The Dungeon of Chronic Grievances

We’ve been considering how to Make Easter Great Again. There are certainly things we can add into our preparation for and celebration of Christ’s resurrection, but there are also things we can give up. The most important things to give up, however, are things that Christ died for. He didn’t die so that we wouldn’t eat meat, He did die so that we wouldn’t self-righteously judge a brother who does (or doesn’t) eat meat. Give up sin, whether like gluttons, or like Pharisees.

Let me also urge you to give up grudges. We are in the spring season and all kinds of seeds are taking root and starting to grow. Don’t let bitterness be one of the seeds.

[See] that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled (Hebrews 12:15)

Jesus didn’t die so that you can hold on to wrongs done against you, or, for that matter, wrongs you have done against others (though we typically don’t focus on how we’ve caused trouble). Jesus rose again for our freedom from the dungeons of perpetual guilt and of chronic grievances.

This isn’t to say that you have not been sinned against. You most certainly have. But the gospel declares that in three days Jesus took care of the condemnation that was due to every believer who has sinned against us. Eagerly holding on to feelings of ill-will, resentment, envy, or suspicion is like saying that Christ needs to be punished more for that brother’s offense. If the one who sinned against you is not a believer, then Christ says He will deal with them later.

Grudges spelled backward is self-pity. But Christ has condemned sin in the flesh so that we cannot be condemned and so that we will not have regrets from condemning others.

You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:17–18)

Polluted Garments on the Easter Table

We pick up with our series of exhortations with a view to Make Easter Great Again. As I mentioned last week, the only concentrated preparation for Easter encouraged on a broad scale in church circles relates to Lent, a time to give up things like meat and sex and other “indulgences.” But being tough on the body doesn’t necessarily make anyone more holy (so says Colossians 2:20-23). Instead, if you really want to give up something in order to get ready to celebrate Christ’s resurrection, give up your sin.

I would also exhort you to give up your virtues. Of all the things that keep people out of heaven, self-righteousness is as deadly as unrighteousness. The extra trouble with the self-righteous is that they think they are not in trouble.

Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). When Jesus healed the man born blind, He said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” When some Pharisees asked if they were blind, “Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would have no guilt, but now that you say, “We see,” your guilt remains'” (John 9:39-41).

Christians should obey Jesus; we should learn to obey all that He commanded. The Spirit who indwells us is holy, and we are to be holy even as He is holy. But we are still completely dependent on Him to produce any good and holy works through us. He must work and will in us (Philippians 2:13). So if you are getting ready for Easter with spiritual pride in your virtues being better than your brother’s virtues, then you might as well put a polluted garment as the centerpiece on your Easter table (Isaiah 64:6).

Give up your sin, including your self-righteous sin, in order to #mega.

Make Easter Great Again

This probably should be a sermon not an exhortation, though I am at least going to roll it into another mini series with the theme: Make Easter Great Again.

We are gathered together to worship as Christians so I’m going to assume that you love Easter, as in, you boast in the resurrection of Christ from the dead. Why, though, does Christmas/the Incarnation tend to get all the good promotion? Even the colors are better, deeper, less pastel-y. As my wife and I recently lamented, how are you supposed to find manly Easter things for your boys?

Many of us have been lengthening our Christmas anticipation for the whole month of December, talking about advent and building anticipation for the big day.

When it comes to preparing for Easter, some parts of the church talk about Lent, a forty-plus day period of fasting, abstinence, self-examination, and feeling bad about your sin in order to remember Christ’s fasting in the wilderness along with His sacrifice. Without saying that Christians shouldn’t ever fast or give things up for sake of Christ, is that really how to make Easter great in our hearts?

Typical Lenten attitude is not even consistent with what the death and resurrection of Christ do for believers. Paul told the Colossians, “if with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world,” then don’t commit yourself to “asceticism and severity to the body” that are “of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh” (Colossians 2:20-23).

And “if…you have been raised with Christ,” then “seek the things that are above,” “set your minds on things above.” But these earthly things to avoid aren’t things that can be touched and tasted, they are “what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness” (Colossians 3:1-5).

My point is, in order to Make Easter Great Again, give up your sin, don’t just give up things that “have an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion” (Colossians 2:23). Don’t give up His gifts, give up your envy of other persons with different gifts. More to come in order to #mega.