As I began writing this Easter post, I envisioned an article that would tactfully yet pungently nail churches and Christians themselves on a variety of issues I had with how this incredible holiday is observed. I wanted voice my frustration with this constant need among churches to go “bigger and better” year after year with their light shows, music, graphics, sermon titles, and more just to “be relevant and attractive.” I wanted to admonish those who seem to only discuss the details of the Easter story (see John 12-20) on Easter weekend. I wanted to slam the Facebook posts, tweets, and Instagram images that paid nothing more than simple lip service to a God that, they believe, exists for humanity (and not the other way around). However, I quickly found myself unable to construct a string of sentences that made any sense at all.
Now I consider myself to be a strong writer so I was frustrated by my “writer’s block” but then a curious thought occurred to me: “Was it possible that God was trying to prevent me from slamming the church community through this post?” Then, the lightbulb went on: “Instead of talking about all of the things that bothered me about how Easter is celebrated, what if I simply shared how much Easter means to me now and how different that meaning is compared with the past?” It was in that moment, I was first convicted and then energized.
In previous years, Easter was a routine reflection and revisit of the classic Easter story. I was fully aware of the magnitude of what Christ did on the cross and what God did through it, what the belief in the story meant for my eternal destination, and I was grateful. However, I felt relatively nothing in my spirit. Easter would vanish as quickly as it had it arrived and each time it did, I went about my business trying to live a “good Christian life.” Nothing special, just the basic mentality that so many Christians throughout the world have. And that is exactly where the problem for me lay. Conventional evangelical Christian thinking holds that everything discussed in the Easter story has already happened (true) and that the story’s only real purpose is to tell people who haven’t accepted Christ about His love for them (not true). Furthermore, this ideology implies that once you accept Christ, the only value the Easter story holds is as a historical account or reminder of Christ’s final days on Earth (again, not true).
Up until about 2 months ago, I wasn’t cognizant of how much I need what the Easter story talks about. I thought that after a person gave their life to Christ, the goal was to just try to do everything they could to lead a God-honoring life full of integrity, good works, and virtue. Unfortunately, that’s textbook legalism; it’s exactly what the Pharisees, who killed Jesus, pushed on everyone around them. It goes something like this: “Do this and God will be pleased with you. Live like this and you’ll experience all God has for you.” Fortunately, God used an extremely painful and difficult situation to bring me to the end of myself so that I would encounter a message he’s using Pastor Tullian Tchvidjian and others around the country to communicate. That being, the true message of God’s grace.
Now here’s the part I’m excited to share. It was through Pastor Tullian’s books and sermons that I became keenly aware of the fact that all of the commandments and standards laid out in the Bible were so high (they demand perfection) that we, as sinful creatures, are unable to meet them. Consequently, I realized those perfect standards are there to point us to our need for a savior. This, I learned, is because the punishment for coming up short on God’s standard is death, an eternal separation from our creator. It’s shockingly harsh, but God’s way of dealing with it was even more shocking. Because none of us are perfect but loved unconditionally, God not only decided to not punish us, but He sent His perfect son, Jesus Christ, to take our place in receiving the due punishment of failing to meet the requirements of God’s law. Then, in radical fashion, Christ rises from death into new life.
Today I realize the magnitude of the Easter story, there’s nothing I’ve done or can do to earn what’s been given to me in Christ’s sacrifice. That’s grace. Each day that goes by I become more aware of how huge that is and how dependent my freedom is on it. Because of God’s grace, I’m free to come up short on God’s standards because Christ covered for it with his life. That’s not to say that I turn around and do what I want. In fact, it gives me even more reason to strive for holy living. So this year, Easter means more to me than it ever has in the past. I don’t feel the weight that I once did; I only sense God’s incredible love. I understand that many Christians may never come to the understanding of God’s grace that I have. Nevertheless my hope is that just maybe, there’s someone out there who will read this “Easter manifesto” and the light will go on for them like it did for me. The Easter story is too great and too precious to reduce it to a simple recap of Jesus Christ’s final days. With that being said, have a wonderful Easter Sunday.