For years Easter has been set aside as one of two or three days out of the year in which noticeably more people will actually attend a church service. In the 21st century it has been mostly just an opportunity for some little girls to wear a special Easter outfit. And at home after church sometimes there is an egg hunt or a basket of candy. But Easter’s real message for the believing Christian has absolutely nothing to do with Easter bunnies, colored eggs or baskets of candy.
Years ago when I pastored a church, I noticed that on Christmas Eve, Easter Sunday and the Sunday closest to Thanksgiving, attendance could triple or even quadruple what it normally was. And I took special advantage of those opportunities to share the true Gospel of Jesus Christ with the strangers. Those opportunities have made some of our holiday celebrations truly worthwhile. Holidays can be a good thing therefore at least in that respect. They can be reasons for our remembering big truths.
Trying to preach the gospel to a bunch of people who, mostly thanks to a flattering and memorizing tv, view themselves as brilliantly sophisticated skeptics is often a giant challenge. But today, just as back then, I know of a powerful ally who has always been working with Christ-proclaiming Christians in their evangelism. Even many preachers of the Gospel don’t seem to remember His helpful ministry. It is the voice of God himself! And He never stops in His ministry.
He is always knocking on the interiors of everybody’s hearts. Shortly before his death and resurrection, Jesus assured us that: “... it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate (the Holy Spirit) won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send Him to you. And when He comes, He will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment.” (New Living Version, John 16:7-8)
The world knows about God. They can say that they don’t - but we all do, deep down. That’s why death really bothers most folks. And deep in our hearts we all know that there is a debt that is owed that we can’t pay. The apostle Paul told us that all of creation testifies to the reality of the existence of God. (Romans 1:20, etc.) Any observant person knows that we aren’t here by accident. And as far as knowing about His holiness and what He expects of us ... Just as Jesus promised, that tiny little voice of God’s Spirit speaks to our consciences.
You have heard Him before. He tenderly wounds us when we wrong others or do bad things (or at least He did when we were younger and still listened to Him). We know of His goodness when we see or feel it. And we know what isn’t of Him as well (when we are listening to Him). Just as Jesus said - and it’s just plain common sense - bad things can’t come from God. Without anyone’s help but God’s convicting voice (and He never disagrees with what He has already said in His Bible) we can know the difference between right and wrong. Today even the hippest atheist parents, when looking for a nanny or babysitter, most prefer a Sunday-school-teaching grandma over a tattooed and pierced BDSM goth. Why is that?
I heard a powerful testimony from a Middle Eastern guy who had formerly been a member of ISIS. He said that one day, after having watched his ‘brothers in the faith’ rape, torture and kill people who had done nothing more than refuse to deny their faith in Christ, he packed his stuff and ran away. No one had ever told him about the Bible, Jesus or the love of the real God. But even the bravado clatter and terror of the hooded cowards who claimed to be the righteous ‘warriors of Allah’ could no longer drown out the immutable sweet truth he heard whispered into his heart from the Holy Spirit. All the trash his Muslim pals were preaching and doing - no matter how much they screamed, ‘allahu akbar!’ - was just wrong. It was evil. Undeniably so.
Just as the most successful bank robbers often dress as bankers or bank guards, so satan (who has convinced most of the world that he doesn’t even exist) very usually ‘disguises himself as an angel of light.’ (2nd Corinthians 11:14) In the world today the greatest example of satan masquerading as God is Islam. Jesus, to whom Islam pays a deceiving lipservice, said that the quality of any tree could be judged by its fruit. The allegory of course refers to the fact that truly Godly people will have lives that show good and lasting produce. Ungodly people will produce trash.
Despite the syrupy and politically motivated claims of our previous president, number forty-four, Islam has never contributed anything to the world but death, fear and legalistic misery. Jesus said this: “For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil.” (Luke 6:44-45) The Isis stuff, the fruit of literal Islam (as is easily documented), is rotten and bitter.
Some of the archenemies of Jesus’ Gospel today are organizations that identify themselves as ‘churches.’ Churches in fact (not all, but many) scared me away from becoming a Christian. It was because I felt that I could never be as good as they profess or even appear to be. But after finally becoming a Christian and attending and pastoring churches for over 40 years, I can tell you that the ONLY actual difference between real, born-again Christians (who comprise real churches) and the people who don’t believe is simply the presence of God in believers’ lives. And His presence is made possible exclusively through the blood of Jesus Christ - which is sprinkled by faith on the figurative doorframes of our hearts. The real Jesus, as described in the Bible that God has made available to all the world, is the ONLY way to the ETERNAL LIFE that God originally made us for.
So many church people, a lot of them Christians, have tried to act as though they are perfect. But they are not. And when Christians act like we are better than others, we invariably wind up looking down our noses at the very people whom Jesus asked us to introduce Him to. My life and character are much improved over what they were prior to my meeting Jesus. But you may rest assured that I am far from perfect. I have junk in my life that God - I thank him for His faithfulness - is still wrestling with. Because He is my dad now, instead of my judge, He will never give up on me. Nevertheless, this one thing I know: When I leave this life (and every one of us will leave this life) I look forward to the Easter that God prepared for me. Death can’t hold me or destroy me. Jesus conquered death on my behalf - just as He has for all those who will ultimately believe (trust) in Him.
This Easter, please remember that the real creator-God who made us all will use any opportunity to try to catch up and connect with you. Sure, you can use the flimsy excuse that religion is the ‘opiate of the people’, and that all Christians are just hypocrites and ‘Bible thumpers’. But that reasoning won’t give you the peace that your heart is longing for. Sin (the fatal difference between our character and God’s) in our lives is a problem that was serious enough to warrant God sending His only little One to suffer and die for us. And the NEW COVENANT He made in that sacrifice, unlike the old, law covenants that we could never keep, is the BEST. Because once we are truly in that covenant - an ironclad agreement that Jesus made with His Father - we can’t mess it up. And THAT is why the person and work of Jesus Christ is called the ‘GOOD NEWS!’
This Easter take a moment to pause and consider the GOOD NEWS that death and sin were conquered by the very real Jesus who will soon return - just as He promised. Lost and fallen mankind, in collusion with a bunch of social clubs masquerading as churches, have allowed Easter bunnies, eggs and candies to overshadow the real reason real Christians are real happy about what happened at the Resurrection. All the unstoppable hatred and insane madness happening around us today are rapidly bringing this world to a close - just as the Jewish carpenter and Savior, Jesus, said that it would. (Matthew chapter 24, etc.) Say a prayer in your heart, and ask Jesus to be in you, forgive you, and to show you the real meaning and celebration of Easter.
He is faithful. He will do it.
The painting by John Pettie that he did in the 1880s, “The Vigil”, perfectly illustrates what happens in my heart when I kneel in gratitude for what Jesus did for me on the cross. The cross and words of Christ are the spiritual sword that God used to forever vanquish evil and secure eternal life for fallen mankind. To the Christian, and unlike Islam, the sword is not a barbarous tool for decapitating the disobedient.
Dave Merrick, Davemerrick.us is an internationally known and published artist whose works reach into the greatest diversity of audiences. Known primarily for his astoundingly lifelike portraiture, Merrick’s drawings and paintings grace the walls of an impressive array of well-known corporate and private clientele. Many of his published wildlife pieces have become some of America’s most popular animal imagery.
He has more original work in the Pro-Rodeo Hall of Fame than any other artist. His wildlife and Southwestern-theme work is distributed internationally through Joan Cawley Galleries of Scottsdale AZ.
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