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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Skip Heitzig » Skip Heitzig - Easter's Over! Now What?

Skip Heitzig - Easter's Over! Now What?

TOPICS: Easter, Resurrection

Would you turn in your Bibles, please, to First Peter. First Peter, but chapter 1. Go back to chapter 1, I'll explain. Easter is over and these things are on sale. Probably get it for about half off. These are Peeps. These are half off, the chocolate bunnies are on sale, all the bad looking ties are on sale, and all the little plastic eggs, all on sale because Easter is over. Funny little story about these, my wife loves marshmallow Peeps. Now, I didn't know that when we got married and afterwards I found out. And I remember my response was, "Really? Of all the options out there, this is the one you choose?" She goes, "I love them!" Okay, that's not the weird part.

The weird part is she doesn't like them fresh, she prefers them with the box opened and they've been sitting around for about a week and they're kind of crusty and hard and stale. You like them? Here, they're yours. You can have them. So it reminds me of this one kid who was asked in Sunday school class, the teacher asked the Sunday school class to write down in a single sentence "what Easter means to me." And the little boy said, "Easter means to me egg salad sandwiches for the next two weeks." Well, Easter means to me Peeps for two weeks. So, you know, going Easter shopping for my wife is easy: I wait till after Easter, I go to the sale rack, I buy Peeps, I'm good.

The question I want to begin with today is: What does Easter mean to you? Now that Easter is over, what does it mean to you? If you think about all the preparation we had going into this Easter season, it was pretty elaborate. There was one week where we considered Jesus hanging on the cross and one of the seven saying before he died, "iThirst." The following week we had a cross up in the front made out of wood. Your envelopes were placed on it, nailed to that cross. It was a visual demonstration of Colossians, chapter 2, where the handwriting of ordinances that was against us have been taken out of the way. That was a very powerful day.

Then on Good Friday you witnessed as that red-colored paint was poured over the envelopes on the cross and just covered it, again, a visual reminder that "the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin." Then we had Easter and what a great day that was, 25,000 of your best friends with you at the stadium, and then services afterwards here at the church. If you were here at the last two services, we had that cross covered in flowers this time, a beautiful reminder of new life. But then came Monday, "Easter's Over! Now What?" And so I got to thinking, because I had been reading this devotion during the Lenten season leading up to Easter, and what I noticed about this devotional is it didn't end with Easter.

On Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday there were lingering lessons. And I remember looking at this and going, "Wait a minute, Easter's over, why is there still devotional material about it?" And the author was trying to get the point across: Easter is not a day, it's not an event, it's a season, and we should linger longer over what that means. So, now that Easter is over, so what and now what? And are there things that should impact my life post-Easter? So, if you don't mind, indulge me and go back, as we mentioned, to First Peter, chapter 1. We're going to look at two verses we've already discussed, but we're going to look at them completely different through the lens of Easter.

And just as last week I gave you four words for Easter, come, see, go, and tell, I want to give you four words for after Easter. This is what Easter should be now to us. The four words are: mercy, life, hope, and heaven; mercy, life, hope, and heaven. First Peter chapter 1 verse 3, Peter says, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ", "Praise God," he says, "who according to his abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you."

There were three blonds who died and they went to heaven. And they were waiting to get in heaven, and there was Peter at the gate like in all of these lame jokes. Peter's always there with his little clipboard. And notice, by the way, I said blonds. I didn't say if they were male or female blonds. Let's just keep it at that. Let's make it generic. Three blonds trying to get into heaven and Peter says, "Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. You can't get into heaven unless you answer a simple question: What is Easter? What is the meaning of Easter?" So he asked the first blond, "What does Easter mean?" The blond says, "Easter is that holiday in November when you get your family together and you eat turkey and you're thankful."

And Peter goes, "That's not Easter, that's Thanksgiving. You got that wrong." So he goes to the second blond, "What is Easter?" And the blond says, "Look, Easter is that holiday in December where you put up a tree, exchange presents, and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ." Peter's shaking his head going, "You both got it wrong. That's not, that's Christmas." He goes to the third blond and he's about to ask the question, but the third blond goes, "I got this. This is easy." And the third blond says, "Easter is that Christian holiday in the spring of the year that coincides with the Jewish celebration of Passover when Jesus celebrated Passover with his disciples."

