It’s Easter Sunday, which is a day of celebration.  It’s often a busy day of family get-togethers, Easter baskets, and Easter Egg Hunts.  For many, it’s a day to dress a little nicer for church services or one of the days that is chosen to attend church.  Which may only happen on the big holidays like Christmas and Easter.  And that is ok, those are two very good days to go to church!  You get to hear of God’s great love for you celebrating the birth of our Savior, and then today celebrating our Savior doing the saving for you!   For many inside their churches, this is an exciting day with the expectation of visitors and more attendance and energy around the church services.  Now, here at MRC, we believe all 52 Sundays in the year are very important, but I understand the added excitement or validation some inside the church feel on this day, all this stuff is just fine!  But what we cannot do, in all the excitement, and extra that happens on Easter, is miss the reason this is such a big day.  This is a big day because Jesus won. He has risen and because of that we all have an opportunity for a different eternal destiny, and that’s not all.  We not only have heaven to look forward to, but we can also enjoy life on this Earth.  So many miss that, because He won, we can experience our best lives in our time here on this Earth!  We do this through this incredible loving gift from God.  Because God loved us so much, He sent Jesus to this Earth to lay down His life, defeating sin and death, crucified on that Friday, and on the third day rose again, we do have that different eternal destiny AND a different, better life today!  We now live with hope, with victory, with freedom, with courage, with a healthy self-view, with deep, Godly inner peace and joy, and with the understanding of God’s great love and care for our lives allowing us to walk through challenges, and difficulty with the understanding that He is with us and will guide us through it all.  We see people, relationships, and life differently because of all Jesus did for us…because of all we celebrate on this day.  We truly can live differently.  We can experience our best lives possible here in our short time on this Earth before we head to eternal paradise to enjoy, forever.  So, because of God’s great love for us, and the fact that Jesus won we have hope of an incredible eternal future to look forward to and a new life to walk in and experience today.  These are statements that Christians make on days like today.  These statements will be made in and around Easter every year.  These are the things Christians go out into the world and share with others.  This is the Good News, that because of God’s great love for us, and because of Jesus’ incredible sacrifice and victory over sin and death, we have a different eternal destiny, and we can experience our best lives possible today…standing in hope, freedom, victory, strength, peace, and joy.  It’s amazing, it is The Good News Message, but it leads to an important question, and I’m just going to ask it because it is weighing on me today.  Is that our Christian experience?  Are we living different lives because of what we celebrate today?  Are we experiencing this “new life” because of Jesus’ death and resurrection?  Is today’s celebration of the greatest thing that has ever happened to humanity, the greatest thing that has ever happened to you, personally?

You know, for years we can come to church and spend days like today, Easter Services celebrating the fact that Jesus has risen from the dead.  He has and it is amazing…or at least it should and could be amazing if it is truly leading you to your best life possible.  But so many people who love God, and celebrate Jesus’ incredible victory today, just don’t find new life.  They know it’s the greatest thing that could have ever happened, but it isn’t personal.  There is no new life, no best life possible, and it is heartbreaking to watch this unfold day after day, year after year, Easter Sunday after Easter Sunday.  It’s so tough to see how hard life continues to be, how heavy it is.  The pain, the burdens, the insecurities, the fears, the negativity, the fractured relationships, and the guilt we continue to walk in as we celebrate and claim the hope, freedom, joy, peace, and victory we have through Jesus and His incredible sacrifice on The Cross and victory over sin and death.

You know, leading into this Easter Service, I just kept trying to talk myself into preaching a more traditional service.  I started laying out a talk on the different responses Jesus received as He appeared to people after He rose.  It was interesting and would have been a good talk looking at Mary Magdalene, and the Disciples on The Road to Emmaus.  It would have been a more traditional talk for sure!  I even told Ken what was on my heart but told him that I wasn’t going to “go there” because I wanted to make sure this was a redemptive talk here on Easter Sunday, but I couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t do it because I kept coming back to this one line from Paul found in Galatians 2 that ties to the question that I asked a moment ago about how you are living because of Jesus and what He did for you on that Cross.  It’s been weighing on me so heavily lately, and for the past few weeks, I am just stuck on it, and as I walk and talk with people, I just can’t shake it.  Are you ready for it?  Here’s the line.

