How did Easter change your life?
One person replies, “It didn’t. It was a delightful day. We went to church and, as usual on Easter, it was full. The music was wonderful, and the sermon was excellent. Following the service we had all of the family home for a delicious dinner, and the kids enjoyed an Easter egg hunt in the afternoon. Yes, it was pleasant. I love Easter, but it did not make any drastic change in my life.”
Another person answers, “Easter did change my life. I come from a family where church attendance was important. We did not just attend church on Easter. We were there every Sunday – rain or shine. However, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the routine of my religion. It is not all bad, but I have been feeling that my relationship with God needs to be more than a habit. So I have been praying that God make the message of Easter come alive; and believe me, He answered my prayer. Jesus jumped right out of that old, familiar story. My eyes were opened in a new way to the truth that I have heard at so many Easter services: ‘Christ lives.’”
For many of us, Easter was a day of affirmation. To celebrate Easter is always a spiritual experience.
Our text comes from the inspired pen of John, our Lord’s disciple. He writes his letter about fifty to sixty years after Jesus’ resurrection. Easter was the day all things were made new for John. To have a risen Lord was even greater than to have a friend like Jesus who taught them so much about God’s love.
John had seen Jesus heal. He heard Him teach, watched Him die, witnessed His resurrection, and saw Him ascend into heaven. The Lord opened John’s world and gave him spiritual insights that brought a new understanding to life. Consequently, John wrote, “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” Although John’s small mind could not comprehend it all, there was much he did know about how the Christian’s life should be lived. And he passed some of these revelations on to us who read the Bible.
In verse six of our text, we read one of these truths: “If we claim to have fellowship with him, yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.” A man told me recently that in the early years of his life he belonged to a very legalistic church. This group had many dos and don’ts that had to be kept or one’s Christianity could be questioned.
The past ten years this man has belonged to a church that places strong emphasis on salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. There is nothing we can contribute to our salvation. Jesus made the supreme payment for our sins. Now he says, “I am really enjoying life. One of my favorite pastimes is to gamble. Now, because I am saved by grace through faith, I can gamble every day if I so desire.”
The point of the illustration is not to deal with whether it is right or wrong for this man to visit the casino and pull the slots. John tells us that if we live in fellowship with Christ, we will want to live for Him. He will guide and direct us in our behavior. He will shed light on whether, as one of His children, there are better ways to use our money. There is not a list of dos and don’ts. God’s Law is our guide, and the Holy Spirit will be our counselor in all things. This is living in the grace of God, or to use John’s words, “Living in the light.”
This is the Sunday after Easter. Last Sunday many churches were packed. Today these same churches have many empty pews. God’s Word says, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” The Bible clearly teaches that God’s children will have a strong desire to attend worship services. There we will bring our prayers to the Lord and be fed by His Word. There we will fellowship with other believers as a part of the one Christian Church. That longing to come to God’s house every Lord’s Day is part of living in the light.
Some of the pictures we are seeing of the devastation from the war in Iraq break our hearts. There is no question that an evil dictator had to be taken from power. Our leaders believed it was our responsibility to see that this was done in one way or another. The efforts to accomplish the dethroning of Saddam Hussein is causing many to suffer. Now we are in Iraq ministering to these hurting people. I believe that binding up their wounds and providing them with the necessities of life is mandatory, and we will see our nation assume this responsibility. The light of God’s Word forces us to do this.
America has walked far away from God. However, some basic truths of the Christian faith continue to motivate us. Our leaders say we are not captors, but liberators. We have not come to capture the people, but to set them free. After destroying much of Europe in World War II to free Western civilization of godless tyrants such as Hitler and Stalin, we returned with the Marshall Plan to help the people restore their nation. May God grant that our Christian witness will cause us to do the same in Iraq. This is living in the light.
When we have met Christ and live in the light, we know what to do with our sins. No longer do we deny them or seek to defend them. We do not have to explain them, but instead confess them. Another of John’s insights passed on to us says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanses us from all unrighteousness” (vs. 9).
The Bible goes on to say: “We have one who speaks to the Father in our defense — Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” This is divine light that the person outside of Christ has never experienced. He or she lives in complete darkness when it comes to their sins. It is to these people we must go with the message of Christ, who is the light of the world.
My wife and I were walking into a restaurant recently, and in front of us was an elderly woman with a beautiful little girl. I assumed that she was the lady’s granddaughter, and so I said, “What a beautiful little girl! I bet she loves to have lunch with her grandma.”
The lady said, “I am not her grandmother; I am just caring for her. Both her father and mother are in prison.” The woman was kind and showed much love to the little girl. She added, “I do not know what is going to happen to this dear child.”
Eunice and I did not enjoy our lunch that day; our appetites were gone. This is a part of the darkness in which we live. Christ alone can lighten up the path and show us the way if we will only let Him into our lives. Then little children will not have to grow up being cared for by strangers while their parents are in prison.
We spend much time cursing the darkness. Let us point people to Christ who alone is the light of this dark old world. That is the mission for everyone who has met Christ and walks in the light. Amen.