"But he was betrayed by one of them so that later on that evening in the garden of Gethsemane after being betrayed Jesus was handed over to the Romans. And the Romans took him, beat him, crucified him, and buried him in a tomb and sealed it with a large stone, a large bolder." And finally Peter smiled with a big smile, a sigh of relief, like, "Finally, one of them got it." And then the third blond continued, "And then every year the bolder is moved aside so that Jesus can come out, and if he sees his shadow there will be six more weeks of winter." Hopeless!

Well, the real Peter, first of all, isn't standing at any gate of heaven letting people in. That's Jesus' job to let people into heaven. The real Peter did write First Peter and Second Peter. And you have to understand that when Peter speaks about the resurrection, it's because it was an event he personally witnessed. He's not writing about this in the abstract or the theological halls of some seminary, he was there when it happened. And so he gives us the words he gives us because they were very meaningful to his own experience as well as truth for us. So let's consider these four things. The resurrection shows mercy. You notice that it says, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his abundant mercy." The world since the fall of mankind has been in this quagmire of despair.

What I mean is that every generation since the fall has paid the price for its own sin. "The wages of sin is", what?, "death." Every generation dies. Year after year we see death. People are born, they live to various ages, and all of us end up in a hole in the ground, to put it bluntly. As the author Walter Scott once said, "And come he slow, or come he fast, it is but Death who comes at last." Every single minute 105 people die on earth; 105 people every minute die. It's a hard number to get our heads around. That's means 6,316 die every hour. That means 151,600 people die every day. That means 55 million people die every year.

So death is all around us. It's this endless, uninterrupted cycle, life, death; life, death; life, death, every generation. It goes on and on and on. It's what Solomon referred to as "vanity of vanities" when he wrote in his journal, the book of Ecclesiastes, the first chapter: "What profit has a man from all of his labor in which he toils under the sun? One generation passes away, and another generation comes," that monotony of that cycle of life and death. Vogue magazine a few years back interviewed the actor Nicolas Cage asking him his philosophy of life. Listen to his words: "We are here," he said, "to ruin ourselves, to break our hearts, to love all the wrong people, and then die." Isn't that hopeful?

That's a fatalistic view of life. That is the view of life without a resurrection. Life is merciless. The resurrection was merciful. It shows that there is a God who wants to break that cycle of life and death, rather than letting that cycle go on and on, he interrupted it with a resurrection. First Corinthians 15, a chapter on the resurrection, Paul writes: "Just as death came into the world through a man, Adam, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man, Christ." Notice that Peter calls it "abundant mercy." I think he put "abundant" in there because that was his own personal experience. Remember who denied him during his trial, during Jesus' trial, it was Peter.

And Peter swore, "Everybody else may deny you, but I'll, I'm sticking with you." And he denied him three times. And afterwards he must have carried an enormous burden of guilt, probably having thoughts like: "I'm responsible for his death. I could have stopped it if I only would have stuck up for him." And then one day on the shores of the Sea of Galilee there appeared Jesus. And I've always loved Peter's response. He got up in the boat, threw off his robe, jumped in the, he just like, he just jumped in, got in the water, and swam to the shore.

Peter had denied Jesus three times, so in that little encounter; Jesus gives him three chances to affirm his love: "Peter, do you love me? Peter, do you love me? Peter, do you love me?" And then Jesus gives him a threefold commission, saying to Peter, "Feed my lambs. Tend my sheep. Feed my sheep." How merciful that must have felt to Peter. Now I say all that to say this to you: some of you here this morning feel like you're a failure, and if there's one thing you need more than anything else, you feel his mercy. God is abundant in his mercy. You ever wish that you could have a do-over, a start-over? Peter had a start-over and do-over. It was abundant mercy given to him.

I've always loved the statement that President Lincoln said when after the Civil War was over the Northern army, the generals came to him and said, "How will you treat those rebellious Southerners?" It sounds like a Northern question." And Lincoln said, "I will treat them like they never left." If you've been struggling and if you have failed and you come to Jesus Christ and you need mercy, he will treat you like you never left, because his mercy is abundant. Mercy is a biblical priority. Jesus said, "Blessed are the merciful." But the resurrection of Jesus Christ made it a universal possibility, "abundant mercy." So now that Easter is over, one thing that should mark our thinking is that the resurrection shows mercy.

