One of my
favorite magazines is U.S. News &
World Report. I like it because there's a section in there called
"News You Can Use." I don't want to waste my time or your time, so
we're going to talk about news you can use. I want to get right to the point. I
feel like the chicken that decided to lay an egg on the California freeway. The
rooster said, "Here's how you do it. You lay it on the line, and you do it
in a hurry!" That's what I want to do tonight.
want to ask two questions: Easter—what does it mean and why does it matter?
A lot of people say,
"I believe in the resurrection; I just don't understand it." George
Gallup did a poll that said 84 percent of people who never go to church believe
Jesus rose from the dead. It is historical fact; it wasn't done in secret. The
whole city of Jerusalem and the whole Roman Empire knew about it. It was news.
If CNN had been there, they would
have had it live. There are at least 15 historical references to Jesus meeting
people, touching people, and talking with people after he had been crucified.
One time he cooked breakfast for some people. One time he talked to about 500
people after he had risen from the
dead. A lot of people saw him.
what does his resurrection mean? It means three things: (1) Jesus is who he
claimed to be; (2) Jesus has the power he claimed to have; and (3) Jesus did
what he promised to do.
means Jesus is who he claimed to be.
11:25 says, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me
will live, even though he dies." Jesus made some outrageous claims when he
was here on earth. He said things like, "I'm God. I'm perfect. I'm the
only way to heaven. I'm the savior of the world." A lot of people try to
make Jesus a good teacher, but a good teacher would never say that. I could
teach you good moral truths, and you might say, "Rick's a good
teacher." But if I started calling myself God, you wouldn't think I was a
good teacher anymore. Jesus was either who he said he was, or he was the
biggest liar who ever lived.
day Jesus cleared the moneychangers out of the temple. They had turned the
temple into something like an Orange County flea market, so he drove them all
out. They said, "What right do you have to do this?" He said,
"Because I'm God." They said, "Prove it!" He said, "I
will. Three days after you kill me, I'm going to come back to life." He
claimed to be God, and his resurrection backs up what he claimed to be.
14:6 says: "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can get to God the Father except by means of me."
a strong claim. He said, "I'm the way."
He didn't say, I'm one way, I'm a good way, or I'm one of the ways. Saying
"all roads get to heaven" is stupid. That's like saying I can dial
any phone number and get home. There's only one number that will get me home.
Jesus said, "I am the
truth." That means any other way is not the truth. He claimed to be God.
He said, "No one can get to God the Father except by me."
if you don't believe Jesus Christ is who he said he was, you still use him as a
reference point. God came to earth in the form of a man so we could know what
God is like. His name was Jesus Christ. He split all of history into A.D. and B.C. Every time you write a date, Jesus is the reference
point. He is who he claimed to be.
means Jesus has the power he claimed to have.
said, "All power on earth and in heaven is given to me." Because he
is God, he can do everything God can do. In John 10:18 he says: "Nobody takes my
life from me. I have the power to lay it down, and I have the power to take it
force could keep Jesus in the tomb. The Romans killed him, put him in a tomb,
put a big stone in front, sealed it with the Roman seal, and posted a 24-hour
guard. They were only trying to prevent the inevitable. Jesus said: They can't
stop me. I can give my life away, and I can take it up again.
that's where they get the phrase, "you can't keep a good man down"!
The resurrection means Jesus did what he promised to do.
Mark 10:34 Jesus says: "They will mock and flog and kill me, but after three
days I will come back to life."
cross was no surprise to Jesus. It was all part of God's plan.
you think about it, there's humor in the Easter story. I mean, how would you
feel if you had been the guys who put Jesus to death? You publicly execute this
man in front of thousands of witnesses who see him die, then you have him
buried, a stone put over his tomb, and a 24-hour guard. Three days later this
guy's up and walking around the city again.
angel said: "Don't be frightened. I know you're looking for Jesus, who was
crucified. But he isn't here. He's come back to life again, just as he said he
did what he promised. When God makes a promise, you can count on it. That's
what Easter means. Because Jesus did rise, he is who he said he was, he has the
power he said he had, and he keeps the promises he makes.
what? Why does the resurrection matter? What difference does it make? It matters
for three reasons. Because Jesus is who he claimed to be, has the power he
claimed to have, and does what he promises to do
matters because my past can be forgiven.
good news. Have you ever been halfway through a project and wished you could
start over? A lot of times people feel that way about life. They get halfway
through life and wish they could start over. We have all done things we wish we
hadn't done, said things we wish we hadn't said, and thought things we wish we hadn't
thought. We all have regrets. We all feel bad about things. We all have guilt.
I was watching a
"Columbo" rerun the other night. Johnny Cash was the bad guy. When
Columbo figured it all out and pulled the trap, Cash said, "I'm glad I don't
have to pretend anymore. The guilt was killing me."
