We're going to dive in right now and talk about why we're thrilled that we are free. We're the ones who should have been arrested. We're the ones who should have been kicked up against the car and had our legs kicked out and our hands put behind our back, arrested, and thrown in more than a prison but thrown in a grave. We are free, however, because of what Christ has done, from sin's wage, we are free from sin's way, and we're free from sin's weariness. I'm going to explain those things to you.
One of the reasons we get weary is we think the way to get out of the grave we're in, out of the judgment of sin, is to work our way out. Religion is, "Keep working." Christianity is, "It is finished." Easter is, "It is true." You can count on Jesus being who he said he was. He wasn't just a good, moral man. He wasn't a great philosopher. He wasn't a religious leader. He was very God of very God.
Many men have offered ways that we can work our way to some sense of spiritual enlightenment. There are many tips and techniques to improve or to reform an aspect of your humanity, but Jesus didn't come to do any of that. He said, "All of you like sheep have gone astray. Each of you has turned to your own way, but the Lord is going to cause the iniquity of all of you to fall on me, and by my stripes you will be healed. I'm going to go to a place that you can't go, which is to stand before a holy God and to pay an eternal debt."
You in your guilt have been arrested, have been declared by God as unworthy and unrighteous before him. You and me, as part of the human race, in all of our frailty, in all of our brokenness… Each one of us is guilty before God, but God made him, Jesus, who knew no sin to become sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in him.
Jesus had a debt he did not owe, we had a debt we could not pay, and he stepped up and said, "I'm going to go pay it. The way you can know I'm not just a man who wants to do good but a God who has come to provide before a holy God the eternally perfect sacrifice he requires is that which sin demands, death, will be defeated. It will lose its victory. It will lose its sting. Death's wage will be paid, and you will no longer, if you believe in me, be in death's decree."
Religion says, "You have to work to get rid of guilt." Christianity says, "It is finished." Easter says, "It is true." The Scripture says it this way. "All of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." The Scripture says, "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift that God has offered us is eternal life through Christ Jesus." Being reconciled to the God of life and light and love so we no longer have death, darkness, hatred, and despair. That's what our God has done for us.
It doesn't really seem like that big a deal that death was arrested and I wasn't if you don't think you were guilty, but when you know your guilt… That's why many of us gathered here just hours ago and sat somberly and just really focused on the provision of Christ on the cross. We didn't sing songs of the story being completed. We just said, "That is my cross that he went to, that he bore. Those are my sins he's being punished for."
But because the payment was made, because Easter happened, because he has risen, we call that Friday _good_, that God would pour out his wrath on an innocent Savior so that we might be saved. You can't get excited over the fact, you won't want to sing over the fact that we are no longer under sin's decree if you don't know what sin demands. Sin demands life from you. Let me explain it to you this way.
I had a friend I brought in this week. He's a scholar and an intellect in ways I will never be. He happens to have received his PhD and doctorate in lectures. He's probably one of the most world-renowned scholars on a guy by the name of C.S. Lewis. He would say, "I only read Lewis because Lewis helps me see more of the God I love."
He has read through his Bible 47 times, his New Testament alone another 37 times in addition to that. He has read through once just in the Greek and Aramaic texts to get the full color of it, and yet he has mastered all 73 of Lewis' books and all 12 genres it was written in. The guy is a true intellect. He spoke to us about two and a half hours about how different writers can be your muses who will show you more of the God you need to love. He said, "I chose Lewis. You choose somebody."
After two and a half hours of, believe it or not, riveting lecture from an English literature intellect, somebody raised their hand and said to him, "Hey, Dr. Root, could you tell us, if we were going to begin to try and learn more by reading literature in addition to our Bibles, what would you encourage us to read?" Just to show you how out of touch this guy was, this was his answer.
He goes, "Well, listen. That's a great question. I would begin by reading all of the Greek playwrights like Homer." Okay, fine. What do you mean _all_ the Greek playwrights? Who even knew there _was_ another one besides Homer? But he didn't stop there. He goes, "Don't just read the playwrights. You want to read the philosophers. I love Plato. I love Aristotle, Cicero… Read Quintilian. He's good. Athanasius is a favorite of mine. Oh, Boethius." I didn't even know that guy lived. He was a sixth-century Roman magistrate who happened to also do some incredible writing and insight into the ways and philosophies.
