Pastor’s Perspective – April 2013
“The critical question for our generation—and for every generation—is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ were not there?” ~ John Piper, God Is The Gospel
On Easter Sunday the Church celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Each year we celebrate the love of God evidenced in Jesus’ willingness to bear death, even death on the cross, for the sake of those who would believe and follow. Our faith is built on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but we are finding it harder and harder to share that faith with others in a way that creates transformed lives. Part of the problem is based on our own unwillingness to sacrificially follow Jesus and bear our own Cross, but there are other factors that have diminished the power of our Easter message.
One of these factors is that the promise of resurrection is no longer confined to those who put their faith and trust in Jesus. Let me be clear, I am not saying that people can attain eternal life outside of the saving work of Jesus Christ. What I am saying is that people BELIEVE they have eternal life regardless of their faith or actions. The promise of a heavenly life after death has become so widely accepted that everyone claims heaven as their birth-rite. This is confirmed by multiple opinion polls showing that more people believe they will go to heaven than believe in God. Think about that for a moment. People that do not believe in God believe that they will be going to heaven.
This disconnect is not as odd as it might initially seem, when one considers that some of our most popular mythologies offer atheistic concepts of eternal life. The popularity of all things undead provides a window into the souls of our society and gives ample evidence that while faith and discipleship in Jesus Christ may be in decline the promise of eternal life is still alive and well. What has changed in America is not the hope of eternity, but the concept of what we eternally hope for. The vampire mythology (as evidenced in the Twilight movies and HBO’s True Blood) shows us what the godless world has promised. We want to be eternally young, healthy, and in love. The concept of God does not need to be invoked to hope for these things.
To the above arrogance John Piper warns us that, “Christ did not die to forgive sinners who go on treasuring anything above seeing and savoring God. And people who would be happy in heaven if Christ were not there, will not be there. The gospel is not a way to get people to heaven; it is a way to get people to God. It’s a way of overcoming every obstacle to everlasting joy in God. If we don’t want God above all things, we have not been converted by the gospel.”
Can it be that we have inadvertently replaced the gift of Jesus Christ with the gift of eternal life? Can it be that we have coveted the gift more than we have worshiped the giver of all gifts? Is this why the 21st Century Church has found it so difficult to connect with the lost? If this is true then we must make sure that we put the emphasis back on a complete and totally adoration of God in Jesus Christ. Only then can we reclaim our worship of the Creator from the worship of God’s creation.
The story of Easter must be about Jesus. It must lead us to worship. It must lead us to follow Christ. It must lead us to abandon all other things in our quest to love and serve him. If there is anything that we love more than God in Jesus Christ then we must repent and redirect ourselves toward the primary goal of loving our God.
To place the center of our faith on loving God is no small change. It is a transformational shift. This change in our understanding can help us to transform the lives of the faithful from the low expectations of escaping the pangs of Hell to the biblical expectations of the abundant life in Christ.
The beauty of Easter Sunday is not that there is no end to life, but that there is no end to life with Jesus Christ. Our life with Christ is indeed eternal, but that is not where the emphasis belongs. The emphasis belongs on Jesus; today, tomorrow and forever.
Christ has risen…indeed!