A fellow pastor received
this letter: "I'm 31 years old and divorced, though I fought the divorce
bitterly. I feel bad. I have no hope for my future. Often I go home and cry,
but there's no one holding me when I cry. Nobody cares. Nothing changes, and I
continue to fail. I'm stressed out emotionally, and I feel I'm on the verge of
a collapse. Something is very wrong. But I feel so hurt and embittered that I
can scarcely react or relate to others anymore. I feel as if I'm going to have
to sit out the rest of my life in the penalty box."
tragedy is, I know a lot of people like that. They can't get on with the
present and the future because they're stuck in the past. Some guilt or regret
has tied them down. Sometimes they're letting a former relationship mess up
their current relationship. They say, "I guess I'll just have to live with
this the rest of my life." They're running around with this emotional
baggage, and they're wondering why they're not happy.
the good news. Colossians 2:14 says: "He has forgiven all our sins and canceled
every debt we owe. Christ has done away with it by nailing it to the cross."
is God's pardon program. Jesus nailed it all to the cross. He paid for my
guilt. That means I don't have to pay for it. He was hung for my hang-ups.
Jesus Christ was nailed to the cross, so I can quit nailing myself to the
cross. He wants to forgive your past. He wants to cancel every debt you
owe—emotional debts, relational debts, sins. All canceled.
long do you remember a bill that's been paid? I don't remember it at all. Once
it's paid, I forget it. The point is this: Once God's forgiven it, I can forget
it. That's good news! Even if there was no such thing as heaven or hell—and
there is—it would be worth becoming a Christian just to have a clear
conscience; just to know I am free from all those things I've done wrong. Because Jesus is who he said he was, my past
can be forgiven. I don't have to carry a load of guilt around. It's
this verse: "There is no condemnation awaiting those who belong to Christ."
Those of you who are baby
boomers, do you remember having an Etch-A-Sketch? What happens if you mess up
the picture? You flip it, shake it, turn it back over, and there's a clean
slate. This is God's Etch-A-Sketch verse in the Bible. He wants to wipe our
can walk out of here tonight, knowing that every single thing you've ever done
wrong until this point is completely forgiven. That's good news. That's news I
can use. No condemnation! Jesus Christ did not come to rub it in; he came to
rub it out. He said: "I didn't come to condemn the world; I came to save it. I
want to change you, I want to help you, I want to give you a new beginning, I
want to give you a clear conscience."
matters because my present problems can be managed.
Much of life is
unmanageable. I was reading about Charlie Shedd, an author. He wrote:
"Before we had kids, I used to travel across the country teaching a
lecture I called 'The Ten Commandments for Raising Perfect Kids.'" After
he and Martha had their first child, he changed the title to "Ten Hints
for Parents." After their second child, he relabeled the lecture, "A
Few Tentative Suggestions for Fellow Strugglers." He said after the
arrival of their third child, he gave up speaking on the topic altogether.
is when you figure out you can't have it all figured out. Maturity is when you
realize you can't manage all life is going to send you. But God can. And that's
good news. I can't control everything in my life, but God can. So I want to
hook up with him and let him control it and ask him for help.
talk to hundreds of people, and the number one complaint I hear from people
today is this: "My life is out of control." I hear it a thousand times: "I feel
powerless to change the situation. I feel powerless to break a bad habit. I feel
powerless to save a relationshipI feel powerless to get out of debt. I feel powerless
to manage my time and my schedule.
you need is a power greater than yourself. You were never meant to live this
life on your own power. God wants to have a relationship with you. And here's
the good news: Ephesians 1:19-20 says: "How incredibly great is his power to
help those who believe him, the same mighty power that raised Christ from the
same power that enabled Jesus to rise from death will help you rise above your
problems. The same power God used at the resurrection 2,000 years ago can be
used in your life right now. You don't know what the future holds. I don't
either. I don't know what's going to happen next year, next month, next week. I
don't know what's going to happen tomorrow, and neither do you. But it doesn't
matter, because even though it's out of my control, it's not out of God's. He
will give me the power to face it. Philippians 4:13 says: "I'm ready for
anything through the strength of Christ, who lives in me."
want to help out, God says. Some of you came crawling in here tonight. You've
had a tough week. God wants to say to you this: Don't give up. Don't give up.
problem is too big for God. No situation is hopeless if you'll turn it over to
him. "I am ready for anything through the power of positive thinking"?
No, it doesn't say that. "I am ready for anything because I psyched myself
up"? No. "I am ready for anything through the strength of Christ, who
lives in me."
does the resurrection matter? Because my past can be forgiven, my present can
be managed, and:
matters because my future can be secure.
of the universal problems we've all got is death. Let's face it—everybody dies.