The cycle of death has been broken. Here's the second: the resurrection shares life. That's found in that little phrase "begotten again." Notice in verse 3, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his abundant mercy has begotten us again." He enlivened you, so to speak. Now you have a chance to really live, we might say. One translation called The Message by Eugene Peterson puts it this way: "Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we've been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for." Have you ever thought about this, that if Jesus would have come and just died, without a resurrection?

Okay, he went to the cross and he died, no resurrection. If that happened there would be no possibility of eternal life, none. A death without a resurrection, no eternal life. How could Jesus ever give eternal life if he didn't have eternal life? His words would be powerless. It was Jesus who said, "Because I live, you will live also." No resurrection, no life. Resurrection, life. So the resurrection not just shows mercy, it shares life. Now, let me explain to you that when you read the word "life" in the New Testament, it's the English word that you read. Behind that English word is one of three different Greek words, and you can't always tell which one it is because you're reading in English.

So there's three words the Greek New Testament uses to describe life. The first word, bios [bee'-os] or bíos [bī'-os], if you were to write it down, you'd write B-I-O-S. Bios means physical life, physiological life. It's external life. It's life in the outward only. So when Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, "Don't worry about your life, what you're going to eat, what you're going to drink, what you're going to wear..." that's the word he chose, your biological life. Don't worry about the externals. What's a little bit odd to me and funny, sad, I guess you might say, is that that's what we spend most of our time worrying about.

That's one part of our life that we spend all of our time worried about. "How's my hair? How's my clothes? Look at my wrinkles." We just get so caught up in the external life. That's only one part of it. Second word for life in the New Testament is the Greek word psuché. Say that with me, psuché. You gotta go like that, psst, psuché [psoo-khay']. We get the term psyche or psychology from that. It's your inward life. It's your thought processes. It's what you mull over, your conscience, your personality, what you think. That's your psuché. That's life. So when Christ on one occasion said, "If you want to save your life, you must lose your life," that's the word he chose.

The path to finding your true inner peace is by surrendering your life to God's will. The third word is the most common word in the Greek New Testament. It's the word zóé. And though we get our term zoology from it and it sort of sounds scientific and external, what it really means is age-abiding life. It's the typical term for eternal life or everlasting life. Zóé, spiritual life, you might say. Now when you read "everlasting life" or "eternal life," and that word is used so often, it doesn't just mean quantity, something that goes on and on and on; it speaks about quality of life that happens to last for a quantity, forever. It's an age-abiding life. It's a quality of life that begins now and goes on.

Because, think about it, technically every human has eternal life. Every human is going to live forever. The soul is immortal. Every unbeliever as well as every saved person will continue to exist. The question is where? To have age-abiding life, real life, is another issue. So, when a person gets enlivened by Jesus, they get born again, begotten again, it affects all three. It affects your physical life, because though your body is decaying, you're looking forward to a resurrection. So it's all good. It affects your psychological life. It gives you peace of mind, peace of heart. It affects your spiritual life. You have a quality that goes on and on in quantity.

So let me boil it down to this: if your best days are behind you, you're lost; if your best days are ahead of you, you're saved. If your best days are all behind you, you're in darkness, you're dead. You're dead spiritually. If your best days are ahead of you, you've been made alive. You have something else to look forward to. How do you get this life? How do you get new life, new birth? Peter says "begotten again." You know where he got that from? A conversation Jesus had with Nicodemus one night (John, chapter 3) when Jesus said to Nicodemus, "You must be born again," begotten again. A better translation: "born from above."

It doesn't mean to be a religious person or have a spiritual side to you; it means to be enlivened, transformed from the inside out. I've been noticing that Joseph A. Banks has a lot of commercials on TV. Boy, do they want to sell me a suit. They'll give me one free, if I buy one of their suits. Now, I have nothing against Joseph A. Banks, but they want to put a, they want to put a new suit on every man. Only Jesus can put a new man in every suit. He enlivens you from the inside out. He gives life. So the resurrection shows mercy, it shares life, and, third, is the word hope. The resurrection shines hope.

Notice, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his abundant mercy [has enlivened us or] begotten us again, [caused us to live] to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." I love Easter. There's a lot of things I love about it, and it's not the Peeps. I love it because the days are getting longer. We've had the time change, so the days are getting longer. The temperatures are getting warmer, usually. There are exceptions. Things are getting greener, normally. But I love Easter most of all because I see Easter as the anniversary of hope. It's when hope is celebrated.

