Why the Empty Cross?

Meditations on the Cross March 31, 2024 Romans 6:4-11 Notes


Of all the symbols that Christians might have chosen as an emblem of the faith, why the cross? The answer is that the cross points to Christ’s death as payment for our sins and the fact that the cross is empty points to Christ’s resurrection as the power that gives us new life in Him. The empty cross points to the empty tomb!

In the apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans, he told them that it was being united with Christ in His death and resurrection that made it possible for them to live a new life. We can experience this new life in union with Christ’s death and resurrection.

Audio

Transcript

Good morning, church. He is risen. He is risen indeed! Amen. It's good to see all of you here this morning.

We're continuing our series entitled Meditations on the Cross. And over the past few weeks, we've been looking at the cross and asking questions about the meaning of the cross. And today we're asking this question, "Why the empty cross?" Why the empty cross? Why is it that Christians have this symbol of a cross, of all the things that we could choose as our symbol, what we've chosen?

Perhaps it's because, first of all, the cross points to the death of Christ on the cross, that he died for our sins, paying for our redemption. But the fact that it's empty also points to the empty tomb that he is risen, that once and for all, he has paid for our sins. This is why we have the empty cross, is because it points to the new life we have because of Jesus. He says in John chapter 14, because I live, you also will live. This is the promise of Jesus.

And he has this promise that this life, even in this present moment, is better than you ever thought possible. He says in John 10:10, my purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. This is life that begins at the very moment we receive Jesus. Is this the life you're experiencing today? Would you look at your life today and say, my life is rich and satisfying.

It's full and overflowing, abundant. Would you describe your life that way today? People want to live a good life. What is the good life? I looked it up in the Webster's dictionary.

What's the good life? Here's the first definition that Webster's gives. The kind of life that people with a lot of money are able to have. That is, she grew up poor, but now she's living the good life. That's one way that Americans look at the good life.

Here's another definition. A happy and enjoyable life. That is, she gave up a good job in the city to move to the country in search of a good life. And so we often think it's about material things or about money. The Pew Research center actually took a survey of Americans and asked them, what do you think makes a good life?

What do you need for a good life? And would you like to hear the top three results? Here are the top three results from this survey. The first, 69% said family. You need family to have a good life.

The second was a good career. 34% said career. And then 23% said money. That was the third highest one. There's only one problem.

People that pursue the good life often encounter that the good life isn't really good enough. It leads to the first reality. And I hear this all the time as I'm talking to people during the week. People are exhausted pursuing the good life. They're just wore out.

I hear it all the time. Life is so busy, it's out of control. My schedule controls me. When people are exhausted, they're tired, they're out of energy. And exhaustion leads people to the second reality, and that's emptiness.

People start feeling empty inside, like, what's it all mean? What's the meaning of this life? I couldn't sign up for another thing. People have their kids in every kind of sport and playing every kind of musical instrument. I remember when I was growing up, my parents would just say, get out of the house and go play in the yard or something.

Today, though, we have got these schedules where our kids have to do so many things. We're feeling exhausted and we're feeling empty. If this is the good life, people say, why have I felt so unsatisfied with it? And that leads to enslavement. People feel trapped.

You feel trapped today. Some people feel trapped by debt. I got a nice house, but I got a nice mortgage to go with it. People in Wilson county right now are all tore up about the new revaluation of our homes. I mean, you see it and people are just worried sick about even if you own your home, then the.

The state wants to own part of it, too. It seems. We feel enslaved. Maybe today somebody feels trapped in a relationship with a boyfriend or a girlfriend, and it's not really who you want to be with, but you're lonely and you feel trapped. Maybe you feel trapped by the expectations of other people around you.

Maybe you feel trapped by fear and anxiety. People feel trapped today. Maybe you feel trapped by bitterness and unforgiveness towards someone who's hurt you and you just can't let go of it. Do you ever feel these exhausted, empty, enslaved? Then I've got good news for you.

There's a better life. There's a new life. There's a good life in Jesus. And it's the only place that's found, and it's not found in all the places that people are looking. It's found in Christ alone.

In the book of Romans, the apostle Paul told them that it was being united with Christ that leads to the good life, that leads to a new life. And I believe as we look at the text today, we'll see two ways that union in Christ is indeed, what leads to that full and rich and satisfying life? So let's look at Romans chapter six, starting at verse four. We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

We know that her old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now, if we have died with Christ, we believe that we also will live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again. Death no longer has dominion over him.

For the death he died, he died to sin once for all. But the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. This is God's word. Amen.

We're looking at two ways that we can experience this new life in Christ. And if you'll look at verse eleven, you'll see that Paul, like a good preacher, has summarized it for us. The first way is this.

1. Consider yourself dead to sin in Christ.

As I was saying, look at verse eleven. Paul tells us at verse eleven, he says, so you also must consider yourselves dead to sin in Christ. It's an interesting command kind of phrase here. It's in the greek imperative voice, you must consider, you must consider. But we don't really have a word like this because it's aimed at yourself.

And so order yourself to do this. It's not somebody else telling you to do it. It's not even Paul telling us to do it. He says, when you look at your life, decide to count your old life, your former life, dead to sin, count it dead. Don't count it as a bad habit.

Don't count it as a boo boo or a mistake. Say, no, you know what? I crucify my old life. I count my old life dead in Jesus. It no longer has power over me.

This is what he says. He says, think about it. It's kind of like this accounting kind of term. Like, you know, when you get ready to get a loan from the bank, they'll ask you for your assets and your liabilities, and you look at your old life, you look at your sinful life, and he says, take it and put it in the liability column. Count it dead.

Count it as something that I no longer want to be that way. I'm counting my old life dead so it no longer has power over me. Dead to sin, literally. You see, in verse six, brought to nothing so that it no longer has power over us. In verse six, we see this and then notice this.

Here's the secret. How do I do that? How do I. How do I put to death those sin areas in my life? Let's say that you're a worry wart.

Let's say that anxiety is something that just keeps you troubled all the time. Now, you do know in the scripture that Jesus says, do not worry. And if Jesus says, don't do it, then guess what? It's not just a bad habit. It's a sin.

Worry is a sin. Do you know why worry is a sin? Because it doubts God's provision. It doubts God's power. This is why Paul says in Philippians chapter four, do not be anxious about anything, but in everything.

By prayer and petition, make your request known to God. And so worry. I'm just picking one right now. I could pick any sin area. Worry is a sin.

Now how do you get over worry? You could say, well, you could say this. You know what? My mama was a worrywart. My mama's mama was a worrywart.

I come from a long line of worry warts. It's a habit I can't break. That's not counting yourself dead to it. Here's what you say. You say in Christ, I'm no longer that.

I'm now a faithful person. I'm a believer. I'm full of hope. And so I'm counting myself dead to that. It's a decision I make in Christ.

This is about union. In Christ. Notice this repeating this repetitive phrase. It's in verse four, five, six and eight. With him, you see that?

With him, with him, with him. Verse eight. Verse four. Rather, we were buried. We were buried, therefore, with him, by baptism.

Verse five. We have been united with him in a death like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him. That's in verse six. And then who him?

