Updated: Aug 17
Easter, April 4, 2021
During Easter service, we were so blessed to have Nancy Sparks share her story of hope...inspired by her daughter Keri. As we begin this new sermon series, "Does Christianity Work?" we would like to share more personal stories of truth and faith.
This coming Sunday, Pastor David is going to be speaking about, "Does Prayer Work?" If you have experienced an answered prayer and would consider sharing your story with Pastor David, just reply to this email. We would love to hear from you in the next day or two. Sharing your story may encourage others to come to know the Lord.
"The hope of Easter means that there comes a day when we will exist without sickness, without discouragement and without despair. We will exist in an environment and community where our joy only grows. A huge part of this hope is that it is possible to begin to taste it right now." ~ Pastor David Welch The hope that comes from Jesus' resurrection is the promise of eternity. What makes this hope so powerful? 1. It's credible 2. It can be experienced 3. It's an anchor How do you invite this hope into your life? BELIEVE + RECEIVE = BECOME Verses to study:
If you have prayed for salvation, asking Jesus to come into your life for the first time, Pastor David invites you to view a special message of Hope.
My name is Nancy. And my family has been part of Bear Creek for over 20 years. And in this Easter season, which is about hope, we have a story of hope from our family. Our story of hope comes out of the life of our daughter, Keri. She was just such a light, she came into the world, fun and funny, and that laughter and that view on the world lasted every day, and she loved the Lord. And just coming to know him, she changed even more. The fact that she wanted to worship Him, she just had complete trust, the way that she believed that He cared about her. When she was in college, she obviously began to major in art, she had an artist statement that she made before, like a senior art show. And she said in that statement that she wanted her art to show the truth. Well, she knew that she was sick, long before we ever knew what was wrong. Without knowing what was going on, she just began that whole year prior to diagnosis, beginning to really rely on the Lord. She came to a place to where she was willing to rest in him. To see someone suffering so much, I can read words she wrote that talked about unbearable pain and side effects or just really struggling. But she did not demonstrate that, she just persevered in such a way that showed joy and light and absolute honestly hope that carried her. Keri and Bryson quickly went to Hebrews 6: 18 and 19 that talked about that. This hope is a strong and worthy anchor for the soul. And they just clung to that anchor to that for the journey. That was our banner, that was the plan. That we would pray, we would trust the Lord, we would hope, Christ is our hope. And that he is our anchor and cling to him is what gave her the strength to just face every day. It was just days before her passing, and she began to talk, I feel competent that she was seeing glimpses of home. And she just seemed so excited. She just talked about going.
Keri: God’s plans are better. And they are good. And He is faithful to love us. Jesus is near, so close. So, I have always heard his voice in different ways but to hear Him and his true voice, that will be the day.
Nancy: Her hope was contagious. It just really rooted and grounded us in the knowledge to keep pressing and believing in the Lord in the hope that Christ offers.
Does Christianity work? Is the hope of the resurrection credible and realistic? How do I invite Christ and this hope into my life?
Pastor David Welch:
You know, we are coming out of kind of a heavy moment there but you're doing the right thing to celebrate Carrie’s life, to celebrate the hope she had and to celebrate what that hope is. That is the hope, her hope was in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Well to just say and celebrate that one more time. Hey, if we are new to one another, I'm Pastor David, I serve as the lead pastor, here. It is an absolute joy to see you gathered in this place. And for all of you who are gathered online, it is an incredible day for us to celebrate Easter, the resurrection of Jesus, and all of the hope that brings. Because Easter is about that; don't miss it; it's about hope. It's about the hope that can be in your life, as a as a result of his resurrection. And just like Carrie’s faith story, it can make you unshakable, no matter what you go through. Here is Easter. If Jesus rose from the dead, then that is a supernatural act. And if he rose from the dead, then it validates all that he said that his death and his resurrection would accomplish. And don't miss Easter, don't miss this fact, which means that he gives you life after this life. That's the hope. And that it promises healing of everything that's broken inside of us. And that ultimately, the hope of Easter means that there comes a day that we will exist without sickness, without discouragement and despair. We will exist in an environment, in a community where our joy only grows. But here is Easter, a huge part of this hope is that it's possible to begin to taste it right now. Hope is like an anchor, this hope. The hope we're describing is like an anchor, like a ship anchored to the sea floor in a stormy sea, the anchor makes the ship strong, stable, and secure in the midst of the storm. That's what Easter hope is all about; it's about finding that hope. And I want you to have that.
