth. What is that? Jesus proved He is the Son of God, the Christian faith that He taught is absolutely true, and every other religious leader in the world is a fraud, and every other religion in the world a fake.
Sticking with my commitment to be direct–do you know what Confucius, Mohammed, Mary and Buddha all have in common? They are all dead. That is why no religion is to be stacked up against the truth of Christianity, because Jesus is alive. He proved that everything He said about life, eternity, and how you and I can be right with God was true. The resurrection proves Jesus is the only way.
Jean and I have been there. I wish this morning you could stand in front of the empty tomb of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem because it is a powerful experience. You find yourself saying, “He did it! Jesus really did it.” And that makes Christianity totally unique. The resurrection proves Christianity is absolutely true and it exposes every other religion for what they are–they are false. And that makes the real meaning of Easter dangerous.
#2 Mankind did not evolve nor does life end at the grave
How’s that for being direct and to the point? You know, it has become obvious to most Americans that the 75-year-long experiment called communism was a failure. And from what I have read, the theory of evolution is beginning to smell like the theory of communism. You see, Marxist communism is based upon evolutionary theory. Communism failed to deal with the issues of personhood. Communism viewed people as advanced biological machines, but it failed to view people as unique individuals with complex inner beings. And evolution does the same thing–it fails to deal with the real issues of life.
Think for a moment with me–if there is no God, and evolution is true and life does end at the grave, how does that affect our day-to-day lives? Radically! Who am I if there’s no God? You are a freak of nature, a blind product of matter plus time plus chance. Simply, from the goo to the zoo to you, you’re just a lump of slime that evolved rationally.
Why are you here if there’s no God? You’re here because of an accident of chance–thrust into existence for no reason at all. Therefore you’re no more significant than a swarm of mosquitoes or a barnyard of pigs. The same blind cosmic process that coughed us up in the first place will eventually swallow us up again. How should I live if there is no God?
If life ends at the grave, then it makes no difference whether you live like Adolph Hitler or a Mother Teresa. In a universe without God, there’s no right or wrong, because there’s no standard of morality nor anyone or anything to be accountable to.
But you say society will determine what is right and wrong. Just tell that to a Jew in Germany in 1944. Their society had determined the Jews were non-beings. If there is no God, it’s impossible to condemn crime as evil, or praise self-sacrifice as good. In a universe without God, good and evil don’t exist–there’s only self-serving existence.
Where am I going if there is no God? If God doesn’t exist, then man is doomed. Without God, there’s no immortality, and without that your life leads only to the grave. Your life is but a spark in infinite blackness that appears, flickers, then dies forever.
Evolution leaves us with no answers, devoid and empty. Evolution fails to deal with the questions we ask, like when we stand over the casket of a loved one. No one says, “I guess that’s it.” No, our hearts expect a reunion. Humans are not merely advanced animals on the evolutionary chain, we give thought to internal issues and difficult questions. We humans are concerned about life, truth, justice, love, relationships and life after death. No one fully believes all we are is sophisticated pool scum or educated apes or graduate gorilla’s–no, we humans are concerned about soulish issues.
The Bible teaches us the reason why we feel more than pond scum is because we are more than that. Paul explains who God is and how we should relate to Him in Acts 17 when talking to the philosophers of Athens, verse 24, “The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands, 25 neither is He served by human hands as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all life and breath and all things. And what is the result of God’s creation . . . 30 God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent, Why? 31 because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man who He has appointed having furnished proof to all men [what proof?] by raising Him from the dead.”
The Bible teaches the living God created the world, and His crowning achievement came when He created men and women after His own likeness. He gave them souls and personalities and the capacity to love and to enter into relationships and a sense of justice and a sense of humor. God breathed life into human beings (Genesis2:7) so that life would not end at the grave because it came from the lungs of an eternal God.
And the Bible confirms that even though God gave us existence, we rebelled against His rule; so God calls us to repent–to turn from “our” way to “God’s” way. But how do we know it is all true? The end of verse 31, Jesus proved it was all true through His resurrection. When Jesus burst forth from the tomb on Easter Sunday morning, His resurrection was the unmistakable demonstration of what the nature of life is all about. Namely, life comes from God, not from a big bang. And life continues on into eternity–it doesn’t go out like a candle when you die. And life is important–it has value, to God, to you and others.
