“Passion: Unstoppable Love”

He is risen…He is risen indeed! 

Our worship together today is centered on celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. How many of you know that Jesus is not dead, that the tomb is empty, and that Christ is alive? There is excitement in the room today. 

We are finishing a series we started a few weeks ago called Passion. Throughout this series, we learned that loving others is tough business. So often, our love is tied to how we feel or how our wants/needs are being met. And when our feelings change or our wants/needs are no longer being met, then our love changes as well. This is called conditional love, and thankfully, this isn’t the kind of love God has for His creation. 

God loves even when it’s unreciprocated. 

God loves when you’re nasty, rude, and mean. 

God loves even when He’s not getting anything out of the relationship.

God’s love is evident in the sacrifice He made by sending His only Son, Jesus, so that through Him all who believe in Him, may live with Him forever. But Jesus had to willingly come, He humbled himself and became obedient to the will of the Father. This obedience led Jesus to His eventual death on a cross. 

And today, on Easter Sunday, we celebrate that the death of Jesus wasn’t the end of the story. I’m here to let you know that not even the grave could hold Him!

But first, a little background. 

All four of the gospel accounts in the Bible include the story of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. So today, I want to read for you the words that were spoken just after He had been resurrected. Some of the women, who had followed Jesus when He was alive, went to His tomb on that first Easter morning. They did not find His body. Instead, two men in dazzling robes appeared and said these profound words. I’m reading from “The Message,” Luke 24:6-7.

“The men said, “Why are you looking for the Living One in a cemetery? He is not here, but raised up. Remember how he told you when you were still back in Galilee that he had to be handed over to sinners, be killed on a cross, and in three days rise up?” Then they remembered Jesus’ words.”

This is good news, amen? Not even the grave, death itself, could stop Jesus. In fact, nothing could stop Him.

Think back to all the things that tried to stop Him. The devil tried to stop Him. The religious leaders who turned Him in tried to stop Him. The soldiers who crucified Him tried to stop Him. The crowds tried to stop Him. Even the nails in His hands and feet on the cross tried to stop Him. But, they could not stop Him. Because upon His resurrection, Jesus had overcome death itself!

In the words of the apostle Paul, “Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O Death, is your sting?”  (1 Corinthians 15:55).

Chances are, there is something in your life right now that, if you allow it to, will attempt to stop you from following Jesus. Maybe it is something that has, for some time now, acted as a distraction. Maybe it is some repetitive sin, or as one Bible verse calls it, “the little foxes that come to spoil the vine.” (Song of Songs 2:14) 

Either way, distractions are normal for all of us. The world is full of them. But just like we talked about last week, we must keep our eyes focused on the cross. And although numerous things may have acted as temporary setbacks, the truth is that nothing can negate God’s love for us. 

As we heard in our Scripture reading today, 

“…neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

What a passage! Paul says that there is nothing in all creation that can separate us from God’s love for us. 

This should allow us to live a free life, not having to worry or stress about how we will pay the high price for our sin to once again be reconciled to God. Instead, He has already paid that price for us. Fabulous! Now what?

Step One: This is where the rubber meets the road. I believe we must take after Christ’s model and die to sin. We must repent and push our sin as far from our lives as the East is from the West. But the trouble is, and some of you here today are wondering this very thing; what does dying to sin actually look like?

Here’s the idea. In order for my cell phone to have power, it needs to be charged. However, it also has power when I give my attention to it. Yet, when it dies, I am no longer able to go on to Tik Tok, Instagram or Facebook or any other distracting app. Therefore, it doesn’t have any power over me, whether literal or figurative. 

In a similar way, we are called to die to our sin. The sin itself will probably continue to be a temptation. And there may still be moments in your life when you give into that temptation. But even if that were to happen, when we ask for forgiveness from God,  we demonstrate we are no longer living to gratify the desires of our flesh, we are new creations in Christ Jesus, learning to conform to His good and perfect will for our lives. (2 Cor. 5:17, Romans 12:1-2)

Paul wrote this to the church in Rome, (Romans 8:12-17),

So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!

This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him!

Maybe this Easter is the first time you resist the urge to sin against God in a certain way. Even if the temptation is extremely strong and constantly present, the Bible says that the Holy Spirit living within you always provides a way out! (1 Cor. 10:13) So, if dying to our sin and trusting the work of the Holy Spirit is step one, what about step two? 

Step Two: We already know that Christ did not stay dead, the grave was unable to hold Him. So what does it mean for us that He is alive today? 

