When I think about Easter, there are three words that come to mind: celebrating, new life and forgiveness. Celebrating comes to mind as I could only imagine the joy of those that loved Jesus and saw him alive instead of hanging on the cross or in the grave. The word forgiveness and new life rang loud like a bell as forgiveness and new life are the whole basis of the Christian faith. I personally think most of us would benefit from focusing on Jesus and on these three words as the Easter season approaches.
Celebrating is the atmosphere of heaven. Jesus prayed in his prayer in Matthew, “on earth as it is in heaven.” This is a challenge to me to lead a life of celebrating no matter what is happening in my life. Sorrow and trials are just part of living on earth but we have the privilege to pray as Jesus did, and declare over our negative or difficult circumstance, “On earth as it is in heaven,” and find something to celebrate.
Joy, laughter, smiling, excitement are some of the words that come to mind when I think of celebrating. Don’t you know that the disciples and those that loved Jesus were excited to see him again after thinking he was gone forever? Psalms 16:11 tells us that “in His presence is fullness of joy.” I’ve discovered that when I can’t seem to find joy, I usually do not have my mind focused on God but on myself or other negatives in my life.
One thing that helps me celebrate is being thankful. I have had my share of heartache with losing a spouse and both of my parents within three years and other losses and heartbreaking things happen, but nevertheless, I have much to be thankful for and to celebrate. Each day, we need to look for something to celebrate because Jesus paid a great price for us to experience joy and find joy because of His love and commitment to us. Knowing you are loved and valued helps anyone get through the roughest day and we are always loved and valued by God and always can be thankful for His love and the suffering He endured just for us. Most of the time, we need to open our eyes to see the blessings we have to celebrate. Jesus said in John 10:10, “I have come so you can have life and life to the full.”
Celebrating the little things in life is one of the best ways to change the atmosphere anywhere. Let me challenge you to find joy and if you can’t find it or a reason to celebrate each day, ask God to help you and to change your thinking.
New life is what Jesus came to give us through His death and resurrection. Romans 6:4 says, “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”
So what does that mean for us today? All of us have made mistakes and wrong choices. Each of us is sinful and even as hard as we might try, we can be wrong and fail. The hope we have, when we believe in Christ and His death and resurrection is that God can redeem any situation and we can have new life no matter how bad things seem. Think of a caterpillar. You cannot get much lower to the ground than being a caterpillar. Then the creature goes thru another stage that seams even worse. He hangs upside down in an ugly brown bag. Maybe you feel like your life is upside down and all messed up. There is hope when you invite Christ into the situation. At the end of the process for this pupa hanging upside down, a new and wonderful free creature emerges with a totally new life-a butterfly. Often times in the process, we can become doubtful and disillusioned in the cocoon stages of our lives and we must hang on the hope found in Romans 8:28, “all things work together for good for those who are in Christ Jesus.” The other day I was driving and praying as I drove. I was talking to God about several situations that were occupying my mind. As I prayed about each, I felt God say to me after each situation, “yes and I will work it out for your good.” After the third item I offered up in prayer, and getting the same comfort and encouragement from God, I realized, it didn’t matter how bad a situation was, I could benefit and overcome simply by looking to Jesus to bring “new life” into what I faced. Romans 6:4 “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” He makes all things new.
Forgiveness…now that is a word that is easier said than done. Jesus hung on the cross so you and I could be forgiven of our sins and failures. Now that is good news! He suffered so we do not have to suffer from guilt and shame. It is not in God’s heart that you walk around carrying guilt and shame for your failures. 1 John 1:9 states, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (NIV) We all have something to be thankful for because of the fact that we can receive mercy and freedom instead of judgment. Let me encourage you to confess your failures to God and thank Him for mercy, then trade any guilt and shame for freedom. Now that is a great Easter present and a reason to celebrate!
Once we receive God’s forgiveness, then we have the responsibility to give forgiveness to others, as we live in a world where people can mess up, hurt us and let us down. Ephesians 4:32 says, “ And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (NIV) I know there have been times in my life that I was mad and didn’t want to forgive but knew it was a command from God. In those times, all I could pray was, “God, change my heart and help me to be willing to forgive.” That started the process of forgiving others.
Find something to celebrate today and every day. Hang in there in the tough situations, find hope in God and look and listen for the signs of new life. Most of all receive the forgiveness He provides and give it away. You may need to ask God to help you with all three of these things and I am confident that He will. I plan to upgrade my celebrating, looking for new life and forgiving. Will you join me?