Who's all these him hims? Well, you get over to verse eight and you find out with Christ. With Christ. This is the secret. This is the secret.

Because Christ took on sin, death in the grave, and defeated it. With him, we can count our former life dead to sin. We can stop being what we were. We can break that addiction. We can break that habit.

We can break that bitterness. We can be set free, and we can count it dead so it no longer has power over us because we're with him. We are united. Do you see that in verse five? We are united.

We are now in union with Christ. Literally, the word united could be translated, planted together, born together. We now share the same spiritual DNA because of Christ. First of all, we are in him. It says in two corinthians 517, therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.

The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come. So we're in Christ. We're in Christ, and this is the new reality. We are in union.

But not only are we in him, but he is in us. It says in Romans chapter eight, and Christ lives within you. So even though your body will die because of sin, the spirit gives you life because you've been made right with God. This is amazing, that we are in Christ and he is in us. This is the secret.

This is the secret of union with Jesus, that we are one with him. Therefore, because he died to sin on our behalf, now we can count ourselves, we can consider ourselves dead to sin as well. We can move on from it and we can lay it aside. I don't know what you do when you get ready to go to bed at night, when you take off your clothes. Maybe some of your pajama wearers.

I don't know what you do, but when I go to bed at night, I take off what I was wearing at that point and just kind of flop it over a chair like that. And then it's waiting for me when I get up the next morning so I don't have to break any new clothes before breakfast. I'll just go put that back on whatever's flopped over the chair, and I'll do my bible reading and have the coffee and so forth. Then I'll take a shower and go to the closet and put some new clothes on. Aren't you glad you found out what I do in the mornings?

That's Gary. Why are you telling us this? Well, we have this temptation every morning to put on our old, smelly, dirty clothes. They're comfortable, they're broken. It's easy to slip back into the old life.

It doesn't have any power over you now in Christ, but it sure is comfortable and you'll find yourself sliding right back into it. But we are to put on, like clean clothes every day. When you get up in the mornings, think about, am I counting my old life dead today? I heard Doctor Charles Stanley some years ago talk about a morning practice. He had.

And before he would get out of the bed, he'd say this. He said, I put my hands like they were cupped down and just pour out on the bed. And I would lay there and say, lord, if there's anything between me and you, I pour it out right now. I just confess it afresh, just bring it to my attention if there's anything I need to get cleaned up about. And he'd listen and he'd pray.

Then he said he'd do this and hold his hands on the bed, cupped up. Now fill me afresh with your holy spirit so that I can go out and live for you today. Not my life, but your life. And so there's this tendency, we're forgetful people, and we'll slip back, but we don't have to because of Easter Sunday, because of resurrection life, because Jesus paid it all. We can count our old life dead, our sin, our sin dead.

It no longer has power over us. And so we might walk in this newness of life. Did you notice the word baptism in verse four? We had a baptism first service, and we were happy to show you the video of it. We had six people get baptized today and identify their lives with Jesus.

You'll see in Romans here that verse four began. We were buried, therefore, with him by baptism into death. Certainly this speaks of the reality that we saw at the first service today, that these people came and said, I repent of my sins. I confess Jesus as my lord and savior. And then they identified with him by having their old life buried and their new life risen to Christ.

It's a picture of what Christ has done for them and in them. And so Paul's referring to it here. But it's not just the water baptism, but it's also the spiritual reality of being baptized into the Holy spirit so that you're born again. And Paul's referring to that, I think, as well. It says in Galatians, for as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

And so we follow and we do this, verse four, so that we might walk in him. Did you see that in verse four, we might walk in him. It's not a sure thing. It's in the subjunctive voice here, the glory of the Father. We, too might walk in newness of life, that we, too might walk.

It's something you might do. You want to walk in newness of life? You can. You might do it. You know how to do it.

Count yourself dead to sin. Count that old life, and you can walk in this new life. It's available to you this newness of life. In order that you can do this, what are the results of considering yourself dead to sin? Look at verses six through seven.

The first result is your old nature is brought to nothing, literally made inoperative, inactive. The old clothes are still laying there across the chair. You can still pop them on, but you don't have to. Whereas before Christ, before you receive Christ, you had to. That's the only set of clothes you had.

That's the only life you had. But now you have available to you this new life. You can say no to it. That's one result. Here's another result.

Verse six says, you're no longer enslaved to sin. The chains of sin have been broken. You have freedom, which verse seven says, you've been set free from sin. Sin's penalty has been paid. You're no longer under a death penalty.

You're free from this. In Galatians two, we read, I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me and the life I now live in the flesh. I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself up for me. This is the secret.

It's union with Christ. It's not trying to be like Christ. It's not trying to imitate Christ. It's not even just putting the bracelet on your arm that says WWJD. What would Jesus do?

That seems like a nice thought. But we don't have to wear the bracelet. We can have Christ living in us, and we can live in him so that we live the Christ life that he lives through us. It's union with Christ. This is the reality.

It's not trying to imitate him. It's to try to let him live his life through us and so that we yield our lives to Jesus. Why? Because we've counted our old life crucified with Jesus. We're dead to it now.

I've got on my finger a wedding ring. And this morning I talked about how that baptism is kind of like a wedding ring. You say I do first, if you'll remember how that works in a wedding ceremony. You say I do to you and to no other. I've left all other women behind, and she has left all other men behind.

And we've said only unto you. Now I count myself dead to all the other relationships. Right? You don't say these things, but that's what you should be meaning, right? And now I'm saying I do to you until death do us part.

This is the marriage vow. And then you put the wedding rings on. You can go to a jewelry store and buy a wedding ring and pop it on. That doesn't make you married. What makes you married is the act of the will saying, I do.

And then you put the wedding ring on to show everybody that you're taken. And that's what baptism is. It's a public witness of an inner change. And so that everybody sees. Now I'm claiming Jesus.

So this wedding ring, as I was referring to, has an inscription on the inside that says, RDC to GWC. Robin Depory Connor to Gary Wayne Combs. That's me. 6/2/79. By the way, this June 2 will be 45 years that she's been sticking with the old guy.

Can you believe that? What a godly woman, right? To hang with me. Now, you might not know this, but the first two times I asked Robin out, she told me no. She did.

She told me no. And, ladies, take note. That's what really made me go for her. All of a sudden, I was like, okay, Mount Everest. I'm going.

I'm going to go after this. To woman that has told me no twice. And so after she told me no the second time, I came up with a strategy. We were both music majors at rap university, and we both had to go to this concert. They always, you know, if anytime there was a concert or anything, we had to go and write a report on it or something.

And so I saw her after one of our classes, and I said, are you going to the concert tonight? And she says, of course, you know, she could be a little smart with me sometimes in those days.

And I said, well, good. We'll sit together, see what I had going there, right? She had to go anyway. Why not sit with me, right? And so she said, okay, see, I had her then.

I had her right there, and the rest is history. She told me no the first couple of times. I wonder if you've been telling Jesus no. He's been pursuing you.

