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But very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. So they went in, but they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. - Luke 24:1-3 (NLT)
I hope your family enjoyed Easter services online as much as ours did! I will say that taking communion together in our home has been very special. It's so different not gathering together in person to celebrate the day most crucial to our faith. I’ve been in ministry for about 30 years and can’t recall ever missing an Easter Sunday service in that span of time. I’m so very grateful for the ability to connect online, but there’s something beautifully unique about the church gathering together, person to person, in community.
As I began to write this week’s devos, it felt odd not to reference COVID-19. I’ve had a strange calm about it all. Honestly, I’ve been more annoyed than anything. What, still no cleaning wipes? I’ll have to go to a couple of stores to get what I need? In the scheme of things, these are inconveniences. Many of you are navigating far greater concerns. Whether the impact of this has been minimal or substantial for you, I hope we’re thinking about the days ahead. I will often counsel people in the midst of crisis who will make statements like, “I just wish things could be the way they were.” It’s a chance for me to gently remind them that the way things were contributed to where they are now.
Things will be different in the days ahead, even better. And so it is with the hope of the empty tomb. Jesus’ followers must have wished for things to be the way they were before Jesus’ body was cold and lifeless in the tomb. But the empty tomb changed everything. Nothing would ever be, or will ever be, the same in light of it.
This week we’ll reflect on some things the empty tomb promises.
For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death. - 2 Corinthians 7:10 (NLT)
We wrapped up the teaching series What Made Jesus Mad on Sunday, and we’re spending some time this week focusing on some big things the empty tomb eliminates and promises. Today, embrace the truth that the tomb deals with guilt.
As a pastor, an ongoing ministry assignment I cherish is doing funerals as the need arises. I will often encourage families to fall back on the priceless memories they have of the one they loved. Memory is a gift from our Father, but it can also be exploited. Satan will not hesitate to turn something good into something harmful. Just as memories of good things can encourage us, memories of past hurts or mistakes can damage us. When the latter isn’t surrendered to the Father, the result is guilt.
I’m not sure “the church” has historically been the best steward of Paul’s teaching in 2 Corinthians 7. Well-meaning preachers have utilized guilt, characterized as conviction, as a motivation for people to respond. But Paul was clear. Sin does cause us to grieve, but he referred to this grief as a sadness. That sadness is a wake-up call reminding us to turn to the Father in repentance. The result is forgiveness and life.
Sorrow for our sins compels us to reach for the Father. Guilt says to hide.
Sorrow for our sins is the beginning of healing. Guilt says you should be ashamed.
Sorrow for our sins happens when we know and hear the Father’s voice. Guilt is from Satan.
The empty tomb reminds us that the Father chooses to empty Himself of memories we might find difficult to forget. He holds nothing against us.
But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. - Romans 5:8 (NLT)
The rapid-paced challenges we’ve faced over the last few weeks remind us that we were never really in as much control as we thought we were. While we can’t entirely manage viruses that spread quickly, shortages of supplies, and all the fear those things evoke, we do have the capacity to live life in view of the cross (the ultimate reminder of forgiveness) and the empty tomb (our greatest source of hope). We’re spending some time this week around what the empty tomb offers us. I hope after reading today’s devo, you’ll be fully reminded that you are forgiven.
It could be true that many of us have a difficult time understanding why God would forgive us because of the way we were first introduced to that idea. Over time, the gospel was distilled down to a good news/bad news concept. Even worse was when it was presented as BAD NEWS/good news. How many times have we heard the “plan of salvation” beginning with, “You’re a sinner!” What we begin with has a lot to do with where we’ll end up. As a result, many people only hear condemnation. They see the Father as angry and the cross as something necessary to appease His vengeful wrath.
Beginning with the bad news was not what God intended. John 3:16 (NLT) says, For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. It didn’t say, “For God hated the world.” No, God loved, then gave. He always leads with love.
Leading with love doesn’t mean we cheapen the cost of forgiveness. The Father’s forgiveness cost Him dearly. The cross brings awareness to the price of our sin. Sin was judged on the cross. The empty tomb says there’s nothing left to pay.
So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free. - John 8:36 (NLT)
I’ve heard variations of this from different preachers: “The stone wasn’t rolled away to let Jesus out of the tomb. It was rolled away so we could see in.” We’re talking this week about things the empty tomb promises. Most certainly, it promises freedom.
A guy I went to church with for years is serving a ten-year prison sentence. If you’ve ever experienced entering a prison for a visit, it’s disorienting. All personal belongings are taken. You’re constantly aware you’re not in control. You’re told where to enter and exit; where to sit, stand, and walk. I get a little anxious just writing about it. But as a visitor, there’s a profound recurring thought I’ve had during my visits: I get to leave. The steel doors will open, and I’ll walk through the fences and barbed wire to… freedom.
The freedom Jesus offers has greater implications than the ability to choose where we want to go when we want to go. He’s talking about freedom from something destructive. Sin imprisons us. It takes our identity. It takes control. It tells us where to enter (but rarely tells us where the exit is). Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin.” (John 8:34 NLT) He had to tell us this because it’s true. But He didn’t leave it there. He provided a pathway to freedom. “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Warren Wiersbe put it this way: “When we obey His Word, we grow in spiritual knowledge, and as we grow in spiritual knowledge, we grow in freedom from sin. Life leads to learning, and learning leads to liberty.”
The empty tomb is a beautiful picture of freedom. Ultimately, the forgiveness of God through Jesus frees us from the captivity of the grave.
If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? - Romans 8:31-32 (NLT)
We finished the teaching series What Made Jesus Mad on Sunday. Jon and Scott walked us through moments when Jesus was fed up with those who exploited the church and used God’s name to create backbreaking rules and barriers to those seeking to worship the Father. Maybe that characterization of Him is something you’ve never considered. We often see images of Jesus where he’s depicted as anything but confrontational. But when it came to His Father and what the Father sent Him to do, Jesus didn’t back down. His strength through obedience is our hope. It’s what compelled Him to lay His life down willingly on a cross. We wrap up this week’s devos by talking about one more thing the empty tomb promises us—victory.
We all love a good win story, a thrilling comeback plotline. There’s nothing like when our team hoists up the trophy or cuts down the nets. But with the short attention spans most of us have, it’s easy to forget how much work is involved with winning. We want victories to come quickly.
As Christians, we like the idea that there is victory in Jesus. What we don’t as readily accept is God’s game plan for the victory. We grow impatient when God doesn’t keep away difficulties. We forget that it’s through the difficulties that we actually win because it’s through challenges that we grow. Paul said in Romans 8:37, “No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.” I’ll admit that I’ve skimmed over the word “overwhelming” in that verse. The King James version says we’re “more than conquerors.” All of that to say, God’s victory is decisive and certain.