(By Marsha West – Christian Research Network) Easter congers images of decorative baskets filled with all sorts of goodies, cool new clothes, church services, the annual Easter egg hunt, families and friends gathering together to enjoy a sumptuous meal. Doesn’t it seem a bit odd that people will spend an entire day celebrating a make-believe rabbit?
Today when Easter Sunday rolls around a good many Christians spend more time participating in secular events than celebrating the Resurrection of their Savior. Before I move on I should point out that “Easter” is now passé. Wanting to remove the Christian origins of our language, secularists managed to change Resurrection Sunday to Easter Sunday and Easter break to spring break – all in the name of tolerance. Fortunately a large number of believers have caught on to their shenanigans and have gone back to using Resurrection Sunday instead of Easter.
Just as our postmodern culture has secularized Christmas, likewise Easter has been secularized and now we incorporate the Easter Bunny, hunting for colorful eggs and binging on chocolate and jellybeans. There’s nothing wrong with Easter festivities per se — but for Christians, Christ’s triumph over death ought to be the reason for the celebration. What does a big bunny, a basket filled with plastic Easter eggs and decadently delicious goodies have to do with Jesus?
Most people have heard the Easter story reported in the New Testament Gospels. I don’t have the space to elaborate on the Big Story so in a nutshell, approximately two thousand years ago the Son of God was nailed to a cross and died an agonizing death to atone for the sins of humankind. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). The Son condescended to leave His throne in Heaven and come to Earth. Through the incarnation God became flesh and lived among us. He did not do this for a social or political agenda that weighed heavy on His heart. No. He came into the world for one purpose: To reconcile sinners to God. “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). Jesus became the sacrificial “Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
We all sin on occasion — and there are those who sin like there’s no tomorrow. What many people don’t seem to realize is that God hates sin. Although He hates sin, He loves the sinner. Bible teacher and pastor John MacArthur explains God’s love thusly:
When we say God hates sin and doesn’t hate the sinner, you’re really drawing a fine line. God looked on all His creation and said that it was good, so that basically what God created He adores, He considers the work of His hand, and man, though the image of God is marred, is none the less made in the image of God. So, the New Testament says God loves the world, God loves all men. It even says that we are to do good unto all men especially of the household of faith, so we are to do good to all men for they are made in the image of God. There is a sense in which no matter what we do in our lives, God still loves what we are as the expression of His creation. But He hates the sin.
God is unable to look on sin says Don Stewart. And that’s because God is holy:
The idea behind the concept of holiness is “separation.” It comes from a word meaning “to separate or cut off.” God is separate, or cut off, from everything that is sinful and evil—He cannot tolerate sin. John wrote this truth in figurative language. “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5).
To say that God is holy means there is no trace of evil in his character. (Source)
A holy God cannot look upon evil – sin is evil. Sin puts a wedge between man and God. Little white lies are sinful and so is cheating on our taxes, math exams and our spouse. Sin includes rationalization… manipulation…unforgiveness… anger… jealousy…sexual perversion…sex out of marriage…the list goes on and on. But we need not fear! The blood of the Lamb washes away all sin. As I said previously, Jesus died for sinners — including those people we think aren’t worth a plug nickel.
This leads me to my point: Any person who is willing to admit he/she is a sinner in need of a Savior and BELIEVES that Jesus shed His blood to atone for his/her sins will be saved from eternal damnation. Jesus died for the worst of the worst, the scum of the earth, the reprobate, the smelly homeless person, the ugly girl in your math class, Bashful, Dopey, Doc and, yes, Grumpy. Even an outlaw like Billy the Kid who sincerely repents and comes to faith in Christ will have his sins forgiven. “I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds” (Acts 26:20). When an outlaw is washed clean by the shed blood of Christ, he becomes a “new creation, a “new person in Christ.” Henceforth he/she is adopted into the family of God. Only God’s kids have a permanent address on Redeemed Avenue, Kingdom City 00777.
That my friends is the Gospel of Jesus Christ – the good news!
Now for the bad news. According to the Bible anyone who rejects God’s free gift of eternal life will have a permanent address on Do not Pass Go Street, Pit of Hell 00666. Listen to what Jesus had to say about hell:
If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell (Matthew 5:29).
You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? (Matthew 23:33).
Christ’s words were not hyperbole! He meant business. Hell exists.
But be of good cheer! The Apostle Paul tells us how to avoid hell:
If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9).
Many people believe that “good people” go to heaven, bad people go to hell. Au contraire! By God’s standard of good our good deeds are like “filthy rags.” So, no good deed doer…no good Jew…Protestant… Catholic… Muslim…Buddhist…Hindu… Mormon…Jehovah’s Witness…New Ager, environmentalists, or even those who are kind to animals will see the Kingdom of God. How can I be so sure? Because Jesus said, “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6).
Where is the Father? In Heaven.
No matter how good we might seem, no matter how many good deeds we do, we remain sinners. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9) God is holy. Holiness insists on separation from sin. We have “boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus” (Heb 10:19). The Bible tells us that there is no other way.
For the “me” generation, finding themselves in hell will probably come as a complete shock. Today’s young people think God created the sun to light up their lives. Hell isn’t a real place anyway, they say, so why would anyone worry about going there? And if there is a hell, only murders, rapists, pedophiles, litterers, and people who abuse animals will be sent there. It is indeed true that unrepentant murders will go to hell. Likewise, animal lovers who reject Christ will spend eternity “where the worm never turns.”
For unbelievers, young and old alike, who believe they’ll go to heaven when they die, I must call attention to the downside. Jesus Christ is Heaven’s CEO (Chief Executive Over-all). He rules and reigns and, not only that, He receives worship from all creation. So, for those who have a problem with bowing down to the King of kings and Lord of lords, Heaven could be kind of a drag.
Going back to the beginning, the Apostle Paul clearly states the reason Christians celebrate on Easter Sunday:
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born (1 Cor. 15:3-8).
Here we learn that Christ laid down His life, and as God in human flesh He had the power to take up His life again! If Christ has not been raised from death to life our faith is rather pointless.
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Copyright by Marsha West, 2012. All rights reserved.