Christ Church Free Church of England

From the Pastor’s Pen  ....                                                                           Easter 2019.

A blessed Easter to all our friends and family! This Easter we are joining together with other churches in what has been for some years now an annual event, being a walk of witness. This is a procession on Good Friday morning with a cross leading the way and members from the churches in the area joining in as it progresses. We give out literature and the bolder participants bear placards with Easter messages and verses from the Bible displayed. We end near the local shopping centre outside the church opposite with an open air service singing some of the great resurrection hymns. Its a good way of taking our witness out into the community to folk who may not otherwise go to a service over Easter and it puts helpful and challenging Easter messages into their hands to follow up.

Then in the evening we gather with other churches again for a combined Good Friday Communion service this year up in Garforth Evangelical church. Each participating church has a slot in the service which we rotate each year. This year Christ Church are bringing the message. Garforth Evangelical are hosting and leading and Seacroft Congregational are leading us to the Lord's Table for Holy Communion.

Do look at our calender page for details and do join us.

Thinking of Easter, with the Lent build up, during which time our messages have been reflecting on how we observe Lent and helpful ways vs unhelpful ways, it has really come home to me from this that one of the great lessons Easter brings home to us is the sufficiency of Christ's life, death and resurrection to fully prepare us to meet with our Maker. We have been thinking how Lent and challenges to be more committed to Christ generally, can mislead us if they are so presented or we regard them in such a way as to forget, or perhaps never really appreciate, that being put right with God by God Himself is the message of Easter. It is all about what God has done for us in His Son. Not what we imagine we can do for God, or even what he then does through us. That is another matter but first this is a gift we can only gratefully receive, not earn or deserve, no matter what we can do or have ever done. Indeed until we have received this gift anything else we imagine we are doing is of no account whatsoever! It is as dirty rags in his sight.

The danger with Lent observance, or any other service or endeavour we render to God, is that we slip into the idea of thinking it is this that really enables us to be accepted by God. Easter can only take us so far, or maybe gets us going, but now its up to us! Easter banishes any such idea!

Jesus settled any doubts we might have about this by his triumphant cry from the cross: "It is finished!" The Greek experts tell us this was a one word exclamation heard, of all places, in the market place or commercial world meaning "Fully settled"or "Fully paid!"!! As if Jesus saw his death on the cross as precisely that - a great debt now fully paid on our behalf by what he wrought there at Calvary.

That realization sets us free from anyone coming along demanding that we render some or other church imposed, or self imposed, ritual or commitment - be it baptism, holy communion, tithing, or whatever. I have recently been countering a view that attempts to present the Lord's Supper or Holy Communion as some kind of "bloodless sacrifice" for instance. As if this way Jesus intended to remind us of his death -

Luke 22:19

    "This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me."

.... somehow becomes, in the minister's hands,  a kind of offering we have to give to God. Whereas its precisely the opposite - a reminder of something God has given to us! And that to render all our giving to him entirely our way of saying thanks for all he has so freely given to us. Never is it a payment or some kind of sacrifice to earn or merit what God has so freely given. Indeed, to render service to God as some kind of payment for his free gift in His Son is to reject that free gift, for surely it can never be earned or deserved by our most noble efforts.

This is what Paul meant when he warns the Galatian believers that if they submitted to the Old testament symbol of inclusion into the family of God, circumcision, as an addition to faith in Christ, they had cut themselves off from what only he could do for them.  Galatians 5:2

      Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you.

Easter alerts us to the danger of sometimes even well meaning church leaders distorting what ought to be grateful service into legalistic bondage. "It is finished" meant just that. Jesus has flung wide the gate for us to enter heaven's joy entirely on the merits of his dear Son's passion. Any attempts to add what we, or some domineering church officials may seek to impose on us, with the idea that this is something that is still needed, has the exact opposite effect. It robs us of what only Jesus can and has most assuredly done.

In case we doubt this, like Thomas doubted his Lord, we move from celebrating his death and all it means on Good Friday to glorious Easter Sunday morning - the day we celebrate his glorious resurrection. This is now not the Son declaring his fully meeting the debt we owe for our sin, but now His Father's acceptance of it in heaven! Its his way of saying to the world by raising him from the dead - "I have accepted that sacrifice as the full & final payment for the sins of all who believe and take my free gift." This is how the apostle Paul says this of Jesus' resurrection:

Rom chapter 4 vs 25

   ..........who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

Or more literally, the original actually says: "because of our justification"! i.e. his resurrection was, in part at least, because the Father could now justify - that is declare absolutely right with him - all who accept this way the Father has provided. In short the resurrection was the Father's way of recognising and making known to all the world what his Son had fully accomplished at Calvary for all who were to come to believe!

So this Easter let us rest in that assurance that the blood of Christ cleanses from all sin and that by faith in him alone we are fully adopted into his family. Nothing need be added. Nothing can be added. Don't allow anyone to tell you otherwise. From that realization and freedom, and only then, are we now truly free to begin to live as his sons. It is at that point He comes in to share life with us by his very presence indwelling us in the person of His Holy Spirit. (We are born again. See John chapter 3 & Romans chapter 8) which is our next great Christian season to celebrate! Pentecost!! But we'll leave that to another time.

Lord bless as you ponder these things again this Easter. Our prayer is you might not just ponder, but partake! If there is anything we can do to help you do so, please do make contact but really it is all there for you, just for the taking. Just by means of a simple prayer of humble acknowledgment of your need and acceptance of all he did for you as much as for any other person in this world, no matter what you have done, could ever do, or have not done.

Our love in Jesus,

Grahame & Debbie Wray.