04-05-2015 Easter message by Pastor Rich Doebler
Easter is a celebration of LIFE and HOPE and FAITH—and also CHANGE.
Jesus Christ rose from the dead nearly 2,000 years in history. He walked out of that tomb alive by the power of God—by Resurrection power.
That happened long ago, but the power of the Resurrection STILL is at work today. The power of the Resurrection STILL opens the way for spectacular, amazing, wonderful things to happen.
You’d like something good to happen today, wouldn’t you? Something good in your life…in your marriage…in your family…in your future?
I want you to know: the power of the Resurrection is not locked into one historical moment in time.
It’s not just past tense; Resurrection power is present tense!
If you could tap into that resurrection power and release it into your life or your family today, what would you want changed? What would you want it to do?
Can you dare to dream of what God would like to do in you and for you? He can change a heart. Heal a broken family. Mend a relationship. Stop the bickering. Open new doors. Move a mountain of debt. Give strength and courage. Free a person from habits. Train and equip and empower. Replace no control Spirit-control.
All this (and more!) is possible—change is possible today
- because Jesus was raised from the dead back then. The old Gaither song says: Because he lives, I can face tomorrow…
On the day Jesus Christ rose from the dead, Resurrection power was unleashed into this world to impact lives and peoples and cultures down through the centuries.
The apostle Paul prayed for followers of Jesus in the first century. It’s still a good prayer for those who follow Jesus in the 21st century. He said:
18 I pray…that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand [*place of authority] in the heavenly realms [*spiritual world]… (Eph 1:18-20)
I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power 20 that raised Christ from the dead… (NLT)
What does this mean? It means that just as life surged into Jesus’ dead, lifeless body, in the same way God’s power can give life to us when we are spiritually dead.
1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins… 5 [but God] made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms… (Eph 2:1,5-6)
This is not merely a theoretical truth—some pie-in-the-sky, wishful thinking. It is a concrete reality. Some of you here have experienced that reality. You’ve experienced an amazing turn-around—a second chance to get it right.
Through the cross of Jesus and his resurrection from the dead, God’s grace can overcome your past and empower your future.
- Because the Resurrection changes the direction of our lives. People on the road to personal destruction were forgiven by God’s grace and changed—radically and dramatically—when they encountered the power of God through Jesus Christ.
God’s power can change…
- Addicts—to set them free so they can reclaim their lives and rebuild their relationships.
- Victims of abuse—so they can be healed of painful memories, an emotionally crippling past.
- Selfish, self-centered individuals—to transform them into generous, kind people.
- Angry, rebellious persons—to calm their hearts and give them peace.
- In the true story recounted by Laura Hillenbrand in Unbroken—the book, which later became a movie—Louis Zamperini’s plane crashed in the ocean in WWII. Three survived the crash, but one died while they drifted for 47 days in a rubber raft across the Pacific. Louis was captured by the Japanese and endured unspeakable violence in a POW camp, particularly at the hands of the commander, called “The Bird” by the prisoners.
When finally released at the end of the war, Louis came back a broken man—despite the name of the book. He suffered from PTSD, though they didn’t call it that at the time. He was tormented nightly by nightmares. He suffered from flashbacks. He became a raging alcoholic. His life and his new marriage were disintegrating. Desperate to find answers, his wife went to the 1949 Billy Graham crusade in Los Angeles. She dragged Louis to the meetings, who only went to stop her haranguing.
He listened to Billy Graham but wanted out, so when the invitation came to to receive Christ as Savior, Louis edged toward the aisle to make his break. At the aisle, however, he had another flashback to the war—once again he was in the rubber raft, dying of thirst, praying— promising God—that if he would only sent rain, he would surrender his life and serve him.
And in that flashback moment, instead of turning left and heading toward the exit, Louis Zamperini turned right and headed to the prayer room. He surrendered to the power of God, and his life was changed. He never had another flashback. No more nightmares of the POW camp. His marriage was saved. He was transformed from a bitter, broken man to one who could forgive even the prison guards who had tormented him. Louis died only last summer at the age of 97—but up until the end he continued telling people about the miracle God had done in his life. VIDEO [1:30]. Option 2. Option 3. Option 4. Option 5. Option 6.
