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Jack Graham - The Hope of Easter

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    Jack Graham - The Hope of Easter
TOPICS: Easter, Hope

The title of the message is "The Hope of Easter", and the Scripture is found today in Jeremiah 29:11. Jeremiah 29 and 11 was originally written to Hebrews who were exiled in the land of Babylon because of their own sin and unbelief, many of the Israelites were taken away into captivity under the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, and there they were slaves in Babylon. It was a terrible predicament and many of them... Can you imagine a more hopeless situation for so many? And they even heard the news from the prophets that they would be there, not just a quick trip through Babylon, but for 70 long years! Many of these would die in Babylon. And no doubt they were wondering, has God forgotten us? Does God still love us? Does He care about my life?

And that's when God delivered through Jeremiah, the prophet, this wonderful promise that "I know the thoughts that I have for you, the plans that I have for you. Plans not to harm you, not evil plans but good plans for your welfare, to give you a future and a hope". Because of Easter God has a plan for your life. God has a personal plan for you, a destiny for you. He says, "I know the plans that I have for you". Some translations give this "I know the thoughts that I think towards you, about you, your family, your future". Incredible isn't it, that God of the universe is thinking about you; He remembers you. He knows your name. He knows your need. Jesus says, "Even when a sparrow falls from the sky, God knows".

And certainly if God cares about the birds, He cares about believers. God does have a unique and perfect plan for every life. And purpose is so necessary for life. Life without purpose is pointless, and can be even be painless. So many people are directionless. They just seem to be going nowhere or going in circles. But life is meaningless without a mission, without a calling in your life. And if you are a believer and follower of Jesus there is a purpose for you. God has a destiny for you to fulfill. And even though you may not see it just yet, even though you may not have experienced it just yet, trust in God, hope in God, wait on the Lord and He will see you through! The psalmist said, Psalm 147 and verse 11, "The Lord delights in those who put their hope in His unfailing love".

So there is hope this Easter in Christ because He has a plan for your life, and because God's plan for you is good! It is a good and perfect plan. God would choose for you what you would choose for yourself if you had all the facts. The Scripture here says, "plans for your welfare and not for evil". I like the way The Message gives this, "Plans to take care of you, not abandon you; plans for good and not for disaster". When Jesus died on the cross it was a disaster for the disciples. They ran away and hid, many of them denying Him. And all seemed lost. Jesus, their Master and Savior and Lord was in a tomb! After three days there were two despondent disciples walking along a road to Emmaus, a little village outside of Jerusalem, and they were brokenhearted. And Jesus joined them.

Now they didn't recognize Him at the moment for whatever reason, through unbelief. Jesus said, certainly their eyes were clouded with despair. But they didn't recognize that Jesus was walking with them. And so He went along. He said, "Why are you so sad"? They said, "Where have you been"? They said, "Have you not known? Don't you know what happened? That they have killed Jesus the Messiah"! "We had hoped (notice past tense. Hope was gone) We had hoped that He was the One, the One who would deliver us, the One who would save us". The closest followers of Jesus were nowhere to be found. But then the news began to hit the street. The tomb was empty! The stone was rolled away! The women who went to the tomb early came back with a report, "He is not here, and an angel told us that He is risen".

The disciples who ran to the tomb, Peter and John; they saw the empty tomb and the grave clothes neatly folded and the word began to get out! He's alive! The enemies of Christ began to hear it! The very ones who crucified Him, put Him on the cross heard the words, "The tomb is empty". They produce the body no matter how much they tried. And because Jesus was alive, hope was reborn! Hope is alive again! And the future is with us. Defeat and death and sin and sorrow and hell itself is defeated! We have a future and a hope. This is good news! This is the anchor, the lifeline for our souls that steadies us in every storm, that secures us in every crisis!

Now Easter may be a very happy day for you. But for many Easter today is not a good day. It could be a sad day. Someone you love is gone. You feel depressed. You don't feel hopeful, you feel almost hopeless. And you need more than just somehow to cope with your crisis. You really need to hope in your crisis. You really need something more than pious words and platitudes. You need something that's sure and steady, something to anchor you! That is hope! When life is falling apart, when you want to quit, when you feel hopeless, you wonder, "Does God care? Does God know? Is God thinking good thoughts to me? How about my future, is it a good future"? Yes, it is! And the resurrection is the answer to all of your questions ultimately. You may not get all your questions answered this side of eternity, but in the resurrection, in the hope that we have in the Lord Jesus Christ we ultimately get the answer to everything we need in life!