He said, "Make sure you read all of the books that men are still going to be reading 1,500 years from now. So I commend to you," he would go on to say, "Milton, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Dante, George Herbert, John Donne. Read Thomas Merton, Evelyn Underhill. Make sure you read Baron von Hügel." "Are you clueless? What are you even talking about?" we thought to him. "How about throwing a little Dr. Seuss in there for me, something I can get my arms around?"
Literally, that was his answer. Now why do I share that with you? I share that with you because it won't surprise you now that I tell you he often goes and lectures at other universities. Oxford had him come in and speak on English literature. While he was there, because he was a man of faith, they asked him also to speak at chapel.
Now when you go to Oxford and you're part of the faculty there, they often invite you to come to dine with them at what's called _high table_. "What is high table?" you ask. I didn't know either. _High table_ is basically where the faculty, where the intellectual elite of the world sit in the commissary (it would be a shame to call it that), in the cafeteria of the upper universities.
Most of us have no idea what it is except our kids have watched Harry Potter and we were in the room when they did. You think of Harry and all his classmates sitting at long tables where there's one table set apart where all of the, I guess, wizards in that context sit, but all of the intellectual wizards are up at high table. They're elevated, surrounded by paintings of all of the great intellects and benefactors who have gone before them.
If they eat roast beef out there, _they_ eat prime rib. If they eat steak, _they_ eat filet mignon. My friend Jerry was at high table, and the chaplain said, "Hey, not all of you guys were at chapel today, so I want to introduce to you our friend Jerry. He's a scholar and lectures also in English literature and other of the humanities." He said, "Jerry is with us, and I want to introduce him to you."
A woman sitting across from him, who was obviously a very learned woman, who was a historian asked him, "Jerry, so you're a Christian. Why don't you tell me why you're a man of faith in Christianity?" Now he thought the woman was genuinely curious. It turns out she was going to make him the entertainment for dinner and was mocking him in this learned setting where they believe in the highest ideals and revelations known to man.
He just thought to himself, "Why were most of us really changed by the story of Christ? It wasn't because somebody brought us some great philosophy. It wasn't because there was tremendous theological insight that opened doors to us we had never before seen." He said, "The reason most of us have really come to a place of faith is we saw our need." So here was his response to this dear woman.
He said, "Ma'am, I'll tell you why. Because I believe the greatest of the virtues is love, and I saw in my life my own inability to care for those I loved the most. I saw the brokenness and my need, and I saw if there is a God who is love, if there is a right way to live, I knew I wasn't living it. So the proposal of Christianity that God in his kindness would not just be a God of wrath but also a God of love, who would make provision for me in my failure and my futility, might be somebody I should listen to and be interested in."
The woman listened to him, and she just said, "Well, that's nice. That's just not my issue." So what he said was, "Well, I get it. You don't know me. You've never met me before. I didn't come to faith until later in my life. I was actually well through college when I really was introduced to the idea of truth biblically. After I trusted Christ, you could imagine I didn't become perfect for two or three weeks after that." Do you know what happened? Everybody at high table did exactly what you just did. They laughed.
He looked at the woman and said, "Hey, your laughter betrays you. You don't know me, and yet either your awareness of the human condition in general or what you know to be true of yourself is how absurd my statement just was that anybody could ever be perfect. You laughed because you related to the absurdity of my statement, because you know there is something in you that is not as it should be. What I would commend to you is figuring out what your solution to that is going to be."
He actually asked her, "What is it that you trust in?" She said, "I trust in the human spirit and in the wisdom of humankind and just the goodness of humanity." He said, "Well, let me ask you a question. Have humans ever let you down?" She goes, "Of course." He said, "Have you ever let others down?" She goes, "Well, probably." She was much kinder to herself. He said, "You need to figure out what it is in that which you're putting your trust in, which still has failed you, that you could put your trust in that won't fail you."
Then somebody asked the question, "Well, Jerry, how do Christians handle that?" and they entered into a great conversation amongst humans who, no matter how intellectual they are, have to face the fact that they are guilty before a holy God. See, here's the mistake most of us make. We're not that impressed by what Jesus did for us, because most of us don't think Jesus and God is that big a deal. We either lower the greatness of God or elevate our own sense of beauty, and we think we can maybe work our way out of this jail cell of condemnation or this grave we have been thrown into.
