So how long ago did you last try to use a pair of those kindergarten scissors? You know, the round-ended safety scissors that only cut paper — or, maybe they’ll cut paper, if you hold your mouth right. You may remember trying to use them one night your child mysteriously learned that a project for 90% of their course grade was due the next morning, and you enabled their procrastination by helping to bail them out with the poster. In the process, you also discovered, mysteriously, that every decent, adult-sized pair of scissors in the house had slipped away into the black hole of scissor-dom, and all you had to work with was the little ones your fingers barely fit into. Probably spent more time aggravated at the scissors than getting anything cut.
Now imagine a few days later, you urgently need to cut something besides paper. You find your real scissors haven’t reemerged, and though you know they’re inadequate, you pick up the kiddie ones, trying desperately to pinch them just right, turn them just a little bit more this way, and put a little more force to them. Nah, they’re really not going to work for that. But you could keep at it a while longer, if you just especially enjoy the frustration.
So when’s the last time you felt like there was something in your life that needed to be cut loose: a habit or an addiction that was sapping the health and vitality out of you, or a bad choice you just kept coming back to repeatedly though you knew it was damaging relationships, productivity and your overall well-being. Did trying to get loose from it feel like trying to cut a cable with kindergarten scissors?
Yeah, I’ve been there. Wrestling with whether a thing was right or wrong, good or bad. Being convinced it was causing me grief one day, and alternately thinking it was not that bad the next. Not a fun way to live.
This weekend we celebrate the final earthly acts of the Savior of our souls: the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Although much more ado is made about his birth by people in general (which was miraculous and awesome and worthy to be celebrated), the accomplishment which he robed himself in flesh for in the first place was done through Calvary, and the events that followed. You see, the blood he shed became the only solvent that can burn through the chains that hold us bound from him: from truth, from life, from freedom.
While there is certainly nothing light about what was done for us, the good news is that it works — not “worked” as in past tense, but “works” as in now. Many people have tried one form or another of religion, and what it has to offer. Many struggle with being consistent, or even with holding on to faith entirely, as there are still things they’ve not been able to let go of in their lives — past sins, regrets, hidden weights. Unknown effects from past choices layer one on another until relationships and real peace are smothered out, and there’s nothing akin to joy anywhere around. They exist where they could be living.
The answer isn’t hidden, but it isn’t obvious. It’s in plain view, though it’s often ignored. But it’s the only thing strong enough to sever that cable. We have to die.
“Well, you couldn’t offer any more cheery advice than that?” Nothing that would work. I could flower it up, but flowers fade and dry, and we need life-giving answers. Dying is taking responsibility for the wrong we’ve done (we’re the ones who forged that cable in the first place, aren’t we?), asking God’s forgiveness for it, and making up our minds that we won’t go that way any more with God’s help. It’s known as repenting in the Bible.
So when something’s dead, what’s the best thing to do with it? Right. A burial is the best next step. And, by the way, did you ever see a burial with a few sprinkles of dirt? All the way under ground. So, the biblical way to experience that, after repentance, is to be buried in the waters of baptism in the name of Jesus. If you’ve not caught the pattern by now, the plan is to identify with the steps he took to procure our redemption — our freedom from that chain: his death and his burial. There is no round about way of doing it. Once you’ve repented, you must be baptized. And when you’re baptized, be sure that the name of the one whose pattern you’re following is called over you, rather than the description of who he is (Father in creation, Son in redemption, Holy Ghost in reconciliation). His name is Jesus.
Easter is the day we celebrate his victory over death. Praise the Lord! He came out of the grave, with new life! That is where the story gets most exciting for us. The completion of our repenting and being washed clean in his name, is that he comes to live in us. He said to his disciples “I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you” and speaking of the Comforter, the Holy Ghost, he said, “he dwelleth with you, but shall be in you.”
This was played out after Jesus’ ascension, when the Holy Ghost fell on 120 in the Upper Room. Mary, Jesus’ mother was there, along with the eleven remaining apostles, and many others who had followed him, 120 in all. The joy of having the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus enter into them that day was so great, that many who looked on as they praised God, speaking in unknown tongues, thought they were drunk. The Holy Ghost still comes that way, and it is still joy unspeakable and full of glory!
So, there’s hope for you, if there are things to get rid of in your life. The solution isn’t easy, but it is simple. The Apostle Peter summed it up this way for those who heard him preach that day the Holy Ghost first fell, realized they were wrong (had a cable to cut) and asked “Men and brethren, what shall we do? Peter answered and said unto them, Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:37-38 KJV). It’s that simple, and it still works today.
So, what are you doing for Easter? Why don’t you find a church that’s preaching what the first witnesses to the Resurrection preached, and get cut loose with those believers? Your freedom is worth that.