Please find my teaching notes below to this past weekend’s Easter message at Grace Community Church.
Every Easter we wrestle to answer the question: Is Jesus Christ the Son of God or is he a “Nutter?”
I don’t use this Bono interview to celebrate a celebrities confession of faith in Christ; but to illustrate something Bono states and how critical it is to settling the question of Christ’s credibility!
“I pray to Christ to know the will of God… my prayers have a better chance of coming true! …I find it hard to accept that all the millions and millions of lives for 2000 years have felt their lives have been touched and inspired by some Nutter! …Yes, I believe Jesus rose from the dead. I have no problem with miracles. I AM ONE!”
This is the experience and the faith of Easter! That because Jesus is who he said he is and did what he set out to do, my life can be radically CHANGED. I CAN LIVE LIFE TO THE FULLEST EXTENT POSSIBLE!
And if that’s the case, then the follow up question beyond the establishment of Jesus’ credibility is: What does Jesus want with my life??
WHAT IS GOD’S WILL FOR MY LIFE?
FIRST- God wants me to accept Christ!! AND IF I DO, THEN SECOND- How does this affect my daily living, my decisions: What does God want me to do… in all the areas of my life?
KEY: Easter puts this all into perspective. Easter brings RESURRECTION and REVELATION to our lives!
The Good News is God’s will- HIS purposes for our lives is NOT LOST! We are not living in this cosmic Easter egg hunt where we’re trying to find God’s will and God is saying, “You’re getting warmer. Oh, no, you’re getting colder.”
KEY: Here’s the REAL ENIGMA: We don’t wrestle so much with whether Jesus rose from the dead as much as with what does God want me to do with my life??
What if God’s will is not some secret that we need to uncover somewhere?
What if God makes His will very clear to us?
What if God is actually more passionate about you knowing His will than you are about knowing His will.
What if trying to figure out the formula for discovering God’s will is missing the whole point of Christianity altogether and it’s already solved for us because of EASTER?
KEY: This is the bottom line and the foundational truth: God desires for me to FOLLOW His will so much that He LIVES in me to accomplish it.
Gal. 2:20 “I was put to death on the cross with Christ, and I do not live anymore—it is Christ who lives in me. I still live in my body, but I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself to save me.”
EASTER IS NOT JUST A TRANSFORMATIONAL MOMENT IN HISTORY; IT IS AN ONGOING TRANSFORMATION MOMENT BY MOMENT IN MY LIFE! Because…
IN EASTER, CHRIST GIVES US A NEW IDENTITY!
This is where Galatians 2:20 starts off: Crucified with Christ! The cross is the one place where I am united with Christ and all that He is. This is why Paul says later in Galatians 6, “I boast in the cross,” which is a weird statement.
How do you boast in an instrument of torture? Paul boasts in the cross BECAUSE OF WHAT HAPPENS at the cross. Think about the great exchange:
First, at the cross I give Christ my sin and He gives me His righteousness. 2 Corinthians 5:21, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the” what?”- the righteousness of God.” At the cross, we give Christ all that we are, all of our sin, all the bad things we have done. And not just the bad things, we give Christ all the good things we’ve done that still don’t measure up… and He gives us all of His righteousness!
Second, I give Him my slavery; He gives me His freedom. The whole picture we have in the NT is that we are slaves to the law, slaves to ourselves, and slaves to the flesh. At the cross, we give Christ our slavery to all these things and He gives us freedom to live for God. We are free!
Third, at the cross, I give Him my defeat; He gives me His victory. It’s not that the law is a bad thing in and of itself, the only problem is I can’t live up to the law. But there’s one who does live up to the law and Christ has fulfilled it’s requirements for me!
Fourth, I give Him my judgment, and He gives me His mercy. In Romans 3 Paul says that no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by observing the law- OUR OWN ATTEMPTS AT GOODNESS. You and I stand under the judgment of God for our sin. But God gave us Jesus Christ to take that judgment upon Himself- at the cross, I give Him my judgment, He gives me His mercy.
Fifth, I give Him my death; He gives me His life. This is Romans 6:5, 9-10, “If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection…For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God” What Paul is saying is, “Christ died, and I died. Christ lives and I live. Christ was raised, I’m going to be raised.” We give Him death, and He gives us eternal life, that’s what happens at the cross.
The great exchange that happens at the cross is Christ taking all of who we are and those implications upon Himself, and He takes all that He is, and He gives it to us. He gives us a completely new identity. THAT’S HUGE…
“I have been crucified with Christ and I NO LONGER LIVE…” (Gal. 2:20). He’s proud of being crucified. WHY? “Because Christ now lives in me.” It’s a good thing to be crucified with Christ. The great exchange at the cross- it’s that your will is now lost in Him.