You've been telling Jesus no. See, he loves you so much. When I saw Robin, I thought, wow, she's really beautiful. And then I started getting to know her and found out some things about her, that she was from a family, that they had a gospel singing group, and I was a believer, and I was like, man, she's a follower of Jesus, and she's pretty, and she's nice. I wish she'd stop telling me no, but I was just.

And I wasn't married. I was emotionally attracted, intellectually thought she was the right person. It wasn't until I, as an act of the will, asked her to marry me. And she said, I do. And I said, I do.

And then all three go together. And that's how it is with following Christ. It's about intellectually knowing who he is, that he's the son of God, that he died for his sins. It's about emotionally that the Holy Spirit's stirring you up. And maybe it's you he's stirring up right now, and you feel attracted to his message, but you're still not a believer in Jesus until you say, I do.

Yes, Jesus, I believe in you. And so are you saying no to him as he pursues you today? How many times have you said no, he must really love you, that he keeps knocking on your heart's door? This is the hard part of following Christ. For many people, it's admitting that you're a sinner and that you don't want it anymore, that you're sick and tired of being sick and tired and tired of your life, and you want to follow Jesus.

And it means counting yourself dead to sin. Which leads to the second consideration that Paul calls us to, and that's to:

2. Consider yourself alive to God in Christ.

We're back at verse eleven again, where Paul summarizes his message. He first of all told us to consider ourselves dead to sin in Christ. And then he says, consider yourselves alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Consider yourselves alive to God. This is the exciting reality that we could be experiencing, the resurrection power of Jesus living in us today. Isn't that amazing? Notice in verse four and nine it says, he's been raised. And since he's been raised, our spirits have been raised.

Now, in him it says, in verse five, he was resurrected. In verse eight it says, we can live with him. We can have this eternal life. When does eternal life begin, by the way? Does it begin after these bodies die?

And that's when eternal life begins. No. Eternal life begins at the very moment you say yes to Jesus. Because eternal life, this kind of life that Jesus is talking to us about, is not just quantity eternal, but it's also quality, full and satisfying, rich and overflowing. And it begins at the very moment you say yes to Jesus.

Notice that in verse nine it says, never die again, so that Christ's resurrection is permanent. These bodies will die, but you will never die as a believer. Your soul will move from the body immediately with the Lord. We've been talking about the cross of Jesus these past few Sundays, and we talked just a while ago about the thief on the cross who turned to Jesus. And he said, master, would you remember me when you come into your kingdom?

And Jesus turns to him, and this was the only person that he talked to, as all these others were mocking him, he turned to this person, he turned to this thief, and he says, today, truly today, you will be with me in paradise. Today, this very day, you will be with me in paradise. So here's what we know. The very moment that these bodies die, this is what death is. It's the separation of the soul from the body.

That's what it is. This body dies. Paul says, if you're a believer, Jesus says it, too. If you're a believer, it's like your body was put to sleep. It's just put to sleep until resurrection day for your body.

But the soul immediately is transferred to heaven, to what jesus called paradise when he was talking to the thief. Immediately. The book of first corinthians says, absent from the body, present with the Lord. Close your eyes in this world, open them to the next. This is the reality.

And so never die again. Death is no longer in dominion. Did you see that? It no longer has dominion over you. He died to sin.

And then it says, verse ten, once for all. You could translate that once for all of us. His death was sufficient for all of us. But it seems to be more like a timing word here when you study on it, because in contrast to all of the priests and in the Old Testament, all the little lambs and all the offerings that they had to do all the, you know, every year, on the day of atonement time, year after year, none of those sufficed. Once for all.

But when jesus came, his death was sufficient for all time. It doesn't need to be redone. This is why we as Protestants have an empty cross, is because there's no reason to have him on the cross in our, even our symbology, because we know it's once for all, he never has to do it again for us. Did you see that in verse ten? Once for all, he's got it done for us so we don't have to add to it.

He's done all that's necessary so that we can live and be alive to God. What are the benefits of this resurrection like his? Did you know, someday you get a resurrection body? As a believer, I'm glad about that, because I've just about wore this whole thing out.

I mean, I've had good time with it. I've played football, and I've run motorcycles. And I've done all kinds of things, and I won't even tell you all the things. The cliff diving and things I did as a teenager. The thing you didn't want to say to me as a teenager was, I dare you.

Famous last words. And so my body's getting older and it's run down, but, you know, praise God. You get a resurrection body. What will that body be like? It'll be like Jesus.

He's the firstborn from among the dead. His body is the prototype. Who wants a new body? I do. I want a new body that built for heaven, built for forever, built for eternity, to be in the presence of God.

That's one of the benefits. You get a resurrection body, you get to live with Christ in a place he prepared for us, never to die again. Death no longer has dominion. And you're alive to God, spiritually alive to God. Did you realize that the world is filled with the walking dead?

Because we're all born with a body, a physical body. We're all born with a soul, but we're also all born, ever since Adam and Eve, spiritually dead, separated from God until you receive Jesus, and then you're spiritually born again. So then you're made alive spiritually. It says in Colossians chapter two. And you who were dead in your trespasses, in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, with Jesus, having forgiven us all our trespasses.

That's what it means. To be born again is to be made spiritually alive. Because of Adam's and because of his sin, all of humanity has been born, separated from God, spiritually dead, apart from God. But in Jesus, made alive again. In Colossians, we are encouraged here by Paul.

He says, if then you've been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. This is a positional truth.

Experientially, we're right here. I'm standing right here. You're seated right there, right? And you're like, I know where I'm at. I'm right here.

But did you know, positionally, you're already with Christ. If you're a believer, you're already there. It's so sure that you're already there, just waiting for the rest of you to catch up, because I'm in Christ and he's in me. This is the union of Christ that we're talking about. And because of this union in Christ, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

I can count my former life dead, my former sinful life dead, and I can count my new life alive to God in Christ. This is the new reality that we have. Spiritual life flows out of union with Christ Jesus. This is what we're talking about this morning as we remember the empty tomb, as we remember the empty cross, as we remember how Jesus overcame sin, death, and the grave. When you were watching the video of those being baptized today, I'm sure that it was perhaps encouraging to you, maybe even a little emotional to you.

But for some of you, it may have been a stirring where you went. You know, I've never done that, or I did it when I was little, but I didn't really. They baptized me when I was a baby, or I was little, and everybody else seemed to be doing it, so I just kind of did it. But I haven't really lived for Jesus on this Easter Sunday when we all are just so excited to be together and we can't wait to go to grandma's house and have, you know, a meal together, and we're all dressed up in our nicer clothes. But what if today was the day?

You said, I wanted to make the decision to follow Jesus today. Intellectually, I'm here because I believe that he died for sins. He was raised from the third day, and he lives today. That's why I'm here. I believe that intellectually and emotionally, I'm stirred up when I see baptisms and when I hear you talking.

But as an act of the will, I've never said yes. I've never said, jesus, come and save me. I've never been baptized. Really. I've never made a commitment.

Are you still saying no? Every time he asks, it says in Romans, chapter ten, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, that means just to say with your mouth, Jesus, you're the son of God. You're the Lord. You're the king. You're the boss.

