Sunday, April 5, 2015

Easter and the Right Story

Today we celebrate Easter.  Around the world in different ways Christians will focus on the risen Christ.  "Happy Easter" will be said.  And yes, it is a happy day indeed.  Of course, for Christians, every Sunday is Easter.  Every Sunday is resurrection day.  Christ is risen.  Hallelujah. 
But Easter doesn't mean the same thing to everyone.  For some it is eggs and bunnies and candy.  I love eggs, though I prefer them pickled.  I'm really not a fan of rabbits.  For others Easter is all about tradition and rituals - both religious and social.  Everyone seems to have a context, a story, into which their celebration of Easter fits. 

What is clear to me is that for many, Easter can be celebrated without any connection to the gospel Jesus preached.  Somehow, at some point, Easter -  the resurrection message, became a stand-alone menu item.  A sort of spiritual side-dish that can be ordered and eaten with any dinner you like. 
Isn't it strange that so many are comfortable celebrating the life of Someone without any real connection to His message?
Easter is one part of a grand story.  Easter is a chapter in God's book of salvation.  Granted, it might be the most important chapter.  But it is only 1 chapter.  Without the rest of the story this day makes no sense. 
I believe the great problem with modern Christianity can be summarized this way:  we are trying to plug Easter into the wrong story.  We have taken a central, exciting, spirit-lifting historical fact and transplanted it into whatever religious tradition makes us happy.  But it isn't working.  In medicine, the organ donor and recipient must be matched.  The same is true with the Easter story and the context you put it in.  Easter is out of place when not connected with the gospel story Christ preached.
Some are trying to plug Easter into the health and happiness story.  God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.  The problem here is that Easter is not about your present circumstances.  Paul, discussing the resurrection of Christ in 1 Corinthians 15 says that "if in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable."  The resurrection of Christ teaches us that believers will be resurrected too, into a glorious and greater life than we have now.  Easter isn't about making this life better, but about making the next life possible.
Some are trying to plug Easter into the emotionally charged semi-spiritual atmosphere of modern worship.  Let's sing.  Let's dance.  Let's play the music as loud as we can and celebrate!  He is risen!  Yeah!  The problem here is not the singing, or even the dancing.  The problem is the total rejection of Easter as a message, a doctrine and a teaching.  The pattern of Jesus Himself, and His disciples, was always a pattern of teaching.  Of Jesus we read again and again in the gospels "they were astonished at His teaching."  Of His disciples we are told they were always "teaching and preaching the Word of God."  Paul tells Titus to teach "sound doctrine." 

Some, like myself maybe, are trying to plug Easter into the comfortable Christianity story.  He is risen.  I'm saved.  Now let me just muddle through the rest of this life and hope for glory.  But the problem with this terrible dilution of the Christian faith is that it insults the very Savior who rose for me to give me new life, new habits and new purpose.  A risen Savior demands a changed life from me.  I can't have my Easter and my old way of living and thinking too. 
Easter, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, has a Biblical context.  It is part of God's story.  I'm no expert.  But the context of a story seems pretty important to me.  The context of Easter is that mankind, all of us, have gone astray.  Some go astray publicly and heinously.  Others go astray quietly and peacefully.  But we all go astray. 
Jesus came to reclaim straying sinners like you and I. 
To do this He had to live a perfect life.  He did.  To do this He had to die in our place and bear the punishment we deserved.  To do this His sacrifice had to be accepted by the Father.  It was - and the resurrection proves it. 
And ALL the benefits of Easter: regeneration, forgiveness, acceptance with God, adoption into His family, eternal life - come only to those repent and turn away from their pattern of straying (sin) and believe and trust in Jesus Christ for salvation. 
That is the Biblical context of Easter.  It is a link in the chain of God's plan of salvation for you and I.  Celebrating Easter won't save you and it won't save me.  Simply singing "He is risen" won't wipe away our sins.  We need the whole car of salvation, not just the engine, to bring us to glory.  We need every ingredient in the recipe to make the dish complete.  One part won't do. 
My point to my professing Christian friends today is this:  What are you celebrating today?  A resurrected Savior?  Yes, indeed!  But He is more than His resurrection.  He came, He lived, He taught, He suffered, He died, He rose, He sent, He preserved and He will one day return.  Easter needs a context, or it is meaningless.
And for those who are yet strangers to Christ - why stay that way?  There is no hope in this life or the next without our resurrected Savior.  Begin with His resurrection.  But then work out the message in the Bible.  Read why He came.  Read why He died.  Doesn't it make a lot more sense than the story you are living with right now?