Paul is literally saying, “I’ve surrendered everything. I’ve surrendered my will completely to Him.” This is what it means to be identified with Christ, it means that Christ’s will now directs me.
If you are a follower of Christ we’ve got to remember that we have surrendered the right to determine the direction of our lives. Our will has been crucified with Christ and we no longer live, but He lives in us. We don’t determine the direction of our lives anymore, and this is a very good thing.
THIS IS WHERE WE MISS IT! We have this hesitancy, even a fear when we start talking about really giving God all of our lives, and it’s almost kind of a scary thing. Where do we get that idea? I think it’s because we forget who we’re surrendering our will to, to Christ, to God our Father.
KEY: LET ME TALK TO All the fathers in this room: What would you do if one of your children came to you today and said, “Dad, this week I want to do exactly what you want me to do. Every single thing you say I should do, I will do it completely.”
What would you do? Would you say, “I’m going to make this the most miserable week in my son or daughter’s life?” No, absolutely not. You’d say, “I’m going to guide you. I’m going to give you direction that will show you that you can trust me, show you that I do love you, and I’m going to lead you to what is best for you.”
“If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit [give guidance] to those who ask him.” (Luke 11:13).
Can I remind you that our Father in heaven is absolutely perfect, He makes no mistakes, so it’s not a bad thing to give Him our will and say, “You guide me, you lead me, you direct me.” After all, He is the one who created us.
This is the beauty, it’s not that we don’t have a will anymore, but our will is lost in the one who alone can enable us to experience the life that our Creator has designed for us. But let’s be honest, this is not where we are most of the time. We struggle with giving Christ complete control all of the time!
That’s why we need an ongoing crucifixion and resurrection! Paul says, “I die to self daily!” It’s the desperation of needing Christ to be in control. Because when he is, he is setting the course…
IN EASTER, CHRIST GIVES US NEW DIRECTION!
Now, here’s the problem, “Okay, Terry, I’m crucified with Christ and Christ lives in me, but I still have all these questions, all these decisions I’ve got to make.” And I know there are people all across this room that have come here, and you’re facing some major decisions.
How can I know the will of God? Typical approach…
Random Bible Verse Method: Open the Bible, point to a verse and read, “A young man was following Him, wearing nothing but a linen sheet over his naked body; and they seized him. But he pulled free of the linen sheet and escaped naked.” Mark 14:51. I mean, “What do you do with that??”
Miraculous Event Method: Moses got a burning bush. Paul got a vision. Ok, when’s the let time that happened to you?? Exactly!
Can’t Be a Coincidence Method: You wake up at 2:22 a.m. for two days in a row… God is trying to tell me something! “Yeah, don’t drink so much caffeine!”
Throw Out a Fleece Method: Recall the Gideon deal?? Anyway, God had already clearly told him what to do. Not every Bible story is intended for us to imitate!
Open Door Method: “When God opens up the door then that means He’s directing me!” Wait a second, just because someone is willing to give you a credit card for Cabelas…. wait, I mean Macy’s…
Closed Door Method: Just because a “door of opportunity” is closed off to you does that automatically mean you shouldn’t go through it? God telling me to “turn to knob myself!” Not every closed door is closed to you and not every open door is an opening for you!
Still Small Voice Method: This is 1 Kings 19. It’s Elijah, he’s running from God and he stops, and God comes. There’s an earthquake… And there’s wind… And there’s fire… But there was this still small voice, and God was in this still small voice. So you just have to look for the still small voice. The problem is most of us, no matter how hard we close our eyes and try to think, we’re still not hearing the voice, there’s not a whisper coming in. So if it’s not audible then people say, “Well, this is the feeling that you get.” That leads to greater problems because most of the time our “feelings/emotions” are lying to us!
“Well then, Terry, how do we really do it? Please hear me, I know that God uses a variety of different things to reveal Himself to us and to lead us. But these kinds of methods that we come up with for trying to figure out the will of God are just flat wrong and miss the whole point of God’s relationship with us.
Easter is actually all about making this all a lot simpler! Let me give you the true method for discovering the will of God. It’s really not a method at all, but it’s the basis of what Paul is talking about in Galatians 2:20-THE FAITH METHOD!!
Now before you dismiss this as me doing some “preacher speak” on you and saying, “You’ve just got to have more faith”- well, I’m actually not going to say that.
The funny thing is, no where in the NT- in the life of Jesus, Paul, Peter, do you read about these very specific instructions on “how to know the will of God!” Actually, if there are any, Paul says in Rom. 12:1-3 to “offer yourself as a living sacrifice to God… then you’ll know his perfect, pleasing will!” WHAT??
So, you end up with Paul saying in Galatians 2:20, “The life I live in the body, I LIVE BY FAITH…” He is saying, “My whole life is summed up in faith.”
