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sexta-feira, abril 14, 2006 

What Difference Does Easter Make?


What Difference Does Easter Make?
The Resurrection's effects on life and death.

by Rick Warren,

A lot of people say, "I believe in the resurrection; I just don't understand it." Pollster George Gallup said even 84 percent of people who never go to church believe Jesus rose from the dead. It is historical fact; it wasn't done in secret. The whole city of Jerusalem and the whole Roman Empire knew about it. It was news. If CNN had been there, they would have had it live.

There are at least 15 historical references to Jesus meeting people, touching people, and talking with people after he had been crucified. One time he cooked breakfast for some people. One time he talked to about 500 people after he had risen from the dead. A lot of people saw him.

Jesus did rise, he is who he said he was, he has the power he said he had, and he keeps the promises he makes. So what? Why does the resurrection matter? What difference does it make? It matters for three reasons.

1. My past can be forgiven.
That's good news. Have you ever been halfway through a project and wished you could start over? A lot of times people feel that way about life. They get halfway through and wish they could start over. We have all done things we wish we hadn't done, said things we wish we hadn't said, and thought things we wish we hadn't thought. We all have regrets. We all feel bad about things. We all have guilt.

A fellow pastor received this letter:

"I'm 31 years old and divorced, though I fought the divorce bitterly. I feel bad. I have no hope for my future. Often I go home and cry, but there's no one holding me when I cry. Nobody cares. Nothing changes, and I continue to fail. I'm stressed our emotionally, and I feel I'm on the verge of a collapse. Something is very wrong. But I feel so hurt and embittered that I can scarcely react or relate to others anymore. I feel as if I'm going to have to sit out the rest of my life in the penalty box."

The tragedy is, I know a lot of people like that. They can't get on with the present and the future because they're stuck in the past. Some guilt or regret has tied them down. Sometimes they're letting a former relationship mess up their current relationship. They say, "I guess I'll just have to live with this the rest of my life."

Here's the good news. Colossians 2:14 says: "He has forgiven all our sins and canceled every debt we owe. Christ has done away with it by nailing it to the cross."

This is God's pardon program. Jesus nailed it all to the cross. He paid for my guilt. That means I don't have to pay for it. He was hung for my hand-ups. Jesus Christ was nailed to the cross, so I can quit nailing myself to the cross. He wants to forgive your past. He wants to cancel every debt you owe—emotional debts, relational debts, sins. All canceled.

2. My present problems can be managed.
The number one complaint I hear from people today is this: "My life is out of control." I hear it a thousand times:

I feel powerless to change the situation…

I feel powerless to break a bad habit…

I feel powerless to save a relationship…

I feel powerless to get out of debt…

I feel powerless to manage my schedule.

What you need is a power greater than yourself. You were never meant to live this life on your own power. God want to have a relationship with you. And here's the good news. Ephesians 1:19-20 says: "How incredibly great is his power to help those who believe him, the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead."

The same power that enabled Jesus to rise from death will help you rise above your problems. The same power God used at the Resurrection 2,000 years ago can be used in your life right now. You don't know what the future holds. I don't either. I don't know what's going to happen next year, next month, next week. I don't know what's going to happen tomorrow, and neither do you. But it doesn't matter, because even though it's out of my control, it's not out of God's. He will give me the power to face it. Philippians 4:13 says: "I'm ready for anything through the strength of Christ, who lives in me."

"I want to help out," God says. Some of you came crawling in here—you've had a tough week. God wants to say to you this: "Don't give up."

No problem is too big for God. No situation is hopeless if you'll turn it over to him. "I am ready for anything through the power of positive thinking"? No, it doesn't say that. "I am ready for anything because I psyched myself up"? No. "I am ready for anything through the strength of Christ, who lives in me."

3. My future can be secure.
One of the universal problems we've all got is death. Let's face it—everybody dies. I'm going to die someday, and so are you. Only a fool would go all through life unprepared for something he knows in inevitable. That doesn't make sense. But sometimes we get so busy in the here and now, we don't stop to think about what's going to come.

People don't like to talk about death. If you don't believe me, invite your friends over, sit them down, serve them some coffee and pie, and say, "Let's talk about death." See what happens.
U.S. News & World Report ran a cover article called "The Rekindling of Hell." It says more people believe in heaven and hell than ever before in American history. Why? Because people are wondering, "What's going to happen?"

There are a lot of misconceptions about heaven. Most of them come from movies with bad theology: Heaven Can Wait; Oh, God; All Dogs Go To Heaven. These are cute little ideas of what somebody thinks heaven is going to be like.

What is it really going to be like? Let's check it out with the source. When you go to the Bible, what does God say it's really going to be like in heaven and hell?

Number one, heaven is a perfect place. Total love, total peace, total joy, total perfection. No sin, no mistakes, no evil, no bad, no errors. It's perfect in every area.

The second thing the Bible says is that in order for you to go there, you have to be perfect, because only perfection can exist in heaven. You say, "Well, thanks a lot. That leaves me out." Yeah, it leaves me out too. You say, "I'll never make it if I have to be perfect." Right! That's the point. Neither will I. Neither will any of us, because none of us is perfect; we've all messed up.
There are two ways the Bible says you can get to heaven. Plan A is to earn it. That's the performance plan. And to earn it you only have to do this: never sin and always do what's right for the entire time that you live. Just be perfect.

Since none of us qualify for Plan A, God came up with Plan B, which is this: You trust Jesus Christ when he says, "I am the way, the truth and the life." He was the only perfect person who ever lived, because he was God. He came so we could know what God is like. And by trusting and establishing a relationship with him, you get in on his goodness.

My friend Ron Dunn took his young son to a carnival one time for his birthday. His son picked six boys to go with him, so Ron bought a roll of tickets. Every line he'd come up to, he'd pull off seven tickets and give them to all the kids. When they got to the Ferris wheel, all of a sudden there was this eighth little kid with his hand out.

Ron said, "Who are you?"

The kid said, "I'm Johnny."

Ron said, "Who are you, Johnny?"

Johnny said, "I'm your son's new friend. And he said you would give me a ticket."

Ron asked me, "Do you think I gave him one? Absolutely."

When you get to heaven, you'll say, "God, I can't get in on my own effort. The only way I can get into heaven is because I'm a friend of Jesus Christ." John 17:3 says: "This is the way to have eternal life: by knowing the only true God and Jesus Christ, the one he sent to earth."
That's what the Bible says. Jesus has already paid for your way to heaven. This is news you can use.

Rick Warren is pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California.

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