Easter Sunday Preach // from TRINITY
available to listen here
Romans 8: 1-11, 31-39
Today is a day of joy, of celebration, the triumph after the sorrow of Good Friday. Right?
How many of us feel full of joy today? Not going to make you put your hands up! But I would suggest that some of us are probably feeling the same as we did yesterday, or the day before, we’ve still got the same old stuff going on in our lives… and there is part of me that thinks, well yes Easter is a celebration but why is it any different to any other day of the year actually? Because the truth of what Jesus did is the same truth today, yesterday and forever, last week, in 4 months time, on Christmas Day…. The same truth
And for many of us here that truth is already imbedded in our hearts, already something that we hold on to, we cling to maybe,
But for some of us here perhaps that isn’t so, perhaps we don’t know who Jesus is? Perhaps we’ve never really thought about what he did? Or never really grasped that for ourselves?
And you know, I think most evangelical preachers always preach sermons with a gospel focus – you know – Jesus is always the answer right?! – but today feels like a day when I just need to preach the gospel. The reality of the gospel for each and every one if us, and I do mean every one…
And when I was prepping for this talk I felt God was saying you need to ‘get real’- Easter is where ‘it gets real’
Jesus is saying: you need to get real about who I am in your life
so the question this morning is:
Is what Jesus did on that cross, REAL for YOU?
Is this (pic) real for you? (crucifixion)
Are we living lives that know the truth of who Jesus is,
lives that show the reality of who Jesus is in our lives?
Romans 8:10-12 MSG says:
9-11 But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won’t know what we’re talking about. But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells—even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God’s terms. It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s!
WOOP! Come on!!
So what is the reality of the resurrection for you??
So what is the gospel? The good news – what gospel means –
Well I could share it in a few lines:
Jesus is our Saviour
Jesus died on a cross and rose to life again
For every one of us
In doing that, he took away our sins and our pain and anything we’ve ever done wrong
And that means that we are washed clean and
if we want to accept it, we get to have a relationship with God the Father because Jesus died for us, we get to live in eternal life with him.
That’s about it? Right?
But what does that even mean, in ordinary every day terms? I mean if I was talking to someone who is not a Christian, not a regular member of church, what would it mean to them?
If you don’t already know the gospel, then it means nothing. It’s just religious dogma
People might say:
A Saviour? So you think I need saving? From what?
Died on a cross for me? what has that even got to do with me? It was years ago
My sin? What have I done wrong? I don’t need to be washed clean thank you
Eternal life? I don’t want to live forever
I bet it’s more fun in the ‘other place’ anyway
It’s not real is it?
And it’s not that what I’ve just said isn’t true, it is and those truths are at the heart of our faith. But if it doesn’t make an impact in here in our hearts, then it makes no sense whatsoever.
We need the Holy Spirit to work in us to give us a real living faith, that informs our daily lives…
So we’re going to go through a few things this morning, of those truths and think about how real they are for us… and use a few examples of people for whom it is real
(testimony story does not = more faith – I wish I’d known Jesus all my life…) makes a more interesting sermon!
Jesus is a Saviour
We live in a world that is full of extremes: love and hate, joy and sorrow,…. Or we might say light and dark. Shakespeare noted in the words of Hamlet:
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
– Hamlet (1.5.167-8), Hamlet to Horatio
Many people call themselves ‘spiritual but not religious’ these days. It’s a phrase I hear a lot – I think generally speaking people recognise that there is more to this world that we can ever dream of. My experiences is that most people recognise a sense of good and evil, light and dark, it’s how we explain things we don’t understand, or can’t label. Well, the reality here is that Jesus gives us the chance to be focussed on the light, helps us to keep away from the darkness.
An example of someone who understands that is :
Darrell Tunningley. Darrell got into crime at a young age, he says ;’ he was good at it, good at crime, good at selling drugs, good at violence…’
He ended up in prison for armed robbery, age 17. He recounts how he decided if he was going to be inside he was going to be the worst kind of bad possible. He was violent, continued to sell drugs inside, and was not a nice person.
One day in prison he got invited on an Alpha course when some brave soul asked him if he wanted to come on a course. He says that the person blurted out as quick as possible, you get an afternoon out of your cell and, free coffee and biscuits, and so that’s why he went!
Anyway something of that course got though to him, and he prayed on his bed one night, in his cell, if you are real God, show me. And if you do I will dedicate the rest of my life to you.