The answer is the resurrection! Jeremiah 29:11 is a promise from God! To give you a future and a hope! There are thousands of promises in the Bible. Some say as many as 7000 promises in the Bible. God has promised because of the resurrection to keep every one of them! Jesus said, He promised, "I will die on a cross, but on the third day I'm coming back! I'll be alive again"! He kept that promise! And if He kept that promise, don't you know that He will keep every promise that He's made for you. Amen? Every promise of God is true! And you can accept the guarantee to live in that hope and to live in every promise. Jesus came out of that tomb and it's empty! Think with me now about another tomb, the tomb of Lazarus, one of Jesus' closest friends who lived in a place called Bethany, again, outside of Jerusalem.

Lazarus, His buddy, died, and by the time Jesus arrived for the funeral to pay His respects, it seemed that hope was gone. Lazarus' sister, Martha, said, "Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died". And when Jesus saw the seen He did something unexpected. He wept. Big tears puddled up in His eyes and began to flow down His face. He wept. We wonder why He wept, but it's clear He wept because death was never as God intended, never had He intended. Certainly He wept with those as He weeps with us and grieves with us and bears our grief and carries our sorrows! But when He looked at death and the consequences of sin and death, Jesus wept. And then He said, "Lazarus, come out"! And Lazarus came out of that grave.

And that's when Jesus said in John 11:26 and 27: "I am the resurrection and the life! The one who believes in Me will live, even though they die. And whoever lives by believing in Me will never die". And then He asked a question that we all must answer. "Do you believe this"? Do you believe this? That Jesus is risen, He is the One who gives risen life to all who believe. The fact that the disciples were transformed is one of the most compelling reasons to believe in the resurrection. They were hiding, fearful for their lives, but something turned them around. Some skeptic would say, "Well, they were hallucinating, or they made the whole thing up. They wanted to start a new religion and they wanted this to be true so much that they said it was true when it wasn't true".

Yet all of the disciples, the witnesses of Jesus who saw the resurrection, not only just a few friends, but the Scripture tells us that upwards of 500 people saw Jesus alive after the resurrection, but these disciples in particular, all of them believed and ultimately died martyr's deaths, except for John who was exiled on the Isle of Patmos and died in faith. Now the fact is that some people will die for a lie if they don't know it's a lie. Terrorists do that. But very few if any will die for a lie if they know it's a lie, it's a hoax! All of the disciples went to their deaths refusing to recant, refusing to rescind their statement that Jesus is alive! Not one of them could deny the fact that Jesus is Lord and Jesus is life! That's the hope of Easter! This phrase "to give you a future and a hope" literally means to give you an expected end. I like that! To give you an expected end. Which means that in the end you can count on the fact that God is bringing you through.

You can expect that God will not just give you the mechanism to cope with your crisis, but to hope with your crisis. Therefore, as Christians because of Easter, because Jesus is alive we don't expect a hopeless end, but we expect an endless hope! Not a hopeless end but an endless hope! The hope of Easter is all we need in both life and death. Everything else comparatively is trivial. Jesus is alive! That means that we can live lives forgiven! That the resurrection means that our sins have been buried and carried away, and we are made alive in Christ! We've been given new lives! The resurrection means that we now have a purpose for our lives! We're not just meandering through life or trying pleasure, whatever to enjoy life! We now have a purpose that is sure and settled in our lives. We know our lives are going somewhere good because of the future and the hope! We have strength for living! The power of the resurrection! "Christ in you the hope of glory"! The living Christ; Christ lives in me! I have strength for every day.

As a pastor I often hear it in talking to people how tired people are. Everybody almost will say, how you doing? "Well, I'm tired". And people are tired! We're running here and there, all kinds of demands and structures and schedules! People are running around with their tongues hanging out, stressed out! People are tired! They wake up thinking about when they can go to bed! That's no way to live. Jesus said, "I'll come to give you strength even when you don't feel like putting one foot in front of another. Just take that one step and I'll give you strength. And where that came from there's more power"! Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me".

And ultimately the greatest benefit and blessing... Of course, I could mention hundreds of blessings and benefits from this Easter hope, but not only the forgiveness of sin and a purpose in life, and strength for every day, but a bright hope for tomorrow! Your future is with Him. That's the hope of Easter. That death is not the end of the road; it's just a bend in the road because Christ lives! We're all going to die; that's a fact! Nothing can change that. Only one thing can change that is if Jesus comes in our generation. So Christ may come and take us home to be with Him. But if He doesn't, we're all going to die. But when we die as Christians we go straight to heaven.

