By Emmett Rushing
The theme of this well-loved hymn pulses through many Christian brains at this time of year. Here was our Assistant Pastor’s take on April 16.
Good morning, brethren.
At this time of year there are two truths from our Lord’s death and resurrection that are worth remembering. The first is that God hates sin. The second is that the cross shows us how much God loved us.
I well remember how quiet my two friends and I were when we walked out of a movie version of “The Passion” a few years back. We don’t often dwell on the beating Jesus suffered for us and perhaps we shouldn’t overly much, but that movie made many Christians think of how we deserved the death Jesus accepted on our behalf. The death of Jesus came because God loves us with a passionate love that exceeds God’s hatred of sin. Our keynote Scripture sort of spells that out for us:
“For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should ;live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15, NKJ).
That passage we’ve been looking at a lot in our church lately. It shows us the ultimate power behind Jesus’ willing sacrifice on our behalf was the overwhelming power of God’s love. This is what Good Friday is all about. We all died in Jesus’ death but we were all raised in his resurrection and that is what gives us hope, that’s what we proclaim to the senior’s church at Rancho San Dimas care home every Sunday. We take strength form something that was true before any of us were born – the death of Christ. God did not wait for us to become good or he’d be waiting a long, long time. But as Romans 5:6 says, it was while we were yet sinners that Christ died for us.
Secondly, the cross shows us just how much God loves us – what he did to free us from the entanglements of sin. Titus 2:11-13 shows us that there is a better Teacher than experience and that is the Grace that God gives us for our salvation. Let’s read it:
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.”
In my job I’m a manager and purchaser for a chemical company and I come across many sales people who come into the shop selling steel or whatever. Sometimes they share their life problems. One woman came in recently and we got to talking. She had just left her husband along with her young daughter and was filing for divorce. As we conversed I couldn’t help but use one of my favorite lines – “If you have any doubts about God and his opinion of you, always go back to the text, God is love.” That’s what the Good Friday-Easter season is all about. The Gospel was sent to save us not condemn us.
Here’s the basics, as Paul taught them, in 1 Corinthians
“Now brothers I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word preached to you. Otherwise you have believed in vain.
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared unto Peter and then to the twelve.”
There it is – our resurrection hope. The believer’s resurrection is tied to the Lord’s being raised by the power of the Spirit. “Because I live you shall live also,” Jesus said. Everything depended on God’s resurrection of Christ. Now that we are saved from the penalty of death and sin we have new life in Christ.
That resurrection hope is hard to keep quiet about for that same power that raised Jesus is available for us to help live our lives. I told the lady filing for divorce that and it seemed to help her. The next time we met she said she’s forgiven her husband and is back with him and attending a healthy Christian church. The Bible has a phrase for this as well – it’s called new life in Christ.
Do you know that the apostle Paul mentions the phrase “in Christ” or “in the Lord” 164 times? That just about makes it his central theme. This being “in Christ” is a judicial act – the debt of past sins is cleared away. It is also a highly spiritual action because it shows us we now are under no condemnation from God (Romans 8:1). It also affects our future hope for it reveals that we too shall eventually be in the likeness of his resurrection. In fact we are already as good as there. This starts the process of sanctification – the process by which the Holy Spirit makes known God’s work in our lives.
Sanctification means that Christians slowly become more like their Lord. Because Christ lives inside us we share in the glory Christ now has which he received from the Father. So the whole story is one of grace from beginning to end – grace unmerited, undeserved pardon. This salvation is ours; we only have to accept it. There is no way in a hundred million lifetimes we could qualify for such a holy and righteous work in us. Let us rejoice that we as Christians are now part of the wonderful story that is narrated in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, a story we focus on more than ever at this Easter season.
Thank God for his resurrection hope. Christ died for us. Christ lived for us. Christ is coming for us. Hallelujah, what a Savior!