Easter & Our Path to the Resurrection

The Big So-What is upon us!

It’s Easter: Christ is risen! But so what? Who cares? What does it all mean?

Have you ever thought of that? What does it mean that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead? What does that matter?

Our Lenten Journey came to a head in Holy Week, which focuses on two days: Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Most of us pay no attention to those days. They’re just a part of the trek that takes us to Easter. Yet, if we miss those days we can easily miss the point of the resurrection.

So, I would like to travel this journey with you through Holy Week to the Easter, that you might experience the power of the resurrection.

On Maundy Thursday, we remember the Last Supper. On this day, Jesus washes the feet of His disciples. Imagine that: God washing the feet of humans?!?

Yet, this is the key to love. This is the key for you and I to learn how to love. And, in this sermon I share that lesson.

Once we learn the lesson of love and the type of love Jesus requires of us, we must look to the Cross and see the suffering of the One Who first love us. This brings us to Good Friday. And yes, Good Friday is the day our Lord died on the Cross.

How crazy is that? God dies on a cross? Inconceivable!!! Yet this is exactly what happens.

How does this happen? Why does this happen? Jesus’ death on the Cross is key to understanding the forgiveness of sins He offers. Not just that He looks at your sins and says: “It’s ok.” But that the covering of sin has been removed. That might a bit confusing, so I use this message to discuss what actually happens in Jesus’ death.

Knowing what happens in the Crucifixion, the power of the resurrection becomes clearer. Jesus died for our sins. His resurrection had nothing to do with those sins. And, His resurrection was also not simply about us “being saved” and able to coast into Heaven, simply because He died and rose from the dead. His resurrection is for a different purpose altogether, enabling us to live holy lives – resurrected lives – now.  I invite you to see the Risen Lord and the fullness of the power of His resurrection.

The One Problem with the Prosperity Gospel

The prosperity gospel movement is huge. Christianity is overrun by it. I mean: it’s the best of both worlds, right? Who doesn’t want the promise of prosperity now and prosperity later?

The Prosperity Gospel fits Best with Our Culture

Our culture teaches us self-indulgence. We are conditioned to consume. Everything leads us towards searching for “more.” And more is never enough.

But more seems so pointless. More for what? So we need to give more meaning to more. Enter the prosperity gospel.

Through the prosperity gospel, our desire for more is made meaningful. It is actually made testimonial: if you have the ability to acquire more, you must be a more spiritual person.

But in Mark 8:34, Jesus calls His disciples close and says:

“Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”

The Lord has called us to Self-Denial

Peter & Self-denialThe prosperity gospel doesn’t ask us to deny ourselves. This is the one problem with this doctrine. It comes against the Lord. It is out of line with His leadership. Like Peter in this passage, the prosperity gospel is a satan that needs to get behind the Lord.

We already have a Society that doesn’t ask us to deny ourselves. So how will we learn to deny ourselves? How will we be fit to make it to the Promised Land?

You cannot follow Christ if you don’t know how to deny yourself. And that’s not simply following Him as His disciple. That means to follow Him where He’s gone: to Heaven. The only way to follow Jesus Christ is to deny yourself.

But what does it mean to deny yourself? And, why should you?

I tell you this: self-denial is not necessarily about becoming poor. So what is it about? How does one deny oneself? Denying yourself is the only way you can follow Jesus.

The Only Way to Defeat Temptation

Temptation comes at us all. That’s true. But, what if there was a way to defeat temptation? Would you try it? Or, would you ignore it…not caring whether you give in to temptation or not?

I’d like to believe that if there were a way to defeat temptation, everyone would jump on it! I mean: all of us have something we struggle with. And, we all say that we wish we were able to conquer the temptation that always seems to defeat us.

Temptation Can Be Defeated

We’ve accepted that it is impossible to defeat temptation. We excuse ourselves, telling ourselves that no one is perfect. We tell ourselves, we’re only human…so, it’s ok for us to give in to temptation from time to time.

We know the Lord is merciful. We know He is forgiving. We are told that so long as we repent, God will forgive us. So, we don’t try to stop sinning. We settle for continuously testing God’s mercy. But is that the best strategy?

Jesus Defeated Temptation in the Wilderness

Survive the WildernessNo matter what you think, the reality is you must face the wilderness. Will you survive? Because you cannot make it to the Promised Land, if you don’t make it through the Wilderness. Mobb Deep told us: “there’s a war going on outside/no one is safe from…you can run but you can’t hide forever…” It’s true. You can’t run forever. There’s a war going on outside. So you better train.

By entering the wilderness, Jesus shows us how we must train to defeat temptation. He actually goes into the wilderness to show us how to get the devil to leave us alone.

There is a tool given to us so that we can defeat temptation. And, that tool is laid out in this message. Will you use the tool Jesus gave us? Or will you simply die in the wilderness?

Why do Some Christians start Lent with Ashes?

Lent has begun in Western Christianity. And, yesterday many put ashes on their foreheads. But why?

In Matthew 6:16-18, Jesus Himself says:

“Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”

But, as soon as we read this passage we go and do the exact opposite! How can this be?

What’s the Relationship Between Lent and Ashes?Lent & Ashes (to go)?

You may have seen a priest or other minister on the side of the road administering ashes to passers-by. With the growing popularity of “Ashes to Go,” and “drive-by-ashings,” many see this as taking the Church to the people. It’s “cool” and “hip.” It’s emergent. All of that is true.

But that’s the problem.

Lent is not Meant to be Cool

Lent is meant to be penitential. And, Ash Wednesday is our entrance into penitence. From the Episcopal (Anglican) Book of Common Prayer, we begin Ash Wednesday by praying that God create in us new and humbled hearts that would allow us to truly lament (weep over) our sins and “acknowledge our wretchedness.”

Ash Wednesday is not about possibly winning some for Christ. It’s not an evangelical moment. Honestly, it isn’t even about possibly convincing those who’ve been absent to return to the Church. It is about those in the Church, gathering together as the Church, to weep over the lawlessness being committed in the Church, i.e. the City of God. (See Ezekiel 9)

So Why the Ashes?

From Ezekiel 9:4 we learn that the ashes are a mark worn by those in the City who sigh and groan over the sins committed within the City and by the City. The ashes should not be the focal point of the day. Rather, ashes are merely a sign of the day…and, a sign of the beginning of our repentance.

For a deeper understanding, we must look to the history of Ash Wednesday. And, the relation between that history, the commandment of Christ and the witness of Scripture is the focus of this sermon:

Saved and Sanctified: But, I don’t wanna Die!

They’re saved and sanctified. You know that person…the one who’ll try to convince you how committed they are to Jesus Christ. They are so in love with Jesus Christ and always want to tell you have they’ve been saved and sanctified.

But, what does that actually mean?

Through the Bible, we know that Brother or Sister so-and-so is not the first one to be so sure of their love for Jesus. Yet, what happens when that love is put to the test? How many of those saved and sanctified men and women who walked with Jesus were actually there when Jesus was Crucified? Not too many…

Everyone believes they are saved and sanctified, yet no one wants to die! Why is that? I’m not trying to be hard on you. Even the great St. Peter had this problem. So, what must happen for us to truly stand with Jesus?

That’s what I’m getting at in this sermon…