Come and be the master of my life. Have you ever said that? And believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead. So you believe it. So you say, Jesus, you're the master.

I believe in my heart. God raised you. Then maybe you'll be saved. That's what it says, right? Maybe you'll be saved.

First you got to join the church, then you'll be saved. You got to go live a good life. Then you'll be saved. It doesn't say any of those things, does it? It says if you'll confess with your mouth that Jesus is the Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

You know why that's true? It's because he did all the work. He did all the work. He did all the work. And it's our part to say yes to the gift.

He's knocking at the door. Will you consider yourself dead to sin in Christ. And yourself alive to God in Christ? Let's pray. Lord Jesus, thank you for your word.

Thank you that we can confess you now. You've been pursuing us. I pray first of all for that person that's never done that. You've never said yes to Jesus. You've never said I do to Jesus.

Would you do it right now? Right in your seat? You can do it. You don't have to wait. Prayer is just an expression of your faith.

You can pray with me right where you are. Dear Lord Jesus, pray with me. Dear Lord Jesus, I'm a sinner. I repent of my sin. And I turn to you and I confess you as lord.

And I believe that you died for my sin. That you were raised from the grave on the third day. And that you live today. Come and live in me. Forgive me of my sin.

Adopt me into your family. I want to be a child of God. And I want to follow you as my lord and savior the rest of my days. If you'll pray that prayer of faith, believing a transaction will take place. You'll be made spiritually alive.

And you'll live the new life that Jesus promised. I'm praying for you right now as you pray along. And then there are those here that have never really been able to say no to an addiction. Or no to some habit or some hurt. Maybe it's a forgiveness thing.

You're a believer, but you've never been able to move out of that place of bondage. Let's just pray together about that right now. Lord Jesus, I believe I can do all things through you. Help me to count myself dead. Consider myself dead to this old addiction, this old habit.

This old place of brokenness. Lord, I believe in you. And I trust you. And I lay it to rest in you. Because of your resurrection life living in me.

I pray it now in Jesus name. Amen.

Audio

Transcript

Morning, church. Happy Easter. Thank you for being here today. What a wonderful day. What a beautiful day the Lord has given us to.

We couldn't ask for better. We get rain sometimes this time of year. But anyway, we're going to bring up our little ones for just a few minutes together. And, church, just so you know, we do have an Easter egg hunt at the very end after service, so, kids, stick around. We got way too much candy.

I'm very sorry. Parents. Not really. I wanted them to leave with thaws because I love them. All right, come on up, kiddos.

That bowtie is hitting me just right.

Okay, here's the first question before we read. We're going to read a Bible story together. Did y'all know that there was a race in the Bible? A foot race. A foot race.

A sprint. A sprint to the tomb, in fact, among two men. Two men ran to the tomb as fast as they could. One. One.

We're going to read about this, but here's my question to you. Let's see. Somebody over here. Rich, will you hold my egg, please? By the double doors.

By the double doors. Yeah, just stand right by the double doors. Okay. It's not ticking. No.

Who thinks they're the fastest among you? Oof. Well, everybody's a believer. All right, let's see. Let's see.

I should tell you what I'm gonna do. I'm sorry, guys. I'm gonna do two ladies, Fiona and Anna. All right. All right, the rest of you, scoot a little closer to me.

All right, you two, both of you, put your hands on that wall over there. All right, both of you. Just one hand, actually. Just like that? Yep.

Anna, do the exact same thing. Now scoot that way so you can run behind the kids. All right, don't hurt yourselves. You gotta promise me you're not gonna fall or something crazy. Okay?

The first to the egg gets to see what's inside. All right, are y'all ready? Y'all ready? Church? On your marks, get set.

Go. Whoa. We got an early starter. Oh, boy. Oh, boy.

Okay, Anna, you had it, and then you just. I don't know what happened. All right, Fiona, bring it back. Bring it back. Thank you, Rich.

You are the greatest egg holder. Okay, Anna. I'm not sure. All right, Fiona, you got to come be my friend. All right?

Come here. You got to come be my buddy. Okay, let's see what's in there. What do we got? Okay, that's confusing.

Oh, boy. Oh, boy. Why, oh, Lord? Why?

Oh, my goodness. All right, one is for Anna. For being a superior runner and could have won. What? You know what that was?

That was just. You're being gracious today. Right? All right. Good stuff.

You know, when those boys, when they ran to that tomb that day, they found it. They found it empty. Okay. They found a couple things, though that was surprising. They found a couple pieces of clothes.

Y'all found smarties. They weren't smarties in the tomb, but let's read the story together. Y'all want to? All right, if I'm trying to figure out where the. Where the empty tomb is in the Bible, where.

Where should I go? Does anybody know? Where should I go? Like, in the Bible? Name a Bible passage where you think, okay, it could be in Luke.

There is a section in Luke. I'm going to be in the book of John. Okay, so has anybody ever heard of the gospels? What are the four gospels? What?

What? Good job. Good job. So the resurrection is in all four. But this story is kind of funny.

It's in John, chapter 20. The reason it's in there is because John wrote it. And guess who won the race? John. But John didn't want to say I won.

He says it really funny. Listen up. John, chapter 20, verse one. It says now, on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early while it was still dark. So she got up at like five four or 05:00 a.m.

Very early and saw that the stone had been rolled away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, his name's John, but he's being careful here. And he said to them, they have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they've laid the body. So Peter went out from the other disciple and they were going towards the tomb. Both of them were running together.

But the other disciple outran Peter. And he reached the tomb first and stooping to look in, he saw the linen clothes lying there, but he didn't go in. So John got there first, but he was a little scared and stayed at the edge of the tomb. And then it says this. Then Simon Peter came following him and went straight into the tomb.

He was fearless. He saw the linen clothes lying there and the face cloth which had been over Jesus head, not lying with the linen clothes, but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in. And he saw and he believed, for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples went back to their homes.

Isn't this an amazing story? They come running to the tomb, and what did they find? Just some clothes. And Jesus. This is a funny part.

Not only is it funny that there was a foot race, but Jesus said, let me go ahead and fold this little piece up just to prove some point that, hey, he got up and had a little moment here to fold his clothes before leaving the room. Not many of you do that, right? Y'all don't make your beds before you. Jesus decided, let me fold this up. Because of Leo the cat.

Yeah. He keeps jumping in my bed, and he makes it dirty. Excuses. I took him my blanket. So.

Excuses. What do y'all think of that story? Had you ever heard of the first foot race in the Bible? Well, probably not the first. There's one back in the old Testament.

That's for another time. Okay. Thank you so much, kiddos. Hey, y'all are gonna go have a great time, and then we're gonna do an Easter egg hunt afterwards, all right? Yeah.

Well, that's. That's up to Miss Kendra. You are now her responsibility. All right, y'all have fun. I'm gonna talk to your parents now.

Had y'all ever heard of the first race to the resurrection? Y'all ever heard of that before? Isn't that great? I think that's hilarious. That's how I would write it.

I'd probably smoke some of y'all to the tomb. I'm just saying I'm pretty quick. I'd get there, but I might get there and go. I'm a little scared. I'm a little scared to go in.

