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JESUS IS RISEN FROM THE DEAD JUST AS HE SAID!! These are the words that I grew up with pondering each Easter morning. (Honestly, I never grew up with Easter bunnies). But this morning I have been thinking of our generation and what we need. We need the RESURRECTION POWER OF GOD!! The Father raised Christ from the dead. This same power will raise you from the dead; in Christ, you are a new creation that walks holy in the grace of God. Your water baptism is union with Christ. When you go under water, your sins are dead and you come up “sin-free” and alive. Paul says, “For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection” (Rom. 6:5). When Jesus came out of the baptismal water, He was made alive; so you are made alive at your baptism. The Father raised Jesus from the dead—Resurrection Power. In the same way, when you are baptized, He imparts “new (newness of) life” to believers. Day-by-day, we walk in a “newness (a new kind) of life”. This shows outwardly that the believer has received new life (2 Cor. 5:17). The same power that raised Christ from the dead is here for you to walk holy today. God’s resurrection power in you will help you overcome sin and sickness.
THE BEAUTY OF THE CROSS
“…who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree (cross), that we, having died to our sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you are healed.” (1 Peter 2:24)
Do your sins make you feel distant from God? Does your sinful past haunt you daily? The cross of Christ has the power to restore you to worship God; to love Him and be loved by Him. The cross reveals the character of God: His love and justice. He loves the lost sinner, and His justice is perfect in your life. At the cross, those who turn to Him are delivered from the penalty of sin and from the power of sin. Likewise, the cross is the place where the pain of sin is healed; the cross is more powerful than what has been done to you. If you suffer from ANY emotional problems—guilt, anxiety, depression, anger…etc.—there is healing in the cross of Christ (1 Peter 2:24; Heb. 12:2). If you are going through tragedy or suffering, there is absolute healing and peace as you meditate upon the cross: the Lamb that was slain for you. You receive God’s righteousness and favor because of what Jesus did on the cross, not because of your good works (Rom. 3:21-31). To receive God’s saving grace, it is necessary to sincerely repent.
For example, imagine a little girl growing up in a dysfunctional home. Her parents are separated, her brothers don’t care, and her friends are equally as broken as she. On the outside she attempts to look like everything is ok, but inside her mind is racing with painful questions. Her shattered dreams have left her hopeless. Her once tender heart is bleeding from the shards of torn promises and empty love, while she hides behind a tattered wall of shame. She looks for love, searching desperately for something to grab hold of, only to have her now hardened heart, crushed over and over again. She needs a change.
Then one day she hears the inspirational, life-altering message of the cross. The Father loves her and wants her for His family, but her own sin (what she has done) is keeping her from Him. What’s more the pain of what has been done to her is trying to keep her from reaching out to the love of God. But the loving truth of God knocks on the door of her heart, and she opens. She opens the door, just a little bit, but at least she opens the door. She prays a simple prayer, “Father, I repent, I was wrong, I chose my own way, please lead my life, please take this pain away, take my sin away.” Instantly, Jesus—whose sacrifice on the cross paid for the debt of her sin, who gladly gave His life that she might live—He steps before the Father and intercedes so that all her wounds might be healed. Immediately, the Father in Heaven rejoices and explodes with lightning LOVE; all Heaven stops all their activities and rejoices with the Father. Why? Because what was lost has been found. The little girl, who was hopeless, now has hope in God. Jesus—the Way, the Truth, and the Life—makes her righteous. Immediately her eternal garments, which she will wear in Heaven, are automatically washed clean. She is justified before the Father in heaven; She is a New Creation in Christ, and the Holy Spirit, her Counselor, who is God, will empower her, by grace, to be a New Creation in Christ.
The Cross and Forgiveness
Whether you are the one sinned against (the victim), or the one who sinned against God and others (the aggressor), God has provided the way for you to forgive others and be forgiven, to receive mercy and walk forth in grace. But why is it important to enter into forgiveness?
Firstly, it is important that you are forgiven from your sin. Your forgiveness is based on a historical event—Jesus’ death on the cross. A heavenly, holy, legal transaction occurred in God’s court. Jesus paid the debt of your sin: that which was required to satisfy the demands of God’s justice. Thus, Jesus’ righteousness was credited to your account or imputed to you (Rom. 4:6, 11, 23-24). Everything that could disqualify you from receiving a new relationship with God was removed at the cross. When the Father looks upon you He sees you through the eyes of the finished work of the cross—bright shining and righteous and without spot or wrinkle.
Now you have to access God’s bright and shining forgiveness by saying “yes” to Him and “no” to your old ways. This is how you start your own journey of holiness. This requires walking on God's path. When you turn away from God's path and "lean on your own understanding" (see Prov. 3:5), you are actively rejecting Jesus and following satan. In this is the essence of sin: to follow a path contrary to God's. All paths contrary to God's are of satan, and we have grown up being taught satan's paths (his ways). All satan's paths lead to death. But God, being rich in mercy, calls you to come back, to listen and learn from Jesus (His ways) so that you can walk in paths of righteousness. In this is the essence of repentance: to turn away from lies (satan's paths) and follow the truth (God's path). Our Father graciously gives you mercy instead of judgement. How? Because Jesus paid for the penalty of sin by dying on the cross, and when you are in Him, you are considered to have died with Him (Rom. 6:8; Gal. 2:20). If you died with Him, you will also live with Him, and so you do not have to fear the penalty of sin! Sin's power over you (death) is stripped away. In Christ, you have God's forgiveness, you are washed clean, your mind is renewed in the knowledge of the truth (Jesus and His path), and His grace empowers you to walk in paths of holiness before God. In this is the essence of holiness: to be forever in Christ — alive, clean, and continually walking in His path—conforming into HIs likeness—becoming holy as He is holy. This is God’s amazing offer to you. He wants to give you a fresh start.
Secondly, it is important for you to forgive those that have sinned against you. You do this because God said to forgive others (He is Creator and we are the creation. Therefore we need to follow His Ways). Jesus taught us to pray for forgiveness and shared the consequences of not forgiving others. He said, “And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors…“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt. 6:12-15). It is what Jesus demonstrated on the cross. Even while dying a brutal and torturous death, he prayed, “Father, forgive them! They do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) In this is the essence of forgiving others: choosing to let go of the pain and place justice in the hands of the good, good Father.
It is important to note that you are not giving up your Justice when you choose to forgive those who sinned against you. When you forgive someone, you give the pain to God and ask Him, the Just Fair Judge, to bring Heavenly Justice. This will be a merciful and just judgment; God desires that none would perish but all would come to repentance (2 Pt. 3:9). Asking for forgiveness and forgiving another allows God’s love to grow in you ( Luke 7:47), which thrusts you back in the race to “go” and make disciples of those around you (Matt. 28:19).
In conclusion, as Paul eloquently penned: “Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. 25 For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. For `He has put all things under His feet.` But when He says `all things are put under Him,` it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.” (1 Cor. 15:24-28).