March 5, 2018
I grew up in a family where going to church meant Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night services. There was no debate as to whether or not we would go to all of the services, it was just a part of our life. We celebrated Christmas and Easter in our home and in our church just like most of the families did in our neighborhood, who even if they attended a different denomination, celebrated these Christian holidays. My family attended Baptist churches, and even though many of my friends attended different Protestant denominations, there was little difference in the recognition of these special days. When Katie and I came to Miami, it was my first experience with some of the traditions of the Catholic church, and with other Protestant denominations and their observance of the season of Lent. I still attend a Baptist church, but over the past several years the reference to the Lenten season in one way or the other seems to be recognized, to some extent, by more evangelical churches, by Christian radio, and even by evangelical pastors, than in the past. Just as Easter and Christmas are not mentioned in the Bible, neither is Lent a Biblical concept, rather it is celebration or observance of a Biblical event. For those who observe Lent, it is the period of forty days (not including Sundays) which lead up to Easter Sunday.
During the Lenten period church members are encouraged to fast, pray, and examine their heart for sinful thoughts and practices, and to confess their sin. Each denomination has differing guidelines regarding fasting and confession, some very specific, while others leave fasting and confession to individual discretion. As we approach the Easter season, no matter what church or denomination you are associated with, or what church practice you observe, we should all agree that no matter what time of year, or the exact date It happened, the Son of God, Jesus Christ, was born of a virgin as God in human flesh, which we celebrate at Christmas. We can agree that while on the earth Jesus lived a perfect life without sin, and sacrificed His life on the cross for each of us, and was buried in a tomb, but after three days He rose from the dead to defeat sin and Satan, which we celebrate during the Easter season.
We live in a world today which generally disregards the existence of the eternal Creator God, and dismisses Jesus Christ’s death on the cross and His burial and resurrection as a myth. For Christians the preaching of the cross is what distinguishes us from all of the other religions of the world. The preaching of the cross can’t be politically correct, and the resurrected Savior can only be accepted by faith. One of the great hymns of the church for many centuries was written by Isaac Watts. The words are powerful and lead us to the only logical conclusion that can be reached, that even in our 21st Century world, what Jesus did on the cross for us demands that we who believe give Him our life, no questions asked.
When I survey, the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died; my richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it Lord, that I should boast, save in the death of Christ, my God; all the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to His blood.
See, from His head, His hands, His feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down. Did e’er such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown. Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were an offering far too small; love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.
On the cross Jesus cried out, “It is finished.” His words remind us that he had been about the Father’s business his entire life and He had completed the work he had come to accomplish. His words should not be interpreted as an admission of defeat, rather it was in fact, a declaration of victory and signifies completion and perfection. Because Jesus uttered these words, nothing can be added to improve what He had done without marring it. On the cross Jesus paid the price for my sins and yours. On the cross Jesus set us free.
A hymn by Phillip Bliss expressed what was accomplished on the cross.
I will sing of my Redeemer, and His wondrous love to me. On the cruel cross He suffered, from the curse to set me free.
Sing O Sing, of my Redeemer, with His blood, He purchased me. On the cross He sealed my pardon. Paid the debt and set me free.
No matter how we celebrate this season, or how many messages we hear, the one truth we can all agree on is that the only payment for sin God accepts, is what Jesus did on that cross. So in our churches every Sunday, we celebrate the complete work of Jesus, and His defeat of sin and Satan by his resurrection from the grave. It is also the reason for our special celebration at the Easter season and for the days leading up to Resurrection Sunday.