Easter is often associated with a mixed bowl of bunnies, egg hunts, blooming flowers, candy, and the acknowledgment and celebration of Jesus Christ's death and resurrection. Even for those that do not claim to be professing Christians, there is still left a remnant of what this time of year means for those that do follow Christ. For those that are Christians by God's grace, the story and idea of what both Good Friday and Easter Sunday are centered around can sometimes lose their weight, glory, and joy. I, myself, am guilty of 'going through the motions' as I celebrate Easter. Between the commercialized allure and continued reinforcement of the Easter message of Christ crucified and Christ risen (as it should be) throughout the year, it is easy to have dulled senses to the glory and awe of what Christ accomplished over 2,000 years ago.
For both that do and do not profess Christ as Lord in their lives, I pray this blog stirs up both curiosity and reverence for what the Biblical Eater message teaches. Even more, I pray your hearts are so captured by these truths that you are compelled solely to worship, praise, and run towards the Risen Jesus; Jesus who sits at the right hand of God the Father, interceding and praying for those who are His (Romans 8:34). It is here alone where we find the eternal hope, security, and comfort that our heart so longingly search for and never find apart from Christ (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17).
For All Have Sinned and Fallen Short of the Glory of God
In order to understand the glory and goodness of the Easter message, we have to understand what it was exactly that Christ's death and resurrection accomplished for sinners. To begin, what does it mean to be a sinner? Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, teaches us throughout the New Testament that sinners include all of us. Sinners are not those that merely murder, steal, and commit adultery. Rather, we read that there is no distinction between one person being more righteous from another due to their own accord because "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). We are not merely given the status of a sinner but are yet somehow good people on our own wherewithal. Rather, we are both sinners and actively sin every day. It is both something we are and something we do. What then does it mean to sin?
Sin is a transgression against a divine law. Who are these transgressions against? A perfect and holy God. It can be very easy to assert that you are a good person as you compare the unrighteous deeds of your own to those around you both near and far. When this is our mindset, we are completely missing and misunderstanding just how holy, good, and perfect God is. Any 'good' that we think we have seen in us is as a result of the common grace given to us by God when He wrote His perfect moral law on each of our hearts (Romans 2:15). Our consciousness often bears witness to this as our thoughts accuse ourselves of doing wrong. Additionally, we get small glimpses of this evil that resides in all of us as we collectively stand in shock and awe at the murder of children, mass genocides, and monstrous acts of violence. The ability to sometimes recognize evil is not because we are inherently good but because God is full of grace and gives us the ability to do so. Our ability to do it imperfectly, though, is not because He [God] made a mistake but because, as the Bible teaches us, we are all sinners.
Even more, if we take an honest look at any 'good' we do, we will find it is always in some inherent sense is driven by our own selfish and prideful desires. We may build shelters for the homeless, but that same shelter can give a fatal blow to our pride when an individual or group says it is flawed. We can give a gift to our significant other aiming to love them well but then quickly become upset when their level of gratitude is not what we deem in concordance to our effort to love them. For even if our outward actions are not perceivable to be sinful, the inner workings of our hearts continually are.
'So what?', you might be thinking. Why should we care about the transgressions we commit against God every day? Why can't this perfect and holy God just forgive us and move on? Although this is a common utterance amongst many, it neglects the very instinctual desire for justice so many of us call out for in the world. We command that the imperfect judges of this earth enact justice on the guilty and yet apply the opposite to the perfect God of the entire universe.
John Piper, as he reflects on the writings of Paul, speaks of our sinful nature (both imputed and personal) like this. "Sin repels the light of truth and runs to the darkness of falsehood. Jesus said that we are guilty sinners not because we are victims of the darkness but because we are lovers of the darkness. John 3:19, “Light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light.” So sin by nature inclines and empowers us to suppress the truth.
What truth particularly does sin hate? The next verse tells us. The reason we know that men suppress the truth is “Because what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.” Knowledge of God is repulsive to sin. So, Paul says, when this knowledge is suppressed, we have no excuse. Why? Verses 20–21: “So they are without excuse. For [because] although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or give thanks to him.” So the root of suppressing the knowledge of God is the desire to avoid glorifying and thanking God. Sin does not love to glorify God. Sin does not love to thank God. Sin hates glorifying God and thanking God."
Our sin, although downplayed in our hearts, is so wretched because of Who it is against; because of Whose perfect moral law it is transgressing. Sin does not seek to glorify our Creator; it seeks to blaspheme and deny Him. It is so much of who we are, that we are unable to recognize it rightly without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. For Jesus teaches that the Holy Spirit is sent to convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8).
You might be asking, how is any of this a reflection of the good and joyful news we celebrate at Easter? I would argue that as we understand this truth more, the gift of grace given to us in Christ begins to become more precious and glorious - not because the gift somehow increases with our recognition of it but because our sinful hearts begin to see it rightly.
What Did Christ's Death and Resurrection Accomplish?
Who is Jesus to have accomplished anything by dying through crucifixion and being raised from the dead? In accordance with all of our sins, why does this matter? Before God's grace wholly intervened in my life and my eyes were opened to my own depravity by the Holy Spirit, I had often asked these questions. Wasn't Jesus just a man or great moral teacher that walked the earth over 2,000 years ago? Jesus is the greatest moral example and teacher (for He is perfect), but both His death and resurrection and who He is are far beyond that; so far beyond it, it in many ways, is incomprehensible. Although a great mystery, God's Spirit allows for us to revel in and experience the glory of Christ while here on earth.
