Have you ever done anything stupid? Gotten in trouble? Broken the law? Cheated on an exam? Destroyed a relationship? Of course, this is a silly question because we have all done things before that we are not proud of. It is who we are as part of a fallen creation—“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). Even when we do not intend to be malicious or foolish we still often find ourselves going down a path further away from what God desires for us.
Taking a look at different world religions and even other “Christian” denominations (Islam, Scientology, Sikh, Wiccan, etc.) we see a format of belief that stresses doing good and being pious. Most of these false religions put an emphasis on "righteous living" as means to enter from this life to the next (in whatever form that takes). Do this. Do that. Don't do this. Do that every year. In their minds, eternal life is completely dependent on their own works, actions, behaviors while living upon this earth. In other words, it is all up to them. If you’re like me, you find very little comfort or hope in that. All the more reason to celebrate the truth revealed in Jesus Christ and the holy scriptures.
As Christians we most certainly do not believe this. After all our Lutheran battle cry echoes the words of the Apostle Paul, we are "justified by faith apart from works" (Romans 3:28). Don’t get me wrong—this is not a license to sin or do whatever you want. Of course, righteous living is important but not because it influences the grace God gives to us. This is good news! It means that in spite of all your moments of weakness and stupidity, God counts you as righteous and gives you his grace simply as a GIFT through Jesus Christ. Quite the contrary message of many other religions, it is not at all up to you! In fact, it’s not even
partially up to you. It has already been done by God! For as many reminders there are in the Bible that we are riddled with sin, there are just as many nuggets of good news—declarations that in Christ Jesus we have been purified from all the stains and stenches of our sin. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). Author Max Lucado writes eloquently and powerfully: "The meaning of life. The wasted years of life. The poor choices of life. God answers the mess of life with one word: grace."
Isn’t that what the Easter message is all about? Even over 5 weeks later, we still joyfully proclaim that Christ is risen; He is risen indeed! Easter highlights the bold and freeing difference between Christianity and all other religions. God takes the initiative and acts; He accomplishing everything—God doing what we never could. Easter is the amazing love of God on display as He gifts His lost and sinful children with forgiveness and eternal life because of the sacrificial death and victory-clinching resurrection of Jesus Christ. Easter is the polar opposite of every do-it-yourself religion. Paul writes, “It is by grace; not on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace” (Romans 11:6). Easter is about grace! God choosing and redeeming us simply and only because He loves us. If you find yourself this week, in the midst of a rut, feeling guilty and burdened for something stupid you've done or something evil you’ve said, know that God loves you and forgives you. That is the Easter message. That is the Easter hope. That is the once-and-for-all victory you have. Just because the Easter lilies have wilted and the time with family has long passed, we still need to let this truth permeate into our lives and fill us with confidence and joy in Jesus. Psalm 103:11-12 beautifully declares, "For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us."
He is still and always will be risen indeed! Alleluia!