Easter Sunday: Living Hope

Easter Sunday: Living Hope

Welcome to the most wonderful celebration of the year. Today we celebrate the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The power of sin and death has been broken. Death is defeated. And victory is won! Hallelujah! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed.

Today is the finale of our journey together through the events of Holy Week. We started with Palm Sunday and coming alive to Jesus’ life, which was above and beyond human understanding. On Good Friday, we did not look down in fear or defeat, but instead held our heads high in order to focus on the cross and come alive to the sacrifice Jesus made. And today, we celebrate that even though he died on that cross, Jesus is alive! And through His resurrection, we can come alive to His power and that power changes our lives, transforming us into a new creation.

You may be thinking, I don’t know if I really have the power to change. I just don’t know if I have the power to change my attitude or my outlook on life. Or I don’t know if I have the ability to break this addiction or if I can truly forgive this person who has hurt me. I don’t have the power to really love my enemies. I don’t know if I have the power to live the life Jesus is calling me to live.

The good news today is that you don’t have the power to change and transform your life, to become a new creation, to live the life Jesus is calling you to live.

That’s why we need a Savior! And that’s the good news of Easter! You’re Savior is here.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to earth in the flesh to live among us, to show us how to live. He then took our sins upon Himself and died for them on a cross. Then by raising from the dead three days later, He defeated the power that sin and death had over us!

Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice. You see in the Old Testament, God’s law said you had to give a sacrifice, the best of your best (calf, goat, pigeon, etc.) to have reconciliation with God when you sinned. God said the people broke that covenant, so He was bringing a new covenant, Jesus. Jesus came and did a brand new thing. God wanted a sure way that you and I could be reconciled with Him. So when Jesus died on that cross, the new covenant began. No longer do we have to bring an animal or grain to sacrifice for our sins. Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice that took all of our sins on.

And as a result of the resurrection, Jesus raising from the grave 3 days later, every person who has received Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior now has the power of God within them, not only to change their life, but to have an full, abundant life. That’s what Easter is all about!

In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul, a man who actually persecuted Christians and then experienced a radical life change himself through an encounter with Jesus, knew that his life depended on Jesus and the power of the resurrection. Listen to what he said:

Philippians 3:10 NIV
I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection.

That was the goal of Paul’s whole life—from the moment he met Jesus, he wanted to know him personally, and live with the power of Jesus’ resurrection in his everyday life. If you don’t know anything about Paul’s life, after he met Jesus, he went as far as he could to tell everyone possible about Jesus Christ. And it was by far not an easy life. He faced challenges and push back that none of us have or will likely ever face. Paul’s ability to get through each and every day was dependent on Jesus and Jesus’ power living through him.

Paul wanted to know Jesus personally, and he wanted so badly for his friends to know Jesus and His power as well. Listen to how he prayed for his friends in the church of Ephesus:

Ephesians 1:19–20 NLT
I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. 

Think about this! The same power that raised Jesus from the dead and now gives Him the ability and authority to rule over the whole universe, is available to you and me. In fact, when you accept Jesus as your Savior, the Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit enters you. That means that same power that rose Jesus from the grave, lives in you and me.

The Greek word for “power” is the word du-nam-is. This is where the word dynamite came from. Think about that. To have the power of the resurrection in your life is to have dynamite power, like explosive big power.

And the Apostle Paul said, I want to know it! Give me a piece of that! It’s my goal in life to know Christ and to know the power of His resurrection. And he prayed that we would know it too.

The good news of Easter is that Jesus Christ not only died for your sins and offers you forgiveness today, but that same power that raised Him from the dead two thousand years ago is available to change your life right now.

We call it Resurrection Power. It’s the Power to Cancel Out Your Past, Present, and Future Sins.

So many people walk through life carrying around the weight and burden of their past failures, past mistakes, past sins. And way too often, they become overwhelmed with regret over these things.

When I say “cancel out your past,” I’m not talking about denying it or saying it never happened. Cancel means to eliminate, to remove, or to press delete.

Have you ever gotten halfway through a project and thought, “Man, I wish I could start over; this is not turning out the way that I had planned”? A lot of people feel that way about life. “I just wish that I could start over. I’ve made so many mistakes. There are so many failures, problems, and bad decisions. I just wish I could hit the delete button and start over.”

Some people can’t seem to let go of their past, and as a result they let their past control their present and dictate their future. They live in a constant state of regret. They continually second-guess themselves because they’re tortured by painful memories.

God says, “That’s unnecessary. You don’t have to walk around with a heavy load of guilt and painful memories.” Listen to what has happened as a result of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Paul said,

Colossians 2:13–14 NLT
You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross.

Let me say that again: Christ has done away with the record of charges against you by nailing it to the cross.

This verse says, “He forgave all our sins.” Let’s think about what the word sin means. Sin is an archery term. It is bows and arrows. Sin doesn’t just mean to shoot and miss the target or slightly miss target with our lives; it means to turn our backs and shoot in every direction except for the target. We completely ignore the true target of pleasing God with our lives, and we set our sights on seductive targets that don’t save us or satisfy us; instead they actually make us feel miserable and empty.

But here’s the good news: God offers complete forgiveness for sin. He cancels every record of the charges against us, and He forgives them all. The words that God uses in the Bible to describe how He forgives us are words like “blot out,” “wipe out,” “washed away,” “canceled.”

One of my favorite toys growing up was an Etch A Sketch. You drew something with the knobs, and when you messed up, what did you do? You flipped it over and shook it to wipe the slate clean, and then you started over.

The Bible says that God has the ability—because of the sacrifice of Jesus, His death and His resurrection—to take all of the messes and sins and regrets in our lives and wipe them clean. That happens at the moment we trust Jesus alone to be our Savior.

But it gets even better than that. In Jeremiah, God is talking about the New Covenant to come through Jesus, and says this…

Jeremiah 31:34 ESV
For I will forgive their iniquity (their evil, crime immorality), and I will remember their sin no more.

That has to be one of the most amazing verses in the whole Bible. God, who made the whole world and everything in it, chooses to forget your wrongs, your mistakes, your failures, and your sins. And when you come to Him, confess your sins, and ask Him to forgive you, He cancels your past.

Now we know God knows everything. So that doesn’t mean God doesn’t know the sins that you have committed. But it means He’s not holding them against you. It means Jesus didn’t come to rub them in; He came to rub them out. He didn’t come to condemn you; He came to change you by saving you from your sins. And John tells us so,

John 3:17 ESV
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

That means our sins are not only forgiven, but they are forgotten.

For those of you who are here today and have received Christ at some point in your past, but are struggling through life still in sin, the same thing applies. When you come back to Him and confess your sins and ask Him to forgive you, He receives you, forgives you, wipes the slate clean, and cancels those sins off your record.

How can God do this? What is the basis for this kind of forgiveness?

Romans 8:1 ESV
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

When Jesus Christ died on the cross, one of the last things He said from the cross was, “It is finished” John 19:30. In Greek, those three words are actually one word. It literally means “paid in full.” Canceled! Your debt is done. It’s gone!

God says that’s what Jesus did on the cross—He paid for every sin you’ve ever committed. He stamps “paid in full” across each one. That’s why there is no condemnation for you. He canceled our past sins and failures and mistakes.

It’s the Power to Give You a New Identity

What’s an identity? An identity is something that defines you.

In our culture, we define ourselves by our race, our religion, our political party affiliation, our gender. We find our identity in our occupation, our hobbies, or maybe where we went to school, or even in our looks, our clothes, or whom we are dating or married to.

Sometimes people have a hidden identity that shapes their lives and their decisions—an addiction, a weight issue, a health issue, living with the label “adopted,” “divorced,” or “poor,” or maybe they don’t feel very smart or they feel unwanted or unloved.

Identities are so much about what we do or what we’ve done, our successes, our failures, and what others have done to us.

But the resurrection brought with it the power to change all of that!

Because Jesus conquered sin and death, we don’t have to be defined any longer by our sinful failures, or our past mistakes, or even what others think about us. Our identities can now be shaped by God’s success in conquering our sin and His ability to give us new life.

When we come to God and put our faith in Jesus Christ alone as our personal Savior and receive His gift of salvation, hear the words that God uses to describe us: friend of God, blessed, loved, new creation, saint, disciple….and this one is my favorite:

John 1:12 ESV
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.

I am a child of God! Out of His grace, He has adopted me into His family and says, “Call Me Father! That’s your new identity. You are My child, and I am your Father!” I am His, and He is mine! You may be thinking, “How do I know that this is true?”

2 Corinthians 1:22 NLT
And he has identified us as his own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the first installment that guarantees everything he has promised us.

What this means is that you can let go of any image of yourself that is not from God. You can stop accepting what others have said about you and how they defined you, how others have labeled you, how you have labeled yourself. And you can start believing what God says about you and how He defines you—as His child and He as your Father.

When you are a child of God, you are not defined by your feelings. You’re not defined by the opinions of others or even your circumstances. You’re not defined by your successes and failures. You’re not defined by the car you drive, the money you make, or the house you own. You are defined by God and God alone!

The thing is, if you don’t know who you are, you’re vulnerable to other people telling you who you are. But here’s the truth: You are who God says you are, and no else gets to have a say in the matter.

I love this quote from Tim Keller: “The only person in the universe whose opinion counts looks at me and He finds me more valuable than all the jewels in creation.”

Because of the power of the resurrection, you are now identified with Christ. He has given you a new identity. And you have the power of the Holy Spirit within you.

It’s the Power to Fill You with Strength to Face the Challenges of Each Day

Here’s one of the most powerful truths you will ever hear about Jesus: We are not only saved by His death, but we are also saved by His life. The Risen Jesus lives inside of us through the Holy Spirit. His divinity I nhabits you! That means you can face each day with the strength of a risen Savior.

Regardless of what happens to you, whatever difficulties you might face, whatever curveball life may throw at you, you have the power to stand and face it.

Galatians 2:20 ESV
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.

Think of the prospect of having a risen Jesus living His life out through your life. The possibilities are endless!

Here’s something I’ve learned about life—it’s unpredictable. One minute you feel like you’re sailing along and everything is going fine, and the next moment you’re dealing with a crisis. Life is full of stress, heartache, disappointments, setbacks, trials, and tragedies.

How in the world can we face these twists and turns, these roadblocks, and especially the life-altering dead ends? It’s the power of a Risen Christ who’s in our lives sustaining us and sometimes even carrying us.

Listen to what the Apostle Paul said:

Romans 8:11 ESV
If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

That means the Holy Spirit of God, the One who was involved in creation, the One who came upon the disciples at Pentecost like a mighty rushing wind, the One who raised Jesus Christ from the dead, has been given to you for daily life!

Look, if Jesus hadn’t risen from the dead, I really believe many of us would not have had the power to handle the tough parts of life that we have been through so far.

Think of things that have happened to some people just in this room: a stroke, COVID complications, cancer, surgeries, the death of a husband, a child, taking care of declining parents, watching your young grandson fight a lifetime decease, or watching a family member with depression or even yourself.

But because Jesus rose from the dead and conquered the grave, the sustaining grace, the power was there to carry you through each twist and turn. And it will be there in the future.

Here’s a great promise: The Bible tells us that we are more than just conquerors through Him who loves us. There is nothing—not trouble or hardship or danger—that will be able to separate you from the love of Jesus!

Romans 8:38–39
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Why? Because we serve a Resurrected Savior who still operates on resurrection power! And He promises to fill you with that same power, to give you strength to face the challenges of each day. He will give you the power to get started, and He’ll give you the power to keep going.

And know this truth: You can’t do it alone! You can’t do it in your own strength. You don’t have the power to do it on your own. You were made to depend on Jesus!

Some of you can’t let go of your past failures and mistakes…..Jesus Christ offers forgiveness. He promises to cancel your sins and wipe them off your record. He offers you a chance to start over!

Some of you feel like a failure, a loser, or a has-been. Maybe your identity is wrapped up in what you have done or what has been done to you…..God offers you the chance to have a new identity. He wants to bring you into His family and give you a new title—Accepted, Forgiven, Loved Child of God.

Some of you feel powerless over the challenges you are facing right now…..What if you had the power of the Holy Spirit in your life, giving you peace, giving you strength, giving you the power to face those issues head-on—the power to change your situation?

The resurrection means that no situation is hopeless! No problem is too big for Jesus! He’s still in the resurrection business—and He has the power to change your life!

Jesus demonstrated the power of the resurrection so that we can discover what it means to come alive.