Slight deviation. I as a kid was always, for some reason, captivated by escapes, whether it was Houdini out of a straitjacket or some chest that had been chained and thrown into the water or, even more miraculously, guys who were in high-security prisons who somehow got out. It always was a marvel to me. I thought, "If I'm ever president, I'm going to make a law that if we put you in a high-security prison and you can break out, you're good. You're free. You walk. I don't know how you did it, but good for you. I don't know what you did, but now you're golden."
I remember as a small child watching the black-and-white movie _Birdman of Alcatraz_ with Burt Lancaster. It was remade when I was in maybe early high school days, _Escape from Alcatraz_ with Clint Eastwood. Millennial friends, the TV show _Prison Break_. There we go. This idea that someone can get out of jail and eventually be made free at some level… You're kind of like, "Wow, that's a pretty cool deal if you can pull it off. I know you're a bad guy, but that's wild. Who can make that happen?"
Well, I actually Googled this week people who have escaped a maximum security prison who have still not been found. You would not be surprised, maybe, to know that the list is not very long. I remember when I was probably 10 I went to Alcatraz. It had just been shut down. We toured it, and they taught us about the Birdman and two other men who got out. They don't know if they ever made it, if they got to the shore.
They had made a flotation device. They don't know, though, if the cold waters of the Pacific created hypothermia and they drifted off the raft and died. We don't know if sharks ate them, as those waters are filled with them. We don't know if the currents and the undertow pulled them down. We don't know if they made it to San Francisco and disappeared in the darkness. We have no idea. But there are not very many people out there who have escaped high-security prisons who have not been re-apprehended, to which you think, "Have you paid attention to El Chapo?"
In 1989, El Chapo (Shorty) started the Sinaloa cartel, and four years later he was arrested. He was put in a maximum security prison, sentenced to 20 years in jail, of which he decided to serve only eight. Probably with a lot of funding from his drug cartel, he bribed enough guards and people involved with the prison. They think they snuck him out probably through dirty laundry, and El Chapo was largely free for the next 13 years until they re-apprehended him in February of 2014.
This is where most of you tuned into the story. They said, "He's not going to get out again," this guy who is on _Forbes_' list of the wealthiest people in the world with $1.6 billion. "We have him again, and he's not getting out." So they put him at Altiplano prison, which is just outside of Mexico City. They put him in the highest security area of this prison. In fact, they put him behind a maze of staircases and 17 separate locking doors and hallways that have to be opened only by machine.
They had him on 24-hour video surveillance. The only thing you couldn't see in El Chapo's prison cell was when he sat down to relieve himself, the sink blocked his sitting down, and just to the right of that seat was an L-shaped wall that when he showered they could see him shower but not see below his waist. He had no privacy. In January of 2015, however, El Chapo decided to make his break.
This is a Google Maps picture of the prison. You can see 0.7 miles away what had previously been a cornfield had been bought by somebody. Some building was placed on it, and what nobody knew is that, through incredibly able engineering, they dug a hole 30 feet down, and even though GPS doesn't read underground, they somehow figured out how to go one mile through a heavily ventilated tunnel that had tracks laid on it so a motorized motorcycle that had its wheels replaced with rails could travel on it.
They dug 30 feet back up and came into his 20-by-20-foot cell into the little 20-by-20-inch corner of the shower where the camera could not see. Late one evening, El Chapo gets up. They show it on film. You can see it if you Google it. He walks to his shower, and it looks like he kneels. They keep watching the video, and after about five or six minutes they wonder why he's kneeling, and they send people.
It took some time to get up through the maze of stairs and hallways and unlock all 17 doors and find out that he was gone because he had dropped down 30 feet, got on that motorcycle on rails, shot himself across, came up, and had been airlifted out, and they didn't know where he was again. Over $1 million in expense. It took over a year to build the tunnel, and it used some of the most intense and still hard-to-understand engineering feats to get that to happen.