I see some of y'all shaking your heads. Foot race after church. I see you back there, Marcus. I ain't scared. I am not scared.

Now, if we're going too far, I got beat earlier this year in a five k by my own son. Disappointing, disappointing. Life is. Happy Easter. Good morning, church.

I'm so thankful for you. I'm so grateful that we're kind of coming to a close in this. Meditations on the cross. We're going to do one more together next week, and it'll be the final. But this one.

This one's really the ultimate piece of this whole puzzle. And we're asking this question is, why the empty cross? Why the empty cross? Why is this significant? In today's sermon, we're going to be addressing this idea of Christ's resurrection and why the empty cross points to the empty tomb.

It points to this reality, in fact, that Jesus has defeated something he has won. In fact, Paul says in another section that if we didn't have resurrection, we would be a pitiful faith. We would be a pitiful people. It'd be really sad if they ever found the body of Christ. It was.

It would be really sad. And they've many times said they found the tomb and this and that, but the body is hard to produce. And I would argue it's hard to produce because it's not there. The body is risen. Jesus is alive today.

So what has he defeated? He's defeated some things that we couldn't touch, some things we couldn't do anything about. Our sin, that is, our brokenness, our guilt, our shame, the stuff we've been doing wrong. And any of us, if we're honest with ourselves, knows we've made some mistakes. We haven't gotten it right.

We often don't get it right. Even week to week. There's a lot of error along the path. But Jesus has defeated that. He's defeated death and now the grave.

In fact, Jesus says in John 14, because I live, you also will live. He also says in John ten, my purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. This is why he did it, so that we might have life and real life and not just real life later. And this is really the point of the message. If you were today is not just to convince you that Jesus died for you and to convince you that he rose again, that's good, and that's amazing.

That would be enough. But he wasn't done there. He not only has saved you for the future, he saved you for the now. He desires that you would have a rich and abundant and satisfying life. Right now, some of us are waiting on that.

I've met many a christian that's like, I know one day there'll be peace and there'll be comfort on this side of this side of heaven later on. But guess what? He's given us joy and peace and purpose right in the here and the now. And that's where we're going to spend time today. That's why the resurrection is so amazing.

I wonder, church, would you say if I was to ask you, are you living a rich and satisfying life? What would you think? What would you say to that? Most people are like, absolutely, I want to, but I'm not sure that's what I'm living. I get glimpses of it, even.

You might say there's moments where I sense this, but most of the time, not really. Are you living a good life? The good life. Just so you know. Cause I'm a weirdo.

I looked this up in Webster's dictionary this week. What is the dictionary think a good life is? Listen to this. I don't find this a wonderful definition. It says the kind of life that people with a lot of money are able to have.

Well, bummer. Bummer. Webster's thinks I'm in big trouble. That is. Here's what it puts in there.

It says, she grew up poor, but now she's living the good life, a happy and enjoyable life. She gave up a good job in the city to move out to the country in search of the good life. That's what's in Webster's for you. Pew Research center, in fact, says that Americans, when asked about a good life, give you three results as to what they think makes a good life. And they're kind of right about one.

The first, the number one. What do you think it is? Family. And they're pretty close on that. 169 percent say family, 34% say career, 23% say money.

Now, those last two, I don't think are incredibly fulfilling. If you've chased it for long enough, you may know this. Some of you are like, I wouldn't mind to test it. I don't know for sure. There's only one problem here with this so called good life, is when you seek it and you find some aspect of it, you find out more and more, and I think you will, that it's not good enough.

That the good life as defined by society is just not quite good enough. There's something missing. There's some little secrets about the good life that nobody likes to talk about. But you know they're true. You know they're true deep down.

And some of you are experiencing them now, that people, when trying to seek these things, they're feeling one of three e's. They're feeling maybe first, exhausted. You feeling exhausted today? I have four kids. I'm always exhausted.

And this time of year, I'm doing 19 sports. There's too much going on. Church. It's busy this week. I was here half the days trying to figure out how to have a good service together with you.

I just feel. I feel exhausted sometimes. We're worn out, and people are saying, I'm tired all the time. I can't keep up the pace. When I get home in the evening, I just crashed.

I'm worn out. It's weird. Sometimes you'll spend all of your time and effort to make the money to buy the things that you never get to use because you're so busy working to get it that you never get to use it. You spend all your time and effort to try to raise kids, but you don't have the time to actually watch them do stuff because you're so busy. You're exhausted.

I'm out of energy. And this often leads to a second little secret, and that is emptiness. I don't think I've got another thing in me. People might say I couldn't sign up for one more thing. I couldn't take on another assignment or commitment.

I'm stretched to my limit, and I'm empty inside. In those quiet moments when you're thinking to yourself, is this life? If it's supposed to be so good, why do I feel unsatisfied? What's missing? And that often leads us to a really, really hard, hard place.

And that is enslavement. You ever feel trapped? You ever feel trapped? I don't know if I'll ever be able to get out of this job. I didn't sign up for this job.

I just kind of fell into it, you might say, and now I'm trapped. Maybe you feel trapped in a relationship. You knew it was wrong to begin with, but you were needy at the time, and now you're stuck. You feel trapped by the expectations of other people around you. I felt that many times in my life.

You feel trapped by guilt, even, maybe fear or anger. Trapped by bitterness or that somebody has hurt you. Maybe you're a slave to your schedule. Do you ever feel church? You ever feel exhausted, empty or enslaved?

I hate to say it, I felt every one of them at some point. Maybe all of them at once at some point. Such is life for many of us. But I've got really great news. There is a good life.

There is a good life, and family's a part of it, but it's not. Number one. Career and money, yeah, they're important, but they're not really even in the picture. There's a good life, and it's eternal, which is how I know career and money really can't be all that important, because they aren't going to be all that important later. There's a good life that I'd like to talk to you about.

It's in Romans, chapter six, where we're gonna spend some time today in the book of Romans. And we're seeing in this. This is one of the apostle Paul's letters, and he writes to the roman church about being united with Christ in both his death and in his resurrection, and how this gives us the possibility for a whole new life, a better life, a brand new way of living. And we can experience this too, this new life in the union with Christ's death and resurrection. So let's take some time together in just a few verses and.

And Romans and church. Those of you who are with me normally are going to be surprised to find out. I'm only giving you two ways to experience this life in union. I know this good old Baptist three pointer is not doing that today. Two points.

How to experience new life in Christ. Let's read Romans, chapter six, verse four. We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we've been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.

Man, that's good news for one who has died has been set free from sin. Now, if we have died with Christ, we believe that we also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again. Death no longer has dominion over him for the death he died, he died to sin once for all. But the life he lives, he lives to God.

So, church, you must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. God bless the reading of his word. Amen. Now, really, verse eleven is the ultimate summary of this whole chapter, this whole passage. And that's really where I'm gathering the two ways in which we will experience new life.

And the first is:

1. Consider yourself dead to sin in Christ.

That's what he says in verse eleven. But this is where he begins. He begins right here in verse eleven, saying, consider this is an interesting word because, I mean, it's a word we know, but the way it unpacks itself there in the Greek is in the middle voice. And some of you are like, well, that's kind of heady stuff.