Next morning he woke up, reached for a cigarette and felt physically sick, so he threw his cigarette out the window, he recounts how this was quickly followed by his tobacco and his cannabis. He looked in the mirror and didn’t recognise himself, he was so filled with joy…
Darrell is now completely reformed and is a Pastor of a church.
That is someone who knows the reality of what Jesus did. Jesus is real to him, a real saviour.
He has known light and dark and knows how those in darkness need someone to save them, just as he was saved from a life of crime, violence and addiction.
Jesus is a Saviour
What do you need saving from?
Darkness might not be as obvious or severe as Darrell’s story but Jesus says,
21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.
Is there darkness in our thoughts? I think many of us would be lying if we said no…
We all need a Saviour.. a real saviour
Jesus died on a cross
So, Jesus died on a cross, what’s that all about? Why does that matter to me?
Of course it’s not just that he died but that he took punishment as an innocent man, died, and rose again to life. In doing that he beat death, overcame it, won against it. He died and came out the other side. It is a victory against death. He is our substitution before death.
We are all born and we will all die – that is the course of life physically but there is more to it than death – death is Satan , the devil. Is darkness. Is evil. So we not only face physical death but a spiritual one too. Jesus overcame spiritual death too, – that darkness I talked about earlier, through Jesus, we can live a life in the light.
I asked you what is the darkness in your life?
Well, through him we can walk free from that darkness, the things that draw as away from life in it’s fullness.
10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
He wants us to walk in a life of light and in abundance some translations say
Have you heard of Brother Yun? Otherwise known as The Heavenly Man
Brother Yun, now 60, is a Chinese Christian evangelist who was imprisoned in China, many many times for his faith. His story is staggering. So that he endured severe torture and beatings many times, because he refused to renounce his faith.
In one of these spells in prison, messages were sneaked out of prison to his supporters (at great risk). One time, he was beaten almost to death within a few days of being imprisoned.
But one his messages out said:
‘God has sent me to be his witness in this place. There are many people here who need Jesus. I will be in this prison for exactly the length of time God has determined…’
Another time on being interrogated, he knew his life was at risk, but says that God has taken all fear from his heart.
He stood up and declared loudly
‘don’t say anything more, I’m fully prepared for the death sentence! I will not answer you. Do whatever you want to me!’ in the depths of his heart he said ‘Lord Jesus even if they kill me, I’ll still love you’
This was a man not afraid to die and so sure of who Jesus is that he could not rennounce him even if he wanted to!
So sure that he endured torture and beatings.
So sure because
Jesus is REAL to him!
So sure because he knows Jesus death was for him…
Jesus died For everyone of us
And Jesus did that for every single one of us, we all have a choice to believe, to follow him, to walk in the light…
Why? Because he loves us. Perhaps one of the hardest things about faith ias to grasp that God loves each of us, more than like a parent, unconditionally.
Nothing we can do will ever stop him loving us.
That is a staggering truth, that God – the God who made the world, for whom nothing is impossible, loves us…
Loves me? You, you… all of us?
Rom 8:35 -39 MSG
The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture:
They kill us in cold blood because they hate you.
We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one.
None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.
Really – NOTHING can get in the way of God loving us.
You can see that love for every one no matter who in the work of Jackie Pullinger
Jackie Pullinger, as a young woman in the 1960s went to Hong Kong to be a missionary. She had applied to every mission agency there was and they all turned her down. Church leaders told her not to go. They said You’re too young, you’re too inexperienced, you have the wrong qualifications.
But she went anyway, knowing God was showing her the way, selling what she had and bought a one way ticket and ended up in the walled city, a place where even locals didn’t want to go, it was Hong Kong’s most deprived and dangerous area. Drug gangs ruled, addiction was rife.
But as she showed love and compassion, Jackie began to gain their trust gradually. Many became Christians and became clean,
Through the power of God’s love and the HS
Many addicts who prayed for Jesus’ help found themselves freed of their addiction without going through any kind of withdrawal.
Jackie opened a home for those who needed help and was soon inundated with pleas for help and a place to stay.
Jackie promised herself very early on that she would never ask for money for her work. But money started flooding in anyway.
She eventually set up the St Stephen’s Society, which continues its work in Hong Kong and south-east Asia today.
The society has become one of the most successful drug rehabilitation programmes in the world, rescuing hundreds of young people from a life of misery on the streets.
