A message from Pastor Hale
Easter is about Christ, but that is not all. It is also about us. Christ's resurrection is our resurrection. It was done for us and it is given to us in the Gospel of Christ. Our sin has truly been defeated. But before Easter we have Good Friday—death. Jesus' death was necessary to redeem us. Our sins deserve death. Jesus willingly paid the price. Death and life go together, in Christ, and in our baptismal lives.
Every Christian should be able to say: “I feel very, very bad about the crimes I’ve committed. In fact, I think I should have been put to death for what I did.” This is simply confessing our sinfulness, our disobedience against God. The law of God we have put aside for our own comfort and convenience. Other people and even God Himself are just things we use to make ourselves feel better. All we can do is sin. “God be merciful to me a sinner.” You need mercy for all of You: every action, every thought, every word. If we think we have something good in us, we don't see Jesus' death as total and complete life. “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Tim. 1:15).
God's law is not like the government's law, which demands only outward action. The Holy God demands a pure heart and mind. We are to put Him first in our speech and thoughts at all times. The penalty is not a slap on the wrist. Sin is serious, deadly serious. It deserves death. We should know God in His anger and wrath. This is precisely why Jesus died, under God's just anger against sin—all sin. Without knowing sin, Jesus death cannot be trusted.
Once, a man in prison turned from his sin and the angels rejoiced. Like the prodigal son, he knew he was not worthy of being treated as the master's son. The inmate said from behind bars to a pastor: “I feel very, very bad about the crimes I’ve committed. In fact, I think I should have been put to death by the state for what I did.” This is Christian. We all deserve this from God. We have only escaped punishment by the blood of Christ. Satan has been put under our Lord's feet. All is by Christ’s grace.
Forgiveness is real. It puts away all your sins and mistakes, all the way back to your rebellious youth. All were heaped on the crucified Jesus. He willingly endured your guilt, to set you free. No sin is left. All is forgiven. Christ's resurrection is the counterpoint to death. It is the approval of His sacrifice.
But the tendency is to compare our faith or consider sin that the Lord has put away. The inmate mentioned earlier was just a forgiven sinner, like you and me. There is only one baptism and one Gospel. But what if hewas an alcoholic and violent? Turn and be forgiven, Christ's Gospel is for everyone. But what if he committed homosexual acts? By Jesus' stripes he and you were healed. How about if he was a murderer?
That sin was also nailed to the cross. was Jeffery Dahmer, the serial killer.
A cannibal who collected human skulls? This inmate who was forgiven He is the inmate who confessed his sin—sin that was forgiven in Christ.
Did he deserve worse punishment? Sin is sin before God. Sin is definitely not the same on earth and before one another, but all sin is deadly to God. Jeffery was baptized with the same baptism you have, into Christ. He was even tempted to commit one more murder in prison, the sin of Judas: suicide. He certainly had all the human reasons in the world. He had to live with his crimes and still be tempted by his evil flesh.
A 937 year prison term is less than you deserve. Your actions may be different, but your heart is not different than Dahmer's. Grace is absurd and irrational. How can God forgive him? The same way He forgave you— by the sacrifice of the righteous lamb, the only Son of God. Hell has been conquered—life is yours. All sins were atoned for.
Does this mean life will be grand? No, sin remains in our hearts, whether it is complaining, worry, trust in alcohol, or sinful lust. Freedom in Christ does not mean doing what we want or even releasing prisoners. It is all God's doing as He makes us new in heaven. You have been freed from the prison of sin and hell's power is broken.
Are you good? Perfectly sincere in your belief? Those are the wrong questions. The right one is are you 100% guilty, deserving of death? Rejoice, your death was Good Friday. Sin has been taken care of in Jesus. The Easter Resurrection means you live. Only by the promise of Jesus is there life. In 1 Cor. 15:31, St. Paul says “I die every day!” We are raised up with Christ by believing our life is with Christ now. This is all Jesus' doing. He alone makes us worthy of life, not the strength of our faith or the things we do in the world. You are now with Christ in the heavenly places, righteous and holy.
We don't glorify sin or rejoice in wrongs—those are dead now. We hate sin that leads away from God, but do not let your dead sins trouble you. Baptism gives you all the forgiveness of Christ. Live in Christ's new righteousness. It is all yours, because sins are washed away. Your body is now Christ's own to serve others until you are raised up at the Last Day. “Yes I deserve death, but I have life in Christ.” Amen.