Yesterday we celebrated Palm Sunday and now Resurrection Sunday is on its way! Though I have never been in doubt about why we celebrate Resurrection Sunday (i.e., Easter), I confess that I get drawn into the bunnies, pastels, and eggs as they are all so beautiful. We celebrate each year with eating lamb (a tradition Eric brought into our family from his family of origin) and my brother-in-law and sister-in-law come over and we eat our Easter meal together. In the early years of this tradition, I would get so stressed over making the meal that I almost completely ignored the reason for the celebration.
They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were puzzling over this, suddenly two men in radiant apparel stood beside them. As the women bowed their faces to the ground in terror, the two men asked them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He has risen!” (Luke 24:2-6a, ESV)
What are your Easter traditions? What did you do as a child on Easter Sunday and which traditions do you continue now?
When I was a child, I looked forward to finding a brightly colored Easter basket filled with candy and maybe a stuffed bunny rabbit on Easter morning. We always went to church on Easter, and there was always – always – a new dress involved. A white, or peach, or pink, or pastel blue dress – and this was important… for some reason.
As I typically wear jeans to church year-round now, it is hard to imagine I was once that little girl in a colorful dress (and annoying tights). The dress never was that important after all. It was an extra which somehow got turned into a must. How many extras do we have in our Christian life which really have nothing to do with Christ?
Freedom from Religion
It is easy to look back over my life and think, “Wow, maybe we got a lot wrong? Maybe we focused too much on the secular traditions?” But, since this is the year of freedom, I want to examine those questions and worries. We can have balance in our celebrations and still honor our Lord and Savior. As a child, I always knew Christmas was about Jesus’ birth and Easter was about Jesus’ resurrection which gave us the hope of eternal life. No matter how many pictures I colored of Santa Claus, or how many times I hunted Easter eggs in the tall grass of a friends’ yard, I was not confused.
We can celebrate the truth and enjoy the fun. In fact, we can incorporate the truth into the fun. Why do they need to be separate?
Because culture has done everything in its power to remove Jesus from the conversation, some Christian believers have (understandably) gone out of their way to steer the ship far, far away from the secular celebration. The problem is that in our attempt to shine a light on Christ, we sometimes ostracize ourselves from the world we are trying to reach when we refuse (or find fault) with every non-religious activity.
We want to do right. We want to please God. Sometimes in doing so we shun anything and everything which is not 100% religious – causing us to fall into legalism. So, instead of wholeheartedly pushing the earthly celebrations aside, let us hold our activities up to Scripture. Do they offend God? Are they in opposition to His Word? If not, be free and have fun.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1, ESV)
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. (Galatians 5:13, ESV)
Set Free to Follow Christ!
For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:20-23, ESV)
Growing up in church, I frequently heard the phrase, “Get saved.”
- Did you hear about Johnny? He went to the altar last Sunday and got saved!
- I heard last week that Joanne’s cousin got saved at youth camp.
- Tell me about the day you got saved.
It was such a common phrase that I did not pay much attention to what it meant. I just knew if someone was not saved, they were not going to Heaven, and if someone was saved, they were going to Heaven. Then as I aged, I started thinking, “Saved from what?”
When someone comes to Christ by repenting (cf. Acts 3:19) and is made a new creation (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17), he or she is saved from God’s wrath (cf. Romans 5:9). After growing up singing Jesus Loves Me, it was hard to swallow the idea that God could be wrathful; but, it is true. God hates sin and sin must be punished. As descendants of Adam, we are all born with sinful hearts and we must be born again to be reconciled with the Father (cf. Romans 5:19, 2 Corinthians 5:17-19).
We were born and in our nature, we loved sin – in effect, running toward Hell as fast as possible. God in His mercy chooses to save those whom He will… but, a price still has to be paid for the wrong we have committed. This is why Jesus came and took our place on the cross. We had no way to pay the debt, but He paid it in our place. God sent His Son to make a way for us to be reconciled with Him. Saved from what? God’s wrath – the punishment for our sin – an eternity of suffering in Hell. And there is no way to repay that gift.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8, ESV)
To so many people, Christianity is simply a tradition. They grew up in the church. Their parents grew up in the church. Their grandparents grew up in the church. All too often, decisions are made based off the way “we have always done it” rather than by reading and following Scripture. But, in the end, tradition does not make us right with God (cf. Mark 7:6-8). Only repentance and a spiritual re-birth can close the gap between us and God (cf. John 3:1-6).
You contribute nothing to your salvation except the sin that made it necessary. — Jonathan Edwards
Religion has nothing to do with eternal life. Only a relationship with Christ, made possible by His death and resurrection, can do that. Avoiding the secular parts of the Easter celebration will not save us. Enjoying the fun of an egg hunt or Easter basket will not separate us from Christ (cf. Romans 8:38-39).
God can set us free from the shackles of religion and instead He made a way for a true relationship with Him.
How Do We Want to Celebrate the Resurrection?
While we are in this season, now is a great time to talk to your boyfriend or girlfriend about what he or she believes about theology and spirituality.
- What does he or she believe about God, Jesus, and eternal life?
- What does he or she believe about celebrating Easter?
- What does he or she want to teach future children about the resurrection and other non-religious traditions?
- Are you and your partner on the same page moving forward?
- What does an Easter Sunday celebration look like for us as:
- New parents?
- Parents of teenagers?
When Eric and I sit comfortably in a quiet room together, I feel content. However, I do miss the days of getting to know him and the season of discussing future plans and finding out new tidbits about the incredible new person in my life. You may want to skip ahead to the comfortable part, but this stage in your relationship journey is precious. Treasure it… as, one day, you will miss it.
Wherever you are on your journey, treasure it.
We wish you and your significant other a Happy Resurrection Sunday. We hope your hearts are full of gladness and that you can look back on this season with fondness and laughter. What joy it is to know Christ!
Thank you, Father, for sending Jesus so that we can be set free.
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36, ESV)
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1-2, ESV)
If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. — C.S. Lewis, Preparing for Easter: Fifty Devotional Readings from C. S. Lewis
Have you been set free to follow Christ?