God’s love extends to criminals, addicts, gang lords,
Stay at home parents
Kids, young people
at the end of the day we are all the same to God, loved children of God, no one better than any other…
Jesus takes away our sins
and our pain and anything we’ve ever done wrong
now look, if you find the term ‘sin’ tough then start with what have you ever done wrong. And we’ve all done stuff haven’t we?
From being unkind to someone,
making a mistake,
getting angry when we should, maybe stayed calm.
We don’t have to have committed a crime to have done something ‘wrong’ and in Jesus’ book no one sin is greater than another (apart from grieving the HS which we are not going in to now)
Because every wrong, bad or dark thing that we do has a negative effect on those around us. Goes against God’s glorious plan for us and his creation.
And not just others but ourselves too – have you ever done something you wish you could change? And you end up dwelling on it, worrying about it, it can take you over. Even if you’ve tried to put it right.
But what Jesus gives us is the chance to be free from that. If we say sorry, – we repent – which means to turn and not do that thing again, he takes away from us any condemnation.
Our Romans passage starts with:
8 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,
or the MSG version:
8 1-2 Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.
Imagine that freedom – knowing that our wrong actions are never held against us? That we can stop condemning ourselves, stop living under a cloud of our own making.
When we talk about being washed clean or having our sins taken away, I think the result of that is that we can then walk in the fullness of who God made us to be. As a holy people the bible says…
John Wesley founder of the Methodist church was a man who was transformed when he understood that we are made holy (or washed clean) by God’s grace alone. This reality in his life transformed his ministry – he was thrown out of many churches for what was then quite radical teaching, but not to be deterred he rode round on his horse preaching to literally anyone who would listen. In his lifetime, he rode and preached in all weathers, through illness and adversity.
he rode over 250,000 miles on horseback
an average of 5000 miles a year
Preached more than 40,000 sermons
Published more than 5000 sermons, books, leaflets
Had 79,000 followers at time of his death in 1791
Methodist church today has 70 million members across the world
(Gods generals p89)
Jesus death, resurrection, salvation, saving grace and love was not just a list of truths for John Wesley, but it was REAL. It informed his entire life…
So how can all this be REAL for us? How can we get real?
Well another phrase we repeat is that ‘because Jesus died for us we can have a relationship with God through him’.
In the OT – which refers to the time before Jesus was here on earth we read about how God only spoke to people, normal people through a prophet – one who was holy enough or chosen by God to be a spokesperson. Only certain people could hear from God. Moses was used to guide the Israelites from slavery into freedom in the promised land.
The temple had a literal barrier, a curtain from the main part and the ‘holy of holies’ the place where God was thought to dwell.
But when Jesus died that curtain was torn in two, symbolising the barrier between us and God being broken apart once and for all.
Matt 22: 51-2
50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.
51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open.
If we imagine that barrier or curtain being made of bricks that were made with sin and all the wrong things in the world, it makes it easier to understand that when Jesus died he effectively put a sledge hammer through all that pain and sin in that wall so that now anyone can see God – through Jesus.
We can pray, seek God for guidance and help in our lives, for peace in difficult times…. He is with us in all things
I love the image of Mary Magdalene in our John passage, how when she finally recognises Jesus, and Jesus says ‘do not hold on to me…’ it’s like she has grabbed hold of him – and wouldn’t you? Someone you thought was dead is now alive
I imagine she’s clinging to him in joy and relief and not wanting him to disappear again!
And Jesus won’t disappear from us, he is so committed to us, to you.
So, yes Jesus is a Saviour and he can be yours too if you want – helping you to live a life in the light and safe from darkness
Yes, Jesus died on the cross and rose again to life, not to make a point, to take a stand 2000 years ago but so that we can now live life in fullness and abundance, being all that he created us to be.
He did it for every one of us. EVERY one of us. I don’t care who you are or what you’ve done, there is NOTHING that will stop God loving you.
He will take any wrong doing, wash it clean, take away any fear or condemnation and just love you. Yes, you, as you are, as he made you to be.
And in saying yes to a relationship with him, we get to know him, to spend time with him in prayer, in worship, we can seek him in the difficult times, know his comforting hand with us and live life in freedom. I tell you life knowing Jesus is the best thing ever, I honestly sometimes wonder how people go through life without knowing him!
Easter Sunday is actually no different to any other day, we should celebrate this amazing truths very day! Let’s get real about who Jesus is on our lives EVERY DAY!