Galatians 2:21 “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” NIV

Now, I don’t know anyone who would willingly set aside the grace of God and minimize Jesus and what He did for us on The Cross…but, I think this is happening a lot.  When I say a lot, I would confidently say that it is more popular to see people do that than to see someone truly walking in all that a life in Christ could and should be…and we should be able to talk about it.  I just can’t get that verse from Paul out of my heart and mind as I think about what Jesus did, what it means for us, and look at that compared to how we humans live today.  How we Christians who celebrate His ultimate victory over sin and death live today.  To me, this is everything.  If we truly believe in Jesus, and what He did for us, and we are truly grateful for it, yet never live differently…why did Jesus do this for us?  Did Christ die for nothing?  As I walk through life and see the weight of life and the burdens and hurts of people and just how hard their lives are, it’s so tough, and we hurt for people, but in the end, this question must be asked, if we never move into new life, and refuse to experience this victorious life we can have through Him, ‘Did Christ die for nothing?’  This is what I want to talk to you about today…and if this seems intense for an Easter Service, my response is, yes…yes, it is.  It’s intense because life is hard.  We walk through so much, and far too many Christians are not experiencing all they should or all they say they do because of Jesus and what He did for us on the Cross. I can think of no better day to talk about this, than Easter Sunday.  The day we celebrate all that we can now have and experience and look forward to because of Jesus’ ultimate victory over sin and death.  This matters, because far too many of us just aren’t living out all we can because of what we celebrate on this day, and if that is true, then this line from Paul needs to be talked about because what Jesus did cannot be minimized.

Galatians 2:21 “…Christ died for nothing!” NIV

This statement from Paul comes in an intense moment, where He is confronting Peter.  Think about being in that room!  We are talking about Peter and Paul here! Paul continues to point to grace while Peter has pulled back on the freedom we have in Christ because of some powerful religious folks of that time who have come to town.  Before they got there, Peter would eat with the Gentiles, but after these folks arrived Peter pulled away from the “outsiders” and hung out with the religious folks and Paul went directly to Peter and pressed in on The Gospel.

Galatians 2:16 Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law.” NLT

He is reminding Peter, of all people, that we are not made right by keeping the rules, but by our faith in Jesus.  We believe in Him, and we are made right with God through faith in Him not by anything we do, like keeping the rules.  Let’s open this up for a moment and read a few verses in The Message Version…

Galatians 2:16 We know very well that we are not set right with God by rule-keeping but only through personal faith in Jesus Christ. How do we know? We tried it — and we had the best system of rules the world has ever seen! Convinced that no human being can please God by self-improvement, we believed in Jesus as the Messiah so that we might be set right before God by trusting in the Messiah, not by trying to be good. 17 Have some of you noticed that we are not yet perfect? (No great surprise, right?) And are you ready to make the accusation that since people like me, who go through Christ in order to get things right with God, aren’t perfectly virtuous, Christ must therefore be an accessory to sin? The accusation is frivolous. 18 If I was “trying to be good,” I would be rebuilding the same old barn that I tore down. I would be acting as a charlatan. 19 What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. MSG

What do we see here?  The whole point of Jesus coming to this Earth and doing what He did, is that nothing we humans do could do it.  We tried it and it didn’t work.  They had an incredible system of rules and laws to obey, and they continued to fall short showing just how much we need Jesus in our lives, to do for us what we cannot.  I love that line, and I think we can all find some peace in verse 17 where Paul says, “Have some of you noticed that we are not yet perfect?  No great surprise, right?”  This is our reality as people, and we must embrace this fact.  No, we are not perfect, we will strive to live Holy lives and we will come up incredibly short, we can try, but it doesn’t work in our strength which is why we are so thankful for Jesus and what He did and does for us!  This leads us to these powerful and popular few verses here from Paul and that statement that I want us sitting in today.

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” NIV

So, let’s talk here on this Easter Sunday because Paul is talking about religious rule-following that so many of us can slide into, which minimizes what we celebrate today.  The context is Peter, being influenced by religious rule followers in a way that is hurting people.  But it isn’t just rule-following that we humans do to minimize what Jesus did, is it?  We tend to do this in many areas of our lives!  We don’t mean to, we truly love Jesus and are so thankful for all He has done in our lives, but somehow it doesn’t seem to translate to how we live our lives.  Think about this, how many Christians come to know Christ and slide into the very thing Paul is pressing against here?  We try to do things to earn God’s love, to earn our way into Heaven even knowing that we can’t get that done, and Jesus already did!  If we do this, then we must ask, Did Christ die for nothing?  This is us setting aside God’s grace!