Before you leave today, I want you to be able to know that you're clinging to this hope, this kind of hope. In fact that hope sacred scripture tells us that the resurrection of Jesus brings into our life, and I just want you to examine it yourself; I want you to investigate it yourself. I want you to see it in Hebrews 6, starting in verse 18. And it says there: “So, God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable, because it's impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us.” In verse 19, “This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.” This is the word of God. It speaks supernaturally, and when we open our hearts to it, that's the effect it has on us. And so, here's the question, What about this hope? What makes this Jesus hope an anchor? What makes it an anchor? What makes this hope more than a wish upon a star, the kind of wispy hope? What makes it more substantial than that? Here's the question, what makes this hope realistic, and powerful? It can be in your life, if you understand it, if you embrace it. But what is it that makes it a realistic hope? Let's answer that. It's found in these two verses. Let me just show that to you, this is Jesus kind of resurrection hope. What makes it realistic and powerful in your life? Well, here's the first reason - it's realistic, it's credible. That's what's happening in verse 18. So, God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable, because it is impossible for God to lie. So, verse 18, theologically, is actually kind of a complicated verse. And so, the theologians sort of debate exactly what the two unchangeable things are and, all of that, but I want us to just cut to the chase. There are at least two reasons that this hope is believable, it’s that it is credible. And one of those is found absolutely embedded in this text. And here's the first reason that it's credible, it's because it's impossible for God to lie. That's what the text says. All logic would tell you that's true, since God's character is not changeable, not wishy washy, not fickle, and weak, then therefore he cannot lie. The point is that God doesn't make empty promises. So that day when Jesus met up with Mary and Martha, four days after his close friend and their brother, Lazarus had died, and he was already in the tomb. And he meets Martha and says, Martha, in John 11,
“I am the resurrection, anyone who believes in me, will live. Even though he dies, everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never die.”
And then to validate that truth, he looks at the tomb and tells the people around the tomb to move the stone back. After being four days there, he calls Lazarus out of that tomb. And he comes out, sort of stumbling out, still in his grave clothes, brought back to life. Jesus validated it with a miracle. That's it's not an empty claim. He called Lazarus out of the tomb.
But there's another reason that this hope is credible. I'm saying this hope is realistic. I'm saying it can be powerful in your life. Why? Well, because it's credible. It's credible, because God can't even lie. But the second reason that it's credible, is that it's reasonable to believe it. Do you know what's reasonable actually to believe in, you live in a generational moment, that the culture around you would tell you? No, it's not reasonable to believe in God. But I'm saying to you, as a counterculture voice, I'm saying to you, it is more than reasonable to believe in the hope that Christ brings. Jesus claimed to be God walking among us. So, listen to this logic, if God exists, then it's only reasonable that miracles are possible. If a miracle is possible, then the resurrection can happen. And all the Jesus did, is absolutely possible. And so, Jesus came continually validating that claim as God. The historical record, shows it by performing miracles of healing and mercy and love all around him. And Jesus said, listen closely to this, Jesus said the reason that he was doing all of it was that he was coming to live among us, in order to die for us, in our place, to give us the hope of eternal life, so that death as we know it, could be destroyed. And to demonstrate that, he goes to the cross, he's buried in a tomb, three days later, he resurrects from the grave. And now listen, if you investigate His resurrection closely, if you use the actual and applied principles of legal and historical evidence gathering that any legal expert or any historian uses in order to validate an event that has happened in the past, you will find that the most credible answer is that the empty tomb means that Christ resurrected. Not the false alternatives that maybe he swooned and then revived later. Nor the false alternative that the disciples stole his body, what would be the purpose in that steal his body three or five days later? They are not going to be able to animate that body. Or that they misidentified the tomb, the tomb that had been identified and sealed by Roman seal. Or one that I've heard just in the most recent years that I had not heard before, is that Jesus had a twin. Rather, the empty tomb, along with all of its corroborating evidence means that he that he rose from the grave.
