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Prepare Your Hearts for Easter

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Easter-Sunrise2As we remember our Lord’s crucifixion and approach the celebration of the resurrection of our Lord, I wanted to share these helpful resources to prepare our hearts.

1. Easter is Coming Soon. Tony Reinke shares this short book you can download here Easter Changes Everything: A Theological Devotional.

2. Download the new FREE book of Holy Week devotions from John Piper and ten contributors: Your Sorrow Will Turn to Joy ~ Morning & Evening Meditations for Holy Week.

3. Why a Statement on Christ Matters Now: The Ligonier Statement on Christology. Stephen Nichols writes “In times of confusion, we need clarity and conviction. To that end, Ligonier has released The Word Made Flesh: The Ligonier Statement on Christology.”   

A Violent Grace4. A Violent Grace: Meeting Christ at the Cross (Music) by Michael Card

This is a live album of Michael Card’s Easter concert. We saw Michael perform a very similar concert at Saint Andrews Chapel in Florida when we were in Orlando for the 2012 Ligonier Ministries National Conference, where he was one of the speakers. This album is beautifully played and recorded, with a choir backing Michael on some of the songs, and features some wonderful songs about Christ, including Michael’s classics “Known by the Scars”, “In the Garden”, “Why”, “Crown Him”, “This Must Be the Lamb” and “Love Crucified Arose”. Also included are a few of his newer songs “Only His Wounds” and “All That Was Lost”. These songs will take you through the death and resurrection of our Lord.

A Violent Grace book5. A Violent Grace: Meeting Christ at the Cross (Book) by Michael Card. IVP Books. 2013 Edition. 182 pages.

I have read this book three times since it was published in 2000. It is an excellent book to read to prepare you to fully experience the Easter season. Michael writes that the purpose of the book is “to help you see the cross for what it is: on the one hand, the scene of the violent execution of the Son of God and, on the other, the source of His limitless grace.” Each of the short chapters ends with a short prayer.

Below are 30 helpful quotes from the book that I want to share with you:

  • For a set of very different reasons, the cross seems to have disappeared from the Christian art and music of our own time. Worse, it has disappeared from many hearts and minds as well. Fewer and fewer of the churches I visit have crosses hanging behind or in front of the pulpit. Fewer songs sing of it. Fewer sermons celebrate it.
  • From this greatest of negatives flow all the positives of our new life in Christ: from conflict, peace; from pain, healing; from death, life.
  • Many Christians are surprised to learn that there is more detail about the crucifixion of Jesus in the Old Testament than in the New.
  • Jesus was born to die…so that I could be born again to new life. It is the miracle of a violent grace: God securing for us the priceless treasures of His grace—one violence at a time.
  • Without the sorrows of Gethsemane, there will be no salvation at Golgotha. In Gethsemane, Jesus is locked in combat with a human desire we all recognize: to avoid pain, to hold onto life, to win against death.
  • Do you see what is at stake for us in that struggle? If Jesus’ human desire does not lose, we will never win. If he doesn’t suffer this temptation, we will never be able to overcome when we are tempted.
  • Unlike Jesus’ solitary struggle, we are never alone when our times of crushing come. He has gone before us; He has faced the worst that life has to offer. And, though it might seem otherwise, He remains by our side every minute.
  • The help Jesus gives us now is both the will to make the choice to obey and the grace to pay the cost—no matter how bloody. By His Spirit’s power, we, too, can respond, “Not my will, but thine be done.” Jesus’ agonizing battle with temptation—while His best friends slept and His flesh melted with pain—secured for us forever the power to overcome it.
  • In the conversation that follows, Jesus asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?” Three times Peter answers, “Yes, Lord, You know I love You.” Jesus’ repetition unnerves Peter. He doesn’t realize that Jesus is offering him exactly as many chances to affirm his love as the number of times Peter has denied it. There must be more to say because Jesus invites Peter to walk with Him. And Peter does—for the rest of his life.
  • Judas refused forgiveness and turned first to despair and then to death. Peter chose grace and life. Peter’s life is proof that because of Jesus’ undying loyalty to us, we have the power today to become His faithful friends, disciples, servants, and joyful ministers of His limitless grace.
  • Nevertheless, the soldiers seize Him and bind His hands. Jesus does not resist. The one who measured the oceans in the hollow of His hands (Isaiah 40:12) chooses to be powerless.
  • The one who had no legal counsel and stood alone before His enemies stands today in the Father’s presence as our eternal Advocate.
  • Although Jesus stood alone to face His accusers, we never have to. When the powers of this world, seen and unseen, condemn us, Jesus is always standing alongside—not to protest our innocence, but to offer Himself as the one who has already stood trial for our sins
  • “Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged”. Eight words. One sentence. A footnote before Calvary. But I can barely bring myself to write about this scene or ask you to think with me about what really happened.
  • The righteous anger of God, diverted for all time, is pouring down on this man, His Son. But the fault is mine, and I must look away.
  • It is one thing to speak in theological terms about an obligatory sacrifice for a fallen world. It is an entirely different thing to stand in the presence of brutal men and their instruments of torture and try to watch, realizing that Jesus endured all that and more for you and me.
  • Yet His pain was the prelude to the outpouring of God’s favor. By enduring the violence in that circle of hate, Jesus accomplished a costly exchange. With each blow, He carried away our grief and our brokenness and bought back for us—for that howling mob and for every person since—the treasures of grace.
  • “By his wounds we are healed,” wrote Isaiah. Healing through wounding; wholeness through brokenness. That is the way of the cross—the way of Jesus. It is the method of an upside-down kingdom, whose king dies for his subjects.
  • When scorn and ridicule come, we never have to bury our heads in our hands or lash out in hatred. Jesus has gone before. Because He endured the scorn for joy, we can too.
  • The Incarnation changes everything. The way is not just a set of directions or a collection of wisdom—it is a person. The truth is no longer just the correct doctrine or an airtight piece of evidence—it is a person. The life is no longer just a biological fact—it is a person.
  • Hanging there between heaven and earth, Jesus became the sole reconciling force between God and every human being who would ever live. With His own blood, Jesus paid the penalty for our sins and drew us all back under the covering of grace.
  • Even during the violence, grace triumphed. First the thief dying alongside Jesus was won into the kingdom. Then the very soldier who carried out the sentence was won—and moved to worship!
  • Those families walking into Jerusalem that day saw a bloodied man hanging on a cross by the side of the road. They didn’t know He was also a lamb. They couldn’t know that He was changing everything—that the old order was passing away and that the book of the law, along with its complex and highly symbolic system of sacrifices, was about to slam shut—because God had stepped up to the altar and, like Abraham, provided His own Son as the sacrificial Lamb.
  • When complicated theological truths begin to overwhelm you, try focusing your attention on this one truth: Jesus Christ is God’s Lamb, slain for me.
  • Now, because of the redemption Jesus purchased for us in darkness, we can live forever in God’s light. Because of the separation He endured for us, we—who have so often turned our back on our Father—have the guarantee that He will never forsake us.
  • Yes, bloodshed is the epitome of violence. But for you and me, blood is also the costly guarantee of a most extravagant gift of grace.
  • Even in heaven, Jesus will appear “dressed in a robe dipped in blood” (Revelation 19:13). But if you have let His blood stain you, you will be as white as snow.
  • After all the public pronouncements at Jesus’ birth, the tumult of His life, and the public horror of His death, I must confess that I like the peace and quiet of Easter Morning.
  • When we least expect it, our risen Lord comes to us. “I am the resurrection and the life,” he tells us (John 11:25, emphasis added). Then He invites us to share in His resurrection power and take upon ourselves His righteousness so that we can stand confidently in the presence of the Father.
  • The simple fact is, if we take the name “Christian,” we, too, must be recognized by our scars. The visible proofs of crucifixion—not our accomplishments, degrees, possessions, or wealth—will become our identifying marks. I must warn you that, when we take them as chosen marks of our life, humility and obedience to Christ threaten to change us completely. They will do violence to the old, selfish, superficially promising pursuits that we have mistaken for life.