Vs 21 “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” NIV

How many of us walk through life so grateful for Jesus and what He did for us on The Cross, knowing that He won this ultimate victory over life and death?  One of my favorite scriptures on this is Romans 8:37, specifically in the New Living Translation where we see the phrasing “overwhelming victory.”  It just hits our hearts, doesn’t it?

Romans 8:37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. NLT

This is the life we should be experiencing, a life of overwhelming victory through Jesus, who loved us and took care of it all for us.  But so many of us never experience this overwhelming victory in our lives.  We still feel like less.  We continue to hold our mistakes, sins, and issues over ourselves.  We continue feeling like less than those around us, we do not walk in overwhelming victory, but overwhelming defeat.  If we do this, then the question has to be asked, Did Christ die for nothing?

How many of us struggle and beat ourselves up over our sins and issues and just struggle to forgive ourselves of our sins and we just continue to struggle to get out of those old ruts and routines?  We decide our life just is what it is, or we decide due to our personality, or circumstances, or how much harder our lives are than those we see walking into new life, that we will always be stuck in things we know we can have complete freedom over.   We continue to set aside the grace of God, while we wallow in our past issues and sin and continue to live lives enslaved to habits, routines, and things that really through Christ have no power over us.  We look in the mirror and just see everything we are not and everything we continue to do wrong, and we don’t like the person we see looking back at us in that mirror, even as we know what Scripture teaches, we can quote it, and we can share it with others.

2 Corinthians 5:21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. NIV

We know that because of Jesus, God no longer looks upon us and sees our sins anymore, He simply sees Jesus, who took all our junk for us so that we don’t have to carry it anymore, but we seem to struggle to accept that in our personal lives…we may tell others, but so many of us just beat ourselves up over it and if that is true, then we have to ask the question, Did Christ died for nothing?

How many of us know that because of Jesus taking care of the sin problem we can now walk in a personal relationship with God?  We can talk with, walk with, and enjoy God in our daily lives, because of this ultimate victory Christ won over sin and death.  We can enjoy personal time with our Heavenly Father, but so few enjoy that time with Him.  We just don’t do it.  We tell ourselves we will someday, or that we are too busy, or we just have zero interest in walking with God daily, or it’s a good thing for ministry leaders, but not ordinary old me.  If this is true, then the question must be asked, Did Christ die for nothing?

How many of us truly walk in the freedom we know we have because of Jesus?  How many of us walk in the joy and peace we are to have because of Jesus and what He has done in our lives?  How many of us are walking in the courage, and confidence in who we are as children of God through Jesus’ work on The Cross?  How many of us are experiencing that life that He told us He came to provide for us all along?  You know the life I speak of often?

John 10:10 “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” NIV

If nothing has changed in our lives and our behaviors.  If nothing has changed except where we hang out on Sunday mornings.  If we aren’t experiencing this abundant full life that Jesus told us He came to provide for us, we must ask the question.  Did Christ die for nothing?  If nothing changes personally in our lives, then why did He go through all the trouble?  What Paul says here must be wrestled with, if we set aside God’s grace, then Christ died for nothing.  No one wants to minimize what Jesus did for us…but the reality is, we so often do. Now, this is not to say your life should be perfect, and that you will not have problems as you walk through life.  Life is hard, and you will struggle at times.  Life is full of painful realities that we all face, so we are not saying that because Jesus died your life will now be easy…that isn’t it.  Life will still come at you, and it will still be difficult.  So many people think that if they struggle that means they are doing something wrong, but that is not the case.  We were never promised an easier life without pain, trials, and struggles…so don’t hear that today.  It’s hard to read your Bible and conclude that life will be easy.  It won’t be.  What we were promised was a full, abundant life in Christ, which we can have through the ultimate victory Jesus won for us.  That is different.

John 16:33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”  NLT

When you look at your own life today would you say that your life is different because of what Jesus has done for you?   Maybe we should look at just some of the gifts or benefits that we now have because Jesus died and rose again.  We could spend all day working through the many personal benefits that we have because of Jesus’ ultimate victory over sin and death but let’s just talk about three big ones that we talk and hear of often around church and Christianity.


