Some Quick Thoughts on Easter Sunday

If you weren’t aware, for us Christians it was just a few days ago we stopped to reflect and remember Christ’s death on Good Friday.

It’s hard to understand why we call such a day “good”. What’s good about pondering the brutal marring of our beloved Jesus? It’s such a somber time. The word “good” was the farthest thing from the minds of Mary and the disciples as they watched their beloved, son, friend, brother, teacher, and Lord have his body mutilated and then hung on a cross.

Not only that, but He was buried. I don’t know if you have ever watched a close friend or beloved family member get buried, but it’s not pretty.

There’s no disputing it. Jesus was dead. Call death whatever you want–miserable, cold-hearted, imminent–but don’t call it good. That is one thing it’s not.

I think we call it good because of what it meant for us: forgiveness of sins. I hate to say it, at the expense of a person’s life, but that’s actually really good news. Jesus, the perfect and sinless lamb, died as a sacrifice for our sins once and for all. We owed an infinite amount of debt to God for our sins and Jesus paid it for us IN FULL through his death. We should have been on that cross, but He took our place. As much as it sucked for Him, it was really good for us.

But without the resurrection, it means nothing.

“And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:17-19)

If Christ didn’t raise from the dead, as Paul states, then our faith is in vain. If we center our entire lives around a dead guy, then we’re pitiful. Absolutely pitiful.

The resurrection of Jesus is the branch that Christianity sits on. Take away the resurrection and our faith amounts to nothing more than a pile of beans.

The resurrection affirms Jesus’ identity as the Son of God. It validates Christ’s equality with God. Jesus’ authority to forgive our sins comes from his divine identity. If he didn’t raise from the dead, he was just some homeless cuckoo who spewed insanity and got away with a whole lot of weird stuff.

But the stone was rolled away.

Three days later, Jesus wasn’t in the tomb. Death could not hold him down. The grave wasn’t strong enough. He got up and walked out.

A lot of other religions worship dead guys, but we worship a God who has conquered death. We worship a Jesus who is alive today, seated on His throne as King over creation, ruling and reigning, waiting for His return.

This is what I love about Easter Sunday. It reminds me that every day is Easter!

There’s never a day that Jesus isn’t alive (after all, there’s a reason they never found His body). Therefore, we have great cause to celebrate. Our Savior isn’t dead. He’s alive.

Happy Resurrection Day!

 

 

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When I Found Freedom

I used to think freedom meant having the ability to say “yes” to whatever I wanted. Now I know real freedom is about being able to say “no” to all the things I used to say “yes” to before.

I passed one class my first year of college: English Comp. Other than that, I flunked out of every other single class I took. Apparently that’s what happens when you skip 90% of your classes. But I’m sure I missed class the day they taught that lesson. Figures.

Up until my first year of college, I was the archetype for cliche high-schoolers. I was all about living in the now and not considering the consequences. So naturally, as one can expect, college meant one thing to me: freedom.

Pure and unadulterated freedom.

As far as it concerned me, I was free to do all that I saw fit. Stay up as late as I wanted. Sleep in as long as I wanted. Drink all the beer I wanted. Smoke all the weed I wanted. Party all I wanted. Go to class? Eh, I don’t think so. Class was no place for a free man like myself.

And to be quite honest, it was pretty fun for a while. I was meeting a lot of girls, making tons of new “friends”, and making even more memories. Every night came with a new adventure or risk. I don’t think I had ever felt more free in my entire life.

Then things started to change.

Too much became never enough. The more I consumed, the more I craved–a craving that grew stronger the more I fed it. It was an endless cycle, and the more I succumbed to it, the more my soul became restless.

“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” – Augustine

Little by little, without recognition, I was slowly letting go of real freedom. The more I said “yes” to my sin, the more I was developing the inability to say “no” to it.

Before I knew it, my sin had taken me as a slave.


I guess that’s the thing about slavery. It’s never as obvious and outright as we think. Slavery is a subtle, gradual, and downward slope into a dark, lonely pit; a pit that we walk ourselves into with naive happiness.

I basically dove head first into it. It wasn’t long before I realized I needed someone to come along to loosen my chains and get me out.

And along came Jesus.

What I love about Jesus is that he doesn’t call me to be obedient for the sake of gaining his love or approval. Rather, in His love for me, He asks my obedience because he knows it offers the freedom my soul truly longs for.

I used to think freedom meant not being held down by rules. But real freedom, I discovered, is found in obedience. And Jesus gives us one big commandment to obey: love God above all things and love our neighbor as ourselves. It’s in obeying that command that I’ve found the freedom my soul has always wanted.

“But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:21-23)

I eventually gave up that lifestyle. But it wasn’t out of guilt or fear. I wasn’t afraid that my disobedience would disqualify Christ’s love for me. It was the exact opposite. His unconditional love bred within me a desire for obedience.

I suppose that is the paradox of the Christian life. Real joy comes in trading worldly freedom for slavery to Christ, because slavery in Christ means the freedom to live the life we truly want–a life of unending freedom.

Pure and unadulterated freedom.

 

 

Featured Image: Kathlyn Wieland

Instagram: @kathwieland

Grace.

 

I don’t believe there is as liberating a word in the human language as Grace.

