Biblical Foundations 13: Responding To Easter
Jesus asks MANY powerful questions in the Gospels…
For Easter this year, let’s look at two of His powerful questions:
John 11:23-26 NIV:
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.
Do you believe this?”
We must be as clear as possible here—Jesus is not talking simply about “beliefism;” James 2:10 tells us that even the demons believe in Jesus—and they shudder! You can believe in something—Jupiter, for example—and that thing, that belief, makes no difference in your life. It merely sits on the shelf of your mind collecting dust…
Jesus is talking here about faith, saving faith in Him, receiving Him as our Savior and following Him as our King & Lord & God.
- The Great Blondin: tightrope walked in the late 1800s across Niagara Falls. The people enthusiastically believed–they cheered loudly with their voices!–that he could safely roll someone in a wheelbarrow on a tightrope across the Falls. But when he asked someone to GET IN the wheelbarrow, no one did. The people BELIEVED in Blondin, but they didn’t have FAITH in him.
Matthew 16:13-18 (NIV)
13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.
This is what is at stake at Easter—Jesus offers us not simply some behavioral correction
but spiritual (and some day bodily!) resurrection.
We respond to Easter by receiving Jesus as Savior—nothing less…
- Have you heard Him calling you out of the tomb, no matter how cozy you have made it?
- Have you heard Him calling you from death to life?
- Have you heard Him calling you out of the prison of sin, no matter how nicely you have managed to decorate your life without Jesus?
These are the terms the Bible uses to describe us without Christ—dead, in tombs, prisoners, slaves, in bondage, hostages in need of a ransom, enemies of God.
Jesus offers us the solution to our hopeless situation; there are no bootstraps big enough, and none of us has muscles strong enough, to pull ourselves up out of this pit. That, and nothing less, is what God offers us through Easter:
- Ezekiel 37:1-14—“Son of man, can these dead bones live?” Only through the power of God, only through the power of the Word of God…but yes, they can live!
Oh loved ones, what is really at issue here at Easter? More than just “believism”—do you believe in your mind that Jesus of Nazareth died on a cross and returned to life three days later? More than mere belief (which demons have!), but faith in Christ Jesus, the God-Man Who conquered death…do you believe this? That is, has God opened your eyes to receive Jesus as your Savior by faith, as your King by faith, as your God by faith?
What is at issue this Easter, and every Easter, and every day that God gives us breath to live in this world? The very foundation of all that the Bible teaches—the manger, the cross, and the empty tomb—sets its face like flint (Isaiah ??) against the modern worldview of the world culture—which do you receive & submit to & follow?
That God made the universe out of nothing—not random chance, not a primordial soup, not the coincidental collision of atoms. God made the universe by His Word!
That same God made us in His image—we are more than just animals/mammals! As important and fantastic creatures as all animals are—and fully deserving of care and respect and love—deep down we all know that humans are on a higher level of existence: we might take a pig’s vital organs to save a human life, but we would never do the opposite!
The entire human race inherited sin from our ancestors Adam & Eve—we are born spiritually dead and morally rebellious against God Who made us and sustains us and loves us! We accept death as just a part of life—nonsense! It was never God’s intention/design to create us just to pass a few painful years in a shadow-world and then die in agony and live apart from Him for eternity! He made us to live…truly live…forever…FOREVER…WITH HIM! Just as the Bible says! We simply accept all the suffering and death and betrayal and backstabbing and hatred and selfishness as “just being human”…but God made us to be like Him—holy, righteous, self-less and humble!
Students of history—especially the 20th century which was supposed to be the century of human achievement where our intellectual knowledge granted us independence from the shackled existence of belief in God yet contained the two most terrible world wars in humanity’s history—know that the history of humankind has been one barbaric form of suffering after another—just as the Bible says—in our attempts to live apart from God…
And that God, in His infinite mercy through His Holy Spirit, convicts us of our sin and of our need for a Savior, showing us the twinkling brightness and beauty of His grace by placing His stars of love against the midnight darkness of our sinful souls…That is what is needed for anyone to surrender to Jesus, for surrender we rebels must do…we don’t choose Jesus like upgrading car seats from cloth to leather as much as we surrender to Him, give up to Him, turn ourselves in to Him, tap out in submission to Him in response to Him relentlessly choosing us…
- ”SURELY Your goodness & love & mercy will relentlessly pursue me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever” (Psalm 23).
1 Thessalonians 1:4-6 (NIV)
4 For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. 6 You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.
- Just as waking up in the morning with bright sunshine pouring into your room often HURTS your eyes at first, often initially makes you MAD at the sunshine for invading your darkness and interrupting your sleep! But Christ wants to make us ALIVE—to awaken us from our spiritual death, and at first this is often painful, just as the diagnosis of the disease (bad news!) comes before the acceptance of the cure (good news!).
