Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Sermon - Happily Ever After

Isaiah 25:7-8 On this mountain He will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; He will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; He will remove the disgrace of His people from all the earth. The LORD has spoken.

According to the Bible, the wages of sin is death. In the prophet Isaiah’s time, death was a disgrace, a punishment to everyone because everyone sinned. As is still the case today, there was no escape from death, and in those ancient times, the people believed that the souls of the dead went to an underworld land of shadows, until all of their spiritual energy diminished completely, making the poor souls vanish forever.

These days, we don’t believe in that kind of macabre ending to our souls. As Christians, we look to Jesus to have transformed death so long ago; dying now is no nightmare of oblivion, but rather it has become a promise of fulfillment, abundance, and immortality.

Atheists say that we are deluded in our beliefs. They believe that we are just randomly gathered atoms and molecules that evolved into a living being. Our lives ultimately have no meaning and we are all alone in this vast universe. There is no such thing as forgiveness, salvation, or immortality. We are just a universal accident and once we are gone as a species, nothing will be left of our mere existence.

Agnostics are not so sure. Theologically, they make a trifecta bet as far as God is concerned. They will question the existence of a Supreme deity, but often hold out for some sort of Ultimate Being. They neither believe nor disbelieve. They are waiting for God to prove His existence. Faith is too big of an irrational leap for them to take. They would rather that God leapt towards them.

Christians are different from both atheists and agnostics. They believe that Christ is at the center of Creation, Nature, Time, and History. He is the reason that we exist, and that we are made to eventually come to God through Jesus. The Bible tells us repeatedly that there is no other way to God except through Christ. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. There is no other name under heaven given to humankind except that of Jesus that can truly and eternally restore us to God.

You would think that this would satisfy most Christian people, but sadly there are some people in churches who do not know what to believe. They don’t take the scriptures at face value anymore. They are intrigued by other faiths and curious about other religious documents. They wonder why some Christians are so absolutely sure that Christ is the only way to God. Rather than read the Gospels, the New Testament and Bible for themselves, they rely upon other sources to shape their opinions and ideas. Instead of trusting God’s source of revealing Himself to the world, they want to discover it for themselves, using their own skills, knowledge, and resources.

They do not trust the institutionalized Church, or its 2000 year old message. They would rather listen to narcissistic scholars, best selling authors, and puffed up celebrities to validate their beliefs. Rather than reading and believing what Matthew, Mark, Luke and John have written, they would rather hear and accept what Oprah, Dr. Phil, Suzanne Somers, and Tom Hanks have to say. The Gospel of the globalized, televised, and much publicized gurus is much more meaningful to them than anything that a backwoods carpenter turned prophet and preacher might ever have to say.

It’s a shame really because if they would just simply learn to trust in Jesus, most of the issues, crises, and problems that many modern people face would be less difficult to endure. If the world would just draw closer to Jesus, this planet would be a much better place.

Sing: Jesus, Draw Me Close.

Mark 16:6, 7 "Don't be alarmed," he said. "You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, 'He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.'"

You've heard the old saying, "Seeing is believing." Unless some people see proof of a fact, they won't believe it. There's a Scottish play, which is set in a pub, with a bartender who doesn't believe that elephants exist. His customers keep trying to convince him by describing what an elephant is. No matter how hard they try, he doesn't believe them. They bring in pictures from encyclopedias and even cut out photographs from National Geographic, but he still won't buy it. "Unless I see one with my own eyes, I still don't believe elephants exist."

The customers invite him to visit the local zoo, but he's too busy. And when a circus comes to town, they try to get him to come with them to see the show, but he says he doesn't like clowns. Throughout the entire play, they try to convince the bartender that elephants exist, but he remains stubborn and refuses to accept what they say.

At the very end of the play, all the customers enter the pub, after visiting the circus, with a large smile on their faces. From offstage, an elephant trumpets loudly and is heard charging the pub door. The bartender let's out a cry, "Oh, my God!" to which the customers reply, "Naw, it’s no God; it's jist an elephant."

Dear friends, there’s an elephant in this room today that some people have trouble believing in. It’s called the Gospel which tells us the stories, the teaching, the ministry and mission of Jesus Christ. Through the Gospels, we’re introduced to a man who is greater than Gandhi; a teacher who is wiser than Solomon; a king who is greater than Caesar; and a leader who is far more charismatic than anyone in history.

He is Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world and the One for whom our faith is named. Billions of people have followed Him throughout 20 centuries, accepting Him in their hearts and using His teaching to shape their lives, make their choices, and finalize their decisions.

If someone was to condense the whole of history into one person, the evidence of the influence of this one solitary man would lead them to say, “Jesus Christ.” He is the center of who we are today, whether it be as a faith, a nation, or a civilization. Too many Christian decisions have been made over the last two thousand years that they cannot be eradicated. If we take Christ out of Time, then our history, our culture, even our own individual lives, would not exist.

But today is not about the past; it’s about the Time, the world, and the life that is yet to come. You see a new order of creation was miraculously established when Christ was physically resurrected by God from the grave 2000 years ago. Death, which was as a disgrace, a defeat, a punishment, and a failure, was broken by Christ. The deadly dimension of diminishment and nothingness came to an end. Christ purchased not only the forgiveness of sins when He died on the Cross; He also procured for each one of us a new, abundant, and everlasting life.

For some people this is just too much to believe. It’s a crazy delusion meant to comfort frightened people who fear death. My friends, let me put it to you this way – it’s not delusion, it’s an invitation. It’s not a religious fairy tale, it’s a divine gift. It’s not even a daft or crazy notion dreamed up by desperate fishermen and manically depressed disciples. It is a Gospel truth that the God who created us wants to share all of life, the universe, and everything with us. We only have to accept the gift from Christ in order to receive the greatest blessing that human life can ever hope to experience.

It’s great to have you all here today, for God called you to receive this invitation. He knows how busy you are, how much pressure you are under, the problems you are facing, and the fears you experience. He wants you to know this day that Jesus is still here for you, waiting for you to make a decision, a commitment, a step in the right direction. He’s here to touch you with His Spirit, to renew your faith, restore your lives, and resurrect your hopes.

Do not be alarmed. One day we will see Him. One day we will know. Jesus is up there, ahead of us, waiting and still willing to invite us. Hallelujah! Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed!

No comments: