Easter 2018 : The Grave Robber

Sermon Transcript

[Video]

A friend of mine was murdered today. His torn skin wrapped thin and hearsed away. A cold wind blew throughout the town, bitter, sad and depressed. Our hearts hung heavy in our chest. With Him, we laid to rest our precious artifacts. Hopes, dreams, silenced dreams of prayers offered on bended knee, belief. It was robbed.

And I believed it with all of my heart. My very essence was in anticipation, poised to dive the cliff of faith only for the ground to split open and reveal my fate. Death was inevitable. Bereaved, I journeyed into the grave, insatiable grief. Emaciated, starving for a miracle, counting each step I arrived. What am I seeing before my eyes? Beneath the sunrise, surprised, I ran, staring down an empty tomb, with tears in my eyes. Could it be that He lives? That in the midst of morning, while hearts cradled mourning, without single, without warning, He rose?

Death and the grave thought they had won, but even death himself could not eclipse the Son. So, don’t you see it? It’s not where He lives. It’s not where He stayed. Hope has risen. He has robbed the grave. Our artifacts of hope we thought died in that cave, but His love retrieved them when He robbed the grave.

So, here’s to the impure and broken who have lied and betrayed, drink from His cup, this cup of overflowing grace, when you’re bent under life’s unmerciful weight, groping in darkness, reaching for faith. And when you’ve prayed, and you’ve cried, and you’ve cried, and you’ve prayed, remember who rose and who robbed the grave.

[End Video]

Well, good morning to everybody and good morning to, also, those who watch via the internet and the mobile app. How about a hand to our creative team for putting together such a great video? Right?

I don’t want anybody to not be in here. I mean, seriously. If we can get them in here, let’s get them in here. You feel comfortable here. I don’t bite, and I don’t spit that way. I usually spit this way. So, it’s going to be alright.

You need to tell the pastor we need a new building, because — anyway, I don’t know if you’re like me. You probably are. I know, at least in my life, when I get to talk to people and I find out that we’re a lot more similar than we are dissimilar when I meet with people, I love to read books or love to see movies where they find a secret room or they realize that there’s a whole new world that they hadn’t seen before. Maybe they open up a cellar door and it goes down and there’s a cave and then it goes down to this area where there’s this huge, new room. There’s something about that in our hearts that’s always like, “There’s got to be something more. There’s got to be something more out there.”

That’s why those types of books and those movies speak to us. And, you know, I know that speaks to us because a band — there’s a country band called Sugarland. They had a smash hit song called “There’s Got to Be Something More.” That gestures to all of us, because here’s what happens: We go through life, every single one of us, we get up — and nobody really likes getting up. If you do, God bless you. But most of us would like to sort of lay in bed and hit the snooze three or four times. I think that’s the godly way to do it. If you’re not doing it that way, then that’s okay.

But we get up, we go to work, we do our things, we fight traffic, we come home tired, we smile, we try to be nice, we do the things that we do. But sometimes, if we’re honest, and I think we all will be honest — it’s the 12 o’clock service that I’m worried about being honest. But, if we’re honest, we sometimes lay in bed at night, or maybe when we’re driving our car, or maybe we’re in the shower, or maybe we’re taking a walk, and we go, “Man, there’s just got to be something more than this life. There’s just got to be something more than the mundane parts of living in life.”

And there’s a biblical story that’s all about awakening everybody to a different existence and a different way of living life. And you may know this story. You may go, “Oh, I’ve heard that before.”

There was a man. This man was loved by many. He was a good man, and he died. When he died, they put him into a tomb and they rolled a stone over the top of that tomb. And everybody broke down. Everybody was crying. Everybody was doubting. Everybody wondered where God had gone. Everybody questioned all kinds of stuff. But, just a few days later, that stone was removed, and this person came out, and everybody in the story, their life was changed forever.

And I’m sure you know who I’m talking about, right? Lazarus. Y’all were thinking Jesus? Yeah. Jesus, same thing. But Lazarus also had the same thing. I want to talk to you in a different way, because I think we’re going to leave here differently than when we came in. John has Lazarus’ resurrection in the middle of his Gospel, and then he has Jesus’ resurrection at the end of the Gospel. And I think we might be selling ourselves short if we don’t make sure that we understand what each one of those means to you and me.

So, I want to look at the story of Lazarus today. Even though it’s Easter Sunday and we’re all about Jesus’ resurrection, I want to show you something that I think will make a difference in your life. And so, here’s what I want to do upfront to everybody here. If you’re new, this is your first time, you’ve never been here before, you don’t know me, so you don’t know much about me, but the people that come to Grace on a regular basis, which is about 1,200 some odd people every weekend, they will tell you that I’m a no frills guy. What you see is what you get. I don’t put on a show.

So, what I want to do is I want to be honest with everybody here. If this is your first time, if you’re new, you’ve never been here, at the end of the service today, at the very end, I’m going to ask you a question. I’m going to ask you, “Would you like to participate in the story that I just told you about?”

And you’re going to get a chance to do that. We’re not going to shine a light on you. We’re not going to bring a microphone back and ask you to give a testimony. We’re not going to do any of that. We’re not going to embarrass you. We’re not going to pull you up front. We couldn’t pull you up front if we wanted to. There’s no room. So, the bottom line is that none of that’s going to happen. But I want to say that because here’s what I want to say as the pastor of this church: I don’t believe any of you are here by accident. You may have shown up because, but I don’t believe you’re here by accident.

And here’s the deal: Unless you’re ready to hop up right now and run, you’re going to be here for the next 20 minutes. So, why don’t you pay attention, because it might be something that could change your life forever. So, that being said, let’s talk a little bit about Lazarus.

Lazarus was a man that had two sisters, Mary and Martha. And that clan, the Mary, Martha, Lazarus clan, they were really close to Jesus. I mean, you know, Jesus did a lot of things for a lot of people. He healed many people. People would bring people on stretchers and He’d heal them and all kinds of stuff, but these people were in Jesus’ inner circle, and they knew Jesus very, very well. In fact, they knew Him so well — I don’t know if you all have kids like I do. We have the iPhone. We only have one kid that has a phone at this point, but we’ve got a little app that you can put on their phone and you can press the button and you can figure out where they’re at. It’s really good. So, when I know that Grace is in the kitchen, I can go, “Can you bring me some lemonade?”

I’m just kidding. I don’t do that. But the reality is you can press that button and know where they’re at. They didn’t have anything like that in the 1st century, but Mary and Martha always knew where Jesus was at, and they could get word to Him. And so, here’s what’s happened: Lazarus, their brother, has become ill. He’s sick. And they feel that the sickness that Lazarus has, it’s not like something, a little cough or something. You get some Robitussin or something, give it to him and it goes away. Or some NyQuil, he sleeps the next morning and everything’s good. They didn’t have Robitussin and NyQuil, by the way, in the 1st century.

But, that being said, it was a pretty serious sickness because they felt like he might die. So, what they did is they sent some messengers to go see Jesus and to talk to Him and tell Him that Lazarus was sick. And this is about a two-day journey that these messengers have to go. And so, they show up, the sisters have sent these messengers to tell Jesus that Lazarus is ill, and we’re going to pick up the story here. I think you’ll see some things here, because this story is all about awakening not just Lazarus, it’s about awakening everybody in the story. And it’s really important because it matters to you and me on Easter Sunday more than, maybe, we have any idea. Let’s pick up the story here.

“So, the sisters sent to him, and they said, ‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.’”

Now, I’ve got to be honest. There’s a little bit of a guilt and manipulation in this. The one you love. Yeah. He’s sick. You know? It’s not like, “Hey, Lazarus has got a fever. Can you come see him?” It’s like, “The one you...” — the don’t even mention his name. “The one you love.” You know?

So, He hears that and, of course, they know — they know, don’t they? When they give Jesus that message, they know what He’s going to do. He’s going to pack up shop and He’s going to head to go see Lazarus because He’s healed everybody else, people He doesn’t even know. They bring people to Him, He heals them, He loves on them and does all this stuff. But Lazarus? He loves Lazarus. So, we know what’s going to happen. He’s going to get up and He’s going to go and hangout with Lazarus and heal him.

“So the sisters sent to him, and they said, ‘Lord, he whole you love is ill.’”

So, there’s some messengers that come to Jesus and say, “Hey, the sisters have sent us. Lazarus is sick. The one You love is ill.” And then Jesus responds to them. He says this to them:

“‘This illness does not lead to death.’”

You know they’re sitting there going, “Yes. Christ has averted. He wasn’t looking really good. He was sort of piqued. He was sort of nasty when we left two days ago. But J.C. just told us that he’s not going to die. That’s awesome. This is great.”

They’re slapping five. Jesus says, “‘This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’”

And so, they go on their way and they’re like, “This is going to be great. We’re going to go back and tell Mary and Martha. They’re going to be happy. Everybody’s going to be happy. Lazarus isn’t going to die. All is good. The man said what the man said. All is great.”

Now, John knows — not this group, because everybody in here, I’m sure, is just really good Christians. And whenever life doesn’t go right, or we wonder where God’s at, we just faith right through it and don’t ever question God, don’t ever question His love, don’t ever question if He’s around or anything like that. I know the 12 o’clock group, they’re a bunch of pagans. They probably think that way, but not this group. Okay? And I can tell you one thing: The group that’s really stone cold was the 8 o’clock group this — they are Christians. They were the frozen chosen. Let me tell you something.

So, it was good. It was great. But Jesus, He knows what’s going on. He sees this. And John knows that what Jesus is about to do, if you and I are reading this a little later or somebody heard this story, they might go, “Hey, I wonder why Jesus would do what He did?” So, John inserts a little editorial comment just in case we missed it. He wants to make sure that we know this.

He says, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.”

So, just in case you might question whether or not Jesus loved all these people — because what He’s getting ready to do next might seem cold-blooded. Just in case you wonder. Like if John would’ve gone, “He loved them,” you might go, “Them? Is that two of them? One of them? Three of them? Does He love one and not the other?”

Whatever. He says, “No, no, no. I want you to know Jesus loved all three of these people. So, it was nothing to do with whether or not God loved them.”

I know none of us would ever have a bad moment in our life and wonder if God loved us, but for those that would, that’s why this is here, to make sure that we understand that Jesus loved every single one of them. Because here’s what happens after Jesus hears the news that Lazarus is ill:

“When He heard that Lazarus was ill, he went immediately.”

No.

“He stayed two days longer in the place that he was.”

Like, “Really? You stayed? Dude, You healed people You didn’t even know. This is a family that You love, and this guy is ill. And this guy is not well and You’re going to hang out for two more days?”

Now, you know the disciples sitting around the fire, they’re going, “I wonder why He waited. That’s not normally like Him.”

That’s why John inserted, “He loved Mary, Martha and Lazarus,” so that we wouldn’t start asking. But, the disciples, I’m sure they were going, “I can’t believe He didn’t get up.”

Now, Mary and Martha, their whole life right now is focused on Lazarus and him getting well. There’s so much more going on here. But, to them, that’s what matters. Well, to the disciples, there are some other things that are going on. They probably were pretty cool with Jesus not going, and we’re going to figure that out here in just a second, because here’s what happens.

So, after two days go by, Jesus says to the disciples, “We’re going to go to Judea again, which means we’re going to head towards Bethany. We’re going to head towards Lazarus.”

And, of course, you would think that they would go, “About time, dude. It’s two days. Can’t believe You waited.”

Oh, no, no, no. Here’s what they say: “Rabbi, the Jews were just — we just were in that area. Like, can’t you read in John 10? I mean, we’re John 11 right now. In John 10, when you did the ‘me and God are one thing’ in John 10:30, the Jews didn’t like that. They wanted to stone You. Jesus, this is Judea. The stoning in Judea is different than the stoning in Colorado. Let me tell you something. It’s not the same thing. And they’re going to throw rocks at You, which means they’re going to probably throw rocks at us, which means this is like a suicide mission. Are You sure You really want to go there? Because they were ready to kill You last time we were there. That’s just the stone-cold reality here, Jesus. That’s where they were.”

And Jesus looks at them and He says, “Guys, you’re not quite understanding. There’s more to life here going on than what you think. I walk in the light. if you guys walk in the light with me, God’s got it all good. And Lazarus? What we’re going to go do is we’re going to go wake him up. He may not be the only one that needs to be woke up. There might be some other people need to be woke up. But we’re going to go wake Lazarus up.”

And they’re like, “No wonder He waited two days. Lazarus wasn’t dying. He just was taking a nap. He was sort of snoozing and Jesus is going to go wake him up. Ah, we get it.”

Jesus says to them, “Guys, Lazarus has died. That’s what’s happened to Lazarus. He’s died. I look at death differently than you all do because death has no finality with me. I can call it sleeping because I can wake him up. To you guys, you need to know something. This ain’t a nap. He’s dead. He’s absolutely dead. And, for your sake, I’m glad that I wasn’t there so that you may believe but let us go to him.”

Check out this statement that Jesus makes. “For your sake, I am glad that I wasn’t there.”

“Lazarus died. If I’d have been there, I could’ve healed him. But, for you guys, you — because you need to get woke up, too. You need to get woke. You need to understand what’s going on. I’m glad that I wasn’t there to heal him. I’m glad that Lazarus has died, because there’s something that you need to know. There’s something that Lazarus needs to know. There’s something that Mary and Martha need to know. There’s something that the Jews that have started to assemble in Bethany before Passover need to understand. There’s more to life than what you see. There’s got to be something more, and there is. And we’re going to see this together. So, let’s go to Judea.”

And our buddy, Thomas — he’s the guy that likes to figure out everything. I like that some translations say he’s called “Didymus.” If my name was Didymus, I’d call myself Thomas, too. Right? Amen? Didymus is Greek for “Twin.”

“So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, ‘Let us go also, that we may die with him.’”

You can see him getting everybody together. “Guys, He’s going back to Judea. You all coming?”

“Yeah! We’re ready. We’re excited, Jesus. Guys, we’re going to be just like Lazarus. We’re going to die. We’re going. Jesus, we’re coming.”

“Guys, we’re going to die. We’re just going to die. We’re going to die. Lazarus died. This is not waking up. We’re going to die. Everybody’s going to die.”

And so off they go. Everybody following Jesus all the way to Bethany. He gets to Bethany and we don’t know what’s happened because those messengers might have gotten back and, of course, Mary and Martha are looking for Jesus to come with the messengers, and He’s not there. And they walk in and one of two things happened. They’re like, “Man, Lazarus looks bad. I mean, he looks really bad. But don’t worry, because J.C. said he’s not going to die and everything’s going to be okay.”

And then he dies and they’re like, “What?” Or they show up and they’re like, “Is he dead? Hey, Lazarus? He ain’t moving. He died?”

“Yeah. He’s dead.”

“Wow. Because J.C. said that he wasn’t going to die.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. That’s what He said. I guess He was wrong. First time, but I guess He was wrong.”

One of those two events happened. We don’t know. But I can guarantee you one thing: It wasn’t a happy day in that household at all, in any way, shape or form. And so, Jesus walks into town and Martha greets Jesus outside. Mary stays in the house. Martha says this:

“‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’”

“You could’ve showed up. You could’ve come with the messengers. You’ve done it for so many other people. You have loved so many other people. You couldn’t show up for a brother? I mean, if You’d have been here, he wouldn’t be dead.”

Jesus looks at her and He says, “Martha, do you believe?”

She’s like, “I do.”

He says, “Do you think that Lazarus is going to rise again?”

She says, “I believe that there’s going to be a resurrection at the end of the age, Jesus.”

He says, “Really? Okay. Martha, I want you to believe, because I’m going to show you something that’s going to blow your mind. You’re going to see the glory in the way you’ve never seen it before. In fact, everybody around here is.”

He goes, “By the way, where did you lay him?”

She says, “Well, follow me.”

So, all these Jewish people are there. Jewish leaders have come because Bethany’s only two miles from Jerusalem. You’ve got to go over the Mount of Olives and down to Bethany. Bethany, over the Mount of Olives, and into Jerusalem. That’s why when Jesus is on the Mount of Olives on the Passion week, He’s just come from Bethany. That’s where He’s been. He’s there and the Jews are there because it’s getting ready to be Passover time. There’s tons of people around. Tons of religious people. Tons of people mourning Lazarus’ death.

Jesus says, “Can you show me where you’ve laid him?”

Now, I know what she’s thinking and what the girls are thinking. They’re thinking, “Okay. Maybe Jesus is going to say something special about Lazarus over his grave. Maybe He’s going to say a prayer. Maybe He’s going to explain to us why He didn’t come when He did. Why didn’t He come?”

So, they walk out there, and Jesus says, “Hey, could you guys do me a favor?”

They’re like, “What’s that?”

He’s like, “Could you remove the stone?”

