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The cross is desecrated

by the feet of forgetfulness. (1)

In the weeks after the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger and the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, church pews were filled with worshippers.  Some came to mourn, some came for hope, many came for good news.

Yet it did not take long for the crowds to dissipate.  I do not know a single pastor who was surprised by this quick reversal in worship attendance.  We are use to it.

Christians rush to worship for Christmas, for Easter, for baptism, for confirmation, for marriage, and for death.  Each time they come longing for the Good News of the Gospel, which is secured for us in the cross.

With equal speed they rush home, back to the world, and fail to return to the cross until the next crisis or holy-i-day.

I wonder how frequently God must sigh at our forgetfulness of His grace and His heart’s desire that we gather around the cross for worship.

Our stampede towards the cross and our ensuing absence from worship is a desecration of the cross and all of the grace, mercy, and hope it brings. 

David said:

“I was glad when they said to me, let us go up to the house of the Lord!” (2)

Jesus said,

“Take up your cross and follow me!” (3)

Lord forgive me when I trust your grace, ignore your presence, and flee from your cross.

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  1. Charles H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening : Daily Readings, Complete and unabridged; New modern edition. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2006).
  2. Psalm 122:1
  3. Matthew 16:24
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Easter has come, but it does not need to be gone.

If yesterday’s celebration is beginning to fade, I encourage you to print and post this personal affirmation of faith on your computer screen, refrigerator, mobile devices, and anywhere else you regularly look during the course of your day.  

Read it, memorize it, and recite it.  Jesus went all the way to the cross and through the crucifixion to secure for you the forgiveness of your sins and the resurrection of your body at death.  Surely, you and I can do the same.

Unfortunately, I am unable to tell you who wrote this commitment.  Regardless, make it yours.

My Commitment as a Christian

I’m part of the fellowship of the unashamed. I have Holy Spirit power. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I’m a disciple of Jesus Christ. 

I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still. 

My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, my future is secure. 

I’m finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees,  colorless dreams, tamed visions, mundane talking, cheap living, and dwarfed goals.

I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. 

I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded. 

I now live by faith, lean on His presence, walk by patience, live by prayer, and labor by His power.

My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way rough,  my companions few, my Guide reliable, my mission clear. 

I cannot be bought, deluded, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice,  hesitate in the presence of the adversary, negotiate at the table of the enemy, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.

I won’t give up, shut up, let up, until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, preached up for the cause of Christ. 

I am a disciple of Jesus. I must go till He comes, give till I drop, preach till all know, and work till He stops me. 

And when He comes for His own, He will have no problem recognizing me, my banner will be clear!

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Easter Sermon Notes

Remember What He Said

Scripture: Luke 24:1-8 and 1 Corinthians 15:1-2, 54-58

To listen to this sermon, click here on April 9 and click on link for sermons

.

I. Don’t you remember what I said ….

A.  Words we have all heard

B.  Luke 24:5-6 – The 2 men/angels to the women at the tomb

Why do you look for the living among the dead?

He is not here!   He has risen!

Remember how He told you …

C.  The women had already forgotten

When reminded by the angel

=> 24:8 Then they remembered His words

D.  Regarding His death and rising

Matt 16:21, Mark 8:31, 9:31, 10:34, and Luke 9:22

Jesus began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.

E. Regarding His Resurrection

Matthew 22:31-32

I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. I am not God of the dead, but of the living.

John 11:24

I am the resurrection and the life.

II. Paul writing to the Corinthian Church

A.  1 Corinthians 15

Reminds us of the reason for the season

What are we celebrating today

Everyday within the church

The resurrection of Jesus

B.  He reminds them to believe in 15:1

The good news that I proclaimed to you, 

which you in turn received, 

in which also you stand, 

And by which you are saved,

C.  ==> theological discourse on the resurrection …

3 sections in 1 Corinthians 15

1. 1-11 – The Truthfulness of the Gospel

2.  12-24 – The Resurrection of the Dead

3.  35-58 – The Resurrection of the Body

D.  Crescendo of chapter 15 is reached in verses 54-57

When he speaks of the victory of the cross

Listen to Paul’s summary about

what the resurrection of Jesus means for us:

Death has been swallowed up in victory.

Where, O death, is your victory?  

Where, O death, is your sting?

The sting of death is sin, 

and the power of sin is the law. 

