In this message, Pastor Jacob talked about how “this” may look like certain death but Easter says, “‘this’ is certain NEW LIFE.”
City Lights Church is a contemporary Christian church located in the northwestern part of Richmond, VA. City Lights Church is a part of the Vineyard USA network and an ARC family member.
Hey there and welcome to the City Lights Podcast. City Lights is a church located in the northwestern part of Richmond, Virginia. For more information about City Lights you can visit us at wearecitylights.com. Now enjoy today’s message.
Welcome to City Lights Online. Happy Easter to you. Isn’t it great to know that Jesus has the victory; the victory does belong to him? Well, like I said Happy Easter to you. I’m so glad that you have joined us today. My name is Jacob and I’m on the team here at City Lights. Now I have a couple of City Highlights that I want to say before we jump into the message. And the first one is Easter best contest. You can go ahead and post your picture to Facebook or Instagram and tag @citylightsva, and we will announce a winner tonight. Whoever is the best dressed will win a gift card that’s actually going to go to supporting a local restaurant in the area. We want to support our local businesses in this in this crazy time, so make sure you do that and we will announce the winner tonight.
The second thing – I’m very excited about this – starting next week, we are kicking off a two-part series called My Quarantine, Tiger King, is This Real Life, Life. Now Jesus tells us in the Bible that he came to bring life and life to the fullest, so how do we experience that full life in these conditions and with what’s going on in our world? I believe Jesus has the answer for us. So I am excited for that.
We have been in a series leading up to Easter called This Looks Uncertain, and we’ve been looking at how life has uncertainties and they come at us when we least expect it. But we also see in the Easter story that Jesus experienced our uncertainties as well. And he gives us some some help with that. If you are taking notes, you can title this message, Life After Life After Death. Yes, I said that right.
Here’s the scene in the first century Easter. Jesus, who had a thriving three year ministry – we saw in his ministry that people were healed and there was racial reconciliation among people, that Jesus ushered in the kingdom of God; he did incredible miracles, incredible works, but we then see that he’s betrayed by his best friend Judas. Then he’s arrested, abandoned by his followers, condemned by religious people, handed over to the Roman Empire, flogged and mocked, nailed to a cross, dies on the cross, and then is buried in a tomb. This looks uncertain. This looks on certain, especially if you are a Jesus follower. Everything that you have bet your life on is gone. It looks like is gone.
Isn’t this how life can feel for us, too? Everything that we thought was sure isn’t sure, especially with events now going on. You know one week we’re going with our normal routines and then the next week we have to be quarantine in our houses. One week you’re working and the next week you’re out of a job. This looks uncertain, but Easter tells us the story of the greatest and the most eyewitness-documented first century event in human history, that Jesus, who said he was going to die and come back to life, actually did it. He did it. And this resurrection, defeated death, defeated the grave, and now launches God’s kingdom plan for you. For us. We’re now a part of what God’s plan is for the world. Easter looks at a certain death and reveals to us certain life after life after death.
Which leads me to my starting point. My starting point today is this: This looks like certain death. This is how the Jesus followers felt on Easter morning. This is definitely how they felt. This did not look good at all. And this may be how you feel. You may be facing this right now; you may be looking at your life circumstances and you say, “Man, this is a certain death. Nothing good is gonna come from this situation.” Like I said, maybe you lost your job. Maybe you’re a small business owner and you’ve got all that stress going on. Maybe during this time of social distancing, you’ve been around your family more and that’s actually caused some stressors that have caused some problems. Maybe you feel isolated and lonely. Maybe Carol Baskins is trying to take down your zoo. I don’t know what’s going on right now, but you would say this looks like certain death. But my destination point today is this: Easter says this is certain new life. There is life after life after death.