I don't really care about all that grammar stuff, but the middle voice is really interesting in that it's a command that we're given not from the outside, but rather from the inside. This word, this middle voice means I'm commanding myself. That means Paul is saying, because of what Jesus has done, if you've heard this, that Jesus died on the cross for your sin, that he rose from the grave that he's alive today and that in fact, the death he died has paid for all. If that's all true, consider yourself middle voice. Make the decision.

Then I'm dead to sin. If he's done it and I'm his, then I too am grafted in. That's what he's saying here. This word consider means to count, to reason, to make this logical conclusion that internally you've made the decision that's really hard to make. That because I am Christ's eye, am no longer in sin.

Now, that doesn't mean. And some of you are gonna go, wait a minute. Cause tomorrow I might think a crazy thought, I may tell another lie. And yeah, Jonathan, I don't wanna do those things, but I make mistakes. That has nothing to do with what Paul's talking about here.

He's not saying, decide at this moment, you will be mistake free. From here on, perfection is now yours. It's not what he's arguing for. In fact, I go a lot of other places to talk about the sanctification process, which is hard, which we're working through in Christ. He's talking about the way in which you view yourself.

And that's a game changer. Cause some of you in the room, you've been saying for a long time something that's not true. You've been looking in the mirror or looking at others and saying, I am an angry person. I'm always gonna be angry. My parent, my dad was angry.

His dad was angry. I'm just gonna be angry. I'm an alcoholic. And I'm always gonna be. And you're just gonna keep saying that to yourself.

I'm an adulterer. I'm addicted to something. You fill in the blank, like, I'm always this thing. And all of us kind of struggle with this in some way. We look in the mirror and go, I'm always gonna be anxious.

I'm never gonna get over this. I'm always gonna be depressed. Paul says, count yourself dead to sin. So that when you look in the mirror and you know, oh, yeah, I've got flaws, but that's not who I really am. Who I really am is in Christ.

Who I really am is changed. Dead. This word dead, he goes on in verse six to say, the old self has been crucified. It says in verse six that it has been brought to nothing. That means, that means the only accuser isn't God, isn't the one that really can make changes, the one that's responsible for your destination.

Both here and later, both now and forever, the one who's responsible, he's not accusing. He sees Christ in you. When he looks at you, he sees his son. He sees the cross. He sees the resurrection.

When he looks at you, he favors you. So when you are accused, it is not from him. It says in verse six that that stuff's been brought to nothing. When God looks at your sin, it says it's been rendered powerless, annulled, destroyed. One synonym.

It's gone. How is it gone? It's gone. Cause God poured out his wrath on Christ. And I know that's a hard picture.

I know that's difficult. But something had to pay. And Jesus, the Lord himself paid. So when he looks at you, he sees the reason. Lord and Jesus, he sees Christ.

So, my friend, when you look in the mirror and say, I'm always going to be this way, I'm just. I'm a mess. I'm always going to mess relationships up. I'm going to keep doing this wrong. That's not from God.

Just know that. Just know that there is an accuser. But also we can do it all on our own. Sometimes we get all up in our fields like, I'm just a mess. It's not from God.

No. God says, you are dead to sin, so count yourself that way. That is, in fact, look at his budget and say, I agree. I agree. He has paid the penalty.

I don't have to keep paying it. And I couldn't if I wanted to. It's paid. This verse goes on many times to say this little phrase with him, with him, with him. Why?

Because we need to be reminded that the reason in which we are dead to sin, that it has been brought to nothing, is because now we're rolling through life with Christ. This speaks of this union, this oneness we now have in Christ. In fact, verse five says that we have been united with him. This verse really means to be planted together. This is like a sort of a nature kind of term there in the Greek, this idea that we were planted or grafted in with Christ.

There's a couple of verses I'd love to share with you about how we are in Christ together. One of these famous passages is two corinthians five, excuse me. Where it says in verse 17, therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come.

Now the question is, do you believe it? Do you keep looking and going, well, I keep seeing old Jonathan, I keep seeing that old messed up guy. And that's then count yourself dead to it. Verse. This next verse is about how Christ is in us.

Romans, chapter eight. It says, christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the spirit gives you life. Because you've been made right with God. You've been made right with God. Now he gives us a picture.

And at our Wilson campus this morning, they're baptizing six people. That's something to be excited about. Very thankful for that. Some of you in the room, you know, you're feeling a. You're feeling the Lord urging you towards baptism.

I would say, why wait? You know, we'll have another one here in a few months, I pray. We offered one this morning and no one took yet. But I know there's some of you in the room that have been thinking about it. I pray the Lord will keep stirring in you.

But he gives us a picture right here in chapter six, verse four, that we have been baptized into death. We have this picture in Christianity that's meant to point to the very thing that has truly occurred in the christian life. That is, if we had had this this morning, you could have seen someone go under and rise again. This immersion baptism is meant to symbolize that someone has died, died to sin, and has risen again in new life in Christ Jesus. And this is the picture we've been given in scripture, and Paul refers to it here.

Galatians three, in fact, says, for as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ, so you've been changed, a new creation, a new life, so that you might walk now in newness of life in order that you could be changed, in order that you could live for him. Now, what's the result of all this? In case you missed it, okay, sure, pastor. I'll count myself dead to sin. What does this look like?

Well, he gives us three really important results. Verse six says, now the old nature has been brought to nothing that is made inoperable, inactive, abolished. It's done the old you. Now, here's the thing. Everybody else around you hasn't figured this out yet, okay?

So if you've recently started trying to walk with the Lord, you've given yourself to him and you're trying to be this new creation. Just know that your friends and family are still expecting the old you. And this is a hard thing to do, to begin to adjust to. That's not really who I was ever designed to be. I don't want to be the guy at the, at the lunch table that's doing all of the cursing.

I don't want to be the guy at the lunch table that's bringing everybody down. I'm new in Christ Jesus. I don't want to be the one that brings to the table, hey, guess what? I'm still a big, hot mess. I'm new in Christ.

And just so you know, when you start making those changes, new believer or believer that's finally getting serious, just know there's people around you that are going to go, who are you? Bring back the old you. Until eventually they go, okay, this new you is a lot more encouraging. It has a lot more peace, has a lot more to offer life, rather than just being a Debbie downer. Just know that people around you are going to be confused by this.

But it's a work in progress. It says, the old nature has been brought to nothing. You're no longer, verse six says, enslaved to sin. That is, sin has lost its power. And then lastly, you've been set free from it.

Our union with Christ, then, is a life of faith in Christ, counting our flesh, crucified. Paul says to the galatian church, I've been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me in the life I now live in the flesh. I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me. Now, let me give you a picture, because this may be somewhat confusing.

Okay. How do I count myself dead? How do I count myself unified in Christ? What in the world does all this mean? Well, I think the Lord has given us one picture.

He's probably given us many pictures, but one picture that really helps is the picture of marriage that he's given us. In fact, he says in ephesians that marriage kind of represents Christ and his church. Right? So he's given us this picture. But I think in the same way in which we are united in Christ, we have this picture of marriage.

