Monday, April 14, 2014

Stop Going to Church on Easter

Before you get all excited and start firing mad comments to me on Facebook or in email, please take the time to read what I have to say. Because I am relatively certain that at this point you have no idea what I mean when I say “Stop going to church on Easter.” And if you have already determined to be upset with me then this entire article may have more to do with you than you think.

                  Since the earliest days of the Church Universal (catholic is the proper term to use here, but too many people get mad at me when I use catholic because I keep using the word in a way that is vastly different than the way they use it.) But I have this to say about the word: 

So as I was saying, since the earliest days of the church there have been massive arguments about holy days and pagan days and when to celebrate and when not to celebrate and what to celebrate. Christmas and Easter especially have been burdened with accusations of paganism and idol worship. This article is not about those issues. So now that I have upset at least a few of you by clarifying this point I can now safely move on to my main point.

                  If you never darken the door of a church for anything other than Christmas and Easter stay away on Easter Sunday. I am serious. I don’t mean this to be mean, or harsh, I just want you to be fair to the man who pastors the church you are considering attending on Easter Sunday. As I write this it is Palm Sunday on April 13, 2014 - also referred to as the Triumphal Entry. It is the beginning of the Holy Week. This is the week that Christ rode into Jerusalem, and the Jewish people gathered there for the Passover were ready to make Him the king. Of course by the end of the week they had turned on Him and aggressively sought His execution. In relation to the modern church this week is normally marked by massive planning and coordinating of events to fill the church with individuals who would normally not attend. Pastors all over the country are attempting to write relevant messages that are meant to elicit emotional responses from the unwashed masses.

                  So stay away. What most of these men need to do is focus on feeding the sheep that are part of their congregation, not cater to a bunch of people who are claiming to be Christians.

That is what the gathering together of believers is supposed to be about in the earthly sense anyway. So if you show up there is a good chance that a faithful pastor will probably end up causing you to choke to death on the meat he feeds you or at the very least drown you with milk. Neither is pleasant and tends to be pretty final.

This week, starting with people praising God and ending with Christ being lifted up on a tree and buried and finally resurrected on the third day is a powerful week for the true believer. It is chock full of literal meaning and symbolism. These things are meant to be studied out, dwelt upon and spoken about with other believers. Good Friday is the day you will hear droves of genuine believers quoting the words of Christ from the cross. Phrases that when dwelled upon will often move believers to tears. 

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” 
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” 
“It is finished.”
See, what you Cheasters - Christmas and Easter only folks - need to understand is that these words of Christ hit us in the gut, they cut deep into our hearts, they kick us in the teeth. Christ, God in the flesh, was forsaken by the Father while He suffered the wrath due to us true believers; a wrath that was not due Him. While suffering that wrath and being cut off from the favorable presence of God, He still cried out to His Father to forgive us; the very ones who had hung Him on that cursed tree. Then, when the moment of His death came He cried out with His last breath “Tetelestai!” “It is finished!” 

He had accomplished what He had come to do. He satisfied the wrath of the Father against those who would believe. There was no more work to be done. He had fulfilled everything; an act that no human being could ever have accomplished.

Only the God-man could live the perfectly righteous life that He did.

Only the God-man could live in such complete and perfect obedience to the law of God so as to be untainted by sin and rebellion.

Only the God-man could suffer an infinity's worth of wrath against sin, for six hours on a wicked tree.

                  So stay away. Seriously! It isn’t because I don’t love you, it’s because I don’t want to see you looking like the throngs crying their love for Christ on one day, and then a few short days later crying out against Him in wicked rebellion and sinful treason. Because really, that is what you do when you show up on Easter or even Christmas. You come singing the praises of someone that in all likelihood you don’t know. You show up and you feel like you have done your thing to be right with God. You walk away feeling justified because you took the time to recognize the powerful meaning of such a somber and glorious event such as the Passover week and the resurrection of Christ. You walk away feeling as if God has been placated and pacified because you took time out of your busy year to stop by and nod your head in His general direction.

But the issue is that the empty tomb doesn’t really mean anything to you. You may have had an emotional response to hearing about it. But you probably haven’t understood that the Man Jesus Christ didn’t deserve to have ever laid there. And you don’t deserve the chance to ever leave the death that you are walking in. But that is exactly what the empty tomb is about.

It’s about you not staying in the death you so justly deserve. It is about you having the opportunity to take part in the Great Exchange that took place on the cross. The cross is where Christ took upon Himself the sins of all who would believe and in so doing took upon Himself the infinite wrath of His Father so that He would die and be laid in the tomb that is now so wondrously empty. That empty tomb is a reward, not for you, or even for me, it is for Christ. His resurrection from that place of death and rot was His reward for fulfilling the perfect will of His Father. That empty tomb is a promise to us that if we have believed, we will never taste the same death that Christ did. And even the physical death we will experience for having been born sinners is only temporary, because He has promised to resurrect us and give us glorified bodies. Not for us, but for His own glory. This Great Exchange now allows the believer to take on the righteousness of Christ.

So stay away. Please I am begging you to stay away if these things sound foreign to you. If these things sound silly to you or anger you, stay away. If you think that you need to show up and make an effort to appease God; or get your “Jesus fix” until Christmas, then stay away; because in all likelihood a true shepherd isn’t going to change up his plans for Easter Sunday. He is probably going to preach from whatever book of the bible he has been preaching from for the last few weeks or months anyway. He probably doesn’t have elaborate scams or plans to attract you or entertain you. He isn’t going to compare you to Christ. He isn’t going to read you or anyone else into the life of Christ. He isn’t going to call on you to discover yourself in the empty tomb. 

And anyone who does this doesn’t love you as much as I am loving you right now.

So please understand me, I want to worship beside you. I really do. But the worship service isn’t for the unbeliever. It is for the believer. And while I will gladly proclaim the glories of God to you as they are seen in the Gospel, I don’t want to see you offer vain worship on Easter Sunday. You see Jesus Himself has some not-so-nice things to say about people who show up in vain:

“This people honors me with their lips but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”
Matthew 15:8-9

So please, before you show up on Easter Sunday, if that is your plan, repent and believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And in case you missed it, I just got done preaching it to you.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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