The two pillars of the church calendar have got to be Christmas and Easter. Christ’s coming and rising are immeasurably significant events historically and spiritually that we celebrate each year with well over two billion people that profess Christ. But, do we give Christmas and Easter the same emphasis culturally? I think it’s pretty clear that our appreciation is lopsided. When I consider the gospel, the good news of the Christian faith, I think in terms of the person and work of Christ in His first and second coming. As you can tell, I think there is A LOT of good news in the gospel, theologically. And, truth be told, it beautifully broadens further when I consider our Triune nature of our God—Father, Son, and Spirit—and the gospel, as one can see in Ephesians 1:3-14, for example.
What do you consider when you think of “the gospel?” Maybe it is the Four Spiritual Laws or the Romans Road. Perhaps, it is the clarity of 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, where we see that Christ died for our sins and rose again as Scripture foretold. Maybe it is the precious and memorable John 3:16 where we see God’s love saving us from sin and perishing through Christ. Perhaps, you have heard that GRACE is spelled, “God’s riches at Christ’s expense.” Already, we are seeing that there are many good answers concerning the gospel. Take a moment to check in at the heart and soul level: Does the gospel feel like “good news” to you right now?
Maybe you or someone you know and love is wondering, “How does Good Friday and Easter Sunday really matter to me or help me or “save” me in my life right now?” To be honest, the fact that we draw “good news” from the tremendous suffering and death of Jesus is worth pausing over. How is this good news, really? How is this good news for me right now, really? What crucial questions in every sense of the word! Let’s try to mine the bloodied soil of Good Friday and the empty tomb of Easter Sunday for buried treasures that save us. You might consider reading all of this in one sitting, or you might take a section a day to contemplate and pray through on your own or with others. It’s up to you!
Jesus has fulfilled and incredible number of biblical prophesies about the Messiah, or the Anointed, of God. The central teaching of the Apostles was that this Jesus of Nazareth is “both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36) according to the unfolding story of promises made my God on behalf of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:15), Abraham (Genesis 12:2-3), David (2 Samuel 7:12-16), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:31-34), Ezekiel (Ezekiel 36:25-27), and many more (2 Corinthians 1:20)! God has been faithful in keeping His promises for millennia regarding the course of nations and human history, and you can depend on Him regarding the course of your life and eternity. Let yourself rest in Christ’s trustworthy hands and plan, so you can release white-knuckled strain.
Jesus shed His blood to cleans us from the stain of sin (1 John 1:9). This is a mystery, especially to our modern ears. But, blood that signifies life in connection with God is necessary for such this inside and out cleansing (Leviticus 16:30, 17:11), since sin leads to death (Romans 6:23). Scripture connects cleansing and healing (Matthew 8:3) as well as Christ’s wounds with healing (Isaiah 53:5). All this to say, to feel stained, unclean, demeaned is painful! This can be because of our own sin, but it is often because of the sins of others against us. It is a tremendous grace that Christ does not cleanse sins lightly, but he does so with His own wounding and bleeding. He touches us in His own woundedness like no one else can with healing. Surely, this Wounded Healer means it when He says, “You are clean!” Let His nail-pierced hands cleanse where no one else can reach.
Some of us might know better than others what it really means to hear, “Charges dropped.” Perhaps, before the state or federal government, fines and time are being served as a penalty for some crime along with records announcing it far into the future, and even so that person can know that God is holding nothing against them because of Jesus (Romans 3:20-26, 5:7-9; 1 Peter 3:18). For anyone who allows Jesus to stand in the gap for them, all debts have been paid in full. Let Jesus pay for your sins and the sins of others, so you can drop the charges He has dropped.
Amazingly and wonderfully, God doesn’t say, “We’re even” after He cleanses the stain of sin and forgives the debt of sin. He does not merely “wipe the slate clean.” Jesus takes on our sin, and He gives us His righteousness, His blamelessness, His noble standing before God (2 Corinthians 5:21). It is as if God sees us through the filter of the perfections of Jesus, and all this comes to us gift-wrapped to freely receive or reject (Ephesians 2:8-9). Let Jesus give you His right standing, so you can cease striving for it on your own.
Hopefully, we are getting the sense that His salvation is not far removed but rather intimate. God knows us. He cares for us. He is able and willing to intervene (Mark 6:34, 8:2, 9:22). We call this week of Good Friday and Easter Sunday “Passion Week.” Passion comes from another word for 2 “suffering.” Compassion means then “to suffer with.” We know that Jesus knows hurt of all kinds. Therefore, He can hurt with us and for us with healing effect (Isaiah 53:4-6). And, He does. Let Jesus meet you where it hurts with help, so you don’t endure alone (Hebrews 4:15-16).
