Quick question – what hymns or songs did you sing this Easter morning?
Though it is the most momentous Sunday in Christianity and the most incredible event on planet earth, our fickle memories can even turn Easter into a distant memory. The tears about Jesus’ death – Good Friday – have long been wiped and so has been the Sunday sermon on Jesus’ resurrection. The final busy week of March is upon most of us, employee appraisals hang like Goliath’s sword above our heads and it’s India vs. West Indies at World Cup T 20 tonight. Thank you, but move on Easter!
As the intensity of that empty tomb in Israel dwindles down to “harmless” levels, here’s an encouragement for all Christians out there.
Easter is more than an annual festival. It’s a quiet revolution that should rightly turn your world upside down, one day at a time.
For starters, consider what Billy Graham once said –
“There is more evidence that Jesus rose from the dead than there is that Julius Caesar ever lived or that Alexander the Great died at the age of thirty-three.”
The undeniable reality of Jesus coming alive three days after dying a bloody, brutal death on the cross is so solid a supernatural event, that I still wonder how as a knowledgeable Hindu, I was not aware of this truth for twenty-one years.
Marg churches travelled to YMCA Lakeside, Nilshi on Friday, 18th December 2015 for our annual church camp. Our trip began slightly delayed, but finally all the saints from sundry workplaces arrived, all the children piled up into the LUV machine and all the adults stopped having pseudo-lunch. Soon, a convoy of cars was speeding towards Talegaon under the winter sun.
After a detour from the closed railway crossing near Kamshet (why do they have to repair the track when WE go to Nilshi, why? Last year, same drama!), we found ourselves sharing a badly maintained road with other vehicles and herds of buffalo. The road soon became better as it meandered splendidly between some hills and the Andhra lake.
We arrived at YMCA Lakeside before sundown and settled down in our rooms that were surrounded by nature all around – literally. The rooms are underground and surrounded, even on their top, by grass and shrubs, making the campsite a natural green spectacle.
Over the next two days, we had three sessions based on the theme Gospel Fluency. You can read about the session details below. We also had enough time to go swimming and kayaking in the lake and to play some nail-biting and yet hilarious cricket matches. Some of us managed to play board games right into the night and sit in front of a bonfire under the constellation-studded, deep blue night sky. Nothing beats family time with one another in the church!
Did you know that Christians can believe lies about God?
No Christian, I hope, desires to do so. But I am certain that whenever we sin, we have already believed something about God that is not true.
Lies and wrong IDs
We all live out the identities we believe in and find our purpose and satisfaction in.
A woman may claim to be a disciple-maker. She might say her aim is to be an exemplary employee and win souls for Jesus at her workplace. But if all that excites her is the monthly SMS notification about her account having been credited with a huge salary, God knows she has little to do with making disciples; she is living out the identity of a money-lover.
She has believed in the lie that money in her bank account will give her more pleasure or security than Jesus could.
A pastor might say he loves his wife and children to bits and might have provided a house, cars and all the snazzy gadgets they could enjoy in life. But at night when he has shut himself alone and his eyes and mind rove all over the dark side of the internet to get what his sexual desires want, God knows that he is living the identity of a pornography-lover.
He has believed in the lie that indulging in sexually impure fantasies will bring more pleasure to him than the presence of God could.
It is possible that both these people are actually children of God. Oh, the scandal.
“How could you possibly say that someone so sinful is saved?”
Well, if you know me, I usually hesitate to say so. But to paraphrase John Owen’s observations – “Some lusts flare up over others… One lust can be greater in one man than another”. Chapter 6, Right Way to Kill Sin, Mortification of Sin in Believers.
We might be quick to say such people are definitely not Christians, who are supposed to be dead to sin and alive to God. I am tempted to say the same. And some might even be not truly Christian.
But I will fool myself if I promptly declare myself better than them. Selective amnesia is sinful amnesia. Surely we remember how we have easily repeated sins for years and how easily have swept them aside?
To continue- the people involved may feel “genuinely” sorry about their repeated patterns of sin and their self-absorption. They might feel the tearing guilt inside, the controlled-demolition of their conscience with the silent pleas of God the Holy Spirit in the background. They might fall on their knees by the bed, hands on the floor, saying through desperate tears –
“GOD, OH GOD I’M SO SORRY .. PLEASE FORGIVE ME. PLEASE FORGIVE ME, OH GOD OF GRACE!”
If the sins of over-spending, man-pleasing and lust had stopped, it would have made sense.
But maddeningly, this cycle repeats.
This world is broken, yet wrong-doing and pain takes you by surprise and anguish.
Marriages wither and become impassable gulfs.
Party leaders and national figures suddenly pass away.
Music bands split and inspiring movie stars wind up in jail.
There are, of course, reasons why such things happen. Marriages die due to lack of adoration and hard work and often, little adulteries that compound into a deadly avalanche of separation and divorce. Bands split due to misunderstandings and pride.
Party leaders die because death is the final equalizer and movie stars become prisoners because the law is a close second in the art of equalising.
Sin is at the root of all things that can go wrong and will go wrong.