Celebrating the Risen Savior

cropped-caravaggio.jpgBy Joe LaGuardia

Religion has been in the news lately.  ISIS is marching across the Middle East decimating thousands of lives while recruiting thousands a day. A religious liberty law in Indiana recently clogged the news cycle.  An HBO documentary scrutinized the church of Scientology, if that can be considered a religion at all.

A few weekends ago, churches were packed with people who wanted to be present for Easter.  It is, for many, a religious observance.  For others, it is a family obligation.

Truth is, we have just enough religion to be comfortable.  We have just enough religion to make us care about our causes, attend church a few times a year, and check the “I Believe in God” box on surveys.

In some cases, we can live up to the old saying by Jonathon Swift: “We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough religion to make us love one another.”

Our Christian faith is more than a religion, however.  We don’t attend church or have a nice, family Easter meal because we celebrate a religion.  We do so because we celebrate a Risen Savior.

We believers serve a living Lord, a King of all kings, and a God who is not a name among other religious names, but the Name above all names.

Perhaps we only live our lives with a marginal sense of religiosity because we’ve fooled ourselves into thinking we are Christians.  We adhere to the religion of our upbringing and consider ourselves a “religious voter,” but having a relationship with Jesus Christ, who lives with us today, is not on the agenda.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my religion.  I love rituals, too.  Just as brushing my teeth daily keeps me healthy, so too does going through the religious motions keep my faith fresh even when it threatens to go stale.

My relationship with Jesus is the only life-giving source of my religion because that relationship is actually what saves and sustains me.  Ours is a faith not of some stuffy creeds or sacred texts hidden in the vaults of time; ours is a faith of sacrifice to the Living Lamb of God.

Jesus once said, “I came that my disciples may have life, and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).  This life of abundance and redemption is predicated on believing in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.

In his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul wrote, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (10:9).

But believing in a religion is not enough.  In fact, you can believe in anything you want.  Atheists believe that there is no god.  The Bible says that, “Even the demons believe and tremble” (James 2:19).

When you believe in a real, living person, however, belief must translate into trust.

Several children in my community of faith (some families who attend Crosspoint Church, and some at Trinity Baptist), including my son, were baptized in the last few weeks.  Despite, their age, they know in their hearts that they love and believe in Jesus.

But their baptism is only a beginning for them. It is like a wedding day that launches a life-long journey of faith, hope, and love.

More significantly, it is a journey in which belief must become trust, and aspiration into concrete hope in a living, loving God.

When I got married to my wife, we were young–20 and 21 years of age.  We believed in our marriage, vows, and commitment to one another.  We went through the religious routine that accompany weddings.  But trust?  That came with time–in learning one another’s habits and preferences, in caring deeply for each other even in the midst of hard times, and in giving our life for the sake of the other.

In a day when religion is prevalent and people who believe in something are a dime a dozen, we who serve a Risen Savior must live as resurrected people who can prove that we not only believe in God, but trust God too.

Published by Joe LaGuardia

I am a pastor and author in Vero Beach, Florida, and write on issues related to spirituality, faith, politics, and culture.

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