Now I am in union with my wife on August 6, 2005. Next year is going to be a big year, y'all, 20 years. I might have to leave y'all for a couple weeks. I pray you'll understand. August of 2025, I'm rolling out.

Probably there's a good chance for a couple of weeks. But August 6 of 2005, we said, I do. And the Bible says that we are now unified. We are one flesh. As the Bible puts it, I became one with my wife.

And guess what that means. Guess what that means? That means all others are dead. To me, that's just true. Like, to use a term that some of you young men might understand.

I turned the radar off. The radar doesn't work. In fact, I turned it off in 2004 when I got engaged. I don't think the thing works anymore, so. And that's a good thing.

Some of you, this isn't meant to be a marriage lesson, but some of you men got married and kept the radar on. That's broke. All right, that makes no sense. Go ahead and shut that thing down today. I don't care if she's interested.

She's not yours. You've been made one. You are unified with your wife. That means all others are now, in a sense, dead. I died also.

Not just to that, not just shut the radar down. I died to this old version of me, the single Jonathan. Y'all would have liked him. He was a real hoot, all right, but really immature. He really was.

I got married at 19. That kid was a mess, and he kept being a mess through my twenties. Some of you saw that. There's a few of you in the room saw me grow up, and I've got a long ways to go still, but that version of me is also dead. This is such a good picture of what it means to be in union with God is that now what I've done is I've died to all others.

I don't worship other things. I don't worship money or career. I don't even worship my family, which we think that's an okay one. No, it's not. It's not good enough.

It's good, but it's not good enough. No, I worship one because I've been unified with Christ. He is my sole obsession. And not only that, the old me, oh, he was a trip. But he's gone.

He's dead. And if I start trying to put those clothes back on and living like that kid again, it's not going to go well. Do you understand what I'm saying? You've been unified with Christ. The old you is truly gone.

Consider it so. You're not once. You once were. Christ has actually paid for it. It is really done.

So if you put all that mess back on yourself, it's not from him. You're making a decision that Paul says is not the one. Count yourselves dead to it. This is the hard part of following Christ, really, for so many of us, is that we have to admit that this former life, or maybe for some of you, this current life, isn't good enough. And that's a hard step.

I understand. I'm not belittling that at all. But I pray this morning you will see and believe that what you've been trying to achieve is empty. That eventually you're going to discover. I can't feel the hole in my life.

There's a mass abyss in the center of my heart. That I can't seem to fill with stuff or people or drugs or anything. Nothing seems to fill it.

Because God made the whole, and he made it for himself. He made you that way. That you might go, wait a minute. Let me look up.

Will you admit today the good life I've been working after? It's not good enough. But you know what? In Christ Jesus, he's more than enough. This is truly an abundant life.

The second way is this. He says, consider yourself dead to sin, but also

2. Consider yourself alive to God in Christ.

We're not just like Christ Jesus on resurrection day all those years ago. Did not stay dead to one thing, but alive to another. He says in verse eleven, be alive to God in Christ Jesus.

In fact, it also says there. Write clearly in the text. That the Christ not only died to sin, but also lives to God. It says right there in verses ten and eleven. So there's a lot to unpack just in these simple verses.

And this idea that now when we live in him. It says in verse nine that now we will never die again. This is this amazing thing that's occurring now. Jesus, if you read his story, there's another resurrection in the Bible. There's this story of a man named Lazarus.

That most people have heard of. Even people outside of the church have heard of this Lazarus guy. He's a really interesting character, if you think about it. Because he died twice. There's no Lazarus today.

If there were, that would be something to go talk to that guy. But no, he died two times. And, in fact, the Bible talks in great detail. About how they were. The Pharisees and others were thinking about how to get rid.

Quietly get rid of Lazarus. Because he was becoming a problem. Do you know why? Because a dead dude got up. That's a problem, all right?

The people are like. They're running after Jesus. They're going headlong towards Jesus. Because somehow he got a dude up from the grave. Now, I don't know what their runaround was.

And trying to analyze how this was true. Without believing in Jesus. But somehow they made the decision. That maybe it was witchcraft. Or some other thing that caused this.

Or maybe Lazarus wasn't fully dead. They were convinced that Jesus wasn't who he said he was. So we've got to get rid of Jesus. And we definitely got to get rid of this Lazarus dude cause he's running around telling some crazy stuff. But here in verse nine, it tells us that unlike Lazarus, Christ doesn't die a second time.

The resurrection is permanent. And that's good because that resurrection points to our second. It points to our resurrection. We won't die twice in Christ Jesus. We're raised and we're dead to sin.

And verse ten tells us a very important piece, that Christ's sacrifice was sufficient not only for all people, but for all time. It says once for all. I think Paul's very careful to use this very simple greek word here, which is poss, which means simply all things or all time. I think he intends both personally that he means to say here what Christ did in this action some 2000 years ago, what he did right here, has died for every single one of you, whether you believe it or not, it was more than enough and it's good for all time. Eternity will not be long enough to make this void.

It's good forever. Wow. There's a lot to unpack there that he's died once for all. I could unpack all kinds of theological things with you that I don't think many of you, well, some of you are interested in. We can talk later about what that actually means.

All people and all time. Whoo. There's a lot of cool things to unpack there. But we live now to God. We're alive in him.

And there's a ton of benefits in this. Now. I want to go ahead and tell you, church, in two weeks, we're going to do one more next week, meditation in the cross. We're going to be looking at Luke, chapter nine, verse 23, a very famous passage. But after that we're going to do a five or six part sermon on heaven.

On heaven. And I think this is going to be wonderful. I'm encouraged because there's a lot. There's a lot I'm looking forward to learning. We're going to be a little bit in revelation.

We're going to be. I know some of you are like, I love that book because I don't know what in the world's going on. That's why I love it. That's not why we're going in there. We're going in there to try to find out what the Bible has to say about heaven.

And that's one of the wonderful things about these benefits that Paul is here talking about, that our resurrection is going to be like his, that we will have a resurrection body. We're going to live with Christ, that is. He's prepared a place for us. We're never going to die again. This verse says, and now we're alive to God.

We're spiritually alive. This is really good news. This is kind of an aside, and we're going to get into this a whole lot more in the heaven series, but this is great news when you think about those loved ones of yours that are already with him. They're not there in some kind of docile state. They're not there in some kind of, like, all right, we gotta wait.

Like we're just gonna hang in there until the rest of the people get up here? No, they're alive to God. They're spiritually active. They're up there doing things with the Lord. Who knows what he's got them up to?

And they are completely outside of all of the stuff that hangs us up. No more exhaustion, no more emptiness, no more all those three things at the front of this message. No more sin, no more. You fill in the blank. That stuff is gone now, fully alive to God, fully activated in him.

Once we were dead to our sins. Now God has made us alive. Colossians two, says you who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God has made you alive together with him having forgiven us all our trespasses. So what do you do? Set your mind on this, colossians goes on to say, if you then have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are of earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ and God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you will also appear with him in glory. Now let me paint for you just a picture. This is one more thing to finish this message.