Now why do I tell you that? I tell you that because most of us are like El Chapo, and we think if we just work long enough and hard enough, we put enough time and effort into something, eventually we can dig our way out of our jail cell. "That's what I'll do. I'll get out that way." All I would tell you is we're not just in a jail cell; we're in a grave. While there are not very many men who have broken out of high-security prisons, in the history of humankind…
Right now there are 7.5 billion people on earth. People at the Population Reference Bureau (who even knew there was such a thing?) tell us that 101 billion humans are already dead and gone. The record of death is even more impressive than the record of maximum security prisons. There are 101 billion…and one. Only one man has broken out of that graveyard of judgment, and he broke out of it because he paid the wage that sin demands. Even more amazing, he didn't have any debt to sin, but he said he did it for you.
Now I don't know who you think you are, but all of us, even like our historian friend understood that it's absurd to think any human has ever become perfect… Jesus said, "I'm not human. I'm not descended from man. I am brought forth from God. I am the visible image of the invisible God. If you've seen me, you've seen the Father. If you know me, you know the Father."
You're about to see the Father's love, that he would go to a cross for you. Sin's decree, if you believe in him, will be removed from you. When you understand you're guilty and that God has done that, it makes you want to sing. Religion tells you to keep working. Jesus says, "It is finished," and Easter says, "Believe him. It is true."
We're not just freed from sin's decree, though. We're also freed from sin's dominion. What do I mean by _sin's dominion_? Sin is our master. We believed the lie that God wasn't good, that his Word wasn't true. You can't trust God, and therefore, we are given only to trust in our flesh and the current of the world or in a deceiver who says we can be gods. We have no other master. We have nobody to look to but ourselves. Maybe the best opinions of men, which is the world, or a deceiving spirit sent among us.
So while that deceiving spirit and our flesh and the world tell us, "You can find life this way," what we see is that which seems right to man in the end only leads to death, guilt, shame, war, darkness, and division among us. So sin's dominion is over us. We may not think of being a slave to sin. We're just a slave to our own passions and desires. However, our own passions and desires are not typically what set us and make us free.
Man must learn to live in the domain of which he is created in the same way a fish must honor its design. It has to live in water and not on land. Real freedom is only found when you live within the restrictions you were created for. The reason there is death among us is that we're given over to the dominion of sin. Here is the truth. Morality, that which is brought forth from God, the goodness of God made known to us, is an expression of right living.
It's character to do what you should do instead of what you have the freedom to do, because God lets us choose. Morality is the ability to do what we should do, not what we think we have the freedom to do. If you give people freedom and they have no morality, they will destroy themselves. See also humankind.
Here's the deal about freedom. We often think freedom can be defined like this. We think freedom is the right or ability to do whatever we want to do whenever we want to do it. That's not freedom. True freedom is not the right or ability to do whatever you want to do but the ability to do what is right that doesn't end up destroying you. See, here's the thing. I don't care if you're an English PhD at Oxford. You know the right thing to do, and you find yourself not doing it. That's called _sin_, and it's what separates us from God.
Now if you view God as a god who only wants to bring judgment into your life and has a big rule book that says, "You'd better get after it and start obeying this stuff," first, you've never read this Book, and second, who wants to know that god? Yes, he's powerful. Yeah, maybe he has lightning on his side, but like Zeus, he's an impetuous, selfish individual, and all I want to do is make sure he's not mad at me.
Who wants to know _that_ kind of god? Nobody. That's why we serve our self, except our self is broken and fallen, because our self, our whole humanity, our whole posterity has left God, so we're left with nothing but sin's dominion over us until you see the goodness of God expressed through Jesus Christ. You say to yourself, "If it is true that he is God and he died for me, then why would I not want to know that God?"
Paul wrote this to the Romans. He said, "He who did not spare his Son but delivered him up for us all, will he not also with him freely give us everything else?" You see, what happens is we become spiritually appraised. We're individuals who all of a sudden start to go, "God, you're good. You're glorious. You _are_ holy, but you're also merciful and gracious. Look what you did. You poured out your wrath so you didn't compromise your holiness and justice, but you did it in a merciful and gracious way so that your children could be reconciled to you."
