A message for Easter

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At a church service a few years ago, our pastor revealed that his twin brother had died the week before by taking his own life. But, our pastor said he was confident that his brother was in heaven.

After church, my son-in-law asked how that could possibly be. Isn’t committing suicide like slapping God in the face for putting to death something he created? It was an excellent question. The answer boils down to one word — Belief.

A few years ago, the pastor’s brother had made a public profession of faith in Christ. He confessed that he believed in God, that he believed Jesus was the son of God, and he accepted God’s free gift of forgiveness for sins he committed by allowing Jesus to pay the penalty for those sins.

As a result, the pastor’s brother was “born again,” and he would enjoy eternal life forever.

Nothing can separate you from God’s love

If you can point to a specific date and time in your history where you expressed belief in God, belief in Jesus Christ and a belief that Jesus’ death paid the penalty for your sins, then the promise conveyed in Romans 8:38-39 is yours to cherish. It is a rock upon which you can build the foundation for your entire life.

That promise is, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Suicide is sin, there is no doubt about that. But, so is anger, lust, greed, worry, pride and any idolatry that you put before God.

If you believe in Jesus, then know this — his death paid the penalty for all the sins you committed in the past, those that you WILL commit today, and those you will commit in the future.

This is important to understand. If Satan can convince you that suicide is an unpardonable sin that will forever separate you from God, then Romans 8:38-39 is a lie.

If you make an agreement that there is “something” that could possibly separate a believer from God’s love, grace, mercy and forgiveness, then Satan will have a field day with you.

Next, he will be able to convince you that you must not be a Christian at all — and therefore not saved — because you swore, spoke venomous words in anger, cheated, ignored someone in need, worried incessantly, or looked lustfully upon another person or his/her possessions.

If he can convince you of that, then you will question the validity of your faith every day you are alive. You will convince yourself that you alone are the world’s greatest sinner and that God must have rejected you.

Is the Bible lying?

Satan will convince you that 1 John 3:6 must apply to your life. That passage says, “No one who lives in him (Jesus) keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.”

It’s a lie. Remember, Satan knows the Bible better than you do. He will use God’s word to convince you that you cannot trust God’s word and, therefore, you cannot trust God.

ALL believers continue to sin every single day of their lives. ALL of us fall short of God’s glory and his standard for perfection — Romans 3:23.

Which is why we desperately need a savior. We mess up continuously in measures great and small.

If we allow Satan to convince us that we’ll never live up to God’s standard, we live a defeated life and we imagine the world would be better off without us.

I do what I hate to do

Romans 7 and 8 are among my favorite chapters of the Bible. I encourage you to read them. In Romans 7:15-23, apostle Paul outlines the big problem, and one to which we all should be able to relate:

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. (God’s way is better)

“As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.

“Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law, but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.”

So, yes, Christians continue to mess up. We can agree with God that suicide (lust, anger, worry, selfishness) is wrong, but our sinful nature often gets in the way, and we wind up doing what we don’t want to do or, better yet, doing what we know we SHOULD NOT do.

In Romans 7:24, Paul cries out, “What a wretched man I am! Who WILL rescue me from this body of death?”

The answer is in the very next verse, “Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Note that Paul didn’t say, “Who saved me from this body of death?” He did not say, “Who changed me so that I won’t ever sin again?”

Someday, somehow, someway God saves us

No, Paul asked who WILL save him — someday, somehow, someway, in the future. When he wrote that, it had not happened. He still struggled with his sinful nature.

In fact, in the second part of Romans 7:25, Paul admits, “So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.”

There may be a point in our lives where we are so mired in despair, desperation and selfishness that we think we have no way out except through suicide. Don’t do it!

Read Romans 7 and 8 and relish in the promises that Paul gives believers for an eternal life SOMEDAY free of sin and worry and lust and anger and selfishness and pride.

Psalm 103:12 promises “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

Don’t ever let Satan deceive you into thinking there really is something that will separate you from the love of God. Or lead you to believe you are too sinful today or there is something you’ve done in the past that is so dark, so bad that he could not possibly love you.

Jesus + nothing else = saved

Nothing is further from the truth. Because, if you BELIEVE, you are saved. That’s all there is.

It’s not belief in God PLUS attendance at church. It’s not belief in Jesus PLUS tithing 10 percent of your income. It’s not belief in God PLUS helping the poor.  It’s not belief in God PLUS reading the Bible, praying or fasting.

All those things are wonderful and a reflection of a grateful heart. But, all that really matters is belief.

The gospel changes everything. It’s Jesus plus nothing else.

Happy Easter!  He has risen, indeed!

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Greg Gerber

A native of Wisconsin who moved to Arizona in 2009, Greg Gerber is a DODO -- Dad of Daughters Only -- to three grown daughters. He worked as a journalist for many years before pursuing a career as a faith-based writer, author, coach and speaker. Greg is the author of Pornocide: How Lust is Killing Your Faith, Stealing Your Joy and Destroying Your Life.

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