If I were asked the biggest reason why I follow Jesus, I would probably answer, “because of grace.” Honestly, there’s nothing like it; especially for a sinner like me. Diligently search every other religion and you will discover that none of them come close to possessing the grace that Jesus does.

Let’s look into that a little further.

We Christians believe that God came to earth in the person of Jesus Christ, taking on human flesh, giving up the riches and the glory of his throne in Heaven for a lowly position on earth. Then He spends his life teaching, healing the sick, performing miracles, serving the broken and outcasts among him, and preaching good news to those without hope. And in the end, what happens? We crucify him.

Leading up to his crucifixion, he is silent. He is put on trial multiple times, yet never does he defend himself. As the Scriptures note, “he was like a lamb led to slaughter.” Though he would have been perfectly just in damning all of us to hell right then and there, Jesus does something far more radical.

He dies for us.

Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:7-8)

Woah, woah, woah, he did what?

Jesus actually dies for his ENEMIES. He dies for the people who mocked him, spit on him, cursed him, and put him on the cross. I have a hard enough time as it is trying to be a decent friend.

As Jesus was hanging on the cross, another man was sentenced to crucifixion alongside him. He was a thief. While the people  go on mocking Jesus, yelling at Him to save himself and come down from the cross, the thief looks over to Jesus and says, “for [I am] receiving the due reward of [my] deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he adds, “Jesus, remember me when you have come into your kingdom.” And Jesus replies, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Jesus gives grace freely to those who don’t deserve it.

Some of you think you don’t deserve grace for the things you’ve done. And my response to that is, “Exactly!” That’s why it’s called grace. I promise you, however, that nothing you have done is so big that the grace of Jesus Christ can’t cover it. If Jesus can give grace to a crucified thief who hasn’t done a single thing in his lifetime to merit God’s favor, he can give grace to you. If he can give grace to me, he can certainly give grace to you. And the great thing about his grace is that it’s free. It wouldn’t be grace if we had to work for it. All other religions make you work for it. Jesus flips the script though. He finished all the work for you.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.

That’s what we Christians believe. Pretty crazy stuff, right? I don’t know what that means to you, but to me and my depraved self, it’s astoundingly good news.

If you’re overwhelmed by the weight of your sin today, talk with Jesus. He has a lot of grace He’d like to give to you.

 

 

Featured Image: Jarrell Jackson.

Instagram: @jarrellmljackson

Check out his work at vsco.co/actionjackson9

 

 

 

Silencing the Voices of Fear

There’s an endless stream of voices out there. What makes mine any different?

I’ve gone back and forth in my mind contemplating if I should stick with this thing. You know, the whole writing thing. This is probably the fourth blog I’ve began. I scrapped the other ones. I just felt like none of them were good enough. Or at least, none of them measured up. What made my voice any different from the myriads of other writers out there? What was I offering that other people weren’t? Lessons about faith, life, relationships, Christianity? Join the club, bucko.

So what did I do? The only obvious thing to do, of course: I stopped writing.

I went rogue.

I checked out.

I felt like writing was suffocating me. No matter what I produced, it all felt pointless. I couldn’t get the voices out of my head.

“What makes you think your writing is special?”

“You’ll never be as good of a writer as he is.”

“This is a waste of your time. You’re not changing anything.”

“Just give up. You suck.”

I was drowning in my insecurities and I needed to get away. So I did.

Here’s what I learned about the voices in my time away: they don’t quit once you’re done writing. It’s because the issue wasn’t with my writing. The issue was with my heart. 

I was writing for the wrong reasons. Like a little boy tugging on the shirts of his older brother’s friends, I wanted people to notice me. All I wanted was the validation and praise of other people.

One of my favorite authors, Donald Miller, shares a story in his book Scary Close. It’s a book all about taking our masks off and discovering real intimacy by being our true selves. He talks about discovering in himself what he referred to as the “Entertainer Gene”. He noted that he always felt this pressure in groups of people to be funny and entertain other people, but deep down, it was just another way to earn validation, and in the end, it impeded his ability to truly connect with others.

I realized I’m the same way. When a joke doesn’t land, when a sentence doesn’t captivate, when my words aren’t received with approval, it wrecks me. When I write to entertain and captivate, I lose something more important: the ability to genuinely connect with someone.

In 1 John, the author says that “perfect love casts out fear.” Here’s what I learned from that passage: Fear stifles creativity. Love welcomes it.

I haven’t mastered this by any means, but this helped me pick the pen back up. When I stop writing for approval or validation and start writing out of love, I rediscover a passion within me that God gave me for enjoyment and self-expression; a gift for bringing good to others and glory to God.

In conclusion, I found that dealing with the voices meant accepting some of the truth behind the voices. Truthfully, my writing isn’t all that unique or special. There are a host of other writers out there who are far more talented than I am. And for crying out loud, I’m not going to change the world with my writing. That’s the truth and it’s OKAY. Because you know what else is as equally true? The unalterable fact that I am deeply loved, valued, and chosen by God. It’s in resting in that truth that I finally feel free.

 

Free from validation, and free to connect.

Free from comparison, and free to appreciate others.

Free from perfectionism, and free to be wrong.

Free from fear, and free to love.

Free to be all that I was made to be.

Positively, absolutely, unequivocally free.

 

 

Picture credit: Jarrell Jackson

Instagram: @jarrelmljackson

vsco.co/actionjackson9