By Chris Turner
Director of communications, Tennessee Baptist Mission Board
Easter doesn’t really have a catchy slogan like Christmas. At Christmas, we say things like “Jesus is the reason for the season.” It’s true, but it seems that truth often winds up being a bumper sticker.
However, Easter doesn’t lend itself easily to bumper sticker slogans. “Sin is the reason for the season” doesn’t exactly invoke Hallmark Channel holiday fuzzies.
But sin is the reason for the season. Our sin. My sin; your sin. Individually. All eight billion of us globally. There was no other reason for God the Son to set aside His heavenly position to take the form of a man and die on a cross. Reconciliation to God, as the Apostle Paul writes in II Corinthians, isn’t necessary if our sin didn’t separate us from God. Jesus is the only option for sinful people to experience that reconciliation.
Unfortunately, Christianity in America seems to be migrating farther away from the biblical definition of sin. It is increasingly viewed as any act that causes us to feel poorly about ourselves, or anything that keeps us from reaching our full potential.
Making the word more palatable may seem a slight adjustment, but it is heretical theology that cuts the heart out of Easter’s Good News. The meaning of the word obviously needs clarification when there are 3.6 billion Google returns to the question, “What is sin?” Ironically it isn’t that complicated. Sin is any act that breaks God’s law causing us to fall short of God’s glory.
If we do not see ourselves as sinners in violation of God’s laws and therefore in need of saving, then our Christianity becomes a “moralistic, therapeutic deism,” as sociologist Christian Smith calls it. Religion becomes a way to sooth our guilt and make us feel better about who we are. Rather than being the Way, the Truth and the Life, Jesus becomes “the key to fulfilling our narcissistic preoccupation,” as theologian Michael Horton says.
To truly understand the meaning of Easter means truly understanding our desperate spiritual situation. Understanding Easter means recognizing the answer to our problem is not found within ourselves.
It means recognizing our situation is hopeless and our only hope for overcoming our condition is found beyond ourselves in the person and work of Jesus Christ. As theologian Jonathan Edwards said, “You contribute nothing to your salvation except the sin that made it necessary.”
“That seems a narrow-minded statement,” one may say. But let’s recap how we got there.
In the beginning there was perfect unity between the Creator and the created (Genesis 1-2). However, it wasn’t good enough for man to worship God. Man wanted to be worshiped, and he succumbed to the prideful desire to “be like God” (Genesis 3). He sinned, and that sin – that violation against God – initiated the consequence of eternal death. The Bible affirms that in Romans 6:23: “The wages of sin is death.” And that initial sin in Genesis has been passed down to every human who has ever lived. We all sin and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23).
If we violate state or national laws – speeding, income tax evasion, murder, robbery – authorities hold us accountable, and we are tried and convicted. Judges declare us guilty and we receive a punishment. It is the same with God. He is the universal authority who established His universal law, and we violated it. He is also the judge, and He declares us guilty. He sentences us to eternal punishment in a literal hell. Rather than having peace with God, we are enemies of God.
And so, we need Easter. Someone must pay for our breaking God’s law.
Because of God’s love for us while we were sinners, God provided Jesus to pay for our sin and take our place.
Reconciliation to God comes with a price. The Bible tells us that, “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22). Jesus stepped into our mess. Paul writes in 1 Timothy 1:15, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” God himself provides – and is – the perfect sacrifice for our desperate condition. That’s the Good News! That’s the story of Easter.
Jesus’ death on the cross paid the penalty due us. His resurrection is proof of its sufficiency. Jesus saves us when we ask for forgiveness from our sins, turn away from them (repentance) and walk in seeking to please Him (discipleship). The miracle is that He takes on our sin as His own (substitutionary atonement) while transferring to us His righteousness (imputed righteousness). God releases us from our death and sets us in right standing with Him (justification). In other words, we are free!
Maybe that could be our Easter slogan: We are free!
Or better yet, when we really ponder the question of what’s the reason for this Easter season, the answer is quite easy yet quite profound.
Jesus is the reason for the season. B&R