I'm going to die someday, and so are you. Only a fool would go all through life
unprepared for something he knows is inevitable. That doesn't make sense. But
sometimes we get so busy in the here and now, we don't stop to think about
what's going to come.
don't like to talk about death. If you don't believe me, invite your friends
over, sit them down, serve them some coffee and pie, and say, "Let's talk
about death." See what happens.
They asked some children to
write sentences about what they believed about death. Gilda, aged 8, said,
"When you die they put you in a box and bury you in the ground because you
don't look too good." Stephanie, aged 9, said, "Doctors help you so
you won't die until you pay their bill." Marsha, aged 9, said, "When
you die, you don't have to do homework in heaven unless your teacher is there
too." Raymond, aged 10, said, "A good doctor can help you so you
won't die. A bad doctor sends you to heaven."
fact is everybody has a deep internal longing to know, "What's going to
happen after I die?" It's obvious we're going to spend more time on that
side of eternity than on this side. Here we only spend 60, 70, maybe 80 years.
This is just the first inch of the yardstick. This is preschool for what's
going to happen in eternity. It is interesting to me that as 78 million baby
boomers move into middle age, all of a sudden they're becoming more interested
in the hereafter.
Illustration:U.S. News & World Report ran a cover article called, "The
Rekindling of Hell." It says more
people believe in heaven and hell than ever before in American history. Why?
Because people are wondering, "What's going to happen?"
are a lot of misconceptions about heaven. Most of them come from movies with
bad theology: Heaven Can Wait; Oh, God; All Dogs Go To Heaven. These are cute little ideas of what somebody
thinks heaven is going to be like.
is it really going to be like? Let's check it out with the source. When you go
to the Bible, what does God say it's really going to be like in heaven and
listen. This is news you can use. This is essential, because one day you're
going to stand before God, and you're going to need to know the right answers.
one, heaven is a perfect place. Total love, total peace, total joy, total
No sin, no mistakes, no evil, no bad, no
perfect in every area.
second thing the Bible says is that in order for you to go there, you have to
be perfect, because only perfection can exist in heaven. You say, "Oh.
Well thanks a lot. That leaves me out." Yeah, it leaves me out, too. You
say, "I'll never make it if I have to be perfect." Right! That's the
point. Neither will I. Neither will any of us, because none of us is perfect;
we've all messed up.
are two ways the Bible says you can get to heaven. Plan A is to earn it. That's
the performance plan. And to earn it you only have to do this: never sin and
always do what's right for the entire time that you live. Always make the right
decision, always say the right thing, never say the wrong thing. Just be
It would be
as if they changed the rules of the Baseball Hall of Fame and said in order to
get in you had to bat 1,000 and play error-free ball your entire career. Even
the best get 300.
none of us qualify for Plan A, God came up with Plan B, which is this: You
trust Jesus Christ when he says, "I am the way, the truth, and the
life." He was the only perfect person who ever lived, because he was God.
He came so we could know what God is like. And by trusting and establishing a
relationship with him, you get in on his goodness.
My friend Ron Dunn took his
young son to a carnival one time for his birthday. His son picked six boys to
go with him, so Ron bought a roll of tickets. Every line he'd come up to, he'd
pull off seven tickets and give them to all the kids. When they got to the
Ferris wheel, all of a sudden there was this eighth little kid with his hand
out. Ron said, "Who are you?" The kid said, "I'm Johnny."
Ron said, "Who are you, Johnny?" Johnny said, "I'm your son's
new friend. And he said you would give me a ticket." Ron asked me,
"Do you think I gave him one? Absolutely."
you get to heaven you'll say, "God, I can't get in on my own effort. The
only way I can get into heaven is because I'm a friend of Jesus
Christ." John 17:3 says: "This is
the way to have eternal life: by knowing the only true God and Jesus Christ,
the one he sent to earth."
what the Bible says. Jesus has already paid for your way to heaven. This is
news you can use. A Christian is not somebody who accepts a religion. A Christian
is somebody who has a relationship with God.
lot of people try different ways to get to heaven. Some people try what I call
"salvation by sincerity." It goes like this: "It doesn't matter
what you believe as long as you're sincere." Yeah? Just think that one
through. You can be sincerely wrong. I read the other day about a pilot who
sincerely flew into a mountain. He thought it was lower. He killed himself. He
was sincerely wrong. I could pick up a glass of water and take a drink of it,
sincerely thinking it's water, but if it's poisoned, I'd be sincerely dead.
people think you get to heaven by service: "I can do all these good things
and work my way there." That doesn't work.
people try "salvation by subtraction." You give up a bunch of things
and then you get to heaven: "I don't drink, smoke, cuss, chew, run around
with girls that do. I don't do nothin'." If being a Christian is just a
matter of not doing things, then anybody who's dead qualifies as a Christian.