Today, Doctor Richard Lovelace says, spiritual life flows out of a union with Christ, not merely an imitation of Christ, okay? Flows out of a genuine union with Christ, not an imitation of Christ. Now, I recognize there's some people in here today who aren't normally here. But there's also some people here today that have been coming for years and years. Sometimes believers.

We have a tendency to be an imitation of Christ and not in union with them. I bet. All right, many of you have been to churches in your life where you eventually could tell these people are faking it pretty good. These people are imitating Christ. But what I've observed is those type of people aren't very good at imitating him Monday through Friday.

They may be great at imitating on a Sunday morning, especially Easter. Let's. You know, probably some of you on the way here were like, everybody better behave today, all right? It's Easter Sunday. You probably woke up this way.

Like some of your kids were already in the room acting a fool. And you're like, not to do, this is Jesus day. And you're trying to put on that good face. And I'm not saying I understand that you don't want to be made full of. But when you do that on Monday, when you look in the mirror, it just wears off, doesn't it?

Eventually, the old you just kind of slips right on through. Because the life you're living isn't actually in union with Christ. It's this. I'm trying to look christian. I'm trying to look like I'm in his.

Eventually, you can't keep that up. And most of the people in your life that you began to say, boy, he's a phony. She's a phony. There's so much hypocrisy in the church. I hear this all the time.

I can't go back to church. It's full of hypocrites. Yes. Every single place I go in this world is full of hypocrites. It's crazy.

Do you know why? Because I believe there's sin in the world. And that people want to be one thing. But don't really have the power to do it. That's called hypocrisy.

That's what everybody's doing. It's happening in your workplace. It's happening in your family. You've got that crazy uncle that tells you all the time. You wouldn't believe what I did back in the war.

And you look it up later and go, I don't even think he was in the war. What is he talking about? You've got that crazy uncle. It's in your families. It's in your workplace.

It's in you. The thing you want to be is hard to achieve.

And some of you in the room are, I do want to live for Christ. But rather than actually go to the well and be in union with Christ, you're thinking, what are the things I need to do to look like Christ? What are they? So I can check them off? It's not how this works.

I know that's hard. I know that doesn't make sense in, like everything else in your life, but it's not how this works. To use, yet again, relationships if I come to my wife and say, how would you know that I loved you? What are some things like, okay, so once a day I need to say I love you. Okay, got it.

I do need to take the trash out. That's important. Okay. Like, give me a laundry list of how you will know I love you. I don't think she's gonna like that.

So you're telling me you're gonna check up all the right things, so that way somehow you think I. That's not how relationships work. It might kinda work for men, ladies, just so you know, it might kinda work for us. Like, we're really simple. Yes.

Feed me, yes. Kiss me, yes, tell me I'm great. We're good. It's kinda how we work, but it's not really how love works. It's not how a relationship with God works.

He didn't write you this love letter so that you would say, oh, well, I guess I better wear a suit and tie to church. You know, it's not in here. I'm doing it today and today only. I hope you've enjoyed it. This is very tight.

I do like it a little bit. I feel good.

But this isn't a list of do's and don'ts. It's, hey, here's God and here's a relationship he's offered to you. Will you receive it? Will you say, okay, I'm not enough. I'm not going to be made right on my own.

I am dead to sin and I want to be alive in you. So now, God, what would it look like for me to walk with you? What would it look like for my life to be following you with all my heart? What would that look like? And begin asking that question.

Let your days start that way. Let your days start in prayer with him and in his word. Let your days be a okay, God, I'm yours. Help me. Guide me through this.

I've got to have this hard conversation at work or at home. I've got to go through this thing. Guide my steps, Lord, rather than let me imitate, let me. No. There's a big difference between true union and imitation.

It's huge. Imitation at the end of the day is about your work, but union is about his work. Will you lean on his work? He's already paid this price. You couldn't pay it to begin with.

Are you his or are you not? Will you decide today? Will you decide today that when you look at the empty cross and the empty tomb, that that's where your best life actually lies? By receiving him and walking with him, no longer living a fake, doing as romans ten says, confessing with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believing in your heart that God raised him from the dead, will you consider yourself dead to sin and alive to God? Let's pray now together.

Church. Heavenly Father, we ask. We ask desperately that you would guide us, that we. There's a variety of different people in this room, and we're all lifting up our hearts to you right now. Lord.

I recognize that for right many of us, we are kind of living like imitators at times. I'm guilty of this. There are times where I'm just putting on the right face God, because I know I'm supposed to. But God, that's not giving me life. That's not encouraging me.

I'm not finding any peace and joy in that. In fact, I feel a great heavy burden that I know eventually if I keep doing that, I'm gonna break, and somebody's gonna see my ugly side.

And as much as I don't want them to see that, it's far worse. Knowing that I'm trying to hold this weight that I'm not designed to carry. God, I ask now for myself and for your church, the believers in this room, that we would truly walk with you, that this relationship between us and you would be one of love and true compassion and genuine care, and that this wouldn't be some list of do's and don'ts. Yes, there's stuff in there you desire for us to be in obedience to. That's true, but that's not the point.

The point of salvation is that we would come and say, I'm made for you, God. I'm yours, and I'm not enough without you. Would you please. Would you please walk with me? I will follow you, God.

Do that in the believers in this room. And I do pray. Perhaps you've shown up today, my friend. You've walked in this building. I don't know, maybe somebody kind of pulled you in here.

You weren't so sure about it. I'm thankful you're here. And I pray that, if nothing else, you were encouraged today. But perhaps. Perhaps today you felt the Lord calling you, pulling you in and saying, my son, my daughter, look, I've done it.

I've paid the ultimate price for you. Say, yes, walk with me. If that's you today, you feel the Lord calling you in just to believe and to have faith in him and to walk with Christ for the first time in your life. If. If that's you, let's pray together.

As it says, as we just read in romans ten, that when we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead, we will be saved. If that's you today, pray with me. This simple confession. Jesus, I believe. I believe that you are lord of my life.

That means you're in charge. You're the king, you're the true creator and founder, and you're the one who's really orchestrating my life. And I've been trying to drive on my own, trying to run it myself. And I've made some big mistakes, God. But Jesus, today I believe you are in fact, the real king.

And, Jesus, I believe you died on the cross for me, that you paid the penalty I couldn't pay. But, God, I also believe that you raised Jesus from the grave because of that, because of the cross and the resurrection. Today, Lord, I put my faith in you, and all my hope and longing is now in you. I'm asking Jesus, would you simply guide me? I want to be in a relationship now with you in union.

Guide my steps now and show me the purpose you've designed for me. Help me to walk with you. Dear friend, if you prayed that with me just now, welcome to the family of God to his church. And we're praying the same prayer with you. God, guide us.

Show us our purpose. Continue to be with us. Help us to not be imitators, merely imitators, Lord. In fact, I want to be a son. Help us to be your bride.

You say Christ and his church, just like a groom to a bride. Lord, help us to be in that kind of relationship, one of love and compassion that gets deep in the relationship. Lord, help us to be your church, your bride. We pray all of these things in Jesus name. Amen.


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