I remember a time when I felt like I was facing certain death. Okay, maybe not. Maybe I’m being a little dramatic. I remember a time when I felt this way anyway. When we lived in Virginia Beach, Erin and I were driving to church on a winter Sunday morning. It was snowing. And it was one of those snows that you almost cancel church; they canceled everything else and we almost canceled church because it was snowing so bad. So we’re coming down the road. And we go to take a turn. And as we take the turn, we see a car in a ditch. And the car is kind of like hanging, elevated in the ditch. We see this man standing outside of his car just dazed and confused, he doesn’t know what to do. So we started to drive past the scene. And I looked at Erin and I say, you know, maybe God wants us to help that guy. And then we thought about it for a while and Erin was like, “We can’t stop and help that guy, we’re on our way to church!” and then we both thought, “Okay maybe we should go back and help the guy.” So we drove back, and we got out of our car to help the guy and I walked up to him, and I didn’t really know what to say, so I was like, “oh, shoot. Your car’s in a ditch,” I don’t really know what else to say but that. So he didn’t really know how to get the car out of the ditch. He is having some trouble. He was pretty distressed. Needless to say, he’s pretty panicked. So I said, “How about we try to push the car out of the ditch?” Like, that’s a good start. So he was like, “yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s a good idea. How about you to push the car and I’ll steer it in reverse? I’ll get it out.” And I said, “um, how about you help me push the car and my wife will steer it?” Like, what the heck is wrong with this guy? So then we go to the ditch, and somehow, I don’t know how this happened, somehow I go to the far left side of the car to the front of the car that’s in the ditch, I go to the far left side, where the car is like elevated, it’s hanging – like this car is hanging – I don’t have much ground. And then he’s on the right side which he has plenty of good grip to push the car out. So this this is not looking good so far. So Erin gets in the in the driver’s seat, she turns on the car, and then I say, “All right, I’m gonna count the three and on one, push.” So I say 3 2 1 – and I can’t make this part up – as soon as I say “one” and I started to push, this dude leaves me. He says, “Oh, I’ll help you turn the steering wheel!” And he goes to the front seat and helped Erin turn the steering wheel, so I’m literally pushing this car by myself. Like, talk about feeling like certain death was coming at you at this moment. So I’m in this ditch this car is elevated over me, it’s snowing and I’m trying to push this thing, and I’m thinking to myself, “This is why you don’t stop going to church to help people.” That’s what I’m thinking in that moment, but then I’m literally, in a matter of seconds, I’m thinking to myself, “Jacob, if you don’t push as hard as you can, if you don’t give it all that you got, you are going to get smashed by a car.” I don’t know how many times you’ve thought that to yourself, that if you don’t do something you’re gonna get smashed by a car. It’s not a very comforting feeling. So I do with everything inside me, I push as hard as I can. I’m pushing this car and I mean, my arms are hurting, the car is up against my chest, and I don’t got a big chest, I don’t got a Dwayne Johnson sized chest; I got a little chest, and I’m pushing this thing as hard as I can with everything inside of me. And then by the grace of God, “we” or I get the car out of the ditch and then back onto the road. So after we do that I’m in pain. I look at the guy and I say, “hey, yeah, you’re welcome man. Come to church.” It probably wasn’t my most friendly invite to church, but at that point I didn’t really care about where he spent eternity just between me and you. But anyway I was super sore, and it felt like I was facing certain death.
Maybe that’s how you feel. Maybe that’s how you feel emotionally, physically. Maybe that’s how you feel spiritually, like there’s something empty, like there’s something that’s not right, like there’s a car pressing against you. And you aren’t sure if you can get it out of a ditch.
I want you to see something here. This is so important. In I Corinthians 5 it tells us this, “This means anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person.” This is the good news of the gospel. That you have a new life. You’re not you’re not held back by your old mistakes and the things that you once did but Jesus offers us grace. It continues it says, “The old life is gone, a new life has begun.” I don’t know where you are on your faith journey today, but I know as Jesus followers, there is a promise of new life. But this is also important. And this is what I really want you to catch today. This new life is not life after death. Jesus, through His resurrection, shows us that there is a life after life after death.
So what am I trying to say here? What I’m trying to say is this: It’s not like because you have a relationship with Jesus what we do now doesn’t matter or your life now doesn’t matter. Because you have a relationship with Jesus, your life is of the utmost importance. And your life has value. This Christian life, this following Jesus life is not about someday I’ll get to heaven and escape Earth. That is not what this thing is about. Easter is not about snatching people from Earth to populate heaven one day. Easter means that you have new life. You have new life, and you through Jesus can make Earth look a little bit more like heaven. This is the Lord’s Prayer. He says this when he says “May Your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” See, friends, we are in uncertain times, we’re in uncertain times; we don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring. But in Jesus you have a new life. Romans 6:4 says this, “just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” Colossians 3:1 says, “since you have been raised to new life with Christ.”