But thanks be to God, 

who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

E.  The resurrection of Jesus represents the two victories of the cross

Over two powers/realities which deeply affect our daily lives

1.  Over the power of sin to cause our spiritual death

2.  Over the power of physical death to end our life

III. The Resurrection gives us victory over Sin

A.  Sin has incredible power over us

In Romans Paul tells us about the realities of sin

Romans 3:23 – All sin and fall short of the glory of God

Romans 6:23 – The wages of sin is death

B.  While we like to argue about what sin does to us,

We all know deep within our souls

What sin does to us, to our relationships, to our lives

And to our relationship with God

C.  Sin destroys life,

it weighs down life,

it takes life away,

it kills life

D.  While we may bravo in our sin when committing it

We regret our sin when is shatters our life

E.  Examples of sin destroying life

1.  Zacchaeus – the tax collector

Cheated and greedy, loathed by the people

Found forgiveness and restoration in Jesus

2.  Former Illinois Governor – Rod Blagojevich

Now serving 14 years for corruption as governor

Affect on his 2 daughters

I will guarantee you sin is weighing him down

3.  The Woman caught in adultery

Leaders wanted to stone her to death

Have you ever been in room

When spouse reveals/confesses adultery to spouse and family

Looks could kill – pain, anger, grief

Weeping of regret for sin … Weighs down heavy

4.  Even unintended sins ==> deep regret

Elderly priest – Good Friday – ran over 5 parishioners,

killed one, imagine the weight on him

9 year old playing with gun kills his twin –

Imagine the weight on his shoulders

and father who left gun loaded and available

F.  Anyone who says sin is

without consequence without victims is deceived

G.  Every sinner prays for a do-over

All of us in this room have done something we regret

It hurts … It pains … It weighs us down

H.  The wages of sin is death

But because Jesus died for us

Took on the death of our sins

And because he rose from the dead

The death of our sins has been removed

==> why Paul proclaims

Death has been swallowed up in victory.

Where, O death, is your victory?  

Where, O death, is your sting?….

But thanks be to God, 

who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

I.  At Easter … because of Jesus’ death resurrection

We celebrate the forgiveness of our sins

The removal of the wages of sin from us

J.  This news, this fact, causes many in the church

to move from lamenting

to singing and rejoicing

Examples:

1. African-american spirituals:

2. The American spiritual

3.  Those whose lives have been broken by sin

shame us in our ho-humness of Easter Hallelujahs

Friday at Rockford Rescue Mission

Weeping, wailing, dancing, shouting

Genuine joy … lives saved by God’s grace

K.  If it weren’t for Easter … The resurrection

We couldn’t sing these songs

IV.  Resurrection gives us victory over death at the end of this life

A.  As believers and by God’s grace

We share in Jesus’ resurrection

John 11:25-26

Jesus said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.

B.  I have spent much of my ministry with people as they deal with death

C.  Death not only ==> grief and sadness

it also ==> anxiety, worry, fear in all of us

What comes after death?

Is death the end?

Is this all there is to life?

D.  Jewish faith places emphasis on remembering

Because no belief in an after-life

Jesus teaching about resurrection, an after life

was something people had never heard

People do not simply live on in the memories of others

there is life after our physical, earthly death

E.  Easter – Jesus’ resurrection

Is more than Jesus telling us

It is Jesus proving for us that

There is more to life on earth

than death at the end of the day

F.  Paul said in Philippians 1:21

For me to die is gain, for me to live is lost

G.  Jesus’ resurrection becomes

The resurrection of our bodies after death

The gift of life eternal

The communion of the saints

H.  Life in and of itself is hard

For most people in most cultures

Negro spirituals sung while toiling in the fields as slaves

Joyously sing of resurrection and better heavenly world

Three most moving ones are:

The Gospel train’s comin’ 

Swing low, sweet chariot

Soon and very soon.

V.  These two victories of the cross

A.  The forgiveness of sins

The resurrection of the body

Are not victories everyone will celebrate

B.  Do not be fooled by sentimentality that says

the forgiveness of sins

the resurrection of the body

is for anyone

We love to say …

Pastor, you know 

the friendly neighbor, the nice lady down the street

their spouse, the caring coach, my good muslim neighbor

they’ll be heaven!  

Won’t they?

C.  We may wish it, but scripture teaches differently

Scripture teaches – Only for those who believe in JC

will share in the victories won by Jesus in His resurrection

D.  These victories are for those who believe

In Jesus as God’s Son, as Lord and Savior.

As the two angels at the tomb said to the two women:

Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee:

This is what Jesus said:

Mark 16:16

Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned

John 3:16-18

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

Jesus to Martha in John 11:25-26

Reveals the importance of belief

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. 

Do you believe this?” 

John wrote his gospel so we might believe and be saved

John 1:6-7  => belief

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him.

