The True Scandal Of Easter That Most Christians Don’t Like

“To be convinced in our hearts that we have forgiveness of sins and peace with God by grace alone is the hardest thing.”- Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians

 

Let me ask you a question: have you really grasped that you have peace with God as a believer in Jesus? Like really, deep down embraced that truth? I know a lot of Christians who honestly have not. I got to meet a believer in Jesus this week who was utterly convinced that his relationship with God could and would be cut off if he sinned, whether that sin was murder or being angry in his heart or accidentally exceeding the posted speed limit. If he sinned, he wasn’t saved anymore! In his mind, trusting Jesus meant not sinning, and if he sinned and didn’t repent immediately his eternal life was not at that moment secure.

 

Listen to what the Apostle Paul has to say about the matter:

 

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1-2)

 

Because we have trusted Jesus, we are “justified” in the eyes of God. We have been declared righteous not because we don’t sin as Christians, but because our Savior paid our debt and gave us His righteousness! (See Romans 3:21-26 for that) This is the joyous celebration of Easter, that Jesus took our sin and our shame and our guilt and put it upon Himself rather than leave us estranged from God.

 

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

 

Jesus reminds us all in John 3:16 of His motivator for coming to earth: love. He loves people, ALL people (which is what “the world” means in this context…all people, even ones who are hostile to God), and because He loves all people He gave Himself as a sacrifice so that by simply trusting Him, any person can have peace with God that lasts forever. That is the amazing message of Easter!

 

The beautiful truth gets even better! See, grace means that our salvation isn’t based on our faithfulness to Jesus; instead, it is based on Jesus’ faithfulness to us.

 

God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

 

This is the true beauty of the Christian faith, that in Jesus’ death on Good Friday and His resurrection on Easter Sunday, we see the love of God in its greatest form. It’s an unconditional love; we don’t have anything to do to earn it or keep it or make it better. We simply trust that Jesus is enough. We come to Him as a person and surrender to that incredible love, with all of our mess and all of our imperfection. We exchange our guilt and shame and sorrow for His love.

 

I really encourage you in this week and a half that we have until Easter to slow down and appreciate the grace of God in salvation, and embrace the true FREEDOM that Jesus’ love for you brings. The cross of Christ isn’t a tragedy; it is an act of supreme love. Jesus’ death doesn’t perfume over your stinky garbage; it sees through anything you might have and reminds you that He loves you as a person, unconditionally. The Resurrection isn’t Jesus somehow tricking death; it’s conquering anything that might stand in the way of you experiencing life in the family of God.

 

Rejoice in the goodness and unconditional love of God in Jesus this Easter!

 

Rejoicing with you,

 

Pastor John

What Does It *Really* Mean To Be A Disciple Of Jesus?

Quick quiz, and I want you to take a moment to really consider it and answer it. I want you to think of a definition that (1) doesn’t use “churchy” words or technical terminology, (2) is simple enough for a reasonable person to understand, and (3) is accurate and helpful. Ready?

 

How would you define what a disciple or follower of Jesus is?

 

Stop reading a moment and think. Have you ever had to actually define what a disciple is? Have you ever had to actually define discipleship? See, finding this definition is really, really important because in order to tell if we are actually disciples of Jesus, we have to know what defines whether a person is a disciple or not! Then we can consider how successful we are and whether we are making progress in being followers of Jesus.

 

Let’s start by defining some terms. First, let’s define what the word “disciple” means because it is a “churchy” word and doesn’t mean much in our world. The word our English Bibles translate as “disciple” (Greek mathetes) means “apprentice” or “one who is closely associated with a particular teacher and their way of life.” We might say “student,” but in American usage that just means someone who learns information from someone.

 

Jesus, though, in Luke 6:40 gives us a great working definition of what the relationship between an apprentice and their teacher is: “ A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.” Notice that when a disciple is fully trained, they don’t just know what the teacher knows. They don’t just have the teacher’s expertise. They are like their teacher. They adopt not just their teachers’ knowledge, but their way of life. They are more than a modern student, but more like a modern apprentice or intern.

 

A disciple of Jesus, then, is a person who is learning to be like Jesus, from Jesus! I love the way that Dallas Willard puts it in “How to Be A Disciple” (http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=336): “I am learning from Jesus to live my life as he would live life if he were I.” What a great definition. A disciple of Jesus is someone who is learning from Jesus to live their life as Jesus would live life if He were them.

 

Now, let’s be real. Not all believers in Jesus are learning to live their life from Jesus like He would if He were them. (we know this from John 12:42, if nowhere else) I know plenty of believers in Christ, children of God bound for eternity in heaven (John 1:12), who aren’t really engaged in the process of internal change and growth that is the mark of someone who is learning and growing. Maybe they did for a time, but then they got comfortable where they were. Now they’re not learning; they’ve learned (past tense). But a disciple is not someone who has learned, but is learning!

 

How about you? Are you learning? Are you growing? Are you coming to Jesus, day after day, and seeking how He would live life if He were you? That’s what it means, as a believer in Jesus, to be a disciple of Jesus.

 

If you say you’re learning, when is the last time that He changed something inside of you to make your life look more like He would live it? Have you changed your heart toward an enemy, or altered your daily routine, or changed the way you saw God or yourself such that your life moved a little? That’s the mark of apprenticeship (or discipleship).

 

So, while there is much to say about the path of learning from Jesus to live our lives like He would live them if He were us, in the meantime, today…

 

Are you an apprentice of Jesus?