See you have new life. The question today is this: What are you going to do with it? Are you going to make your life count? Or are you just going to keep going through the motions? Keep going through the every day, keep complaining, keep getting upset. Are you going to say, “hey, I got this life. What am I going to do with it?”
I’ve got three ways for you to activate new life. In the face of uncertainty, in the face of troubles, in the face of heartache, we have victory in Jesus because of this. Point number one: Activate new life by shocking your world. Don’t give up yet. Don’t quit yet. Don’t count yourself out yet. Luke 21 verse 1, it says this. “[On Easter day,]” this is what it says, “On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the woman took the spices they have prepared and went to the tomb.” Here’s the scene: The women come to the tomb, and they had these spices. And I guess you can say they were the Spice Girls.
And the spices were meant to anoint the dead body. They went to a grave to anoint something that was dead, but they did not find something dead in the tomb. It continues it says “they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. But when they entered, they did not find the body of Jesus. They found an empty tomb.” It continues to say, “while they were wondering about this, suddenly, two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright, the women bowed down with their face to the ground. But the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here. He has risen, Remember how he told you while he was still with you in Galilee “the Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinner, be crucified, and on the third day to be raised again?”‘ Then they remembered his words.”
They were shocked. And I think God wants to shock you. I think God wants to shock you with goodness, with his favor. I think God wants to shock you and say what you’re dealing with, it may feel dead, but he brings new life. He brings new life to you. You may be coming to the tomb, expecting to see something dead. And again, I want you to get this picture in your head. They’re coming to Jesus. And they’re full of disappointment, full of discouragement, full of agony, full of pain, full of letdown, they’ve got all these problems, and they come and they said, I’ll bring some spices, I’ll bring a little bit of spice up, bring Jesus a little bit but I’m still depressed. I bring Jesus a little bit of me, but I’m still insecure. I’ll bring Jesus a little, but I’m still full of shame. See, we come to God often, yet we still expect to see dead results. But Jesus, Jesus shocked the women when he came, because when they came, even though their expectations were low, Jesus, in his faithfulness was good to surpass their expectations. And I’m going to tell you this today, Jesus wants to surpass your expectations. Jesus wants to give you more than you can ever think of, dream up, or imagine. He has a new life for you. The angel said, “remember his words,” and I want you to remember his word, that you have new life, the old you is gone. That old habit, that old way of thinking, that old way that you thought that you can never get rid of, that old you is gone and there is new life.
I love John’s telling of the story. Mary Magdalene was standing outside of the tomb, it says this: “Now Mary stood outside of the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over and looked into the tomb. At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there. But she did not realize it was Jesus. He asked her, ‘woman, why are you crying? Who is it that you’re looking for?’ Thinking he was a gardener she said, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you put him in, I will get him.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ Then she turned around and cried out ‘rabbi!'” I love that. I love when Jesus calls her by name, she recognized. Friends, Jesus is calling you by name today. He’s calling you by name. He wants you to recognize the sound of his voice.
Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.” In that culture, the testimony of women did not have very much weight. The testimony of women did not have very much weight in in that day. So for each gospel writer to document that it was women, that it was a woman, who were the first witnesses of the resurrection. That was shocking. That was shocking news. And not only women, but Mary Magdalene, who was a horrific sinner. Yet it is by the words of women that God communicates his plan for new creation in justice. So then he says don’t hold on too tight. And I like this. He’s like, don’t hold on too tight. And the reason was, wasn’t because he didn’t want to give her a hug. He said don’t hold on too tight because there’s still more to be done. See, there’s still more to be done with your life. God is not done with you.
