Given the many depressing trends and events both foreign and domestic that have bombarded us as Americans during the first quarter of 2016, I have found myself often calling to mind the admonition of the late, great Chuck Colson that it is a sin for Christians to be pessimistic. And, of course, he was, and is, right.
This Holy Week of Easter we celebrate the most important reason he is right. We are followers and disciples of the risen King, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the one who has conquered death.
Our Savior Himself comforted the first disciples: "In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also" (John 14:2-3). So, while I might have significant reasons for being concerned, or even depressed, about America's future, it is never justified to be pessimistic or depressed about the ultimate victory of our Lord and Savior.
As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. reminded us over a half-century ago, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." Indeed, it culminates with divine justice utterly and completely triumphant. In Jesus Christ, good does triumph over evil!
Many years ago now, I was pastoring a small store-front church in the French Quarter of New Orleans. At the time the Church of Satan was active in the Quarter, and we had, by the providence of God, been enabled to win several of these Satan worshipers to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, and they had been liberated from the grip of the Prince of Darkness and born again from above as children of light.
The local head of the satanic church was not happy with our successful efforts in being instruments in turning some of his members from darkness to light. After meeting with him (at his request) and hearing his agitated protests, I was not completely surprised when he showed up with several of his followers in satanic regalia during our Sunday night worship service.
They came in and sat on the back row, just as I was starting the sermon. I immediately felt led to depart from my announced text and go to Revelation 21:10-15, where our Lord casts their lord into "the lake of fire and brimstone . . . and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever."
I wanted him and his followers to know that in the end we know who is victorious, our Lord Jesus Christ! By the way, we continued to witness to these poor deluded souls, and some accepted Jesus, while many others continued in spiritual darkness.
Our Lord's ultimate victory was settled on the first Easter. Is it any wonder the early Christians greeted each other with the salutation, "He is Risen!" to which the response from their Christian brothers and sisters was, "He is Risen indeed!"
For Christians there can be no more sacred time than Holy Week, starting with Palm Sunday, followed by Good Friday, and culminating with the glorious Resurrection Day. As the wonderful hymn "Low in the Grace He Lay" proclaims it, "Up from the grave he arose; with a mighty triumph o'er his foes; he arose a victor from the dark domain, and he lives forever, with his saints to reign. He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!"
For Christians who take their faith seriously, Easter is the culmination of all history.
As Christians we celebrate the birth of the Savior, God Incarnate, the Word made flesh. That's Christmas. But it must always be remembered that He was born to suffer and die for the sins of the world. "For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have life everlasting" (John 3:16).
As the Old Testament sacrificial system taught and as the New Testament declares in Hebrews, without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. To be our Savior and Lord, Jesus had to die. The conversation in the Garden of Gethsemane makes that clear. If there had been any other way to purchase mankind's salvation without compromising God's righteousness, God, the perfect Father, would have answered the perfect Son's prayer and let the cup of death pass from Him. But His death, while necessary, was not enough. Golgotha was required. However, without the empty tomb it would be a tragic and meaningless death.
As the Apostle Paul told us in 1 Corinthians, if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. But Jesus has been resurrected. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is they victory? They have been swallowed up by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15).
Christmas is the beginning. Easter is the culmination—the joyous, glorious, victorious ending is guaranteed, certain, and sure. Jesus has conquered death for all who believe in Him and trust Him for salvation. Easter is supreme. He is Risen. He is Risen, indeed.
Consequently, as Christians we should always be hopeful and confident about the future. After all, we have read the last chapter, and we know how it ends—in victory.
We should always be the spiritual calm in a storm-tossed world. Nations rise and nations fall, but His Kingdom is forever!
Have a joyous Easter!