Now, you may not think this, but this is what they’re thinking: “You’ve got to be kidding me. You want us to remove the stone? That’s what you want? Do You somehow think that we put the wrong body in the tomb? That we don’t know who our brother is? Do You want to go in there and make sure that we did the right spices for anointing for burial? Do You realize he’s been dead for four days and he’s going to smell? It’s going to stink. You want us to roll the stone away and smell the stench of our brother, and You didn’t show up? Seriously? You want us to roll the stone away? Do You realize what You’re getting Yourself into? Do You realize the stench that’s behind that stone?”

“Roll it away. Move it away.”

In the Greek, it’s actually, “Lift it up,” symbolic of resurrection, because Lazarus’ tomb is a little different than a stone this way. It’s a stone this way. So, “Lift that stone up.”

Jesus says, “Father, we’ve already talked about this. We’ve already had this communication. So, the prayer I’m doing right now so everybody else can hear, because everybody around here needs to see what You can do. They need to understand there is so much more to life than what they’re focused on.”

“And when he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out.’”

You can imagine everybody around the tomb. They’re like, “Seriously? You think we put him in the tomb and he was sort of alive and he’s been yelling for the last four days, ‘Let me out! Let me out!’ and we’re playing hide and go seek with Lazarus? You’re going to roll away the tomb and You’re just going to say, ‘Come out,’ and he’s going to come out? Four days? He’s already into rigor mortis. He’s already — everything’s decaying. He stinks. Just, ‘Come out.’ Yeah. ‘Come out.’”

John says, “The man who had died...”

The reason he put that in there is because everybody at that tomb that day knew Lazarus was dead. But, you and me reading this many, many years later, might think, “Well, maybe he didn’t die,” because he knows that we might have that. He goes, “No, no. The man who had died. This guy died. He came out.”

“His hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth.”

Now, I’m not trying to be funny here with a dead man. Some of y’all probably laugh because you’re sinners, but that’s okay. I’m just kidding. If you can imagine here, Lazarus’ feet were bound, his hands were bound, and he had a cloth over his face, so he couldn’t see. He comes out: “Could I get some help?”

You think everybody would run, “Lazarus! Alright!” You’d think they all ran, wouldn’t you? Oh, no, no. They didn’t. They’re all just sitting there like, “Whoa.”

He’s probably falling over. And if you see his tomb in Israel, he’s got to climb out of that thing. I don’t know how he climbed out. I can’t — I mean, rolling around on the ground, standing up. Everybody’s sitting there going, “What do we do? He’s going to stink. What if we take off — does his skin stink? I mean, touching a dead man?”

You go, “How do you know that they stood around and didn’t do anything?”

I know that they stood around and didn’t do anything because Jesus had to tell them, “Go unbind the guy, and let him go. Don’t let him flounder around there all tied up and he can’t see. Go unleash this guy. Go free this guy. Go get this guy where he can see again and use his hands and use his feet. Get him free.”

So, you may say, “Wow. That’s a pretty incredible story. That’s pretty good. So, tell me what that has to do with Easter Sunday. How does that apply to my life? How does that make a difference for me?”

Well, it’s a huge difference. Because, what we have in John, and all of these writers are intentional, and every single one of them has words — there’s no surplus of words in the way that they’ve written. We have a resurrection in the now, and then we have Jesus’ resurrection which guarantees us eternity which means that what God wants for you and me is He doesn’t want to just give us a resurrection that secures the sweet by and by. He wants to do something in our life now where there is a new creation and a resurrection in the present world. He’s waking everybody up to realize that resurrection power is not just out there. Resurrection power is in the now and it’s available for people now.

You think Lazarus had the same life that he had had before when he came out of that grave? There’s no way in the world he didn’t. He’s just like, “Whoa.”

I mean, he had his mind blown. Disciples had their mind blown. Mary and Martha had their mind blown. That the mundane existence of this life, we don’t, as Christians, have to look out there and go, “I hope that God has something for you and me now in this life.”

Resurrection Sunday isn’t just about securing our eternity — and it is about that. It’s also about a new creation in the now, in the present existence, that God wants to do something great in you and I’s lives. Now, listen in because this is really important. It’s huge. They said, “You don’t want to roll away that stone. It’s going to smell.”