there are people who think they'll get to heaven by ritual: "I'll get
baptized." You can get baptized in the ocean until every fish knows you by
your first name. Maybe you'll join a church and think that will make you a
Christian. Sitting in a church will make you a Christian as much as sitting in
a chicken house will make you a chicken. You say you joined the church. If you
joined the Lion's Club does that make you a lion? You say you were born in the
church. If you were born in the car does that make you a spare tire? Think it
through! Use your mind!
about "salvation by heritage." Your mother was a Christian. You
grandmother was a Christian. So what? You have to make a personal decision
yourself. That's like saying you're married because your mother, grandmother, and
great-grandmother were married. No, you've got to make a personal decision.
then my favorite of all—"salvation by comparison": "At least I'm
better than so-and-so." You're probably better than me. I don't doubt it.
But the fact is, God isn't judging you according to me or anybody else. Saying,
"I'm better than Hitler" is like saying, "I can bench press more
than my grandmother." God doesn't grade on a curve. It's either perfection
or zip! It's either 100 percent or Plan B: trust Christ.
your source of hope? Hope means confidence in the Bible. Look at 1 Peter 1:3:
"We have been born again into a life full of hope through Christ rising from the
means you don't fear death anymore. You're not ready to live until you're ready
to die. You can't really live unless you're not afraid to die. How can you not
be afraid to die? By making peace with God now.
you like to have everything you've ever done wrong completely forgiven? Would you
like to have a clear conscience? Number two, would you like to acquire a new
power that would help you manage the problems in your present? And number
three, would you like to have your future secured?
the difference Easter can make. Understanding why Easter happened—why Christ
rose from the dead—is not enough. You've got to do something about it. You've
got to take some action steps. Understanding what I've just talked about is not
enough to get you into heaven. You've got to accept it and act on it. You need
to say to God, "God, I'm scrapping Plan A. I know I'll never earn my way
to heaven. I know I never can be good enough. I've already blown it enough
times to know I'm not going to make the 100 percent thing. So I'm asking you to
work Plan B in my life. Jesus Christ, I want to trust you, follow you, get to
know you and have a relationship." That's how you do it. That's how Easter
can make a difference in your life.
of us came tonight for different reasons. Some of you came because it's the
traditional thing to do. Others of you came because a friend invited you,
somebody who really cares about you. Some of you came because an advertisement
attracted your attention. It doesn't matter why you think you came here. You're
not here by accident. God brought you here. He brought you here so he could
communicate with you; so he could get you to sit still for 15 minutes so he
could say something to you.
is what God wants to say to you today: "You matter to me. I understand
everything about your life. I know you. I made you, remember? I want to have a
relationship with you. I sent my son to die for you. I want you to get to know
background may be Catholic or Jewish or Protestant or Mormon or Buddhist or
Baptist. I don't care what your background is. I'm not talking about religion.
I'm talking about a relationship with Jesus Christ. That's what Easter is
about. God knows you. He wants you to know him. So you come with an open heart
and say, "God, here I am."
of you have been close to God in the past. You've drifted away. What does God
say to somebody who has drifted away? Isaiah 54:7 says: "With deep love, I will
welcome you back."
will ever love you as much as Jesus Christ does. Nobody. You matter to God, and
he brought you here tonight to tell you that. Jesus Christ died for you to
prove how much he loves you.
all at different levels in our spiritual journey. Some of you aren't sure
you're going to heaven when you die. You need to make sure. Some of you need to
recommit your life to the Lord.
have a moment of silence. Nobody's going to single you out or make you raise
your hand, so you can relax. Maybe you're not sure you'd go to heaven if you
died. Would you pray something like this in your heart: "Jesus Christ, I'm
not sure if I'm saved or not. I'm asking you to save me today. I'm putting my
total trust in you, and I want to follow you. Thank you for loving me and dying
for me. Help me to understand it more."
others of you have drifted away from Christ. God wants to say to you,
"With deep love I will draw you back." Would you say, "Jesus
Christ, I'm coming home tonight. I want to get it in gear again. I want to quit
playing Mickey Mouse and put first things first in my life."
of you have not found a church home. Saddleback would love to be your spiritual
family. We welcome you here. This is a place for imperfect people. The purpose
of our church is two-fold: to teach people how to live, and to prepare people
for when they die. Those are two things you need. We'd love to have you here.
I'm sure some of you are barely hanging on; you've been discouraged, depressed,
despondent. The pressure and stress has been building up this past week or this
past month, and you feel overwhelmed. God brought you here tonight so he could
say to you, "Give it all to me. Let go and let me work in your life."
Would you say, "Jesus Christ, I want to give you these problems I'm
facing. I want to give you my life—the good, the bad, the ugly. Fill me with
your hope and your presence and power. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen."