Easter this year will be different for most churches here in America, and indeed around the world, what with the coronavirus crisis, the stay at home orders, no large gatherings, and canceled Sunday services. It will seem strange to many people to not be able to join in worship (except online) during this Holy Week, the days that we celebrate the death of Jesus on the cross and His resurrection from the dead.
CHRISTIANITY: A HISTORIC FAITH
One of the things that makes Christianity different from all other religions is that it is based on events in history. It is a historic faith; it is not primarily a philosophy, ethical exhortations, commandments, teaching, or lessons in living, although you will find many of these things in the Bible.
Christianity is foundationally a historic faith-based on events in time and space. In particular, related to the coming of Jesus Christ, the son of God, who lived amongst us and then eventually died, crucified on Calvary’s cross, and then rose again from the dead on Easter Sunday.
Take away these events, and the foundation of the Christian faith is eliminated. The Apostles Creed declares Jesus “was crucified, dead and buried. . . the third day, He rose again from the dead.” This is what is at the very heart of our Christian faith.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE CROSS
In recent times, there have been many Christian self-help books giving people ideas and teachings on how to live a meaningful life and fulfill their purpose. But often there is no mention in them of the Cross and the Resurrection.
A friend of mine, pastor and evangelist Tom Shanklin shared with me a message he gave entitled ‘Preachers: Don’t Forget to Preach the Cross.” Here is what he had to say.
“I have heard many great sermons, but often I find that one thing is missing. It’s a very simple thing really – the preaching of the cross.
The Apostle Paul said it this way, “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18, KJV.
The preaching of the cross IS the power of God! No one has ever been saved without the cross of Jesus Christ.
Billy Graham tells the story about one rare occasion when one of his crusade services had a very small impact. He had preached his heart out, but very few responded to the altar call. Afterwards he asked a friend why he had so little power in his preaching that night. Billy asked, “John, what was wrong tonight?” His friend said, “Billy, you didn’t preach the cross. If you don’t preach the cross and the resurrection, you’ve got no Gospel.”
If you want to see people come to Christ, you must preach the Gospel message. You must tell the people that Jesus died for their sins according to the Scriptures, He was buried and He rose again. 1 Corinthians 15:3-4
Many times preachers fail to remember to proclaim of the central facts of the Gospel. They use wonderful scriptures and illustrations and make a strong appeal for people to come to Christ, but the problem is, the Holy Spirit has nothing to work with because the Gospel message has not been presented.
Let me share with you four basic redemptive facts that God can use to show someone their need for Jesus Christ:
- In the beginning, God created everything, and He made mankind in His own image, pure and without sin. Genesis 1:1, 26-28
- Man disobeyed God and brought sin and spiritual death on the human race. All of us have sinned, and without a Savior, we will suffer eternal damnation in hell and separation from God. Genesis 3:1-8, Romans 5.12, Romans 3:23,
- In His love, God sent His Son to die on Calvary and shed his blood in substitution for our sins. He was buried, but then He rose again. John 3:16, Romans 6:23, 2 Corinthians 5:21, ! Corinthians 15:3-4
- If we will repent of our sin and believe in Jesus and His work on the cross, God will forgive our sins, come into our lives by the Holy Spirit, and give us the right to become children of God. John 1:12, John 3:3, Romans 10:9-10
Preachers, get these basic thoughts in your heart and mind so that you can preach them at the drop of a hat” (ShanklinMinistries.org).
“In the American Civil War, Dwight L Moody served as a Union chaplain. After the Battle of Murfreesboro, he visited a wounded soldier who asked him to help him die. Moody tried to share Christ, but the man replied, ‘He can’t save me. I have sinned all my life.’
Moody began reading from John 3 and came to the words ‘And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so, must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.’ The soldier interrupted, saying, ‘I never knew that was in the Bible. Read it again’. Moody read it again as the wounded soldier leaned forward on his elbow, his troubled expression giving way to a peaceful calm. Lying back on his cot, he began repeating the words over and over, dying with those words on his lips” (Morgan).
Moody had preached the cross to the dying man, the Christ who had been lifted up on Calvary’s Cross. The one who promises eternal life to those who believe.
Good Friday and Easter Sunday are there to remind us about the centrality of Christ’s actions, grounded in history, that took place on Calvary and followed up with the empty tomb; the death and resurrection of Christ. May the reality of what Jesus did for us live on in our hearts as we celebrate His sacrifice and His resurrection. God bless you all this Easter.
Morgan, R. J. (2019). 100 Bible Verses That Made America: defining moments that shaped our enduring foundation of faith. Nashville, TN: W. Publishing Group.