I know, it’s a bit late to be posting about Easter. This post was inspired by the Easter sermon I heard, and therefore couldn’t have been posted before Easter. I hope you’ll bear with me.
Maybe, however, you ended up in a service where the sermon gave a nod to Jesus and then moved on to more “relevant” topics. Maybe you sat through a sermon full of law and no gospel at all. Maybe you didn’t hear it for what it was – many Christians seem to miss this type of law.
We are fairly new at the church that we attend. My husband and I have felt a bit uncomfortable at the lack of Jesus and the message of salvation through faith alone in the sermons, but I figured that Easter would be different. It’s Easter, after all, the biggest day of the liturgical year.
The sermon started well, although the pastor seemed to be focused on Jesus’ death instead of resurrection. He was talking about Jesus’ words of forgiveness to those who crucified Him even though they neither asked for nor deserved forgiveness. Then, about a third of the way in, the sermon changed and became about showing love and compassion to hurting people in a broken world and ended with an exhortation to BE Jesus* in our relationships.
No forgiveness for our sins.
No hope of salvation.
No gospel and no grace.
Law centers on what we have to do. Be compassionate. Be loving. Be Jesus. Go and do and be and work. The gospel centers on what Jesus did in our place. He took our punishment and died our death. He rose from the dead and secured our place in heaven.
Yes, we should do good works. James is pretty clear on this point with verses like “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (1:22) “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (2:17). But good works, as seen in these verses, stem from hearing the word and from faith – not from our desire to be Jesus in our communities and our trying harder to love people.
The Bible says that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom 10:17). If we don’t regularly preach the gospel how will anyone know what they object of our faith is, why we do good works, or how to be saved?
Here is the gospel in the words of Paul:
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
1 Cor 15:3-5
This is what we proclaim as Christians – Christ crucified and resurrected from the dead. Be reconciled to Christ. It is more than shameful when Easter visitors hear a message of moralism and self-helpism instead of the message of forgiveness for sin through the very Son of God.
* It’s a bit off topic, but I wanted to address this quickly. Where in the Bible are we called to “be Jesus”? The best I can get is Paul’s “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1). There was one Jesus, and you’re not Him.