Jesus is not afraid of the stench of humanity. Listen to me: Jesus is not afraid of what’s behind our stone. It’s why He came. See, all of us, we have these stones that we put up. We don’t want anybody to know what we’ve done. We don’t want anybody to know that we cheated on that person. We don’t want anybody to know that we secretly went off and maybe had an abortion or we cheated somebody out of some money. Or we’ve gone through several divorces. We’ve got this stone. It’s like, “There’s no way in the world. If I roll this stone away, it stinks back here.”

Listen: This is why Jesus came for you and me. He knows that none of us have it all together. He knows that none of us are so sanctimonious that we walk on water. He knows that every single one of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and He’s not afraid to roll the stone away of our graves of things that we are holding onto, things that are dead that we don’t want anybody to know. He wants to come in and rob that grave. He wants to come in and bring wholeness to your life. He wants to give you a new existence. He’s not afraid of our stench. He’s not afraid of rolling the stone away and what He might find. He already knows what’s there. He knows that in my life there’s things that I wouldn’t necessarily want up on the screen any more than you would, but that’s why He came. He came because we were in need of a Savior. He came because we needed to be forgiven. He came because He loved us, and He wasn’t afraid to get involved in the stench behind the stone.

Secondly, He doesn’t want to just resurrect us. He wants us unbound and free. See, there’s a lot of Christians that have come out of the tomb, but they’re still bound. They’re still bound with performance. “I’ve got to get God to love me. I’ve got to do all these things. I’ve got to say these things.”

They’re bound with guilt from relationships that they’ve had or relationships that they wanted. They’re bound with bad decisions that have been made. Even though they’ve come out of the tomb, even though they’ve experienced a resurrection, they’re still bound. This story says, “Hey, listen. I didn’t bring Lazarus out of the tomb, I didn’t rob that grave so that he could walk around all tied up, his hands no good, and his feet no good, and doesn’t know where he’s going. I want you to go unbind that man so that he can live in freedom again.”

Jesus wants you and me to live a life of freedom. He wants you and me to live a life of victory. He doesn’t want us to just survive. He wants you and me to learn how to thrive. He’s given life and life more abundantly. So, it takes other people too. See, this is why church is important. See, Lazarus couldn’t get it off of himself. He needed other people to help him out. That’s why we all need one another in a church because we cannot do it on our own. We need the body. We need each other. That’s why the Lord’s Prayer is not, “My Father,” it’s, “Our Father.”

But Jesus wants you free. He doesn’t want you walking around going, “I know I’m saved. I know I’m a Christian.”

He wants you walking around free. He wants your life to be such a life that it shines such a light that people go, “I want what you have.”

And what we have is Jesus Christ, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, the one that died on a cross and, three days later, got up from the grave and conquered death, hell and the grave so that we could be brought back into fellowship with God and we could have abundant life. He wants us free. Amen?

It’s alright. You can clap. I made the promise today. Two things. I told the band back there, too. I said, “Two things we’ve got to do today. Give the devil hell and give people Jesus.”

The third thing, and this is important: The resurrection of Lazarus gives us promise of a completely different existence now, but the resurrection of Jesus secures that existence for eternity. That’s huge. See, both parts of these resurrections aren’t just there. They’re there to show us that God just doesn’t want to just save you and me, and we go, “Oh, well I’ll just stumble through life and I’ll hope that everything goes well and I hope that God can do some things for me, but I know out there in the by and by everything’s good.”

That’s true, but that’s not all that He got up from the grave for. He didn’t get up from the grave so that we couldn’t have victory in our lives. He didn’t get up from the grave so that we could live a mundane life that looked just like it did before we came to know Jesus as Lord and Savior. He came to also resurrect us in the now to make us new creations in Christ Jesus for His glory and for His honor.

So, here’s what I’m going to do. And I said I was going to do this, and I’m going to keep my word. In just a minute — I am going to make this as simple as I can for everybody. Some of you have heard this message. You’re like, “Man, I didn’t know God loved me that much. I had no idea.”

Yes. He loves you with an extravagant love. You cannot earn your salvation. It’s not works. It’s not what you do. It’s what Jesus has done for you and me that secures our salvation. And it’s so hard for people to understand. But your heart’s beating. You’re going, “If there’s any way I could know that I could be right with God, if I know I could settle eternity once and for all, I would be in.”