The challenge for us as believers and followers of Christ is to learn how to live for Him each and every day. In the gospel of Luke we are reminded, “If anyone would come after me (Jesus), he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me (Jesus).” Luke 9:23. This may seem like a simple statement, but it doesn’t involve just words. Living for Christ takes very real action, as indicated by this passage from Luke, and others in the new testament. 

James wrote this statement, chapter 1, verse 22, 

“Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! 

Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like.”

The Bible tells the story of how God has loved humans since the beginning of creation. He has a plan for us to live with Him forever. The Biblical story demonstrates that humans aren’t very good at keeping their side of the covenant. However, God is. That fact alone is demonstrated on the cross and better yet, in the resurrection. God has given us the end of the story. We can rejoice. We should be inspired to live today knowing the Kingdom of God is here.  

God’s desire is that we experience abundant life now through the powerful sacrifice, the unstoppable and perfect love of His Son Jesus. 

In stark contrast to this stands the devil, who seeks to steal, kill, and destroy our lives. 

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” 

John 10:10

If God gives the most gracious gifts, then the enemy of our souls is the most heinous scrooge and thief who’s ever existed. 

The experience of this dichotomy; death to life, is one I can personally attest to.

From the age of 22 to the age of 30, I lived with chronic pain behind my eyes, every minute of the day, 24/7. I visited over 15 specialists of various kinds and without medical insurance paid over tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills.

I received no answers, from doctors, or from God, other than He loved me. A few years into chronic pain, one begins to question God’s love. Really? I do my best to walk with Jesus and the results are chronic pain? I can’t tell you how many Christians told me it had to be the sin in my life, and I needed to repent. Duh! Either I was the worst repenter in the world, or they were clueless. I’m going with the latter. If you have experienced chronic pain then you will understand my two attempts of suicide. This is where God’s unstoppable love comes in. The first attempt was an overdose of pain pills and alcohol. Seconds before taking them, the phone rang, why I picked it up, I do not know, but on the other end was a Christian friend who had heard of a pain clinic in Waterville, that she thought would be helpful. “God Thing.” The second attempt, I was at a Summer Christian Training Program, with the Navigators, in Syracuse, New York. 

I had a doctor’s appointment where he decided electric shock treatment would cure my pain. It didn’t, and I was done with trying. I wanted to be with Jesus, and quit this life. One of the leader’s wives took my comment seriously and drove me to the nearest emergency room. Like any emergency room, we were left in a cubicle, waiting. I was in so much pain I could not even focus. I remember apologizing to her for not being able to talk, and will never forget her response. “Would you please stop talking, I am busy praying,” Another God Thing.

In my life, I have witnessed what Jesus Christ can do with someone who forgets Jesus is right there with them. I wanted out. I wanted to be done with my life, and I wanted nothing to get in my way. But here’s the good news: even amidst all the things I tried to put in God’s way, He still found me and loved me. 

His love is unstoppable, unconquerable, and unyielding. 

And my story is just one of the dozens, if not hundreds of stories in this room of the goodness of our God. 

Easter Sunday is such a special time for us to celebrate our collective freedom. It’s a day to remember our individual testimonies… A day to celebrate and commemorate all that God has brought us through as individuals and as a community. 

As we’ve learned throughout this series, the sacrifice of Christ on the cross was fueled first and foremost by unconditional agape love. Christ was humble, He was obedient, and His love for us was perfected 2,000 years ago when He died on a cross only to be raised to life again three days later. 

As believers, the empty tomb is where we find fullness of life. 

But for some in the room today, there is simply nothing more than empty life. Your experience of life is a monotonous one of repetitive actions devoid of hope, joy, and if you’re honest with yourself, the unconditional love I’ve described here today. 

But the good news, actually the greatest news, is that life experience I just described doesn’t have to continue. The abundant fullness of life in Christ is available to any and all who believe in Him. You will need to repent and accept the story of Jesus’ sacrifice for yourself. 

As we close up our time today and wrap up this series, let’s commit to looking, sounding, and acting a bit more like Christ. 

Consider His humility and obedience and pray about areas in your life where you need more of the same. Get connected with a group here at the church, start a new group, or commit to serve in some small or large way. 

Take intentional steps towards an active life of faith. Just as Christ walked out of the grave, remember today, that He has called you to move from death to life as well. Let us live and thrive together in the abundance of life promised by Christ. 

Let’s pray together. 

Dear God, if there is anyone listening to this prayer and has not made a personal decision to follow you, I pray they decide to do so today.  We honor you and celebrate what you have done for us. With hearts filled with gratitude we say thank you… You are so so good to us. Amen.”