Thus the Bible talks of people before conversion as “dead in sins,” (Ephesians 2:1) “enemies of God,” under the wrath of God, etc. The Bible talks of conversion as less of a person’s choice and more of God taking a dead stick—cutting it out of a dead plant—and grafting/transplanting it into God Himself so that sap flows from God into the once-dead stick and fruit grows and blooms as a result.
- “Conversion is not the smooth, easy-going process some men seem to think…It is wounding work, of course, this breaking of the hearts, but without wounding there is no saving…Where there is grafting there is a cutting, the scion must be let in with a wound; to stick it on to the outside or to tie it on with a string would be of no use. Heart must be set to heart and back to back, or there will be no sap from root to branch, and this I say, must be done by a wound” (John Bunyan).
And yet God uses our will & choice—at some point we must come to Him, we must respond! We must cry out to Him for forgiveness, for adoption, for new life…and oh how He answers us with joy, celebration, and enthusiastic mercy!!! He doesn’t download His forgiveness into us passively but like Lazarus calls us out of the tomb, BY NAME! And though dead in sins, the power & Jesus love & grace & Truth & call opens our eyes and enables us to walk out of the tomb alive…for the first time truly alive…
But you might say, “My faith is small, weak, fragile…I must wait to bring such sickly faith to Jesus until it is bigger, stronger, healthy. I’m ashamed to come to Jesus with such a ‘faith’ as this, if it can even be described with that word faith. I think I believe sometimes, but at other times I know I don’t, I still am scared, I’m still confused, I’m still full of doubt, I’m still so selfish and sinful…”
Oh loved ones, by the grace of God my heart weeps with you who think this way, but let me share some thoughts on that:
DO NOT WAIT! You do not wait until you are HEALTHY to go see the doctor so that he/she can be proud of your health/lack of sickness! No you go WHEN you are sick and in pain and when you realize that something is DEEPLY wrong with you, something that aspirin/Tylenol cannot fix! That is the BEST time to go!
Same with Jesus! Don’t wait until your faith is stronger—it won’t ever be UNLESS you go to Him! Jesus came not to call the healthy but the sick—He WANTS us in our sickness & weakness & doubt & uncertainty to come to Him, to reach out our hands in desperation to touch Him though we’ve unsuccessfully tried every temptation of the world to make us happy!
The Pharisees went to John the Baptist to be baptized—but they didn’t go in faith…they went with their heads held high, they went confident that they deserved such a baptism, confident that their belief was ready to be displayed because it was so healthy (so they thought)! They worked so hard to be obedient on the outside so that they could display such faith to impress God and others! And so John called them a brood of vipers!
Bring your sick and dead and comatose faith to Jesus—He raised Lazarus from the dead in John 11, why do we think He can’t—or WON’T!—do that to our faith! Is our physical body MORE important than our soul, than our faith!? Oh admit to Him that your faith is dead, admit to Him that you have wandered for years, admit to Him that you have been running from Him, hiding like Adam & Eve in the Garden, admit all that and watch what He does!
God made the entire universe out of NOTHING! Is it impossible for Him to create faith in us where there is none?
Matthew 19:25-26: 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”
26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
CRY OUT TO JESUS, loved ones. That is today’s message, that is EVERYDAY’S message…Cry out to Him…Not like trying to get the waiter’s attention and when he walks by and doesn’t notice you you just forget about what you wanted. Tackle the waiter! CRY OUT TO JESUS, loved ones. He always notices, He never just walks by, BUT CRY OUT TO HIM! We aren’t timid when we want a refill of soda…let’s not be timid when it comes to eternal life!
1 Timothy 6:19: “TAKE HOLD of the life that is truly life.”
For Black Friday people camp out for two nights in the freezing cold to get a good deal on a TV—on a stinking television or toaster or blender! They are taking hold of what they want through waiting, through endurance, through believing that there is something to take hold of. Do the same with Jesus—through the blackest Friday ever, take hold of Him, cry out to Him, come to Him & receive Him, WAIT for Him…let nothing get in your way!
Lamentations 3:16-33 (please click HERE): it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD!!!
Do not try to cleaned up before crying out to Jesus for salvation—the Bible is clear that outside of faith in Jesus, your best deeds are like filthy rags, your best deeds are nasty compared to the robes of holiness that Jesus wants to clothe you in, the clothing of His perfection that Jesus wants to give you to cover your shame and guilt and nakedness. You cannot reach this itch on your back—He must scratch it for you…Trying to be good enough is like organic donuts…seems healthy but it is NOT!
