An Easter Message of Hope
© 2017 by Philip A. Matthews
“We were buried therefore with Him by the baptism into death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious [power] of the Father, so we too might [habitually] live and behave in newness of life” (Romans 6:4 Amplified).
These are the facts, based on 10,000 years of human history of people living on the earth: Human nature ALWAYS tends to fall into behaviors that destroy. WE ALWAYS FALL INTO THE GUTTER. WE ALWAYS SLIDE DOWN THE “SLIPPERY SLOPE!” THE GUTTER LIFE IS NORMAL LIFE! There’s absolutely nothing unusual about any of it.
Look at the infinite list of nouns, verbs, and adjectives that are associated with our NORMAL, DAILY GUTTER LIFE:
- Destruction, degradation, corruption, killing, debasing, conquering, brutality, permanent selfishness, narcissism (which infects 2 out of every 3 people!), a self-obsessed “it’s all about ME mentality;” dishonesty, lying, cheating, stealing/robbing, taking advantage of others;
- Lust, homosexuality, sexual perversion, rape, sluttiness, prostitution, pornography, child porn, sex abuse, sex trafficking, adultery, fornication, divorce, multiple wives and mistresses, cohabitation/shacking, trading sex for the rent and bills, abortion, infanticide, incest;
- Genocide, war, oppressing other people, especially women, children, and the weak, violence;
- Idolatry, witchcraft, worshipping demons and spirits;
- Greed, obsession with riches, covetousness for what others have, vice, jealousy, murder, fighting, deceit, malice, gossip and slander; government corruption; coverups, while people suffer and die;
- Hatred of people, hatred of God and godly people, racism (by all races), insolence, pride, arrogance, disobedience, having no conscience, merciless, promise-breakers, bad attitudes, uncaring, constant dissatisfaction and restlessness, viciousness, “dog-eat-dog” mentality;
- Cursing, profanity, disrespecting what is sacred; back-stabbing, treachery, untrustworthiness, unthankfulness, drunkenness, drug abuse, addictions;
- Broken relationships, fatherless kids, wife-beaters, domestic violence, child abuse, revenge, unforgiveness, resentment and bitterness, dysfunctional families;
- And even the “clean, respectable, acceptable” behaviors of GUTTER LIFE: E.g., Politics, where you supposedly do nice things for others when you are really only concerned about yourself and your cronies getting into power; or [some] used car dealing, where you never tell the customer what’s really wrong with the car; hundreds of other ways of manipulation and deceit, where you hide your true, ulterior motives behind a façade of seemingly noble and honorable intentions;
- Cheating on your taxes, cheating on your employer; doing whatever unethical thing you can get away with;
- Using Religion to gain power, money, fame, access to and power over the vulnerable; hypocrisy;
- And “such like,” as the Bible says, ad infinitum, happening daily the world over since the beginning of history.
And ALL of this is “NORMAL” human life!
It’s abnormal for someone NOT to do the above! How can anyone truthfully say that “people are basically good”? We have 10,000 years of history to prove the opposite! Of course, many who read this blog will claim, “I don’t live a gutter life!” But it’s guaranteed that they are guilty of at least one of the behaviors on this list, if not many more. Though many of us may have learned how to sin in more sophisticated and respectable ways than others, it’s all still sin. And it’s normal. It’s out-of-the-ordinary when people don’t act like this.
The Bible states clearly, “Since we've compiled this long and sorry record as sinners… and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity He put us in right standing with Himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we're in and restored us to where He always wanted us to be. And He did it by means of Jesus Christ” (Romans 3:23-24 The Message).
This is the next set of facts: Without something or Someone to lift us outside of ourselves, ALL of us are doomed to remain in the gutter life behaviors of death, destruction, and corruption. There is NO hope of relief. There is NO chance of change. However, as the famous Christmas carol, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” rightly says, Jesus Christ was “born to RAISE the sons of earth, born to give them ‘second birth!’” (Charles Wesley, 1739). He raises them out of their natural, ‘normal’ selves and gives them a chance to be ‘reborn’ into a new life. Through this spiritual rebirth, we are joined to God’s nature, and by this we are saved from the inevitable death and destruction we are naturally destined for. Jesus Christ is the ONLY thing that has proven over the last 2000 years to be able to lift human kind from the gutter life to a heavenly life! This is the Easter message in a nutshell: WE CAN TRULY BE RAISED ABOVE “NORMAL” TO NEWNESS OF LIFE!
And it is ONLY because of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and He raised us up and seated us together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 4:4-6 Modern English Version). When we are in Christ Jesus, these are the indications that we have been “raised:”
- Forgiving others who’ve done you wrong; unconditionally loving others (like God), even when they don’t love you back and even when they seem to be “unlovable;” praying for those who “spitefully use you;”
- Caring for others, even when it costs you something; serving the poor, neglected, and unfortunate, instead of yourself; going the “extra mile” for someone who is actually your enemy;
- Selflessness, putting God’s will and desires above your own; patience, gentleness, goodness;
- Honesty (even when it hurts your own interests); faithfulness, promise-keeping, being trustworthy; being honest with God, instead of always trying to justify your wrongs and character flaws; living by conviction when everyone else is living by convenience and doing what is popular and politically-correct;
- Marriage, life-long fidelity to your spouse; sexual purity, letting the Bible set your standards of sexuality in a world that seems to no longer care, even in the church;
- Respect for women, children, the weak, other races; champion of fairness;
- Self-denial, delayed gratification, self-control, even when the whole world gives you the green light to violate God’s principles of righteousness;
- Submitting to God’s personality make-over, changing and healing my character flaws, making me a secure, mature person; letting my baggage go so I can heal;
- Humility, meekness, kindness, peace, satisfaction, joy in every situation, etc.
The behaviors on this second list are exceptionally NOT normal in today’s world. Only a person “raised” by the Resurrection of Christ acts that way. That person would be more like Jesus than a “normal” human being. We need more of these kinds of abnormal people today.
“Sure,” you say, “I’m only human,” but is that all you want to be? We all just want the world to accept us like we are, apparently forgetting that you being you and me being me, multiplied over 7.5 billion times, is what’s causing all the problems in this world. Wouldn’t it be wonderfully better if all of us—or at least more of us—could be like Jesus?
Well, believe it or not, this IS possible, even if you are disillusioned and have never seen anyone, even professed Christians, living like Jesus. There ARE some true disciples of Christ, and, hopefully, you will find a few—or become one yourself—before you leave this world. According to Jesus Himself, all you need to do to be a true disciple of His is found in this three-step instruction:
Jesus said to all the people, “If any person wants to be My follower/disciple, let him (1) DENY HIMSELF [disown himself, forget, lose sight of himself and his own interests, refuse and give up himself] and (2) TAKE UP HIS CROSS DAILY [Don't run from suffering but embrace it, submitting to God in every situation He allows], and (3) FOLLOW ME [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying also].” –Luke 9:23 Amplified/Contemporary English Version/The Message.
This is definitely easier said than done. Still, it is the only way to become like Jesus. It is the only way to bring back some beauty into this world. The alternative is the same old “normal” ugliness we see today. And, by the Power of the Resurrection, a human being actually CAN live like Christ. So whatever you do, for God’s sake, PLEASE DON’T BE JUST NORMAL!
Happy Resurrection Day!