John 20:30-31

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

VI.  The Easter Invitation

A.  Easter is a celebration

For believers and followers

B.  Not only is Easter a time for celebration

But it is a time for commitment

for recommitment

C.  Perhaps

You have taken the Lord for granted

Jesus died for me but I am going to do what I want

You have fallen away

Placed distance between you and Jesus

You know you have not been a faithful follower

D.  Now, today is the time

To commit yourself to the Lord

To accept Him as Savior and Lord

To recommit yourself to follow him

If you have not professed your faith in Jesus

as God’s Son, as your Lord and Savior …

If you have not repented and confessed your sins

asking for God’s forgiveness through Jesus …

Do so now, today

so that Jesus’ resurrection, His victories

Over the power of sin to cause your spiritual death

Over the power of physical death to end your life

will be yours

Do so now,

so that Jesus’ resurrection and forgiveness

will be your resurrection and forgiveness

Paul put it this way:

This is the good news that I proclaimed to you, 

which you in turn received, 

in which also you stand, 

And by which you are saved

That Christ died for our sins 

That Jesus was buried

That he was raised on the third day 

Just as He said,

in accordance with the Scriptures.

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The Saturday between Good Friday and Easter is the neglected day of Holy Week.  It is traditionally called Holy Saturday but it is usually a day devoid of any holy activity.

It has become a day for Easter Egg Hunts for children and baseball and softball tournaments for youth.  Malls are packed as families frantically buy Easter clothes.  There is a run on hams at the grocery store as families prepare for Easter Dinner with the clan.

The mourning and grief of Good Friday is lost in the business of worldly activities. 

Most churches do not have worship services.

I have renamed this day Somber Saturday.  There must be tears of sadness in heaven that we can so easily move from the Crucifixion of Jesus to the joys of everyday living.

I encourage you to take time today:

to remember the Crucifixion,

to confess your participation, and

to humble yourself before Him who died for the forgiveness of your sins.

The following prayer, They Crucified Him, is one which I pray on this holy and somber day.  It reminds me of His great love.  It humbles my heart into grateful remembrance.

Take time to pray:

Lord Jesus, we remember everyone, evil or good, who took part in your crucifixion.

  • The priests and Pharisees and elders who conspired to arrest you.
  • Judas your disciple, who betrayed you with a kiss.
  • The apostles who deserted you, yet bore witness to your glory on the Cross.
  • Malchus who was struck by Peter’s sword, yet was touched and healed by you.
  • The young man who followed you, yet fled naked from the crowd.
  • The high priest’s maids and servants before whom Peter denied the you.
  • Annas, the high priest’s father-in-law, who handed you over to Caiaphas.
  • Caiaphas, the high priest, who convicted you of blasphemy.
  • The chief priest, scribes, and officers who mocked, beat, and condemned you.
  • Herod who arrayed you in gorgeous apparel and treated you with contempt.
  • The soldiers who put a crown of thorns on you and pretended to worship you.
  • Pilate’s wife who begged her husband to wash his hands of you.
  • Barabbas, the robber and murderer, who was freed instead of you.
  • Pontius Pilate who delivered you to death.
  • Simon of Cyrene, a passerby, who was compelled to bear your Cross.
  • The women who wept, wailed, and lamented your death.
  • The soldiers who nailed you to the Cross and whom you forgave.
  • The crowd that scoffed you as one who saved others but could not save himself;
  • The thief who reviled him.
  • The thief who asked to be remembered in your kingdom.
  • The unknown man who heard your cry of desolation and ran to quench your thirst.
  • Your mother Mary who stood by the Cross as you were dying son.
  • The centurion who proclaimed you as the Son of God.
  • All the women who had followed you and ministered to you at your crucifixion.

Have mercy on them and me.  

Loving Father, we thank you that Jesus who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.  Instead he emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  Being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Lord Jesus today I bow my knee and heart before you in humble confession and quiet gratefulness for your sacrifice which is my salvation.  Amen.

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I only remember what happened after worship on this particular Sunday.  

As I was greeting worshippers at the door after worship, a member said he wanted to see me in my office after I finished my farewells.  When I stepped into my office, he grabbed me by the shirt and pulled me towards him, anger was boiling out of his red face, flared nostrils, and bulging eyes. 

He was in a rage because he was tired of having Prayers of Confession during worship.  As his spittle flew into my face he said, “We are not bad people!  We do not need those prayers in OUR worship!”

A thousands thoughts flew from my heart to my head.  The first was, “And you consider this to be behavior which honors God and His will?”

While our sins are always original to us, there is nothing original about about sin.  It is the one aliment that plagues every man, woman, and child.

