Today we celebrate a
wonderful victory, not a military victory, not a sports
victory, but an eternal victory won for you and me. Today we
celebrate the victory of Easter!
Let us pray. Lord God, O how
we love to be victorious, O how we love to cheer on those who
walk down victory lane. In the midst of your victory on the
cross, keep us humble Lord, keep us focused on the meaning of
your victory, and help us to never forget that your victory
for us is a gift, a gift that we receive by your grace. In the
name of the risen Christ. Amen.
The Easter stories,
regardless of which Gospel you read, tell of a victory. And,
it's significant that the description of the victory is not of
a God who strides through the gates of death as though one was
marching through a triumphal arch. But rather, the One who has
been raised from the dead remains the crucified one. And the
marks of his authority, which he will forever bear, are the
scars on his body.
In raising Jesus, God has
vindicated Christ. Death, once so powerful, has been defeated.
And now as Christians we know something that many in the world
don't yet know: that is, the ultimate triumph and purposes of
a loving God.
In our biggest and littlest
tragedies, in all of history's setbacks and disappointments,
we live in confident expectation that the God who triumphed in
the resurrection shall finally triumph everywhere and for all
The victory of Easter can
simply be described as a victory of love. And our Epistle
reading this morning speaks to the love God has shared with
us. You see as believers, our self-worth isn't based on how
others or we perceive us; it's based on the fact that God
loves us and calls us his children.
Because of Easter, because of
God's victory over death, we are restored as his children, not
just some time in the distant future, but right now. We were
created to be part of God's family. God wants a family and God
created all of us to be part of it. God wants a family who
will love him, honor him, and live with him forever.
Because God is love, God
treasures relationships. After all the very nature of God is
one of relationships. We see this fact manifested in Jesus.
Jesus ministry was based on developing and fostering
relationships with others, relationships with love as their
When we place our faith in
Christ, God becomes our parent, and we become God's children.
And all of God's children are brothers and sisters, equal in
the eyes of the Lord. The family of God includes all believers
from the past, all those we enjoy communion with today, and
all those believers yet to come.
Every human being without
exception was created by God, but not everyone is a child of
God. The only way to become a part of God's family is by being
born again into it, by receiving Christ into your life, and
acknowledging him as your Lord and Savior. The invitation to
become part of this family is universal, but there is one
condition to becoming part of God's family, faith in Jesus
And when we follow Christ we
gain all the privileges and responsibilities of a child in
God's family. As a responsible child we have an obligation to
live, as Jesus would want us to. And Jesus wants us to live a
life free from sin so that we might enjoy a peaceful and
But the Easter victory and
the love and forgiveness that comes with this victory, doesn't
mean we can just live and sin at will, knowing that if we
honestly asked to be forgiven God will forgive us.
This reminds me of some
movies I've seen where some one kills a person, commits
adultery, or engages in some other sin, then races to the
church to seek forgiveness from a priest.
Once forgiven they feel great
but then they return to the sinful life they left just moments
before. It's a never-ending cycle. This is cheap forgiveness,
or feel-good forgiveness. And yes, this happens beyond the
movies as well, even today.
We can't dance with the devil
and hold God's hand. Do you understand what I'm saying? We
can't come here to worship today and say thank you God,
Alleluia, bless you God, thank you Lord, and then leave and
return to our sinful ways. We can't dance with the devil and
hold God's hand. In other words we can't have what some
wrongly classify as having the "best of both worlds."
As we take on the
characteristics of children of God, to grow as a reflection of
God, we have a responsibility to live and grow toward modeling
the characteristics of God. And to achieve this we have to
change dancing partners.
Regrettably many view the
powerful gift of forgiveness as a commodity that can simply be
received by walking up to an automated forgiveness machine (AFM),
then by punching in your personal confession number (PCN) you
receive a handful of forgiveness, and your good to go until
you feel the need to be forgiven again. Unfortunately many
treat God's forgiveness in this manner, believing in a
forgiveness bank rather than a loving God. But make no mistake
about it, sin and living as God's children, are polar
opposites. We can't live both lives.
When we sin against God we
still pay the consequences for those sins even if God forgives
us of our sins. And, when we die, we shall stand before God
and we will be held accountable for all that we've done or not
Intentionally committing sin
and banking on forgiveness is not the way God intends for us
to live our lives. And as we each know not committing sin is
So it's important to know
that there is a striking difference between committing a sin
and continuing to sin. Even the most faithful believers,
children of God, sometimes commit sins, and we are all
personal witnesses to this truth. No matter how committed we
are to the faith we do sin.
But what makes committed
Christians different from other people, including what I refer
to as nominal Christians, is that we don't take pleasure in a
particular sin and choose to commit it.
A sincere believer who
commits a sin repents, confesses, and finds forgiveness from
God, then moves on striving once again to live, as God would
want them to. A person who continues to sin is typically not
sorry for what he or she is doing, and this person never
really confesses and therefore doesn't receive forgiveness.
A person, who continually
sins, although they know better, is in direct opposition to
God regardless of what religious claims they might make. This
is not the way a child of God lives or acts. This is the
problem John was addressing in our Epistle reading today.
Many of you remember the
professional golfer Payne Stewart who died several years ago
in a plane crash. At his memorial service the phrase "God
Offers Love and Forgiveness" G.O.L.F. was used to represent
the path chosen by Payne. Well we too can choose this path.
Through his victory on the
cross, God offers all of us life as his children, a life full
of unending love and forgiveness. Will you respond to his
Read other messages by Pastor Wade