I don’t usually spend two weeks talking about Easter, but my heart of so full I’m going to break tradition. Besides, outside of the days of Creation, Good Friday and Easter are unarguably the two most important days in all history.
They deserve a second look–and much more.
Let me “warm up” your day with a little Easter afterglow.
The news can be so concerning during this period of cultural decline that there is a temptation to write about it constantly–hopefully with some prophetic insight. The click rate on my blogs goes up after those types of articles and goes down when I write about “positive” things.
No blame there. I understand. We’re all trying to figure out how to navigate the encroaching darkness.
God showed me some time ago to balance my words of warning on approaching judgment with the signs of God’s goodness and revival. You may have noticed I try to alternate “good and bad.”
Today I’m excited about “awakening”–and two big ideas at the heart of Easter.
Read these articles and be encouraged.
In past weeks I’ve shared on similar subjects related to the Asbury Revival and Jesus Revolution 2.0. The silver lining of judgment (what we deserve) is how God uses it to awaken us to seek him. To stay spiritually healthy you must balance your news sources by praying against the bad and rejoicing in the good.
News junkies beware. Don’t forget the the amazing things our Great God is orchestrating.
A case in point. I was burdened for my local church in recent years watching it age, decline numerically, and struggle during the Covid downturn. It was easy to get locked into the negative and almost give up hope.
But God was at work. After years of prayerful perseverance, we made some wise choices to share our debt-free campus with other congregations, complete a $650,000 upgrade, and seek younger leadership to reboot the ministry.
On Easter weekend, six churches brought together 500 people for a powerful Good Friday service complete with worship, contemplation, and intercession for our community. That morning we did a “Cross Walk” through town for the twenty-ninth year in a row praying for neighbors and social needs (pictured above).
On Saturday, we hosted 1500-2000 parents and kids for a “Hop Drop” to draw them back to church and faith. Despite an all-day downpour, the acreage was packed.
Sunday we held seven services (four churches) on our newly modernized campus (recently named “Sidney Commons”) that brought nearly one thousand people.
These numbers are not large compared to others, but a small sign of awakening in one of the least churched areas of the nation.
God is on the move.
I spent much of the weekend pondering the central truths of both Good Friday and Easter Sunday. One took the form of a question. The other confirmed why the early believers spoke more about the resurrection than Jesus’ death on the cross.
Concerning Good Friday, I couldn’t get this question out of my mind: “Why does God require blood sacrifice to atone for or take away sins?
Blood sacrifice is totally foreign to our culture. Most of us don’t have farm animals and never see an animal die, let alone be killed. Our meat comes neatly packaged at the grocery store (though prices are up). The one time years back we took our kids to a “slaughter house” on a field trip, none of us could relate to what was taking place.
For most of human history human beings offered blood sacrifices to God or the gods they worshipped. Killing an animal to cover your own guilt seemed to be a universal conviction of the human conscience. Gradually, and for many reasons, it faded away.
So I kept asking God, “What is it so important or necessary to kill an animal to receive human forgiveness?” I knew the Bible taught that “without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins” (Hebrews 9:22). I also knew that Jesus paid the final sacrifice for all human sin (Hebrews 10:12-14). I’ve preached it all over the world.
Why did animals have to die to “cover” sins in the ancient times? Why was it necessary for Jesus to shed his blood to complete a once-and-for-all human atonement for those who believe?
Some atheists mockingly use the example of animal sacrifices to criticize our “bloodthirsty God.”
I’m sure there are reasons beyond our understanding. But here’s what came to me: Sin is so terrible, horrific, destructive, and divisive that only the death of an animal in our place gives us a proper view of evil. Anything less than death does not create a clear picture of the horror of disobedience before a holy God.
Yes, many people can’t relate to God’s holiness today. They don’t like it. They are far more attracted to his love. But another word changes that: justice. The “Justice Generation” (Gen Z) are enamored with this word and use it constantly. But true justice is just the outward actions of a holy heart which only God fully possesses.
We must explain to this generation that the just God hates all sin. Animals were sacrificed for thousands of years to show what sin against God and others deserved: death. Our holy and just God came lovingly to earth in human form to meet that demand–horrifically shedding his own blood to pay our debt, atone for our wrongs.
Nothing else but the “taking of life” shows adequately that God is both just and loving, his laws for living are good, and deters further disobedience (Romans 3:21-26).
The cross of Jesus was the greatest act of loving justice of all time.
Interestingly, the early followers of Jesus didn’t primarily preach the cross–though it was central to their understanding. Crosses and crucifixes didn’t appear until the fourth and fifth centuries A.D. as an important symbol of biblical faith.
Rather, the early followers of Jesus preached the resurrection. (Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!).
Why preach the resurrection when the cross was the most life-saving event in the history of the planet?
One word: Proof. The resurrection was the absolute proof there was one true God, one way to God, and that Jesus of Nazareth’s words could be fully trusted.
Rome had many gods and messiahs, including an emperor who claimed to be God. So which God was real? Whose words could you trust? What was the true way to be reconciled to God?
The empty tomb settled that question.
Every other man who had claimed to be God was dead and buried. Every legendary god provided no proof of their reality.
The empty tomb of Jesus Christ was proof that Jesus was God, his words were true (“I am the way, the truth, the life. No one comes to the Father but through me”–John 14:6), and that when you put your faith in him, you can know you have eternal life (1 John 5:13).
The resurrection of Jesus settled the “what is the truth?” argument. Jesus is the true savior. All the rest are imposters.
If you put your faith in him you will live forever.
Grace (through shed blood) and truth (confirmed by resurrection) came through Jesus Christ (John 1:17).
That’s truly Good News.