What kind of God would do that? The kind of God you want to be attentive to all day long. When you know God as fully revealed in the way he is revealed in the context of the story of the cross and the resurrection, you are free from sin's dominion, because now you choose a new Master, and that Master is good. He hasn't come to steal, kill, and destroy but has come to give you life and give it to you abundantly.
Do you see why we sing? Because Jesus set us free from sin's decree. We no longer owe sin its wage. Jesus set us free from sin's dominion. We no longer are sin's slaves. Romans 6, verse 17, says, "But thanks be to God that though we were formerly slaves of sin, we now have become obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which we were committed, and having become freed from sin, we now become slaves of righteousness." Do you see that?
You're going to be a slave to something. You go, "That's right, Todd. I'm my own man. I'm my own boss." You know what? You are a sinner, so your boss is not going to lead you to life. It might be a way that seems right to you, but I promise you you're under sin's dominion. All of us are until by faith we're reconciled to God. Why would you want to be reconciled to God? Because God loves you and gave his life for you, that you might be free. That'll make you sing.
Finally, we are freed from sin's despair. What do I mean by that? This world is not as it should be. Some of us look back over things we've done, and we're depressed. There are a lot of people who struggle in our world today who are just flat depressed because evil has either been done to them or they themselves have done evil. They feel like they've ruined their life. They feel like, "There's no way anybody could redeem what I have done, and there is no way I could ever forgive people for what they've done to me."
Other people are anxious. Not just depressed but anxious, because you're not sure what's going to happen tomorrow. Tomorrow may not work out well, because you don't know what tomorrow is going to bring. Here's what Easter teaches you. First of all, I'll say it to you this way. Depression and despair need yesterday. Anxiety needs tomorrow. Easter says you can trust God today, because he can take what men intended for evil and use it for good.
God has already brought judgment to the world and given a way out of sin and death, but he has left us here in this world that is not home for us who know him yet, and he says, "Don't be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you. Hey, don't let your heart be troubled, but take heart, because I've overcome the world." So I'm not going to be surprised. I don't need to be despairing that evil is still here. He told me why evil is here: because sin is in the world and men have rejected God.
I'm not going to worry about tomorrow, because he says, "Todd, even if they kill you, all it'll do is accelerate bringing you home. Trust in me." Easter gives you strength and hope for today. Jesus says, "There's going to be a day when my glory is fully known in this earth. Right now, though, I want you to pray that my will would be done on earth as it is in heaven, but you need to know something. This earth is not heaven. It's still going to be filled with despairing things. Grieve, but not as those who have no hope."
Easter and our solution to it is the reality that we are individuals who have been broken free from despair. Do you understand why now? Because we have the perspective of the Passion Week. It looked on Friday like there was no way God could turn this for good. The one who healed the lame, the one who made the blind to see, the one who healed the leper, the one who set captives free is dead, rejected by men. The powers of the world came against him.
Saturday is called Silent Saturday or Holy Saturday while the world waits. Will God do what he said he was going to do? But Easter has come, and when Easter comes you sing, because you see what Jesus said is true. Here's the thing. What Jesus has done by being raised from the grave shows us that Easter is true, but we still live in this holy silent time where God has already accomplished something but not yet fully redeemed the world, and the reason he hasn't fully redeemed it is because you're listening to this message.
God is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to eternal life, so he leaves men and women here who know him, who are trying to be God's light on earth, who don't give themselves over to sin's dominion but walk in the morality of God's Word, not so that we might earn deliverance from his decree, but because in his kindness God has _made_ us good and is making us like his Son as we abide with him, and we don't give ourselves over to self, the way of the world, or the Enemy, and we don't despair.
We know evil still will befall us. We know we're still going to get cancer. We know our children still will die. We know people will betray us. We know we'll disappoint one another, and yet in our right minds we'll acknowledge that hurt, we'll seek forgiveness, we'll extend grace and receive grace because we're people of God who have received grace ourselves, and it will be a community of hope in the midst of the dark, despairing world. That's who we are.
We're people who are experiencing some of God's glory in a day that's not fully glorious yet. That's why we sing: because we've come running out of the grave of self-dependence. We've come running out of the grave of guilt before God. We've come running out of the grave of obedience to a master that wants to condemn us, and we now serve a Master who wants us to find life. If you know that, you can't help but sing, not just on Easter but all year long until we're home with him who will make all things glorious.