And if there is one thing this world wants more than anything else and longs for, it's hope. And Peter says the resurrection gives "a living hope," a confident optimism for the future. Somebody well said that "Man can live forty days without food, three days without water, eight minutes without air, but only about one second without hope." Think of all of the people around that are struggling to find hope. And did you know that the Bible describes your pre-Christ experience, your BC days, as being hopeless? In Ephesians chapter 2 verse 12, Paul said, "You live in this world without God and without hope." I want you to listen to part of a letter written by an unbelieving girl. She posted it on an atheist website. Just listen to her cry.

Listen to the cry of her heart. She writes: "I'm confused... I always believed science would be the cure-all for my problems, but I don't know if I can keep living without eternal life. I guess I'll have to just find a way myself to make it through this meaningless existence. I just wish I knew of someone who could show me the path to eternal life. If science can't provide answers, then who or what can? Doesn't it seem like there is a higher power that gives our life purpose? Well, science says there isn't, so there isn't," end quote. Wouldn't you love to have a conversation with that young lady? She's just crying out, seeing a meaningless existence science can't provide the answers for, "There's gotta be something more."

There is. There's a living hope. Now, think about Peter's experience, because he writes this. Before Peter met Jesus, what was his job? Fisherman, that's a pretty good job, right? A lot of you guys would love to have that job. That's his job. "What do you do?" "I fish." "Oh, cool." Some of you have on your license plate: "I'd rather be fishing." Peter did it every day, but as great as that was that's pretty monotonous. His life was pretty, well, boring: get up in the morning, go fishing, have to bring it into the town, sell it, take the money home; get up the next day, do it all over again. Just kind of did his job every day.

Then one day a man named Jesus stepped into his life and said, "Peter, I'm going to make you a fisher of men. You are going to catch men." From that moment on something happened to Peter, it's called hope. He was delivered from just the monotony of life and he had a whole purpose to live for. And he followed Christ and he listened to those messages and he watched what he did. And that life of hope grew and grew until one day when all of his hopes were shattered. What day was that? Crucifixion day. Peter wasn't expecting a crucifixion. Messiahs don't get killed. So when Jesus died, all of Peter's hopes died.

He probably felt like this: "Man, I put all of my eggs in that basket. I put all of my hope in one man, and now I find out I'm wrong." His hopes died. All of the apostles' hopes died. The two apostles going on the road to Emmaus, I love that story in Luke 24. Jesus comes walking up, they don't know it's Jesus, and he goes, "So, like, what are you guys all bummed out about?" You say, "I've never read that in the Bible, Skip, 'bummed out about.' "That's the NSV. It's the New Skip Version. So they're walking down, he says, "You guys are really bummed out." And they say to him, "Are you, like, the only stranger in Jerusalem, don't you know the things that have happened?" And Jesus goes, "What things?"

He wants to hear it from them. So this is what they said, "Things about a man named Jesus, we", listen, "we had hoped that he would be the one that would redeem Israel." See what tense they use, past tense. "We had hoped. We don't hope. Our hope died when he died. We had hoped that he would be the one." But then something happened to Peter again. Jesus showed himself again to Peter, this time alive from the dead, and he would stay alive. When the resurrection happened, Peter went from hopeless living to living hope. His hope came alive, never to be killed or quenched again. So when Jesus rose from the dead, it's as if hope made its debut. Hope went ballistic.

The resurrection means that all of the promises that Jesus made could be true. When Jesus got up, every promise he made now made sense. "If he can do that, get up from the grave, all the other stuff he said, I think he will pull off." There's a living hope. So the resurrection should do that with us. It's an example of God's mercy. It shows us mercy. It shares life. It shines hope. Fourth and finally, it assures heaven. Verse 4, "To an inheritance," notice that's following the resurrection, "To an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you."

What happened on Easter Sunday when Jesus rose from the dead not only gave them hope and gave them life and showed God's mercy, but it pointed them forward to heaven. It assured them of heaven. You know, I discovered that Jesus speaks a lot about heaven in the New Testament. He speaks a lot about hell, by the way, but he speaks a lot about heaven. One hundred forty-two times in four gospels the word "heaven" appears. Here's a sampling: Jesus mentioned the "kingdom of heaven." He spoke about "your reward in heaven." He said, "When you pray, say: Our Father in heaven." He spoke about "joy that is in heaven," "a sign from heaven." He said heaven is "God's throne."

