Easter 2023 – Pastor Phil Stanley

It’s not that people haven’t heard about Jesus or even that they don’t believe there is a God.  It’s that they don’t see why it matters to them personally.  We have heard about Jesus coming to earth, living a sinless life, being put to death even though he was the only perfectly innocent man to ever live, and most of us still celebrate his miraculous resurrection on Easter.  

I’m willing to bet that everyone here is familiar with Jesus’ story.  You’ve likely heard the good news of His life, death, and resurrection.  

Romans 1:19-25

19 They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. 20 For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. 21 Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. 22 Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. 23 And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles. 24 So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other’s bodies. 25 They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen

One of the scariest verses in the Bible if you ask me.  “They traded the truth about God for a lie.”  

We’ve traded values for validation.  It doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad as long as we have people who agree with us.  

We’ve made God into something instead of someone.  We only acknowledge Him when it’s convenient or in culturally acceptable scenarios.  Funerals, weddings, in the hospital, we recite the Lord’s prayer before ball games, or when someone suffers a loss of any kind.   

We say things like we’ll be praying for you or we tack on a “god willing” when we want to sound religious.  And that’s exactly what that is.  It’s just a religion.  But what’s missing is the relationship.

We treat God like he’s dead.  We do it all the time.  We remember the stories we learned growing up but we treat it all as in the past or some sort of fairy tale.  In a lot of ways it’s easier to just make God something we believed in when we were just kids.  Like some sort of all powerful version of Santa Claus. 

We have equated being numb as having peace.  It’s no wonder our society suffers from anxiety more than at any other point in history.  We’ve searched for numbing agents instead of searching for real peace.   

We go to great lengths to tell the world we are happy and living our best life but the numbers don’t lie.  Several studies confirmed that we’re getting lonelier and lonelier from generation to generation and that we’re in a mental health crisis unlike anything we’ve seen before.  

“Nearly half of Americans report sometimes or always feeling alone or left out,” according to a new survey from health company Cigna. – Katrina Trinko USA Today https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2018/05/03/gen-z-loneliest-generation-social-media-personal-interactions-column/574701002/

Maybe we do these things because we don’t like the ramifications of it all being true.  If we actually took God seriously, it would change how we look at everything in our lives.  It completely upends our perspective.  

Most of us love a good story of good vs evil.  Star Wars makes it easy.  Lightside vs the Darkside.  It’s more than a little concerning that my son Nikolai typically sides with Kylo Ren or Darth Vader.  We’re working on it. 

But the truth is that we will wholeheartedly jump on the bandwagon of good vs evil.  It’s super easy for us.  We gladly jump into arguments for causes, parties, and beliefs on the basis of the good guys winning and the bad guys getting what they deserve.  

We apply the same framework to our relationship with God.  We tell ourselves we’re good people, don’t cause any trouble and that we’re just fine as we are.

But that’s not how it works at all.

 Jesus did not come to save every good person, nor did he come to judge every bad person. He came to make a way for all lost people to be found.  To reestablish a real, tangible, transformative relationship with God.  

Arguably the most famous scripture in all of the Bible, tell us:

John 16-18

This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.

Every healthy relationship requires honesty.

It’s not about being good enough.  It’s about handing over every part of our lives.  As we do that, things begin to change.

Romans 12:1-2

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

So as I close today, I want you to get honest with yourself.  Do you actually believe that Jesus can transform your life? Do you want to experience real peace?  Jesus offers peace that surpasses all understanding. It’s the kind of peace that shows up even when things aren’t peaceful.  

There’s no catch to all this.  It’s just a decision to be honest.  A decision to make Jesus more than a good story, but the relationship that defines your life and actions.  

If you want to set things right with God today, now’s the time.