So, of all the evidence of Christ's resurrection that has real credibility with me, the most convincing to me, is how it affected his closest followers. This probably convinces me more than any than any other evidence his disciples in just those few days around his death, burial to Resurrection Day, their lives are transformed. Going into it, they're cowardly. They oppose Jesus. Jesus is trying to tell them for weeks leading up to the Easter event, I'm going to Jerusalem, and I'm going to be handed over to the officials. They're going to abuse and mock me, they're going to execute me, they're going to put me in a tomb and then rise three days later. The disciples could not handle that talk. Jesus told them over and again. At one point they rebuked him and told him stop talking like that. At other times, they just stared at him in dumbfounded silence. And then when the moment came in the Garden of Gethsemane, when the soldiers came to take him, they all ran away like little scared rabbits. They were a small, petty, selfish, cowardly little group of followers. But in a matter of three days, and then 40 days following they were transformed, into people of incredible spiritual depth and love and into courageous defenders of what they saw. In fact, 10 out of the 11 apostles, including Paul the apostle, they willingly died for what they saw over those three days. And they willingly died for what they believed that meant; that Jesus was the Son of God. Ultimately, each one of them chose to be tortured, and executed rather than to deny it. It's pretty convincing, and it's pretty convincing for this reason. A lot of people through history have died for a lie. Yes, that's exactly right. But do you know that the originators and perpetuators of the lie almost never willingly die for the lie? You would be hard pressed to find 11 people who perpetrated a colossal lie to be willing to die for that lie. It's a credible hope, because it's reasonable to believe that Christ is who He says He is, and that he did what he claimed he would do on the cross. Listen to this, it all comes to this. Jesus says, I've come in order to go to the cross for you, in your place, in order for you to be able to experience eternal life, if you put your faith in him. It's a life that can actually begin to transform from the moment that you receive Him. And it builds, it creates this confident expectation in you that ultimately you will live in his presence for an eternity, with no more sickness, no more death, and no more despair. There's a credibility in Easter, that's hard to ignore; it's hard to deny. And so, what makes this hope realistic? It's realistic, because it's credible.
But secondly, secondly, it's realistic because it can be experienced, this is a hope that can be experienced Don't miss the significance of it. This is not a theory; this is this is not conceptual. It's a real experience. Listen to Hebrews 6: 18, the second half of it, I wish that we could absorb, sponge in everything that this last sentence here means. So, the author of the Hebrews writes, “So therefore we who have fled to him for refuge, can have great confidence as we hold on to the hope that lies before us.” There's so much power packed into those words. The verse says these three things: we have fled to him for refuge, secondly, it says, we can have great confidence, thirdly, it says, because we hold on to a hope that lies before us. I was beginning to say just a moment ago, this isn't theory or concept. This is reality, the hope is realistic, because it can be experienced. Why: the author of the Hebrews here, he's not writing a commentary on the Old Testament. He's not writing an article for a theological journal. He's writing his own experience here. He's writing an encouragement to others in the faith community, others in the Christian community, because they are under severe and terrible persecution. This is happening in the last half of the first century, at a moment when Christians are being terribly, terribly persecuted; they were being beaten, they were losing their property. And if they lost their property then this means they lost their homes. And if they lost their homes, it means they lost their livelihoods and, and they were being thrown into prison and many were being tortured and killed; martyred. But this unknown author of Hebrews, he's saying, but we have a refuge, we have a safe place, under all of this hard persecution, we have a safe place. And we have a confidence that no matter what happens in the next five days, in the next five years, in the next five decades, God will turn it for our good because we have a hope of what lies ahead. And so ultimately, the author of Hebrews is saying, you can't defeat me. Even if you kill me, I become more joyful, I'll be more of who I was created to be, because I will be in the presence of my father in heaven, is because this hope can be experienced. I've shared this with you before, but you've got to hear it again. A good while ago, a brilliant atheist writer, British writer, and philosopher, Ian Wilson had spent his entire career writing extensively about his own atheism; he wrote books building up the case for atheism. But then, in the last few years, he shocked the intellectual world by writing an article where he clearly and openly denounced his own atheism. And out of that article, I just want to read the why; why did he do it? Here's why. He wrote, “My belief has come about in large measure, because of the lives and the examples of people I have known. Not the famous, but friends and relations who have lived and faced death in the light of the resurrection story, or in the quiet acceptance, that they have a future after they die. Do you get that this man who could form a better argument for atheism, than you or me, just saw the hope that anchored their lives, and it was stronger than any argument that he had ever articulated against the faith? And so, he fled to that faith as an anchor to his soul. Do you know the same thing happened to a brilliant young atheist professor of medieval literature named C.S. Lewis, and he became the greatest Christian apologist of the 20th century. Do you know the same thing has happened to Peter Hitchens? Yeah. Hitchens, not Christopher, his brother, but Peter. Christopher Hitchens, maybe the best-known atheist of our generation has just passed away. Peter Hitchens renounced his own his own atheism in the midst of all of his brother's writing, and he's begun writing refuting all of it. The same thing happened to the renowned atheist physicist, Anthony Flu. Anthony Flu, who has significant scientific work in in physics, came to the place to say that all of science provides a weak and unsatisfying answer about the beginning of the universe. And he walked away from his atheism. The same thing happened to an expert in quantum theory, and biology. His name's Alister McGrath, he writes some of the most potent defenses of the Christian faith written anywhere. Do you get what I'm saying here? Each one of them renounced their atheism, because they could see the beauty and the truth, and the experience and the hope of faith in God.