Let me just say this to you, though. We live in a world still racked by sin, but Jesus, because he's not dead, is still alive, which means he's still delivering people in this not-so-glorious world to glorious things. I know it's true because I've watched it miraculously happen here. Here are just a few of the stories. Let us sing the truth over you, and we'll invite you to jump up and run out of the grave with us in just a second.
If you're here and you don't know about the amazing grace that wants to invite you into God's glorious day to deliver you from the decree of sin, the dominion of sin, the despair of sin, we're going to make it known to you again. Our God is at work, and the reason he hasn't made this whole thing glorious is because he loves you. Those of you who have some vague familiarity with the story but have never personally done business with God and repented of your sin and said, "I need a Savior," I commend to you the only one who has defeated the grave.
Death is 101 billion and 0, and there's one blemish, because God set one man apart that you might know him. His name is Jesus, and he offers you grace. We're about to sing to you of that grace. He is the worthy Lamb who can set you free, but you must trust in him. Let's go, church. Let's share the gospel through song.
It's amazing to sing and be reminded in this room, but if all we do is sing in rooms like this and don't go out and bring his glorious day to a world that's still marred by sin, that is filled with the despair of sin because they have not been delivered from the dominion of it and, therefore, are still under the decree of judgment, woe be to us. Woe be to us who stay silent and don't sing.
Church, we have a chance now to break loose into this city and to care for our friends who didn't gather like this this morning or they did in places that didn't communicate to them in a way that stirred their hearts to respond in obedience as worshipers. Worship is what we do with all of our lives. It's why we always say, "Have a great week of worship." Worship starts out there. We come to remind each other in here.
I want to remind you, if you're a guest and a friend who's here, God doesn't want you just to know the story. He expects you to personally respond. God will give you forgiveness to your repentance, to your change of heart where you will no longer trust in self but will say, "I need a Savior. I am a sinner. I may not be as bad as others, but I am not holy as God, and therefore, I am in judgment," and you run to him for mercy. God will offer forgiveness to your repentance, but he will not promise you tomorrow to your procrastination.
Today is the day of salvation. We will stand and talk to you until you don't want to talk anymore. Ask the folks who invited you, "Hey, how can I know? How can I be sure that Jesus is my Savior?" You can take this little perforated section inside your Watermark News and you can fill it out, rip it off, and just say, "I want to know more about how to have a relationship with Jesus Christ," and we'll follow up with you personally this week.
We're not going to love you more if you agree with us, but you're going to love life more when you're no longer under the dominion of sin. I commend to you the only one who has ever defeated death as evidence that he is Lord and God. Come to him. There is no altar call. There's just a constant call in your life, and you are under judgment if you are not in Christ. In kindness, we have shared that with you to the best of our ability through song, through the way we've loved you and the way we want to keep loving you.
I pray that you would pay attention to the story we handed you. I pray that you would be the story you saw up there. I'll just close with this. That sweet little Carmen who was up there said, "I received a Bible when I was in jail," and her life was changed, not because she read the story but because she walked not out of a prison that society had called her to but the prison of sin. When she got out, she went back to the kids she had left in her drunkenness and affections for men that led to such careless living that she was in prison for it.
She told her kids, "You're going to go to church with me," and the kids said, "No, we're not, because, Mom, while you were in jail your sister came and got us and took us to another church. We're going to go to _that_ church." The mom said, "No, I'm your mother. You're going to go to church with me. You're going to go, and you're going to learn what I have learned." The kids said, "No, we're not. You're going to come and learn what _we've_ been learning." The kids prevailed.
Carmen shows up here with her kids, and when she drops her kids off, lo and behold, the women in children's ministry who had been discipling her kids were the same women who had been ministering to her in a jail cell. Isn't that crazy? God is just crazy enough to go, "Hey, look. We'll take care of the conflict in your family." He wants to take the conflict of sin in your life.
I want to encourage you if you're a guest to really find someone who understands who Jesus is and ask, "How can I know him?" I'll stand here all day until no one wants to talk, but ask the people next to you. Church, this is our chance to go and sing. Lost friends, this is your chance to come. So let us go and worship him. God bless you. He has risen. Have a great week of worship. We'll see you.