As we talk about them, please personalize them, and ask yourself if you truly are experiencing these things in your life.  If you are experiencing them, that is awesome, if not, and I’m not trying to be harsh or punchy today, the question must be asked…then why did Jesus go through all He went through?  What or why are we celebrating today?  Did Christ die for nothing?


Hope is found in the promises of freedom from sin that God gave us through Jesus. We can find this hope as we battle through life and all it throws at us knowing that better days are to come.  We have hope through the gift of eternal life made possible through Jesus. No matter what trials, temptations, or pain we may suffer, we can always hold onto the hope God extends to us.  A hope that we have because Jesus went to the Cross died for our sins and rose again.  It’s amazing how much better life can be when you have something out in front of you to look forward to when you have hope you can push through and persevere.  Have you ever been pushing through work, and then set up a nice vacation, and got those dates on the calendar?  You just have a better ability to push through things at work, knowing there is something out there, in front of you to look forward to.  Well, because of Jesus, and what He did for us, we have the greatest destination vacation of all time to look forward to, which is Heaven, eternal paradise…we have hope for what is to come!  This allows us to live differently today, or it should.

Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. 2 Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. 3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. 6 When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. NLT

You know, hope is so important, and such a gift because life is so difficult.  For so many of us, we could have walked in here today feeling like everything is falling apart in life, dealing with such hard times today that we aren’t sure how we will even keep moving forward.  If that is you, this hope we have in Jesus is very important.  It’s this hope that allows us to keep moving forward in this difficult world.  It’s this hope of what is to come that sustains us, even keeping us free from the fear of death itself!  It is this hope that sustains and helps us keep the things of today in perspective, understanding that eternity is such a long time, and today is just not.  I didn’t say life won’t hurt, and I didn’t say life isn’t hard, but I did say that through Jesus, we are no longer hopeless, we have something to focus on and look forward to.  If we do not, then we must ask the question, Did Christ die for nothing?


You know we talk about freedom in Christ a lot, but I believe it is very rare to see someone truly experiencing a life of freedom in Christ.  While we know that Jesus set us up to live a free life, for so many we stay stuck and enslaved to many different things.

Galatians 5:1 Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you. MSG

When you look at your own life do you see freedom?  Are you taking your stand and living in and experiencing God’s grace or are you placing that aside?  Remember who Jesus sets free, is free indeed.

John 8:34 Jesus said, “I tell you most solemnly that anyone who chooses a life of sin is trapped in a dead-end life and is, in fact, a slave. 35 A slave is a transient, who can’t come and go at will. The Son, though, has an established position, the run of the house. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you are free through and through.  MSG

Think about your life, are you truly free?  Free from the sins that can hold you back?  Free from the opinions of others?  Free from the expectations of this world?  Free from the guilt and shame that doesn’t allow you to walk and stand as your true self?  Free from the things of this world that so often pull us away from God?  The Son sets you free.  But if there is no freedom, then the question must be asked, Did Christ die for nothing?


We read something earlier that should send energy through our hearts and minds.  Paul said that overwhelming victory is ours through Jesus, who loves us.  This is amazing, but we must look at our lives and ask this question, do we live this way?  Do we live in the overwhelming victory we have because of Jesus?  I mean, let’s be honest here.  Life is hard.  It’s full of challenges and pain.  We don’t always feel like we are walking in that overwhelming victory, do we?  I mean we will tell others about it, and we sing songs about it in church, but we struggle to experience it in our own lives.  Frankly, it is rare to see anyone living in this “overwhelming victory” we have in Jesus.  It sounds amazing, but it’s just rare to see.  If we are not living victorious lives then we must ask the question, did Christ die for nothing?