The second thing is this: Activate new life by breaking through closed doors. The disciples locked themselves in a room; they were afraid and they were hiding. They were afraid and they were hiding in fear. I think nothing more can disrupt the calling of God and your life than fear and hiding. When you’re afraid, we hide, and when we hide, we hold on to our old selves, our old habits, our old routines, the old things that God doesn’t want for us. But Jesus is not intimidated by our fears and doubts and worries.
John 20:19 says this, “on the evening of the first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.'” This part is funny to me. This part is funny because I can picture the disciples sitting in a circle playing Monopoly having a pity party, even though the women already told them that they saw the resurrected Jesus, but they didn’t believe the women. And that’ss a whole other message I could preach right there: how the kingdom of God is filled with fully empowered women who have, who can, who will change the world. But that’s a whole other message I’ll preach another day.
But here they are in their defeat, in fear and doubt, in worry and confusion, and unannounced to them, Jesus appears. I love it. I love how you can be afraid. You can have heartbreak, you can be troubled, you can feel like you’re defeated, but Jesus will appear and stand in your room even when you close the door on him. You may have closed the door, but Jesus appears with new life. You may have said to yourself, “I can’t beat this addiction. My marriage won’t make it. I don’t see my purpose. I closed the door on this opportunity or that thing.” But Jesus stands in your room and says “peace. I bring you peace. I am resurrected. I have defeated the power of hell, death, and the grave.” The Bible says the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead lives in you. Don’t stay stuck behind closed doors of fear, because you have new life.
And my third my final point today is this: Activate new life by going all out for Jesus, because he went all out for you. He gave it all for you. He laid down his life for you. He went to the cross and defeated death on the cross, rose from the grave for you, not so you can stay in a “just making it barel”y kind of life, but that you can have life and life overflow, that you can live life to the fullest. This is is what Jesus did. But living life to the fullest doesn’t mean just being on vacation all the time. That’s not what it means. Jesus comes back to his followers. And he tells him this, and he tells this to us today. In Matthew 28:18, it says, “Then Jesus came to them and said, all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me; therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Resurrection means, with this life that we have, we can make a difference. Friends, you can make a difference with your life. You’re not an accident. You’re not here just because, but God has a plan for your life. And his plan is found in this passage of Scripture: it’s to go to the world to change the world to set things right again, because Jesus, through His resurrection, defeated death and ushers in the kingdom of God. And then he invites us. He invites us to be a part of bringing in this new creation of bringing in justice to the world.
Friends, you have life after life after death. What are you gonna do with it? What are you gonna do with this new life? Give your fears, your doubts, your worries to God. Bring your whole self to God and watch what he does with your life. It will be utterly amazing. Bow your heads with me, let’s pray.
God, we come right now. We say, “Holy Spirit, come have your way.”
Wherever you are, wherever you’re watching this right now, come Holy Spirit in that room.
Jesus appears in your room and he says peace, peace to you.
God I pray that you will shock people with your love, that you’re not mad or angry or disappointed at us. But you’re full of compassion, full of love, full of grace.
God, I pray that people would experience this new life. God that they would make the most of it.
I feel like there’s people with closed doors. You have closed doors, and you’re locked in a room with fear.
And Jesus says, “I’ll come in, I’ll come in, I’ll unlock the door.”
And I pray that people will go all out for you. That the best life possible is found in a relationship with you God.
So if you’re watching today and maybe you just jumped on our newsfeed because you saw it on Facebook, or maybe someone invited you to watch and, this Jesus that I talked about, you know of Jesus, but you don’t know Jesus. You know him intellectually but you don’t know him intimately, personally. But you’re saying, I want to know God, I want to find Jesus. If that’s you, if you want to make a decision to trust Jesus with your life, I just wanna lead you in a simple prayer. There’s nothing magical or crazy about this prayer. It’s just a prayer when said with faith – the Bible says by faith through grace, you are saved. If you say, “I believe,” God will save you, maybe you walked with God before but you kind of fell away, but you want to make a decision to trust God again, I want you to repeat this prayer after me. Wherever you are just say, “Jesus, forgive me for my mistakes. Make me new. Today, I trust you with my life in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
Thanks for checking out the City Lights Podcast. If you’d like to partner with us financially, you can go to wearecitylights.com, or you can text any dollar amount to 84321. Thanks for joining us today.