I want to give you the opportunity to do that but listen to me. This is important. I don’t want you to just do that, because that can be a fleeting, little thing. I want you, if you’re serious about this story and following Jesus and making Jesus really a part of your life, then when you leave today, go out by the hub. There will be plenty of people out there with information. They’ll be happy to give you the information. We’d like to see you get baptized, because that’s the next step. Maybe you didn’t know that, but the next step is baptism.

Baptism is so emblematic of going under the water and coming back up. It’s the resurrection motif. It’s not just the resurrection in this life. It also says that one day I’m going to resurrect for all of eternity, but it’s both.

Also, get involved in a First Steps class. Figure out what it is that God wants for you and how you can live this life. So, if you decide, “Hey, I want to really enter into this story today,” I want you to really want to enter into this story. I don’t want you to just say, “Yeah, I think I’ll — just in case, I’ll get some insurance and maybe feel like I did okay.”

That’s not the point here. Nobody’s trying to get anybody to respond just to respond. We want you to respond and really experience the life that God has for you. So, we’re going to pray about that. And then what I’m going to do is I’m going to pray us out for everybody else in here, because I’ve got something I want to pray over you.

But if you would, and I’m asking everybody to please honor this, would everybody bow their head and just close their eyes for a moment? Without looking around, and not embarrassing anybody, but some of you have heard this message and you’re like, “You know what? I want to settle my eternity. I want to know that me and God are good. I want to experience this life. I want to have resurrection life in my life. I want to have more than just what there is. There is something more, and that something more is Jesus. And I want Him in my life.”

If that’s where you’re at today and you go, “You know what? I want to settle this once and for all. I want to know that I know that I know that me and God are okay, and I want to make sure that that’s true in my life,” what I want to ask you to do — and I’m not going to belabor this, I’m not going to talk about it for any longer. I’m just going to ask right now, if that is you and you want to do that, would you just simply put your hand in the air? Just raise it.

Okay. Amen. I see hands. Amen. Two, three, four, fix, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve. Awesome. Okay. You can put your hands down. If you raised your hand, at your seat — you don’t have to say it this way. You can say it like this, but something like this. Make this a moment. Make this your altar.

Dear Heavenly Father, I know that I have heard this wonderful message today that You died for me and rose again on the third day so that me and You could be okay with fellowship, that we could be okay, that I could be Your son or Your daughter. Lord, I know I need forgiveness and I’m asking You to forgive me. I’m saying publicly that I believe You rose from the dead on the third day, and I want You in my life and I want You to be my Lord and Savior.

If you pray that prayer today, you can walk out of here changed. If you really mean that prayer, find somebody and say, “Hey, listen. Please, please, please tell me what my next steps are. Help me to walk this thing through,” so that you can live the abundant life that God has for you. But, while everybody else has got their heads down and their eyes closed, I want to pray for the Christians here.

Resurrection Sunday is not just about us celebrating Jesus’ resurrection — and it is about that. But it’s also about us experiencing Jesus’ resurrection in our lives. He wants us, as Christians, to be free and not bound up to all the things that we get bound up with. And I want to pray over you.

Dear Heavenly Father, as the pastor of Grace Community Church, one of the things I try so hard to do, week in and week out, is to equip Your people to live a life of abundance and to live a life where they can truly thrive in everything that they do. And so, Lord, right now, I’m praying on Easter Sunday, the day that You conquered death, hell and the grave, the day that You rose from the grave, I pray that the power of God that rose Jesus from the grave, that lives within every Christian, would start to unshackle and pull that blindfold off and unshackle hands and feet. Lord, that there would be freedom like there’s never been. Lord, that the performance and the guilt and the fear and the anxiety would be gone in Jesus’ name, and that there would be some real freedom.

Because you didn’t just rise from the dead so that You could secure our eternity. You rose from the dead so that we could have newness of life. And Lord, I pray in Jesus’ name that that would be a reality for everyone that calls You Lord and Savior.

So, Lord, as we walk out of here today, I pray that You would lead, guide and direct all of us. I pray that You would watch over us and protect us. I pray that you’d bring us back safely to when we meet again. And Lord, I pray that You would continue to help this church stay the course. Lord, we want to be a place that truly reaches the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ for Your glory and for Your honor.

We pray all of these things in Jesus’ name, and everybody said, “Amen.”

Give the Lord a big hand clap. Tell Him you love Him. Happy Easter to everybody. He has risen.

John Flowerree