KEY!!! Here it is: the Christian life is not about us figuring out how to live for Christ. The Christian life is about trusting Christ to live for us!
THIS IS THE POINT OF EASTER. This is what Easter provides. EASTER CHANGES EVERYTHING BECAUSE IT CHANGES US– Who we are and how we think!
KEY: What if our job is not to figure out what God’s will is and then go do it for Him… What if our job is to trust moment by moment, day by day, decision by decision, Christ who is in us to live out His life through us?? That’s what Paul seems to be telling us here, “The one who gave Himself for me, rose again and loves me enough to live His life through me.”
KEY!!! HERE’S THE GAME-CHANGER! Knowing God’s will is secondary to simply knowing God! This is so huge.
You look at every single one of those methods that I listed, they’re all shortcuts. They’re looking for a quick fix, a quick answer. They don’t require any discipline. They don’t require any work, any character transformation, that’s not what any of them involve.
But what if God has designed His will, this whole “WHY AM I HERE? WHAT DOES GOD WANT ME TO DO?” thing so that as you seek Him and as you know Him and as you find peace in Him, that He shapes you to think, to act, to live more and more like Christ!
Here’s the deal, let’s be honest, God has the power to write you a big message in the sky.
KEY: But what if part of Christ changing you is about finding direction and making decisions differently?? That instead of giving you a FORMULA, God gives you the FAITH you need to actually trust him…
I know that people across this room would be happy if I would give you a list today of 3 steps or 5, 7 steps you could take right now to help figure out this decision that you’re walking through.
KEY: The problem is I can’t give you a list like that because this is about a RELATIONSHIP, not a RELIGIOUS method!
KEY!!! GOD DOESN’T GIVE YOU A “ROADMAP” HE GIVES YOU A RELATIONSHIP– and it’s fluid, organic, yes based on some eternal principles; but for the most part, it comes down to, like every relationship- truth, time, and trust! YOU JUST KNOW!!
Have you ever noticed how God doesn’t always take us on the quickest, easiest route between points A and B? What if what matters MOST to God is not getting you there the fastest, but getting you there the fittest?? What if what matters most to God is to teach us to learn and to trust Him completely, to grow you into the image of Christ?
Now, in one sense that’s just not encouraging, it’s not encouraging in the fact that we want the answer right now. But I hope it’s very deeply encouraging to realize that the God of the universe really wants a relationship with us, and He doesn’t just want to give us something on the surface. He wants to live in us. He wants to go deep with us in relationship!
The will of God is not a roadmap, it’s a relationship whereby Christ gradually overtakes our will and transforms us to become one with Him as perhaps simply learn to trust what we hear Jesus say and see Jesus do right here in the Gospels.
2 Corinthians 5:17 “If anyone belongs to Christ, there is a new creation. The old things have gone; everything is made new!” Christ is in you. The old is gone, the new has come. And this is where as Christ overtakes our lives and as He changes our minds and as He overtakes our desires and passions, that we then actually begin to trust the passion and desires of Christ in us. This is Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING! Following the will of God is not a passive journey where we sit back and just wait for Him to show us something. It’s an active journey where we are constantly taking the will of God that has been revealed to us and walking in it and obeying it.
One of the reasons we stress out so much about the will of God is we’ve got this fear that we’re going to make the wrong decision. “What if I marry the wrong person Somebody else was supposed to marry that person. I messed up the whole chain. I don’t want to be responsible for messing up the whole chain. What if I go to the wrong college? I’ll miss God’s point for my entire life if I go to the wrong college.”
“Trust Christ in you,” Paul says. Walk in His will. When you don’t know what to do, do what you know to do NOW!
Adrian Rogers said, “The way to find God’s will for the rest of your life is to do God’s will for the next 15 minutes.”
KEY: You ARE His will – that sounds a lot like what Jesus said to us in John 15, “You abide in me, I no longer call you servants, I call you friends because a servant doesn’t know his master’s business. Everything the Father’s made known to me, I have made known to you because you’re my friends.”
Here’s the good news, we all know that when you make tough decisions there are tendencies to say, “Well, did I make the right decision?” And the good news is that 6 months later or a year later, whenever you start to think, “Did I make the right decision?”
You don’t have to look back and hope in a small feeling you had or a fortune cookie you read. Instead what you hope in is a rock-solid relationship with the God of the universe who has never left you alone in the middle of the whole process.
“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” (Gal. 2:20).
It is not a mechanical formula for figuring out God’s will for your life, but it is the secret to knowing, experiencing and walking in His will on a day-by-day basis. It’s the true life-changing, transformational power of Easter!
And I pray that God makes us a people who wants it, and who sacrifices everything we have for it, to be crucified with Christ.