That is in stark contrast to how many view life today. Many want to believe we are all just cosmic accidents, as Romans 1:18-22 tells us, people are “suppressing the truth, becoming futile in their speculations… their foolish hearts are darkened…they profess to be wise but become fools.” And when you think that all we are is matter plus time plus chance–it begins to devalue life. Just pick up a newspaper and look at how the belief that life is merely an accident has changed us. Mindless violence, worship of pleasure, exaltation of self, killing of the unborn, murder of the elderly, leaders who lack character, pre-occupation with personal rights and so much more. There are a lot of people running around the planet who don’t think life is important, and that brings up some scary implications for our future as a society. But God says, “Wake up and understand what life is.”
Life is a gift from God to be enjoyed in relation to God now and forever. But unless we’re rightly related to God through Jesus who proved by His resurrection that life is forever, our eternal existence will not be with God in Heaven, but separated from Him forever in hell. And that’s what makes Easter so dangerous. Easter is a crossroads to your eternity. Which way will you choose–to follow Jesus or to follow self?
#3 Human beings are sinful to the core of their beings and require radical transformation by a power outside themselves
This implication of Jesus’ resurrection is probably not something you will put on a wall plaque because it has to do with our basic human nature. Jesus resurrection underscores the fact that people are not essentially good, requiring just a little religious refinement. This debate has gone on for a long time. Is man basically good and just gets fifteen degrees off course now and then, or does he have a depraved gravitational pull toward evil? Which is it?
I don’t know why the debate is so difficult for us to arrive at a conclusion, because it seems to me there is an avalanche of evidence supporting the premise I just gave you. Just watch the news. The evidence is already in–we are deeply flawed people and there is a sinister gravitational pull south in all of us. And that’s exactly what the Bible has said all along. In Romans 3:23 we read, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” And Ecclesiastes 7:20 says, “Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins.”
Why is it I can go to church, hear or speak God’s Word, know I’ve been changed, then while I’m driving home snap at my wife or cut another driver off who is now causing me to have to wait fifteen seconds longer at a signal–fifteen whole seconds. What’s the matter with me?
You’re at work and you’re going to live for Christ, yet the first ethical compromise that presents itself to you causes your foundation to crumble. And twenty minutes later you say, “What’s the matter with me?”
You speak ugly words and want to stop–do you? You want to stop watching that trash on your computer–can you? You desire to change a habit–will you?
Some of you are still hanging on to, “I’m basically good. I’m just fifteen degrees off-course and I’m going to read another self-help book and go to another conference or see another counselor–so I’ll get back on course.” Are you doing it? Are you getting closer to being on course than you were five years ago?
Sooner or later we all have to confront the absolute reality of what the Bible says is true about us, and that is that we are deeply flawed on the inside and have sin so deep, so flagrant and so progressive that unless we get help from the outside, not only is our future in this life bleak, but our eternity looks awful. As I John 1:8 says, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.”
But you ask what this has to do with Easter and the resurrection? The answer is profound. Heaven knew the terrible plight of the heart of mankind. And God knew that dramatic problems require dramatic solutions. So the only action drastic enough to deal with the depth of the sin problem in mankind was for God Himself to offer up His only Son to make atonement for us and to break the power of sin that controls our lives.
As Romans 4:25 declares about Jesus, “He who was delivered up because of our transgressions and was raised because of our justification.” Jesus’ resurrection serves notice on you and on me that I am so deeply flawed that nothing short of the death of God’s only Son could atone for and break the power of sin in my life. I’m not fifteen degrees off-course–I’m lost at sea. What do I mean?
When someone goes to the electric chair, the assumption by the rest of us is, “he must have done something dreadful.” When you see a blood-stained cross, then an empty tomb, you ought to be rocked to the core of your being that something that horrendous had to happen to God’s Son to pay for the rebellion in our hearts toward God. Ever think about that, or are you still holding to “I’m basically only a few degrees off-course and I’ll get it right”? That is why Easter is dangerous.
If we accept Good Friday and Easter–if we say we really believe Jesus died for sin and rose again from the dead, then with that package comes a full-on, no holding back admission of our complete and total sinfulness, and our need for God to rescue us from our sin and change us from the inside out. God must do it. Romans 5:6 says to believers, “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”
Have you admitted to God and the world, and the man or woman in the mirror that you are a total moral failure before a holy God?
#4 You are a much loved person whether you like it or not
The first implication about the resurrection of Christ was about the nature of truth, the second was the nature of life, the third the nature of mankind–this final one’s about the nature of love. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus resurrection proves that you are loved.