 “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1)

Everyone has personal sins to confess.

Far too many Christians move from Palm Sunday’s Parade to Easter’s Resurrection Celebration without pausing to consider the events of mid-week – Jesus crucified for the forgiveness of OUR sins.

While it is impossible to confess all of our particular sins, the failure and refusal to confess that we are sinners in need of forgiveness, “Makes Jesus a liar, and proves God’s Word is not in us.” (1 John 1:10). 

While we tend to boast in our achievements and accomplishments, the Apostle Paul reminds us: “to boast only in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 6:14)

Aware of my own sins, original and unique to me, sins which cannot be assigned to another, I am grateful that God took them from me when Jesus died on the cross.  

Isaac Watts hymn, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, reminds me of the greatness of God’s love:

When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of glory died, my richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast, save in the death of Christ, my God; all the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to His blood.

See, from His head, His hands, His feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down; did e’er such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small: Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all. (2)

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  1. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 1 John 1:8.
  2. Kenneth W. Osbeck, Amazing Grace : 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications, 1990), 106.

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When it comes to forgiveness, I talk a good game, thanks to my selective memory.

 

Yesterday I shared with others the heroics of my forgiving spirit and how God honored my graciousness in His time.  While I was speaking about what God is able to do when we have a forgiving heart, I spoke too much about my graciousness in light of the hurt I endured.

 

There are other stories I could have told.  

 

I could have rattled on about the times when I harbored deep grudges, nursed wounds beyond their expiration date, and gossiped about how I had been wronged.

 

Jesus handled the betrayals, denials, and physical blows against Him differently than me.  Except for telling Judas to “Do it quickly,” He received the betrayals, denials, and blows against Him in silence.  

 

Jesus never threatened His executioners with impending judgment; instead He forgave them. He accepted His suffering without bitterness. (1)

 

When we chatter on about past hurts and wrongs against us, we cannot boast about having forgiven the offender.  As long we allow the hurt or offense to live in the present, we have not put it into the past.  

 

Forgiveness involves the placing an offense against us into the past.  

 

I remember the tenderness of being wounded by someone who refused to forgive me when I asked for forgiveness.  A close friend tried to console me by saying, “Do not worry, they will forgive you eventually!”

 

It was the eventually which crushed my spirit.

 

How long would I need to wait to be forgiven?  How long would I have to live on edge, teetering between the loving grasp of forgiveness and the rejection of un-forgiveness?  How long would I need to earn brownie points before I could step away from egg-shell living?

 

I expect others to forgive me now and to do so with a grace that does not humble me.

 

As I move closer to Easter I anticipate celebrating God’s amazing, life-giving, death defying grace.  

 

God is anticipating the same from me.

 

Jesus taught me to pray, “Forgive my debts as I forgive the debts of others!” (Matthew 6:12).

 

You cannot grasp the joy of Easter while holding fast to an unforgiving spirit.

 

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  1. John MacArthur, Truth for Today : A Daily Touch of God’s Grace (Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman, 2001), 107.

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The jewels of a Christian are his afflictions (1)

We tend to believe that the most Christ-like people are those who love others graciously and generously.  A Christian’s love for others, always receives the praise of the world.

However, the most Christ-like people are those who suffer unjustly because of the sins of others.  In the eyes of the world, we call these people fools, if they suffer quietly and do not seek revenge.

Jesus suffered unjustly because of our sins.  He died on the cross, not to get revenge, but to secure the forgiveness of our sins.  This is suffering love.

Most Christians refuse to suffer.  If suffering comes to us unjustly, we seek to throw it off and we whine to God about the injustice of it all.

Jesus suffered quietly because of our sins.

Jesus considered suffering unjustly and quietly for love’s sake to be the best:

Blessed are those who suffer for righteousness sake.  

Blessed are those who suffer when falsely persecuted.

There is no greater love than to lay down your life for others.

The glory of Jesus is revealed not in His resurrection, but in His crucifixion.

God proves Himself, not by flexing His muscles and revealing His death-defying powers, but in His willingness to suffer, to die, as an innocent man.

In his great hymn about Jesus, Paul writes:

Jesus humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him. (2)

As you move into Holy Week, remember that the most holy day is not Palm Sunday’s Parade, Passover’s Feast, or Easter’s Resurrection.

The crowning jewel, the most holy moment of Holy Week is on Good Friday when Jesus cries out, “It is finished!”

There is no greater … anything ….  than a crown of thorns.

The crown of thorns is a Christian’s halo.

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  1. Charles H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening : Daily Readings, Complete and unabridged; New modern edition. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2006).
  2. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Philippians 2:8–9.

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