Philippians 1:21, "To live is Christ, and to die is gain". Our future, our hope is with the One who said, "I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also". In His death He saved us, in His life He has raised us! He has defeated sin, death, and the grave. No wonder the Bible calls this hope the "blessed hope". We're not home yet, but we will be soon, because God said, "I'm going to give you a future and a hope. I'm going to take you back home". There is an expectant end. "It's appointed unto man once to die, and then the judgment". But for the believer there is an expected end that we would be with Christ forever. So keep believing, keep hoping. Put your future in the nail-scarred hand of the risen Redeemer. The Scripture says in Romans 8:24, "In this hope we were saved".

Now in closing down this message, look just passed verse 11 in Jeremiah 29, if you still have your Bible's open. If not, just listen up. Verse 13 says this: "You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart". God says in verse 14: "I will be found by you". God is not hiding hope. It's available for you. He said, "If you want Me, you can have Me! You can have this hope! If you search for Me, I guarantee you, you will find Me"! Maybe you came today as a seeker. If you're not a believer, I hope you're a seeker, that you came sincerely seeking. I promise you if you sincerely seek Him you will find Him. God's not, you know, making salvation like one big cosmic Easter egg hunt.

We had our grandchildren yesterday. We had a little Easter egg hunt, and Ian, one of our grandsons, the ten-year-old, he hid the eggs, but he really didn't hide them that well. Because the little kids are two and three years old. So when you hide the eggs from the little kids, you don't hide them where they can't find them! "Oh, yeah, let's hide them over here! They'll never find them now"! No, you put them out where they can see them. They go running, their little legs go running. They're so happy to find those eggs. And sometimes, you know, I'm out there in the yard with them, and I say, "Hey, Dylan, look over there, look over there, look over there! Brrr... he goes over there"! I'm just sort of just like the Holy Spirit saying to you, you know, "Look over there! God's right here! You don't have to run around the world! He's not hiding from you! If you seek Him, you will find Him"!

We had a big Easter egg drop. I mean, only at Prestonwood, right? We bring helicopters in to drop thousands of eggs, little plastic eggs with little prizes inside, or whatever. And it's hilarious to watch these kids, you know, because we got them in the stands of the ball field and the helicopter comes over and then these eggs just go pouring out! Hundreds and hundreds of them! I saw that yesterday. I'm thinking, "You know", and the kids go running out. They have no trouble finding those eggs. I was thinking, you know, that's the way God is. He just pours out resurrection life! He just pours it on and on and on, and you go running, and you'll find what God has provided for you! That's hope! That's hope! H-O-P-E - Here's how to have hope:

"H" - Humble yourself. You know why some people never have hope? Because they're hoping in themselves. They're trusting in themselves. Their ego and intellectual pride or spiritual pride. They won't humble themselves before God. Look, the Bible says "God resists the proud but He gives grace to the humble". Jesus said, "If you want to come to Me, come like a little child, like a little child chasing Easter eggs. Come to Me like a child and be converted". There was a man, a sinful man who stood on a street corner and he prayed a humble prayer, "Lord, be merciful to me, Lord, be merciful to me a sinner". If you want hope start with that. Humble yourself before God. Say, "Lord, I know I can't do this. I cannot save myself".

And then "O" - Open your heart to receive Him. Jesus stands at the door and knocks, the door of your heart, the door of your life. Your heart represents you, your life. He said, "I stand at the door and knock. And if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in". The fact is, God is already opening hearts, and you can just push the door wide open and say, "Lord, Jesus, come into my life". John 1:12 says that If you believe in the Lord Jesus and receive Him, "to as many as received Him, to them gave He the right to be called the children of God". There's that child word again. To come like a child. Become a child of God. Open your heart to the Lord. Open your heart to the One who opened the tomb for you.

And "P" - is to profess your faith in Jesus Christ. That means to say it, to confess it. Romans 10: 9 and 10: "If we confess with our mouths the Lord Jesus Christ and believe in our hearts that God has raised Him from the dead, we will be saved"! To be saved is to have hope! And when you profess Christ, when you stand for Christ, it honors God. It settles it and strengthens it in your own life. There's something about standing and saying it and professing it that Jesus called all of us to do. He said, "Profess Me before men and I will profess you before the Father in heaven".

"E" - means to embrace the future that God has prepared for you. Jesus said, "I've come that you might have life, and have it more abundantly". You can embrace life now. You can enjoy life. I'm not saying there won't be hard times. I've already said there will be hard times! But in the midst of it all, in good days and bad days, bright days and dark days, there is hope. And you can embrace life and expect the best because Jesus is alive! And more than anything, you can expect eternal life, and you can know that when your day comes that you will stand before Him, saved forever, and your hope will be sight when you see Jesus Christ face to face.
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