Jesus came, lived and died for us. But that is not the end of the story. The grave is empty. He is risen! He is risen, indeed! It is finished. The work is done. So, what’s next?
I once heard a preacher, Hud McWilliams, say that the marks of a Christian should be freedom and joy. It hit me so hard to hear that. The fact that God saw fit to provide salvation from our sin, accepting the fact that we cannot deserve it, should make a huge difference in our lives. The grave is empty. We are free! Why would we continue to carry the huge weight of our sin and unworthiness around? When we’ve been forgiven for so much, why would we to hold on to the burden of unforgiveness toward those who have offended us? Let go of the burdens Christ died to free you of.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.
— Galatians 5:1
When we let this truth change us, when we allow our undeserving selves to release our burdens, the natural response is joy. How can we help but sing and be grateful when we fully absorb the truth that we are free? I’m not talking about being happy all the time, or being immune to natural emotional reactions, but we can be joyful and hopeful in the face of challenge. In the book of Romans, Paul encourages us to “be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” (Romans 12:12) We can trust that we serve a God who loves us and is “able to work all things to the good for those who love him.” (Romans 8:28)
The empty grave gives us freedom and provides the path to joy, and it can make us fearless. Two years ago at Easter, Paul McDill preached that “if we believe that Jesus died and was raised, then we do not have to fear death. And if we don’t have to fear death, we don’t have to fear anything!” In the ensuing years, I have come face to face with many things I feared, and did things I had wanted to do, but that fear-paralysis had prevented, including studying Spanish in earnest. (I am now in my third semester of Spanish at Eastfield college, with classmates who are younger than my own children!) I am encouraged by the fact that God did not make me to be fearful.
for God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind
— 2 Timothy 1:7
As a result, I have done scary things that God has called me to, and have discovered an even more profound freedom.
When people look at us believers, what do they see? Do we practice what we preach? Do we demonstrate the difference that God has made, in a way that causes others to want what we have? To be sure, I still have things to release to God. I’m a work in progress. But, aware of his love for little ol’ me, I have courage to seek his way joyfully and to live this adventure of faith fearlessly, as a free person, loved by God. Are you joyful, fearless and free?