I want to give you a last. This is the last reason that this hope is realistic. This whole this Jesus hope of his resurrection, that it's realistic and powerful. Here's why. Number three, it's an anchor. That's exactly what verse 19 says. It's an anchor and here's why. It's realistic and powerful. It's an anchor, verse 19. “This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.” It means your hope makes you immovably strong, stable, and secure. It can be seen and observed and experienced. Look, remember what an even anchor does; remember what it is and what it does. In order to do that, let's just look at an image. See the anchor? Do you see those little insects with the red life jackets on? Yeah, those are big burly sailors, from the aircraft carrier, the USS Nimitz, and that's its anchor that weighs 60,000 pounds. The USS Nimitz has two of them. Can you imagine that when they're dropped into the sea and they hit the seabed and they dig deeply into it, they create an immovable stability for a 100,000-ton ship. Look at a second image. Look at the second one, this rough scratch on a rock that was found in the catacombs of Rome. Those were underground tunnels were where Christians went when they were under unbelievable persecution. It's where they worshiped it's where they buried the martyred. Found in one of those catacombs in the late first centuries, was this little scratch mark. And do you get that in the very same generation that Hebrews was written, first century believers who were being persecuted or rounded up with pitch or tar poured over them and set on fire that the Hebrews 6: 19 anchor became their symbol. And their stories became no matter what happens to me in this life, no matter what you do to me, nothing unsettles me, nothing drags me into the storm. Nothing unnerves me because my hope is like a 60,000-pound anchor for my soul. Okay, I'm going to be shameless; I'm going to ask you for an Amen. All right, it's shameless for a pastor to do that; it's pathetic to do that. But listen to everything that everything that hope can be comes from the resurrection of Jesus from the grave. Because if Jesus rose from the grave, then everything He has promised, he can do. And he can do it in your life. You can have a brand-new source of hope, it doesn't have to be money anymore. You know, it evaporates right? Or your hope doesn’t have to be in some romantic relationship; that can go upside down, right? Not in some sort of notoriety. Yeah, you can text, you can post the wrong thing and be notorious from that moment on. But you can have it in a source, you can have your life anchored in a source of hope that brings real security, total love, a significance that matters, and a life that's eternal.
Think about Keri’s story one more time, from just a few minutes ago, her hope was in something higher, greater, and more powerful than anything on this earth. She had a hope so strong, so secure, that she could whisper in her last days, “God's plan is good. I know He loves me. And even though I've heard the voice of Jesus and the Word of God, in other ways I know, I'm about to hear his true voice.” And it anchored her soul.
