LIVING EASTER ISN’T EASY!

5 04 2016

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We live in a day when we want instant success and immediate victory. We think we deserve the trophy before taking and passing the test. We desire the accolades without ever actually having to put on and wear the armor. We all want to go to heaven but nobody really wants to die. Oh if it were only that easy for Jesus. What if he could have just fast forwarded himself to the empty tomb without having to suffer the excruciating pain and shame of the cross? But it doesn’t take long for one to learn that if you want to participate in Easter, you can’t skip over Good Friday. You have to start in Gethsemane to get to Golgotha if you ever long to wake up in a graveyard without a corpse.

 Our salvation might be free but it doesn’t come cheap. Grace and mercy were purchased to be packaged as a present to us here on earth from God up above but it was all made possible only because Jesus was willing to pay the greatest of prices to offer the most treasured of sacrifices. The Lord laid his life down so we would have one to pick up. If Jesus wasn’t willing to bleed then we could have never been freed from the chains of sin and death. But because the Lamb of God was compelled by love and took our beating- we hopeless sheep discovered comfort and joy in the Shepherd’s arms. But I never want to forget that it wasn’t a cross of gold that won my soul but a bloody wooden one that mixed with splinter and skin purchased my redemption from the prison that could no longer claim me as one of its own.

 Maybe forgiveness doesn’t mean what it should because you have never invested your heart. It is one thing to consider love from a purely intellectual standpoint and a whole other ballgame when you engage in reconciliation from the depth of your broken and unjustly mistreated soul. Most of us respond positively when another drops charges against us or decides to not hold a grudge when it might well be within pure reason to do so. But when we ourselves have been wronged, it is not that easy to come back by responding with a right. Yet studies show that if somebody has experienced for themselves personally the power of unconditional love, they are more apt to spill over what they were filled with.

 Easter is not about religion at all. All ceremony can do is focus in upon how inadequate we are to be godly in our dealings or able to keep the commands on our own. We must receive something of significance first if we ever want to be able to pass more than just ritual and routine along. All my life I had heard about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Every year I would practically live in the church during holy week. I wanted to feel something. I longed to be engaged but it never went beyond my brain to my gut. Then I finally heard the gospel. It was about God loving me when I had nothing to offer him at all. It centered on Jesus doing what he did not out of duty but because of pure devotion to the Father’s plan to redeem the human race. Jesus loved not just the world but also me. He knew me inside and out and still invited me to join his family. When those nails were driven in his hands and his feet on that tree in Calvary, he took that hit for me and if I would just humble myself and believe in him, I could have everlasting life at the moment of conversion. My salvation was a free gift from God but that doesn’t mean I just grabbed the package and hurried out the back door on my merry way. No! If Jesus was willing to go the distance for me, I knew that I had no other higher purpose than to give my life to following him.

 You can’t have deep communion in a moment or two. You can’t know somebody without investing the best of your attention. You can’t claim to be a Christian if you have no intention of listening to and obeying Jesus. Without a full commitment on your part, how else can there be true communion between you and God? Can you get in physical shape by avoiding exercise? Can you learn to play a new instrument without practice? Can you speak a foreign language without study? Can you love the Lord the way he loves you without spending some quality time together? Growing up I had spent a lot of time in buildings talking about God but when I came to know Jesus- I now knew how to use my time talking to God and learning from his word how to please him with the daily decisions I made and the steps that I would now forever take with him leading the way.

 The empty tomb was not the destination but the launching pad. Easter is not the end of the road but the beginning of a new journey. This week shouldn’t be about just coming back to church to check in, but the start of living the dream by practically jumping in and becoming an active participant in the body of Christ by daily walking with Jesus. God is not the last resort but your first move. If you dedicate your heart to follow him, I guarantee the trajectory of your story will begin to change for the better. I am not saying it will be easier because a life of faith never is. But I am promising that your relationships will grow in passion; your days will exude a clear purpose and your spiritual walk will demonstrate heavenly power right here on earth.

 Jesus didn’t do what he did so we could eat candy, eat ham with family and pray for spring. He wanted us to know that there is more to this life than making money, having fun and trying to escape the fray with the least amount of bruises necessary. When hearts are allowed to come out of their protective shells, you can be sure there will be damage done. Since I gave my life to the Lord, my heart has taken more beatings than some of our Eagle’s Quarterbacks have in the last few seasons- still I know that I am fully alive. You won’t be able to judge it by the amount of possessions gained or by a series of successful ventures. As a matter of fact, there have been months along the way in my pilgrimage when God seemed rather absent and the storm flooding looked like it was about to submerge my soul and then- right when I believed I was about to drown in my sorrows- my Savior saved my day! And what I am trying to say is that maybe the most loving symbol of the Easter Season are the scars that remain on the hands and feet of my Lord.

So if you are longing for an easy ride to Paradise, maybe Christianity is not for you. But if you, like I, have come to the realization that this world has nothing lasting and authentic to satisfy the yearning, hunger and thirst in your weary spirit then Jesus has a ticket to ride with your name on it. Yes- the tale will conclude in the celebration of an empty tomb, but there may still be those intense times of crying out in prayer marked by blood, sweat and tears along the way and there may even be your own cross to bear that will inflict a scar or two in spots that you won’t be able to ignore. But if you want to be there for the party, you can’t escape all the pain. Real life just doesn’t work that way. It never was meant to be that simple. It was always meant to be extraordinary! Amazing grace makes it all a reality. Your answer to God’s invitation will make it real for you! It has been oh so real to me! Happy Resurrection Day! 


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