Summary: Renewal is only possible through rebirth.
Rev. Brian Bill
Many of you can relate to that drama because your life feels like it’s made up of “Shattered Pieces.” Whether you’re a skeptic or a sufferer or you’re satisfied, I want to propose that since Christianity is a resurrection religion, you can experience renewal today, right here and right now. But this renewal is only possible through rebirth.
While many know that Easter is the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, according to a recent Barna poll, only 42% of Americans associate this day with Jesus rising from the dead. David Kinnaman writes: “The Easter holiday in particular still has a distinctly religious connection for people but ... the specifics of it are really fading in a lot of people’s minds.” This morning I want to speak about some of the specifics of the Resurrection so we can see its relevance to our lives today.
That reminds me of the little boy who was not exactly happy about going to church on Easter Sunday. His new shoes were too tight, his tie pinched his neck, and the weather outside was just too good to be cooped up inside. As he sulked in the back seat of the family car, his parents heard him murmuring: “I don’t see why we have to go to church on Easter anyway. They keep telling the same old story, and it always comes out the same in the end.”
The reason it always comes out the same in the end is because Jesus did rise from the dead. 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 summarizes the essentials of the gospel message: “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.”
We need to keep telling the same old story because many of us have either forgotten or we just think that it doesn’t really matter. John Stott nails it when he writes, “The concept of resurrection lies at the heart of Christianity. If you remove it, Christianity is destroyed.” C.S. Lewis adds, “It is precisely one great miracle. If you take that away there is nothing specifically Christian left.”
Our Report Card
Later in this same section in 1 Corinthians 15, which we could call the “Resurrection Chapter,” the Apostle Paul mentions the little word “if” seven different times to argue that if Christ had not risen from the dead, then there would be no foundation for faith. To say it another way, we would be a wreck without the Resurrection. I want us to look at just three areas that apply to every one of us today. Borrowing this idea from Max Lucado, we have all received three “F’s” on our report card.
1. Failure. Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
2. Futility. Like the guy in the drama, many today are skeptical and wonder what life is all about. We see this spelled out in Ecclesiastes 1:2, 8: “Meaningless! Meaningless...Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless…All things are wearisome, more than one can say.” Is this what life is all about?
3. Finality. The third bad grade is perhaps the worst. Because we have failed and life apart from God is futile, Hebrews 9:27 says that there’s a final judgment coming: “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.” Death is inescapable and judgment is imminent.
God’s Report Card
My guess is that you didn’t come to an Easter service to hear bummer news like this. But stay with me. We must first understand the bad news before we can embrace the beautiful news of Easter! The relevance of the Resurrection is that it satisfies three of our deepest needs and longings. Because Jesus received perfect grades, in the place of our “F’s” He can give us straight “A’s.”
1. Acceptance instead of failure. In exchange for our sins, Jesus provides forgiveness. Listen to 1 Corinthians 15:17b: “And if Christ has not been raised…you are still in your sins.” We all long to be accepted and when we receive Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we are forgiven and justified by Him. Romans 4:25: “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”
Friends, if God held our transgressions against us we would be in big trouble. Some of you are so filled with guilt and shame that you wonder if you’ll ever be free of the chains of addiction and agony – your hurts have handcuffed you to your past and your sins have made you feel small. Here is some great news this Easter – God raised Jesus from the dead to validate our forgiveness and to vindicate what His Son went through for us when He died in our place on the cross. As the kids sang earlier, “There’s power in the blood!”