Back in the early days of the first century church, the Apostle Paul faced skepticism and doubt about the reality of the resurrection in many of the areas where he was establishing churches. None-the-less, Paul never backed down one inch from the indisputable and absolutely essential fact of the resurrection of Jesus.
“If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ hasn’t been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” I Corinthians 15:13&14
A few verses later Paul goes on to say,
“If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” I Corinthians 15:19
Over the past year I’ve had a couple of occasions to be with people who were facing the reality that their physical bodies were failing. As the inevitability of this reality became increasingly apparent, there was a choice to be made between fear and faith. In fact, it really isn’t a choice if you have no basis for your faith. Fear begins to dominate your thinking as you recognize you are helpless to do anything to prevent the end of the only life you have known.
But the message that I bring in everyone of those situations is not one of choosing faith, it’s one of accepting love. I will often read 1 John 4:7-18. In these verses the essential nature or character of God is declared to be love. “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” (1 John 4:16b) This moves the focus of one’s failures, shortcomings, doubts and even sins over to the reality that God’s love is greater than all of those. When people stop striving to be good enough to be accepted by God, they begin to get a taste for the depths of His incredible love which was most clearly demonstrated on the cross, but validated by the resurrection.
That is why John declares in 1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.”
And so, what every one of us can choose to celebrate this Easter is the end of the control of fear in our lives. Yes, we are all guilty of sin, and we all know it. We are all deserving of punishment and we know that as well. However, on the cross Jesus paid the penalty for every single sin of humankind and most important to you and me is that he paid for every one of our sins. Therefore, punishment has been fully paid and is the reason why the cross is so profound for every person to contemplate.
However, if it has all ended there, then we would have no way of knowing if the wrath of God against sin; the punishment of God against our failures, had been satisfied. That’s where Easter, that’s where the resurrection becomes the eternal declaration of the plan of God fulfilled for every one of us.
The resurrection of Jesus, the glorious reality that He overcame death was a visible and tangible way that mankind could know that the Father had accepted the Son’s sacrifice and that death was no longer a punishment that we needed to bear. Jesus paid the price and God the Father accepted His sacrifice declaring the Son’s victory with a glorious resurrection and 40 days of appearances and interactions with His followers throughout Jerusalem and surrounding areas.
So it is that we can say that Easter spells the end of the control of fear in our lives. The reason why the Number One commandment of scripture is “Do not fear” is because fear’s ultimate weapon, the fear of death, and eternal separation from God, has been forever silenced by the cross and resurrection should provide the peace that we need to face any circumstance that life may bring our way with the confidence that the “same power that raised Jesus from the dead dwells in our mortal bodies.” (Romans 8:11)
The application of this is profound, not just for those that may be facing the reality of end of life decisions. It is also the secret of living a day-to-day victorious life over the efforts of our adversary to keep us under the lies and deception of fear.
Back to Paul’s exhortation to the church at Corinth, he writes,
“Where, O death is your victory? Where, O death is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is law. But thanks be to God! He gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Corinthians 15:55-57)
Indeed, Easter… is the end of fear!