The Stone 4

Question:  How many church members does it take to change a light bulb?

Answer:  Change?  Change!?

The word “change” is not always welcome when it comes to churches.  Just about every church has a story or two (or more!) of people employing that familiar mantra – “That’s the way we have always done it.”  But really, as Christians we are a people of change.

In his teaching Jesus changed the way we look at God.  In his death Jesus changed the way God looks at us.  In his resurrection Jesus changed the way we should look at life.

We can take comfort in the celebration of Easter.  We can find hope and excitement in knowing that Jesus died for our sins and rose again to demonstrate the promise of everlasting life.  But we must move forward from this place of comfort and joy.  We must change.

What does today’s passage tell us to do?  What sins are listed?  Why should we do this (verses 9-10)?

As we saw in Colossians 3:5, repeated in verses 8-9, we need to change who we are.  To accomplish this change we need to put to death our earthly nature.  We need to stop living out the temptations that come with being human.  We must change from people who entertain lust, sexual immorality, greed, anger, lies and abusive words.

With the celebration of Easter we must also celebrate our opportunity to change.  We must see that the salvation given to us through the crucifixion and resurrection is meant to make us into new people.  To be new people we must stop being the old people we were.  We must rid ourselves of all of our flawed behaviors and thinking.

We can change when we see that we have put on a new self.  We are now forgiven people.  We are now people dearly loved by God.  And we must live as the people who are forgiven and loved.  We must see that we can be made into new people, renewed in the image of God.

We must remove the stone that prevents us from changing.  We must remove the stone that keeps us from believing in the grace of God with our whole heart.  We must remove the stone of our own sinful nature, perhaps a stone we have placed there ourselves.

Once the stone of doubt and fear and unbelief is removed we can put on the new self, the new spirit given to us through the resurrection of Jesus.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  How can you remove the stone that prevents you from changing into a new person?

There will be no 10/2 Grow devotional on Friday, April 6. - RE

The Stone 3

A family connected to our church recently went through some difficult times, events that have actually split the family.  They experienced abuse, cruelty and even violence.  After a particularly explosive situation the father came to me seeking forgiveness and made the comment that “Jesus is in my heart.”

Forgiveness is certainly available to him.  He can be forgiven by God and forgiven by man.  But it must move beyond that.  Simply seeking forgiveness and claiming that Christ is in your heart is not the end of the journey.

The letter to the faithful in Colossae speaks of what we are to do as believers.  What should we do?  What specific examples are given?

The sinful attitudes and actions listed in this verse are by no means comprehensive.  Colossians 3:8-9 provides some further examples of what NOT to do, but even that does not cover every sin.  What might sum up all sin are the words in this verse – “your earthly nature.”

We can celebrate the fact that Jesus died on the cross for our sins.  He symbolically took on all the faults and failures and erroneous ways of all humanity and through his death put an end to them.  Through his resurrection we can see that we are invited into a new life.  We are given a new spirit of love and grace, a new spirit for the eternal and also a new spirit for the here and now.

But our faith does not end in the assurance of Christ’s resurrection.  Rather, this could be seen as a starting point.  Once we are aware that we are forgiven through Jesus we must then begin living as the people who are forgiven.  We must live as the beloved children of God.

To do that we must put to death our earthly nature.  We must put to death our human impulses to do what we have done in the past as we lived in sin.  We must stop entertaining our sexually immoral and impure desires.  We must move the stones that hinder us and stop living a life of greed, and living a life that displays anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language and lies.

It is a true blessing to know that Christ gave himself for us.  It is a blessing to know that Jesus is in our hearts.  But we must live as people with Jesus in our hearts.  We must stop our sinning and step forward in our belief, doing good, being kind, and loving others.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  How can you show that you have Jesus in your heart?

The Stone 2

Comedian Bill Cosby once told the story of his college football team during a game.  At halftime they were behind in points but their coach gave an inspirational talk in the locker room and got the players all fired up to play.  They began to cheer and chant, eager to get back in the game.  But when they got to the door of the locker room it was locked.

All their excitement and enthusiasm were for naught.  They were blocked from moving forward even though they were emotionally ready to play.

We can be that way in our faith sometimes.  When it comes to Easter we can get all fired up about our faith.  We may be excited by the good news that Jesus conquered death and rose from the grave, giving us the promise of eternal life and the assurance of God’s incredible presence.  But then we may encounter a stone that blocks us, an obstacle – our own fears and doubts, and questions about our own abilities.  We can’t move forward in our faith even though we are excited about it.

Mary Magdalene has returned to the disciples to tell them that the tomb is empty.  Jesus has risen!  Who goes to the tomb then?  How do they go?  Who arrives first?  What does he do?  What does Peter do?  What does the other disciple (assumed to be John) do?

Here we have the story of two dedicated disciples.  One is Peter and one is identified as “the other disciple,” but scholars always interpret it to mean John.  These two are considered to be the most fervent in their faith, the closest to Jesus, the ones who lead the others.  In their eagerness they run to the tomb, going so quickly that it becomes a race.

Yet when they arrive John is unable to actually go into the tomb to experience its emptiness.  He can do no more than look from a safe distance.  Once Peter goes inside John is able to join him, and in that moment his faith is made complete.  He believes.

We can be like John in our beliefs.  We can be excited about the goodness and grace of God.  We can be charged up about the resurrection.  But then we stall and hesitate, afraid to commit completely to the promises and power of God.

As we celebrate Easter and the resurrection we need to use this time as an opportunity to recharge our faith and get excited about God’s blessings and presence in our lives.  Then we need to step forward and truly believe, and in believing be able to go into the world and live as holy people.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  What can make you step forward in faith?

The Stone 1

“You’ve got to see it to believe it!”  Some businesses make this proclamation when they are advertising a sale, as if our minds could not wrap themselves around the fact that mattresses can cost as low as $89.  While we may be amazed at how low a price can be at some retailer, it may not be necessary for us to actually see the price to accept the fact.

When it comes to believing that a person can be deceased for three days and then be given new life, on the other hand, we may need to bear witness to the fact that the person is alive.  God, in His infinite wisdom, was aware of that after Jesus was crucified and buried.  Who went to the tomb?  What happened when they arrived?  What did the angel say?

This passage is a great account of the miracle of the resurrection – or more accurately, an account of what happened just after the resurrection.  We don’t have a detailed description of Jesus having life restored to his body and rising up from the stone on which he lay.  What we have are the events that took place just outside the tomb.

Mary Magdalene, a follower of Jesus, and Mary, the mother of Jesus, went to visit the tomb in the same way anyone might visit the grave of a loved one.  When they arrived, however, there was a violent earthquake and an angel descended from heaven.  The angel rolled back the large stone that had been set in place to seal the tomb.

Once the stone was moved the empty tomb was revealed.  Jesus had already risen from the grave, left the confines of the tomb while the stone was still in place. We might ask the question – why was the stone rolled back?

Jesus did not need to have the stone moved for the resurrection to take place.  He was able to live again even with the tomb intact.

The stone was removed so that the women (and others, eventually) could see inside the tomb and bear witness to the fact that the grave was empty.  The stone was removed so that they might have faith.

As we consider our own faith, our own beliefs, our walk as Christians we may have our doubts and fears.  We may have questions that nag us about spiritual issues.  These can serve as stones in our faith that prevent us from seeing the risen Christ and having complete and devout faith.

We need to remove the stones that prevent us from having a strong faith.  Once we can truly bear witness to the empty tomb we can truly see Christ in our lives.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  What can you do to remove the doubts that hinder your faith?