Jesus is the Son of God (John 6:69) - fully human and fully divine. He is one person of the Trinity, existing for eternity past, without sin (2 Corinthians 5:21), and perfect in every way. He was in the beginning and all things were created through Him (John 1:1-3). Jesus is fully God and yet did not count equality with God something to be grasped but rather, became a servant (being born in the likeness of men), laying aside His divine right to be served while on earth and was obedient to His Father even to the point of death on a cross (Philippians 2:6-8). Why?
We owe a debt to God for our sins that we could never pay for as we read before, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). The Bible is abundantly clear that the wages for sin is death (Romans 6:23), and our physical death, while we are all still sinners, cannot pay for the transgressions committed against a perfect and holy God. It takes a spotless, sinless, and perfect death to fully pay the debt to God that we all owe. Could God have used a random human on earth and made Him sinless and able to pay for the sins of all who are His? Sure, because God can do anything. Yet, He sent His Son, God in human flesh, to bear the penalty of sin and the full wrath of God (which we deserve) so that we can have the gift of eternal life and forgiveness of sins through faith in Him(Romans 6:23, 2 Peter 2:24, 1 Peter 1:18).
His death was a perfect substitutionary atonement for sin, the only means of reconciliation to God the Father (Romans 5:10, John 14:6), and propitiation for sinners to a just and holy God (Romans 3:24-25). His death is what all sinners deserve, and yet through it we are offered a gift of grace by God. It is nothing that we can do or earn on our own for as Paul teaches, we are all dead in our trespasses apart from it (Ephesians 2:1). Moreover, Christ's death not only reconciles those who believe in Him back to God and restores a right relationship to Him, His life and death give us hope and comfort in sufferings on earth. "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15).
Jesus not only bore the full wrath of God that we deserve, but He came to earth, suffering beyond our comprehension (Isaiah 53), being tempted as we are (Luke 4:1-13), weeping as we do (John 11:35), and now through His death and resurrection gives those that are His new life and eternal hope beyond the pain of this world (2 Corinthians 5:17).
“Christ was treated as we deserve that we may be treated as He deserves. He was condemned for our sins, in which He had no share, that we might be justified by His righteousness, in which we had no share. He suffered the death which was ours, that we might receive the life which was His. 'By His stripes we are healed.” (Ellen G. White)
What Does This Mean for Us?
We cannot earn God's forgiveness. We cannot approach the throne of God with reverence and awe apart from the divine interceding from the Holy Spirit. We cannot gain salvation from our sins apart from faith in Jesus Christ and His crucifixion. We cannot have the new life our souls so longingly search for in things of this world apart from Jesus's resurrection. The thing that we bring to God's story of redemption is our sin. This sin marks us as guilty before a perfect and holy God and yet...
And yet, God gives those that are His immeasurable grace, justification, salvation, transformed life, righteousness, and forgiveness through the blood of Jesus Christ. "--- the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus." (Romans 3:21-26)
For those that have faith in Christ through the grace of God, there now is no more condemnation. because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:1). For Christ set us free from the bondage of sin and death so that we might walk in the freedom and newness of life found in Him alone. Through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit for those that are His, by God's abundant grace we are able to pursue not things of this world but be transformed by the renewing of our mind through God's Word (Romans 12:2). For if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation. The old dead and wholly sinful person has passed away and behold, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:18)
Although we will suffer on this earth and hardships and trials will come our way, for those who are in Christ, we can hold steadfast to the eternal hope we have in Jesus alone. The message of Easter is so glorious, so beautiful, so full of joy and comfort, that it oftentimes brings me to tears of immense gratitude and joy. We can look around us and see the incredible pain and evil that seems all the more prevalent each day and succumb to the worry and fear that often accompanies it. Instead, for those that are adopted in the kingdom of God's beloved Son, we can look to the suffering and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory (1 Peter 1:9a) because our hope lies not in this world but in the undeserved grace, mercy, and love given to us in Jesus Christ.
For those that have not placed their faith in Jesus Christ, I pray that by God's immeasurable grace, you would come to love Him, know Him, and repent (or turn away from) the things of this world that will not ever satisfy the longings of your soul. I pray that you would confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that God raised him [Jesus] from the dead so that you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. (Romans 10:9-10) Always remembering, though, that the gift of salvation and eternal life through Jesus Christ is not on our own doing but because of God being rich in mercy and full of perfect and great love. (Ephesians 2:4)
The cross and what happened there is a pain we cannot comprehend. The perfect Son of God bearing the full wrath of God, physically beaten and crucified, mocked and scorned, breathed His last breath declaring that it was finished. (John 19:30) He had defeated and conquered sin and death, and He will one day return in full glory. At His name, every knee will bow and tongue confess that He is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:10-11) There is nothing we can add to what Christ has done and will do upon His return. Therefore, let us rest in His grace, pursue His glory, and worship Him who is brought great joy when bringing us blameless before the glory of His presence. (Jude 1:24) For even as we would be in the crowd shouting 'Crucify Him!' He paid the penalty for the sins of those that are His so that we might have salvation and eternal glory and joy with Him both now and with Him one day forever.
"Since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful." (Hebrews 10:22-23)
"Great was the grace in commanding me to come hand in hand with thee to the Father, to be knit to him eternally, to discover in him my rest, to find in him my peace, to behold his glory, to honour him who is alone worthy; in giving me the Spirit as teacher, guide, power, that I may live repenting of sin, conquer Satan, find victory in life. When thou art absent all sorrow are here, When thou art present all blessings are mine." (Puritian Prayers and Devotions)