Louie quoted 2 Cor 5:17, which in the NLT says: …anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone [He is not the same anymore]; a new life has begun!
- Because Resurrection power works from the inside out.
The world tries to change from the outside in: behavior modification, self-help books and seminars, support and accountability groups—all good, but not as effective as being born again.
If someone from a foreign country wants to become a citizen of the United States, he has to go through classes to learn about the U.S. Constitution. He has to learn about the laws of the land. He must learn American history. Despite all that, he may still speak his old language and keep some of his old customs. You meet him, and you can tell by his accent—he wasn’t born here.
But my grandson is already a citizen of the U.S. Even though he’s only 2½, even though he doesn’t know the Constitution, or the history, or the laws of the land (though he knows some of the rules of the household), he’s a citizen because he was born here.
We must be born again to be changed from the inside out. We are like foreigners who get the chance to choose where they’re going to be born.
Eph 2: 12-13. …at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
No matter what your past, no matter what you’ve experienced, no matter what baggage you may carry, no matter what you’ve done, God offers a fresh start through the cross and the Resurrection.
The power of the Resurrection can wash your heart and your mind. Give you a new attitude and outlook—so you’re no longer shaped by everything that’s happened up till now.
Many people get stuck in life. Maybe they become paralyzed by fears or crippled by habits. Their minds may be poisoned by sin, which causes distorted thinking—a twisted view of reality. Perhaps they’re locked in a destructive cycle of sin, unable to stop hurting themselves and others. Maybe a difficult and painful past has left them incapable of imagining a future that’s any different.
Others aren’t so desperate. But they seem merely to “coast” through life—with little drive, limited goals, small ambition. They can’t move forward or accomplish anything of significance because they’re too content. Too complacent. They’re unable to see the possibilities of anything more.
Still others do okay, but they have little purpose. They only see what’s in front of them; they can’t see beyond the horizon. They don’t have eyes of faith to see the big picture—eternal things.
No matter where you are—stuck or wandering aimlessly without purpose—the Resurrection of Jesus Christ can change you. Resurrection power promises you abundant life—supernatural, everlasting life—so you can move toward God’s eternal purpose.
Perhaps you’re thinking: If Resurrection power can change us, why is change so difficult?
- Because the Resurrection is God’s work not ours. Without God change is hard!
Sometimes it’s hard because we don’t want to change. We find it uncomfortable; it upsets our routine; it undermines the familiar.
Sometimes change is difficult because though we know we need to change, and we want to change, we just don’t seem to have the ability to change.
We’re stuck. We can’t climb out of the hole we’re in.
I was reading a nature magazine this last week and learned about a type of wasp that paralyzes an insect with a sting, and then stuffs its helpless victim in a hole—next to a tiny wasp egg. Then it covers the hole with little tufts of grass. When the egg hatches, the little wasp has an instant source of fresh food—a living insect that can’t move or escape.
Do you know we can be paralyzed by sin? We can be paralyzed by old habits and old ways. The sting of sin can paralyze us so we can’t move. We can’t escape, we can’t change, and we can’t live.
We want to change, but we are paralyzed by sin and our human nature. That’s when we become prey for the enemy.
- Change doesn’t depend on our ability to change; the Resurrection gives us new life.
But Jesus came to rescue us so we can live. Jesus said that he came to give us life—a full, abundant life. The “thief,” on the other hand, comes to steal, to kill, and to destroy (John 10:10). The devil wants to steal our joy, kill our hopes and dreams, and destroy our eternal souls.
But the Resurrection of Jesus defeated the devil. Resurrection power brings life and change. Easter is a celebration of LIFE and HOPE and FAITH and CHANGE.
If you’re celebrating Easter today, make sure it’s not an empty celebration. Make sure you’ve experienced personally for yourself the life, the hope, the faith, and the change that comes through the power of the Resurrection.