He spoke of the "angels of heaven." And then he, finally, said, "I came down from heaven." All those things he said and more. And the disciples, including Peter, heard all of those great sermons about heaven, heard it all. But the day Jesus rose from the dead, all those sermons about heaven, Peter's thinking, "That stuff is real. I am assured of heaven, if he can do that." So think about Peter and the other guys standing on the Mount of Olives watching Jesus after the resurrection, being with him forty days, ascending up into, where?, heaven, ascending into heaven after the resurrection.

They're watching Jesus, kind of like a hovercraft going up and up. And they're watching him ascend into heaven where he is at the right hand of the throne of God. Now heaven is suddenly really real to them. How else do you account for their lives? What else would motivate these disciples to suffer, to become missionaries all over a hostile world, if not this? The hope of heaven, because of the resurrection. That's why Paul writes in First Corinthians 15, "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most pitiable."

If our faith in Jesus Christ only gives us hope for just our existence here and now, and our comfort here and now, and it doesn't motivate us with what's coming afterwards, we are miserable. Why would he say "miserable"? Because all the suffering they went through representing Christ to this world. "We're of all men most pitiable." The resurrection turns a living hope into a lasting hope. Just last year I buried a woman that I never expected to bury. She was younger than I was. She was the wife of our first youth pastor here at this church, Lisa Furrow.

Robert and Lisa Furrow were youth pastors here many years ago. We sent them off to Tucson. The Lord did a great work and is still doing that work today. Lisa had this rare form of a lung cancer. I went to speak down in Tucson and to visit her in the hospital. And she really wanted to see me. She wanted to have a conversation. She goes, "I want to talk to my pastor," even though her husband is a pastor there. She said, "I want to talk to you about heaven. Tell me what heaven's going to be like. What am I going to see the moment I leave here? Then what's next? And what can I expect with this? And do you think this?" And she just was grappling and asking and very curious about heaven.

So we spent an hour, hour and a half, couple hours just talking about that and praying. And as I left the room, and I knew that would be the last time I'd see her on earth, she stopped me. She said, "Skip," and I stopped and turned back. She said, "See you around the corner," big smile on her face. "See you around the corner." She was motivated because of the promise of the resurrection that heaven would be waiting for her. So, at the risk of offending anyone, I want to say contrary to a popular Christian book, your best life is not now. Your best life is much later. Now is decay. Now there is corruption. Now fades away.

What's coming later is much better than now. And that should motivate us. There was a letter that was sent to a deceased person. I don't think you heard that. There was a letter sent to a dead person. It was sent from the government. Enough said. This is a letter to a deceased man by the Indiana Department of Social Services that read: "Your food stamps will be stopped effective March because we received notice that you passed away. May God bless you. You may reapply if there's a change in your circumstances."

Hello?! Unless you're Lazarus, there ain't gonna be no change in your circumstances, or unless you're a follower of Jesus Christ. If you're a follower of Jesus Christ, his resurrection guarantees your resurrection, your resurrection. That's coming. So, look back at those four things. If the resurrection shows mercy, if the cycle of death and life has been interrupted and broken by a resurrection, if the greatest enemy, death, has been defeated, then you've got nothing to fear.

And if the resurrection shares the life of Jesus Christ, then let's really live. Let's risk a little bit more, because you've got nothing to lose. And if the resurrection shines hope, gives you a confident optimism for the future, then you should have nothing to regret. And if the resurrection assures heaven, then the best is yet to come, then you should have nothing to hold on to. And I think according to Peter, who was there when it happened, that's what Easter should mean. And it shouldn't just be an event or a day or a holy party where we sing and shout and then it's over, but a lifestyle that lingers longer than a day.

Our Father in heaven, these words just really grab me as I was thinking about Peter's own experience of a man who was hopeless because he had trusted in Jesus that he now thought, "That all over now. He's dead. It's gone. There's nothing more after this. It was a good ride while it lasted, but it's over," only to find Jesus was still alive, that he rose and conquered death itself, which is such an extension of your mercy, and such a sharing of your life, and such a boost to hope, and such an assurance to heaven, that I pray that we would become more fearless with nothing to lose or regret or cling to tightly on here. I pray that it would motivate us beyond last week, in Jesus' name, amen.

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