When Jesus was about to call Lazarus out of the tomb in John 11, Lazarus’ sister Mary said, “Surely not, Lord—it has been four days since Lazarus died…there will surely be a terrible smell/stench.” She implied, “Don’t call him out in THIS condition.” She perhaps had in mind that before Jesus should call Lazarus from death to life that others should help get Lazarus cleaned up, smelling better, makeup covering his deadness and decomposing skin. Or maybe she had in mind that it wasn’t possible for Jesus to bring Lazarus back alive from his current situation. Either way, Jesus would have NONE of that—He called out Lazarus as Lazarus was, dead in the tomb, filthy rags and stench and everything! THAT is Jesus’ free gift through Christmas, Good Friday and Easter…
Bring your fleck, your speck, your crumb, your fragile and small seed of faith to Jesus—He won’t sweep it into the garbage! He will plant it in the soil of His Word, water it with the living waters of His Holy Spirit, tended by the expert care of the Gardener God the Father to grow it into an oak tree of righteousness to display the very splendor of God—THROUGH YOU! (Isaiah 61:3) 300 foot tall redwoods start out looking like bread crumbs—the same with our faith in Jesus!
John 12:24: Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.
Bring your five crusty heals of bread and your two smelly fishheads of faith—give it ALL to Him like the little boy when Jesus fed 5,000—and watch Him give thanks to God the Father for your meager offering and multiply it to glorify God and feed thousands!
Cry out to Jesus like His disciples did in Luke 17:5: “The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”
You might say, “But I’ve MOCKED Jesus and Christianity and faith in God for so long—I have delighted in trying to wreck the faith of others!”
SO DID ONE OF THE THIEVES CRUCIFIED WITH JESUS! (Mark 15:32; Luke 23:38-43) He started out by hurling insults at Jesus at then at some point, as the thief literally hung on the cross, as he perhaps for the first time really took a look at himself, as he stared at Jesus for the first time in his life, as He saw Jesus offering forgiveness to the Roman soldiers, comforting the women, thinking of His mother Mary and giving John to her as her son, and submitting Himself humbly into His Father’s care, at some point the Holy Spirit opened up this one thief’s eyes and he realized how great Jesus is, how much he needs Jesus, and how much Jesus loves Him…He had no opportunity to get his life cleaned up—he was hanging on a cross! He only had an agonizing few hours left on earth! And he cried out to Jesus, recognizing the thief’s own sinfulness, recognizing Jesus as King, recognizing that the end of this life was not the end of life, and simply asking Jesus to REMEMBER this thief when Jesus arrived in His Kingdom. Now THAT is crying out boldly to Jesus! And what was Jesus’ reply? “Surely I tell you, THIS DAY you will be with Me in Paradise.” YES!!! No matter where you are, COME TO JESUS!
But you might say, “But I need to see Him first…If He would just SHOW Himself to me, I would believe!”
I hear you, and I can relate to why you would say that, but such a statement implies that Jesus hasn’t done enough yet, that He still has more work to do for you to believe. He has sat down at the right hand of God the Father–Jesus the Great High Priest has done HIs work. My friend, what more can He do than leave the majesty of heaven and be born as one of us and then die a criminal’s death in our place and then return to life three days later? Don’t wait for Jesus 5G 7S…just Jesus is more than enough!
- Jesus told Thomas, “You believe because you have seen, but blessed are those who HAVEN’T seen and yet still believe.”
- Jesus told Martha, “Didn’t I tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?” (John 11:40) Don’t miss the order there—believe first and THEN see God!
- Most of the people who saw Jesus walked away from Him, didn’t believe, didn’t have faith! (John 6:60-71)
- COME TO JESUS and cry out to Him IN your unbelief, come to Him with NOTHING to offer Him, not even faith! We ALL come to Jesus empty-handed—you are no different! 🙂
But again you might say, “But I still have questions, I still have doubts!”
Yes! But it is not your job to figure out these Truths of God BEFORE receiving Him as Savior, anymore than babies need to understand the digestive system before they can eat food! Cry out to Jesus for the food He is—the Bread of Life—and He will teach you these Truths as you are reborn and transformed and matured! Your responsibility is to cry out to Jesus for life itself!
- 2 Corinthians 5:16-21: 16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin[b] for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
- “NOW is the time of the Lord’s favor, NOW is the day of salvation!” (2 Corinthians 6:1)
Come to Him, come to Him full of unbelief and doubt and empty of faith and hope, come to Him full of sin and empty of goodness, come to Him full of scars and empty of health! Come to Him full of fear and empty of joy…Come to Him! Look at His invitation:
Isaiah 55: “Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
2 Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.
