Here is Sam’s portion of the Easter service this past Sunday…addressing church people.

Easter is a big deal day as we celebrate what Jesus is doing in our lives but let’s face it…we’ve done this before right?  Year after year, we clean up a little more…we get our daughters the nice Easter dress, we force the boys to wear a shirt they aren’t happy to be wearing.  We know we will see a few more faces than normal and we are going to get to hear the Easter story…again. 

If you have been doing this church thing year in and year out, I’d like to ask you something…How do you feel today?  Does the Easter story juice you up like the first day you were saved?  You see, if you are out there and you’ve been a Christian for a long time you can get flat can’t you?  I know, I know, we would never say something like that at church, but if we are really honest…we’ve done this before.  Really you might be sitting there more worried about the trip to the in-laws you are going to take after we wrap this service up than you are focused on the fact that Jesus came, died for your sins and rose from the grave allowing you to live in freedom, and peace, and joy.   How can I focus on that with all the Easter eggs I know I’m going to have to hide later on today?  I get it…you can get flat.  You work a million hours a week.  You spend your evenings driving kids all over God’s green earth, and you haven’t had an opportunity to even stop and take a deep breath this week, let alone focus on the idea that this was the week that Jesus did for you what you could not.  Well, today is your day to stop, breath through your nose, and slow down and remember just how huge your Christian faith is.

There is nothing more important, nothing more exciting…nothing that matters more than what Jesus did for you on the cross.  If you’ve been going to church year in year out and you are getting flat in your faith, the Bible actually tells you what you need to do.

Hebrews 12:2-3 Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls! MSG

Why does this story shoot adrenaline through our souls?  It’s because Jesus did for you and I what we could not do for ourselves!  This is why we worship!  This is why we celebrate!  This is why we are excited to enter into a relationship with Him!  This is why we should live lives in such a state of joy!  So why aren’t we?  If this is such good news, and it should shoot adrenaline into our souls, why are we so flat?  Why are we so miserable?  Well that is the big question isn’t it?

The answer to that question is that we take Jesus out of the center of our lives and we fill it with other things.  You see that is what religion does, it is doing anything in its power to take away Jesus and what he did for you and for me on the cross.  This is the most brilliant scheme our enemy has put together because you begin trying to earn something…that you just can’t earn!  That is why so many Christians look miserable, frustrated, and exhausted.  They are running on the hamster wheel of religion and they fail daily because this has never been about us, our perfection, or our ability to follow all the rules.  What this has always been about is the fact that we people fall amazingly short, and Jesus takes care of the rest, and did it out of God’s amazing love for us, it is the amazing gift of God.

Ephesians 2:8-9 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.  NIV

That’s the beauty of Christianity that we have been saved by grace…meaning we cannot earn it, it is given to us as a free gift from God.  The irony is that many, many people spend all of their days on this earth trying to earn their way into heaven…which would be exhausting wouldn’t it?  Spending your entire life trying to earn something that you can’t earn.

The most freeing moment of someone’s life will be the day they realize that this is all about Jesus, and not about them.  I believe this is what Jesus was talking about when He told us why he came to this Earth…

John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.  NIV

Maybe you’ve been coming to church for years and today is just another day to you.  You got the kids all dressed up, the family has pasted smiles on their faces, and all you are thinking about is the stupid Easter Egg hunt later and the drive to your in-laws before another week of work begins.  That is fair.  Maybe you are tired and frustrated and not understanding why life is so tiring and, frustrating.  If that is you today maybe it’s time to stop focusing on you, and begin focusing on Jesus.  Listen to what Jesus says here…

Matthew 11:28-30 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. 29 Walk with me and work with me — watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. 30 Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”    (THE MESSAGE)

What is interesting to me is that this could just be another day for you…or it could be a moment for you and God to reconnect.  I know that somewhere along the line you felt the love of God.  There was a day where you knew he was there, knocking on the door of your heart, and you let Him in…and you had passion, and life, and joy.  The world was fun for a moment.  The reality is that IS the life that Jesus came to give you.  A life of freedom.  A life of joy.  A life where you get to walk through it understanding that you will never be perfect.  That you will mess up from time to time, but God loves you anyway…and he loved you enough to send His son Jesus to the world to take on all of your sin for you!

So to all of us who have been doing this Easter thing, time and time again.  I would ask you today to reconnect with this one amazing idea.  That God loves you more than you realize.  With a profound love that is very difficult for us humans to comprehend.  He loved us enough to take care of sin for us…because we can’t take care of it on our own.  When we can stay focused on Jesus…when we can learn the unforced rhythms of grace…we learn to live freely and lightly.  We actually receive the life to the full that Jesus came to provide!

That doesn’t come from anything we do.  Muscling through life trying hard not to sin and looking down your nose at anyone who does sin won’t get that done.  All that does is make you out to be the hypocrite that the world says you are…because we all sin.  We just got to remember what is at the center of everything…and that is Jesus, a blood stained cross, and an empty tomb.  That is the source of our strength.  That is the fuel to our fire. 

Hebrews 12:3 When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls! MSG

Ken is going to come back up and close this thing down today, but I want to leave you with two questions… 

Why have so many people been hurt by Christians?  It’s because when they hear you say you are a Christian what they immediately think you said is that you are better than them.  They come about this pretty honestly because they have had a run in with people trapped in religion somewhere along the line in their life who have rammed the rules and regulations down their throats…they have tried church, and they have felt weighed and measured and been left to believe that they don’t add up. 

The irony is that when you say you are a Christian what you are actually saying is the exact opposite of what they think you are saying.  What you are actually saying is that you were unable to live up to God’s holy standard, yet he loved you enough to save you.  You aren’t saying, “Hey look at me, I’m perfect!”  What you are actually saying is “Hey, I screw up time and time again but look at what Jesus did for me!”

The second question I have for you is this…

Why are so many Christians tired and miserable?  It’s because we get so caught up in doing the right thing.  So caught up in not sinning.  So caught up in going to church, and looking holier than we really are; and earning our way into heaven (which we can’t do!); that we forget what is at the center of what we believe!  What is at the center is Jesus, a blood stained cross and an empty tomb!  If this is you today, if you have been to church year, after year after year…and today is just another day…it’s time to stop and reconnect with the story of Jesus.  Never forget your own salvation!  Never let it get so far in the past that you can’t remember what Jesus did for you!

We come to church to celebrate this one amazing fact…

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  NIV

So don’t make today, just another day to bang out church…maybe it’s time to reconnect with the living God. 

Today is more than eating ham, dressing in uncomfortable clothes, and your family feel guilty enough to come to church one time a year…today may be your day to reconnect with Jesus…your day to experience life to the full.  Your day to step out of the way and let Jesus do, what only he can do in your life.