Some of us know what it is to think about “taking secrets to our graves.” But, if we consider all that Jesus has done for us in the gospel so far, then we can know that He has taken our failure, sin, and shame to the grave on our behalf! He frees us from that kind of hiding and cover up as well as the power of sin and evil desires (Colossians 2:13-15). Incredibly, Jesus goes “one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind” when He steps out of the tomb alive and well leaving all that has fallen short of the glory of God behind! He has freed us from the tyranny of religious performance, sinful cravings, and fearfulness of death (Romans 8:1-9; 1 Corinthians 15:55-58; Colossians 1:13-14). Let Jesus set you free, so you don’t have to keep score, bow to cravings, or fear what tomorrow holds.
Eternal Life Gained
Someone might dread death, because of the uncertainty of what lies beyond—perhaps, nothing or the judgment of God or some other spiritual idea. Another might dread death, because of what all they leave behind relationally or materially. Again, God gives even more good news in the gospel, because He promises eternal life in connection with Christ (John 3:16; 1 John 5:11)! Most often in the Bible, the death of Christians is referred to as “falling asleep.” And, as someone who has coded or “flat-lined” once, I can vouch for that, even down to the physical sensations. Beyond that, I know that I will be in the presence of God until the return of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:5-8) and the resurrection of some to eternal life with God and some apart from God (Matthew 25:46; John 5:24). In a very real yet mysterious way, Christians will not taste death; we will pass from abundant life to eternal life (John 6:40). Let yourself carry the gift of eternal life now and forever, so you can settle into a peaceful hope (John 17:3; Titus 1:2).
Ok! So, those who trust Jesus are clean, forgiven, righteous, suffered for and with, free, alive now and forever all because of God being faithful to His many, many good promises to us in spite of all our falling short. Where are we going to end up? Where are we going to be all these things fully and finally? Heaven! We will be with God and one another and He with us in a state that is free of all of the effects of sin—nothing false, evil, corrosive, painful—and full of the effects of love—truth, goodness, beauty, bliss (Isaiah 65:17-25; Revelation 21:1-4). We will be resurrected like Jesus, and even our bodies will be glorified like a seed that is buried only to sprout and bloom (1 Corinthians 15:35-41). Let yourself hope in Jesus, so “on earth as it is in heaven” will be your all day, every day, one day soon and very soon (Matthew 6:10).
As you are surrounded by so much good news in the gospel of Jesus, can’t you see that He loves you, that He has been planning so carefully for you, that He is pleased with you, that He delights in You, and that He is even singing all of this good news over you (Zephaniah 3:17; Luke 15:17-24; John 3:16, 16:27; Romans 8:38-39; Ephesians 2:8-10; 1 Peter 5:6-7)? What God is doing through all of this saving work is closing the gap between fallen humanity and Himself. He wants a reconciled relationship with us, and deep down we’re all “looking for love in all the wrong places.” One day “heaven on earth” with God will be our Forever Home with our Forever Family. Until that day, we have a full access spiritual, mental, emotional relationship with God our Father, through Jesus Christ His Son, and by the Holy Spirit that is given to everyone who believes and receives all of this good, good news (Galatians 4:4-7). This transformative relationship is cultivated by a life of worship and love (John 15:8-13; Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 5:18-21). Let yourself respond to God’s steadfast love that endures forever by living, worshiping, loving in Jesus’ name, so you can honor Him and enjoy Him now and forever.
My hope and prayer is that you were blessed in some way through this gospel fire-hydrant! Perhaps, you have come across this, and you are at a cross-road in your life and with God. Given all this, what else would it take for you to hear and receive the voice of God? “I am here. I love you. All is forgiven. You are mine, and I am yours to have and to hold, to love and to cherish from this day forward into eternity—not even will part us!” I hope we will take in all the good news Jesus is singing over us and respond to His voice:
Let yourself rest in Christ’s trustworthy hands and plan, so you can release white-knuckled strain.
Let His nail-pierced hands cleanse where no one else can reach.
Let Jesus pay for your sins and the sins of others, so you can drop the charges He has dropped.
Let Jesus give you His right standing, so you can cease striving for it on your own.
Let Jesus meet you where it hurts with help, so you don’t endure alone.
Let Jesus set you free, so you don’t have to keep score, bow to cravings, or fear what tomorrow holds.
Let yourself carry the gift of eternal life now and forever, so you can settle into a peaceful hope.
Let yourself hope in Jesus, so “on earth as it is in heaven” will be your all day, every day, one day soon and very soon.
Let yourself respond to God’s steadfast love that endures forever by living, worshiping, loving in Jesus’ name, so you can honor Him and enjoy Him now and forever.
“Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever! ...Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things; let him consider the steadfast love of the Lord.” (Psalm 107)