3 Give ear and come to me;
listen, that you may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
my faithful love promised to David…
6 Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.
7 Let the wicked forsake their ways
and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
12 You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
Numerous times in the New Testament Jesus and Paul say that the early Christians were mere babes in Christ, that they had much to learn, that Jesus had much more to teach them, more than they could now bear. They didn’t need to learn all that important Truth before receiving Jesus as Savior, indeed they couldn’t learn that before! They needed to be reborn first! That’s why Paul said, “While I was with you I knew/taught nothing but Christ and Him crucified”—that is what is needed first! Come to Jesus to be made alive first before learning how to live…
Come to Him as you are—you may not understand much, but I bet you understand that you (and I!) have failed miserably at the tests of life, at the perfection that is required for heaven. You know you don’t deserve to go there, and yet here is this God-Man Who took what He didn’t deserve—torture and death—so that He could give you what you don’t deserve—forgiveness and new life and adoption into the very family of God! That’s all you need to know to come to Christ as your Savior! He WILL teach you more later, of course—
- John 16:12: “I have much more to say to you [teach you!], more than you can now bear.”
Just please don’t come to Him to just help you through a particular hard time you are going through, to only get you out of a jam that you are in, or only to bless you with more money or to ace an upcoming test, as if Jesus were a stepping stone to bigger and better things, as if you only need Jesus for your current problem, as if you just need Jesus for a season but ultimately you want to move out and move on someday with life on your own. He cares about every detail of your life and you can go to Him with ANY request, but the gift of Christmas, Good Friday & Easter is so much bigger than an earthly situation—it involves eternal life!
- John 4:1-26: The woman at the well just wanted some physical water—some crisp earthly water so that she didn’t have to keep coming back to this well day in and day out. She merely wanted earthly help from Jesus, a relief from a practical inconvenience! But He offered her first something MUCH better—LIVING WATER to quench the thirst of her very soul that she has been trying to quench with the saltwater of sin that only leaves her thirstier!
Now you might say, “I’m already a Christian, m.j. I’ve already come to Jesus. This message isn’t for me this Easter.”
Wherever the Word of God is preached His Word will ALWAYS have something for His people!
Christians, Christ calls you to come to Him as well!
Though married to Christ, have you been living separate lives, have you sent Him to sleep on the couch? Where is His joy which is your strength, the joy of your salvation? Do you have it? Where is His peace that surpasses all understanding, His peace that He promises will guard your heart and your mind? Do you have it? COME TO HIM, Christian—come to Him as you haven’t come to Him in a long time, come to Him in faith, in repentance, on your knees so that He can give you REST…Come to Him ALL you who are weary and burdened…Come to Him, cry out to Him, camp out in His presence for more of Him, settle for nothing less than knowing Christ deeply, powerfully, personally, intimately:
- Luke 11:11-13: 11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for[a] a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
What happened after Peter betrayed Jesus, after Peter disowned the Lord, after Peter acted as if he didn’t know Jesus at all, after Peter warmed himself by the bonfire of the culture instead of the friendship of Christ? Could Peter have done anything WORSE than that? Peter then went back to his old life—he went back to being a fisherman! Jesus originally, three years earlier, called Peter OUT of that lifestyle to become a fisher of people, proclaiming God’s grace & Truth and passing out His invitations of eternal life to all…and yet Peter went back to his old way of life, he must have thought he had finally gone too far, committed the unforgivable sin, and yet Jesus comes to Peter and says, “Feed my sheep, feed my lambs, feed my sheep.” There’s still room for you in My family & Kingdom, Jesus told Peter—and there’s still room for YOU, Christian, in the LORD’S family & Kingdom, no matter what you’ve done, no matter how far you’ve strayed, no matter how empty your faith-tank is, no matter how dry your joy is, no matter how shattered your peace is, you can still COME TO JESUS…
I won’t give you the words to say, I won’t even tell you “five easy steps” on how to come to Jesus–no script, no prompts, no crutches–just Christ. COME TO JESUS by faith…cry out to Him, sinners, cry out to Him, straying sheep, cry out to Him…
In much of the United States, hitchhiking is an illegal way to travel.
In the Kingdom of God, hitchhiking is the ONLY LEGAL way to travel to heaven.
WHAT GREAT NEWS!
Has the Holy Spirit shown you that no matter how DRIVEN you are,
you are spiritually broken down and stranded on the side of the road?
Will you stick out one of your sinful thumbs to Jesus?
He will pull over, open the door, and reach out both of His nail-scarred hands to you…
and chaeffeur you personally to heaven…
WHAT GREAT NEWS! 🙂
You might drive in your car to your earthly house…
But let Jesus drive you in His car to your heavenly Home…