Here we are on the day we celebrate the incredible work of Jesus.  His selfless sacrifice, His love, and ultimate victory over sin and death and I want to talk about this reality.  We struggle to experience all that we should because of Jesus.  We celebrate it.  We tell others about it, but we should also be experiencing it.  We should be experiencing our best lives in Christ.  It’s just so rare to see that in people.  The issue isn’t that the victory was completed, it’s done…Jesus won.  The issue is all about what is happening in our hearts and minds as we walk through this brutal life.  As we make mistakes, and deal with hurts, issues, and all that life throws at us.  As life presses in on us, we make agreements and decisions and come to conclusions we should come to.   All of that makes overwhelming victory seem unreachable.   Not only do we have so much pushing against our lives each day on the outside, but we also know ourselves on the inside.  And there are often things in there we don’t want to talk about out loud.  You know you, and I know me.  We know our thoughts and our issues.  We know our motives.  We know our sins.  We look back over our pasts and see all the wreckage of our lives.  We have regrets for all we did and didn’t do.  And in all of that, it’s hard to believe and accept that what Jesus did covers the mess that is our lives.  We think that may work for some people, but not me, I’ve done too much.  We can love God and be so thankful we are going to Heaven, but we still know ourselves, and all our junk, and we just can’t comprehend that this victorious life is ours too.  We beat ourselves up over things that God has taken care of for us.

Romans 8:35 Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture…37 None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. 38 I’m absolutely convinced that nothing — nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, 39 high or low, thinkable or unthinkable — absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us. MSG

So, I get it, you messed up, you sin, and will continue to mess up and sin…welcome to the club, but it’s time to believe Scripture to be true, and to stand in the enormity of God’s amazing victory.  It’s bigger than all your junk, and while you tell others that, it’s time to understand it to be true for you too.  Listen, God’s love is so pure and flawless, it’s perfect and beyond our human understanding of love, which makes it so hard for us to grasp and accept in our own lives.  Why do I say that so confidently?  Well, it’s because every part of our human condition screams at us that we couldn’t be worthy of this kind of love. After all, we know ourselves, and all our junk.  God’s love is so pure and unconditional, that we can’t mess this up, even though we try!  Understanding and accepting God’s love for us is the key.

Ephesians 3:18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. NLT

While God’s love is too great to ever grasp completely, we must get to this place where we begin to understand the purity, enormity, depth, and true perfection of God’s love, and more than that, we need to understand that it is true for ourselves.  I know this is so hard for us because we know ourselves so well, and life is so painful and challenging but we must accept and believe that it.  If we don’t, we are setting aside God’s grace, and if that is true, then we have to wrestle with this gut-wrenching thought from Paul, if that is true, then Christ died for nothing.

So, here we are on Easter Sunday.  For some of us, we have been doing this for years.  For some of us, it’s the yearly traditional day to talk about Jesus and all that He has done in our lives.  For so many of us, we walk into church on this day with a greater focus on Jesus, that Blood-Stained Cross, and The Empty Tomb.  This is a day centered around celebrating the greatest thing that could’ve ever happened to us!  Jesus not only died on The Cross for our sins but rose again, overcoming sin and death.  And He did it all for you!

So, the question must be asked, is it the greatest thing that’s ever happened to you?  Has your life changed because Jesus did what he did for you?   When you look at your life do you see hope, freedom, and victory or could it be that you are setting aside God’s grace, and continuing to plow through life your way?  Think this through today, we would never want to minimize what Jesus did for us, yet so often, we live our lives like what He did never happened.  So, what are you struggling with today?  What is it?  Stress and Anxiety?  Fear?  Depression?  Sin and old habits you are struggling to get out of.  Painful relational challenges with loved ones?  Your value and self-worth?  Think about that, because of Jesus and His ultimate victory over sin and death, you can walk with hope through this difficult life, freedom from all that we were once enslaved to, and the overwhelming victory that He gives us.  So, are you?  What does your life look like because of what we celebrate today?  If there is no life change, no difference, then what did Christ die for?  No one said life would be easy, in fact, the longer you live on this planet the clearer it is that life is hard…but because of what we celebrate today we can walk through life differently, and if you are not, you need to process this and ask yourself, why you aren’t.  You could be putting grace aside and minimizing what Jesus did for you.  We love Him and would never want to do that but if there is no life change, we must ask the question.  What are we celebrating today?  If there is no life change, we have to wrestle with this piercing thought from Paul, did Christ die for nothing?  Please think this all through today, what has or hasn’t changed in your life because of this incredible gift and victory that we celebrate here on Easter?  This is the day we celebrate the greatest thing that could have ever happened to you.

So, personalize that, process it, and don’t leave this moment without asking yourself this question.  Is it?  Is the greatest thing that has ever happened to humanity, the greatest thing that’s ever happened to you?  Has your life changed because Jesus did what he did for you?   

Galatians 2:21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” NIV