Summary: This is a straight forward Easter Gospel sermon on what it takes to experience eternal life. It is targeted to unbelievers.
1. INTRODUCTION – EASTER THEMED TV SHOWS
2. A DECREASE IN BELIEF IN GOD AND RELIGION
3. AN INCREASE IN BELIEF IN THE AFTERLIFE WITHOUT FAITH
4. BUT EVEN THOUGH CULTURE CHANGES GOD HASN’T CHANGED
5. RESURRECTION (AND AFTERLIFE) ONLY COMES BY FAITH IN JESUS
6. A QUICK SUMMARY OF THE EASTER STORY
7. OUR TWO-FOLD COMMITMENT:
- BELIEVE AND TO LIVE LIKE JESUS
- TO DIE TO SELF AND TO PUT JESUS ON THE THRONE
Good morning. Happy Easter! He is risen! Hallelujah! If you want to follow along today, we are going to be looking at Luke 24:1-9. While you are looking that up, I have a quick question. How many of you happened to see the TV show this week called The Passion. It was a modern-day rendition of the passion of Christ, the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Basically, instead of taking place on the streets of Jerusalem, it took place on the streets of New Orleans. It was hosted by Tyler Perry. It got some mixed reviews, but it gave Easter some much needed exposure. We know that this time of year the networks want to put shows with religious themes on TV. I think Morgan Freeman, who is not the most religious guy, is doing a five-part series called The Story of God. Even though we see a heightened interest in spiritual things during this time, we also see in cultural in general a general decline in interest about topics of God or Jesus or any sort of religious topics.
I was doing some research this week and came across a recent survey. The statistics were quite dire. One part talked about the increase in disbelief about God. I think in 1980 13% of the younger generation questioned the existence of God. In 2014 that number had risen to 30% of especially the young people out there questioned the belief in the existence of God. Consistent with those trends, the survey also revealed less interest in prayer and going to church. The interesting thing was that the statistic also revealed that, although people are less interested generally in God and religion, they seem to have a heightened interest in the afterlife. In 1974, 73% of Americans believed in an afterlife. That number is now closer to 80% of the people believe in an afterlife. Although the author did not give any reason why this was occurring, she did quote one of the conductors of the survey as saying “It was interesting that fewer people participated in religion or prayed, but more believed in an afterlife. It might be part of a growing entitlement mentality thinking you can get something for nothing.” We live in a culture of entitlement. If you are an American, you feel like you are entitled to a lot of things. If the survey is true, it seems like this sense of entitlement is spilling over into the religious sectors. So much so that some people have the attitude I am going to believe whatever I want. I am going to live whatever way I want, but I still feel entitled to have the afterlife. I still feel entitled to have some sort of a resurrection without any sort of faith commitment. That is what I would call resurrection light or resurrection without commitment. It is not surprising that we live in a culture where people are being less and less committed. We see it obviously when people are waiting longer and longer to get married. They maybe just live with each other because they want to keep their options open. People are less likely to pursue a long-term career or hang on to a job because they want to keep their options open in case something better comes by. Even cell phone companies like Verizon understand that people are becoming less committed. Now they have thrown away the commitment to a two-year cellphone contract because they know that people are less likely to be committed. It makes sense if people aren’t going to be committed to something like marriage, like a job, or even a cellphone contract, they are certainly not going to be committed to some sort of a faith or particular religion. But it is funny that even though they don’t want to be committed to a particular faith, they still have the expectation that they will experience some sort of resurrection when they die and some sort of afterlife, whatever that is. They want to bend the rules so to speak. The rules that have been in place for the last 2,000 years. My understanding is the rules are not changing. There is no intention of them changing. God doesn’t operate according to the whims of culture. He doesn’t say I am going to take a pulse on culture and see if they agree with commitment or not. He says that the resurrection that comes through Jesus Christ takes a commitment. It takes a real faith commitment. It doesn’t just mean that you understand the Bible stories. It doesn’t mean that you are simply involved in a church. Those things are good, but what God is looking for are full-fledged disciples of Jesus Christ. People that are so enthralled with the kingdom of God and what is offered through it that nothing short of a whole-heart commitment will do.