But the question is, and this is the last moment or two of this message; we haven't even asked the most important question. The most important question is how, how do you invite this hope into your life? And this is what I want for you more than anything, this Easter. If you're someone who has never asked Christ into your life, if you're a person who's never placed your faith in Him, maybe you've been a bit skeptical, maybe you've lived in an environment where, you know, everybody sort talks God down, and so you just kind of haven't touched it. But just the stuff going on in your life and the reality of what you're hearing here, you're sensing God's Spirit is just working in you. And you're sensing, I think this is real. And I think I'm ready to take the risk of putting my faith in him. How do you invite that hope into your life? Here is a way that I describe it often. Some of you have already heard this, but I want you to hear it again because it puts it in the simplest terms I know of how do you invite Christ into your life. John 1: 12 says a simple thing “Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” That describes, I think, in the most succinct way, what it means to come to Christ, through three potent words in that verse. The words are believe, plus receive equals become. Follow it for one moment, believe. How do I how do I invite Christ into my life? It starts with believe that Christ is who He says He is, that he died on the cross for you in your place in order to give you a relationship with God, that his resurrection is real. And to believe that that reality could change your life, belief. Plus, the word receive. To receive means to accept something right, it means to accept something. All over the New Testament, the Bible says that God is offering you His grace as a gift. His grace is His mercy and His forgiveness into your life. You don't deserve it, you didn't earn it, God already offered it as a gift to you. And so how do you receive that? You got to open your hands, you got to open your heart, you've got to reach out and take it. I'm being like really technical with this word. Do you know biblically, this word received means to take another into your life? That it means to give them access to your life, to receive Christ is to is to believe that what he did is real, but then to embrace him to take him in to your life. Believe, plus, receive, equals, become. And become is what God then does supernaturally in you. Become means that you become a child of God, the miracle that he works in you, when you open your heart and faith in Him, He places his life in you, forgives you of all of your sin, and gives you eternal life. And that begins the process of pouring hope and healing and life into you. And I want you to have that, and I invite you to embrace that.
And I'm going to ask us to bow together in this moment, could we bow together? And we're going to be in prayer for just a moment or two. And so, with our heads down, I want to just want to speak into the hearts of those who have never received Christ ,or if you're not sure that you have, pray for one second. Believers, those of you who know Christ and you love Him with all your heart, pray right now for God's Spirit to be all over us. If you've never received Christ, but something's going on in your mind and heart right now that makes sense. And it makes sense to you that this faith is realistic. This hope is realistic, because it has a credibility about it; the experience is real. And man, it anchors the soul in a way that no human experience can. I want to invite you in this moment. Man, if your heart is open to it, this is your moment. Look, you know the world, you know everything else in your life. There are only a precious few moments that you’re ever open to receive anything about God. Man, don't waste this moment; I want you to be really deliberate. Here is what's going to happen I'm, I'm going to pray with you. And if you are ready to pray and receive Christ, I'm just going to give you the chance to pray along with me and you can do that silently in your own heart. But you’ve got to be deliberate, you’ve got to be real with yourself, you’ve got to do this consciously. And so, I want you to begin this conscious act of yes, I want to receive Christ in my life right now. And my decision is to turn to Him. And I am going to pray with you in one moment when you begin to pray. If that is your decision, I'm going to ask you right now with our heads down, to raise your hand, this is for you, to make it firm and real. And you raise your hand and hold it. And you and I are just going to see one and I am not calling you out, I promise you, I just want you to raise your hand to firm this up and this is what I want to do. Hold them up, give me a moment, just to see you. And I am just going to start scanning the room. So, lift your hand and hold it up. And I see those to my far right. And I see those in the triangle. And I see those in the center. And I see those in the other triangle. And I see those to my far left, you can put your hands down, God bless you. Now I want us to pray. You raised your hand or if you did not raise your hand, but you want to receive Christ, just pray this with me, just say it consciously, you do not have to say it out loud. God hears you and he knows your heart. Pray, Dear Father, thank You for Your son, Jesus. Thank you that he died on the cross for me. And I don’t understand everything, but I know that you forgive me of my sin. You come into my life. You give me eternal life. I ask for that. I open my hands. for that. I asked you to place your life in me. If you are praying that right now, a certifiable miracle is happening in you. The life of God is being placed in you. You are being cleansed of all that you've ever done to offend God your Creator. He is making you right with Him by what Christ did. And that will last forever. If you prayed that with me, why don’t you just thank him in your own words, in your own heart, begin thanking Him. Thank you for saving me, thank you for coming into my life. Thank you for giving me this hope. And God, I want to thank you for everyone in this room and everyone who has joined us through our broadcast who have just prayed and received you into their life. God, we are just so grateful for what you've done all through this weekend with the with the dozens of people who've just who have prayed, God, thank you so much for that. And we praise your name. And we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen, amen.