The Truth of the Cross6. The Truth of the Cross by R.C. Sproul. Reformation Trust. 2007. 167 pages.

This is another book I have read multiple times. Sproul writes that he doubts “…there has been a period in the two thousand years of Christian history when the significance, the centrality, and even the necessity of the cross have been more controversial than now.” And that: “…never before in Christian history has the need for an atonement been as widely challenged as it is today”

He indicates that there are three basic views of the atonement with respect to its necessity historically:

  1. Those who believe that the atonement was absolutely unnecessary.
  2. Those who believe that an atonement is only hypothetically necessary.
  3. Those who believe that atonement was absolutely necessary for man’s redemption. Sproul indicates that this is the view that he holds.

Sproul writes that Jesus was forsaken by the Father on the cross: “The hard reality is this: if Jesus was not forsaken on the cross, we are still in our sins. We have no redemption, no salvation. The whole point of the cross was for Jesus to bear our sins and bear the sanctions of the covenant. In order to do that, He had to be forsaken.

Jesus submitted Himself to His Father’s will and endured the curse, that we, His people, might experience the ultimate blessedness”. In addressing the question “For whom did Christ die?” Sproul addresses the sometimes controversial doctrine known as “limited atonement”: “Historic Reformed theology takes the biblical doctrine of divine election seriously. Because of it, Calvinists believe that God had a plan from all eternity to redeem a people for Himself. That plan encompassed only a portion of the human race; it was never God’s intention to save everybody. Remember, given our sin and His justice, God was under no obligation to save anyone. Indeed, He would have been perfectly just if He had consigned all people to eternal damnation, but in His mercy, He chose to save some. If it had been God’s intention to save everybody, then everybody would be saved, but God’s purpose in redemption was to save a remnant of the human race from the wrath they had earned for themselves and justly deserved. These people will receive God’s mercy; all others will receive His justice”.

The book concludes with a final chapter with questions and answers that touch briefly on various other issues surrounding the atonement. This small book on a very important subject can be read in one sitting and understood and enjoyed by both new and mature Christians.

Author: Bill Pence

I’m Bill Pence – married to my best friend Tammy, a graduate of Covenant Seminary, St. Louis Cardinals fan, formerly a manager at a Fortune 50 organization, and in leadership at my local church. I am a life-long learner and have a passion to help people develop, and to use their strengths to their fullest potential. I am an INTJ on Myers-Briggs, 3 on the Enneagram, my top five Strengthsfinder themes are: Belief, Responsibility, Learner, Harmony, and Achiever, and my two StandOut strength roles are Creator and Equalizer. My favorite book is the Bible, with Romans my favorite book of the Bible, and Colossians 3:23 and 2 Corinthians 5:21 being my favorite verses. Some of my other favorite books are The Holiness of God and Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul, and Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. I enjoy music in a variety of genres, including modern hymns, Christian hip-hop and classic rock. My book Called to Lead: Living and Leading for Jesus in the Workplace and Tammy’s book Study, Savor and Share Scripture: Becoming What We Behold are available in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.

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