1 Corinthians 15:16-19 NASB
For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.
On this past Easter Sunday, as I took time to reflect on those events some 2000 years ago, I began to wonder if we truly believe. Christians all over the world for the previous week spent time remembering the triumphant entry of a man into Jerusalem. A man that people were ready to declare King. They remember a man who challenged the traditions of the people. They remember a man who spent a last meal with his closest friend. They remember a man who was betrayed by one of those friends. They remember a man who was tried for treason and blasphemy. They remember a man who was tortured and beaten. They remember a man who was killed in one of the most excruciating ways ever devised. They remember a man who was laid in a tomb.
And if this is where the story ends they remember a fool who died for nothing.
But the story does not end here, because they remember a man who did not stay in the grave. They remember a man whom God raised from the dead. You see Jesus was not simply a man. He is the Son of God. Jesus did not simply die and rot in a grave. He was raised again to life and is alive today. A life that is offered to everyone who will believe. This is what Christians remember. This is why we celebrate Easter, Good Friday, Maunday Thursday, Holy Week and Palm Sunday. Praise God for this truth.
But far too often, as I look at churches and Christians I have to ask, “Do we really believe?” Does this truth really permeate our lives or is it just a nice story? Do we live like Jesus is alive? Do we really believe in the ressurection? Or is Jesus still in the tomb to us?
Maybe we go to church on Sunday (or Saturday or possibly a different day depending on your tradition and circumstance) to sing songs, pray and listen to the pastor. Maybe we teach a Sunday school class or lead a small group. Maybe we preach from the Bible.
Some of us may read the Bible throughout the week. Some pray each night before we go to bed.
We are friendly with our neighbors and strangers. We are generous with those in need. We do the right thing at work and in business even if it will make our life more difficult.
In any of these cases we are living the Christian life, aren’t we. After all doesn’t the Bible tell us that we show our faith by our deeds. From the time we are children we are told that actions speak louder than words. So these actions show that we truly believe. Unfortunately, it is not that simple.
Far too often we do these deeds for the wrong reasons. We go to Church on Sunday not to worship, but because it is what is expected or because it feels comfortable. We teach or preach because we want to feel that we have a place we fit in or we want other to look up to us.
We are friendly with neighbors and strangers because it is our personality or we were taught it when we were young. We do the right thing in business because we want others to see us as virtuous or we are afraid of being caught doing otherwise.
It’s not as simple as actions speak louder than words. In the sermon on the mount Jesus declares “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:22 – 23)
Yes, our actions are important, but no matter how great they are, they are meaningless without the right backing. If we do not believe the foundation of the Christian faith, If we do not believe Jesus is the Son of the Living God, If we do not believe Jesus rose from the grave, and if we do not believe that forgiveness and eternal life can be found in him alone then our actions are meaningless and we are truly to be pitied.
My friends, if you are doing good I am certainly not saying to stop. Continue doing so and always look for more opportunities, but don’t let that be the end. Look behind the action. Ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” Are you doing it because Jesus gave us an example for this life or because you truly believe Jesus was who he said he was and your actions are a response to His incredible gift which reaches beyond this life.