The early church was devoted to the Apostles’ teaching, the fellowship, the breaking of bread, and to prayer. But what was the result of this rhythm of life? What was the outcome of following the way of Jesus? Luke records that “The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” What does it mean that the Lord added to their number? And what were they being saved from? The answer contains the breathtakingly good news of the gospel and the great purpose of the church to this day.
Your life has a theme, a defining melody with many variations. What is the theme of your life? Your work? kids? wealth? fear? trauma? No matter what your life theme was before Christ, after you are saved by grace, your life theme starts to change. Because of Jesus, the theme of your life can be grace. In Christ, God has saved you in order to tell a story of grace which will echo through the halls of heaven for all eternity. All the variations have a melodic thread connected back to this main theme of grace. And no other religion has anything like this.
This sermon is part of the What’s So Different About Christianity? Series recorded on Sept 23, 2018, by Pastor David Parks, from Ephesians 2:1-10. Listen/download here:
For almost two millennia, Christians around the world have celebrated Easter Sunday. That’s a very long time. Wherever there are Christians, there’s a celebration of Easter. How come? Why is Easter a big deal?
Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. But this is just one triumphant moment in a much longer story of creation, fall, redemption, and new creation. In the beginning, God created a good and perfect world that was meant to be shared and ruled by human beings, made in God’s image. This world was corrupted by sin, and the good and perfect world became broken, rebellious, wicked, and fell under the curse of death. But God so loved the world, he enacted a plan to rescue and redeem humanity. The plan was fulfilled when Jesus Christ, the Son of God sent from heaven, was crucified, died, and was buried on (Good) Friday, but then was raised to life on (Easter) Sunday. Jesus appeared to hundreds of eyewitnesses before ascending back into heaven. Jesus said he came to seek and to save the lost—men and women trapped in a broken world and bound by sin and death. Jesus’ death was the perfect sacrifice for sin, and his resurrection broke the power of death.
Now, anyone who believes this good news and trusts Jesus to be their Savior and Lord is saved. They are forgiven and freed from the power of sin, adopted as a child of God, given the Holy Spirit, called to follow Jesus in life, and will one day be raised from the dead like Jesus. (There are so many more aspects of Christian salvation but we just do not have the space to say everything here!) Christians anticipate a future day when Jesus will return, the dead will be raised to judgment, and a new age will begin where the people of God will live forever in a new heaven and earth that will be the fulfillment of God’s work of new creation.
As N.T. Wright eloquently wrote in Simply Christian, “When Jesus emerged from the tomb, justice, spirituality, relationship, and beauty rose with him. Something has happened in and through Jesus as a result of which the world is a different place, a place where heaven and earth have been joined forever. God’s future has arrived in the present.”
All or Nothing
This gospel message (broadly), and the resurrection of Jesus (more specifically)—if it’s true—means everything and changes everything in life. If Jesus rose from the dead, then he must be who he claimed to be. He must have done what he said he was going to do. And he must be worshipped and followed as Lord and Savior. But if it’s not true (maybe it’s all made up, or maybe it’s some sort of myth or meta-truth), then Christianity isn’t just discredited or out of date—it’s utterly useless, empty, and not worth one minute of your time. And it certainly wouldn’t be helpful to pass on that nonsense to your kids! The Apostle Paul recognized this, too. Around 55 AD he wrote to men and women in Corinth, “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” (1Co 15:13-14) A strong statement from a man who gave his life to sharing the good news of Jesus.
The core of the Christian faith has everything to do with who Jesus is and whether or not he did, in fact, rise from the dead. This is a message that you either believe or you don’t. Easter is a big deal because either it’s everything or it’s nothing. Now, obviously, Christians believe that it’s everything! (And I believe there’s good evidence for this, not simply wishful thinking!) That’s why we celebrate. That’s why we continue to share good news with people. And that’s why we’d love for you to stop by this Easter Sunday and see what this Jesus life is all about.