Remember your days on the playground while you were playing baseball and they’d say, “Jane over there has a crush on you,” and what would you do? You didn’t know if that was good or bad news until you checked out who Jane was. So if you looked over and Jane was a ten that was good news–but if she was a four with a $6 million inheritance coming, that works too. So you’d check out Jane and you’d say, “Based on Jane I’ll make a decision whether it’s good or bad if she has a crush on me.”
But if you were a regular little guy, probably what you did was check her out and say, “I get to play second base,” because when you’re young you’re pretty sure there is plenty of love out there that’s going to come your way throughout the course of your life, so Jane can wait until baseball season is over.
Then what happens as life goes on? Slowly you make the painful discovery that there is less love out there with your name on it than you ever thought there would be. As time goes by, you observe there are not too many people forming a line to make you the center of their world. A little loneliness sets in and protective walls go up around your wounded heart, but you keep pushing your way through year after year, don’t you? But life turns out different than you thought it’d be.
Then you hit some potholes in the road of life. One of the people you really thought would come through to love you breaks trust and disappoints you or leaves you high and dry. Things at work don’t pan out. Throw in a financial setback or a divorce or a bad medical report, and pretty soon you find yourself wandering around Old Town at night wondering if there is any love anywhere in the world with your name on it. The Bible says in answer to that question–yes there is.
Romans 5:8 says this to you and me, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” To paraphrase Romans 5:8, “God focuses His great love toward you that even if you are in the middle of a state of loneliness or confusion and sin; Christ died for you and He conquered death on your behalf and you are a much-loved man or woman, whether you are aware of it or not, whether you are willing to open up to it or not, whether you like it or not.”
Because of who God is, He is a relentless lover of your soul. The Bible boldly proclaims there is only one power in the universe that has what it takes to change a love-starved heart. It’s the power of the love of the risen Christ.
If you ever get apathetic about Easter realities, if you ever find yourself wondering if it makes a difference whether or not Jesus Christ came, died for sin, then resurrected from the dead and lives today, then remember why Easter is dangerous–because the Easter of the Bible claims . . .
Christianity is right and all other religions are wrong
Evolution is wrong and life doesn’t end at the grave
You and I have a deep sin problem only God can fix
God loves you deeply, but you will only know that love when you’re in a right relationship with Him. And understand though God loves you, it will not keep Him from condemning you for your rebellion.
Only when God Himself has transformed your heart–nothing else and no one else can transform the human heart, only Jesus Christ. No law will change a person–better government won’t, no pleasure will fully satisfy, no counselor, no retreat, no camp, and no vacation will give you peace. Only Jesus Christ is in the business of transforming people from the inside out.
As 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, once you are in Christ, “If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold new things have come.” The cross and the empty tomb are enduring realities to remind the world that Jesus is real and that He alone has compelling answers for the nature of truth, the nature of life and the nature of mankind and the nature of love.
So where do you stand with Christ today? Get your card out please–if you’re new around here and say, “I don’t even know what to do,” get a Bible, come back next week as we continue every week to study God’s Word and let it speak for itself. Get on board here (we’d love it) or a church in your community. The Bible says if you diligently seek the truth about Christ you will find it.
If you’ve heard enough about Him to be ready to turn from your sin in repentance and depend totally on Christ in faith, then cry out to Him, ask Him to open your eyes, give you the faith to trust only in Him and the will to turn from your sin. Cry out to Him–tell Him, “I need Your love, I need Your truth, I need your power and forgiveness in my life.” In your heart, turn from your sin, and depend only on Christ. If you want help, mark your card, talk to the person who invited you today or come up front and talk to an elder or ministry leader.
If you used to be on track spiritually, and as I have been teaching this morning something has been beating in your heart saying, “I used to be close to God–what’s gone wrong? How did I end up in this ditch?” Probably your second thought is, “How long is the road going to be all the way back to where I was?” and you are imagining this long journey.
But God is saying, “Look, just turn around.” That’s all I’m asking you to do. It is called repentance. He’s right here with open arms, ready to receive you back. There will be consequences from going your own way, but you have to turn around, stop going your way, and start walking with Jesus. Maybe you could mark Easter 2009 as the day you turned around, headed back on the path of intimacy with Christ.
And if you are already a true genuine committed Christian who has been walking with the risen Christ for a while, find a time and place today to say, “Oh Jesus, my risen Savior, thank You for giving me compelling answers to the questions of truth, life, mankind, and thank you for a love that has my name on it.” Amen? Right on!
Can you say with all genuine Christians, “He is risen, He is risen, INDEED!”