DONT BE FOOLED 4-1-18

Don’t Be Fooled

April 1st, 2018

 

                   Someone posed a question on facebook a while back to pastors, asking them whether or not they were going to make mention of the fact that Easter and April Fools Day fall on the same date this year.  Many said they were simply going to have a traditional service, and completely ignore this occurrence.  As you have no doubt concluded by now, I am not among them.

          April Fools jokes are usually harmless pranks done to elicit a laugh or two, and nothing more.  But when it comes to something that your eternity is hinged upon, falling for an April Fools joke is no laughing matter. 

          Both sides of the ‘Easter’ debate (is Jesus really the Son of God, true God and true man, who died for our salvation and rose from the dead and lives and reigns forevermore?) want you to think that it is the ‘other’ side that is falling for the ultimate April Fools joke.  

          Christians believe that Jesus did indeed rise from the dead on the third day, Sunday morning, just as he, and several Biblical prophets, had predicted (Matt 16:21; Mt 12:40; Lk 24:21,44-46; Jn 2:19; 1Co 15:3, 4), after being crucified and buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea (Mark 15:43-47).  You heard one of the Gospel accounts in our first Scripture reading this morning (Matthew 28:1-10).  And as you heard in our second Scripture reading (1 Corinthians 15:12-26), our entire faith rests on this belief, for as the apostle Paul said, “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile.

          And he also said in our third Scripture reading (1 Corinthians 1:18-25) “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God”.  Yes, non-believers, be they atheists who vehemently deny the existence of God, or agnostics, who try to rationalize that we cannot know the truth for certain, or those who follow other religions, think that we are the fools for believing in Christ’s resurrection, in his deity, and in the salvation through grace that He offers each of us.  Now I could go into a lengthy debate with each of these three categories of non-believers, but we would be here until evening, so suffice it to say, that my heart goes out to them.  As there will come a day when they will wake up in eternity, and discover that it was they that were the fools, for listening to the words of our Lord’s enemy, Satan, the Father of lies, who will use any and all means to keep someone from believing the truth, in order to claim them for himself. 

          Why would anyone choose to believe those lies?  Because they appeal to the same desire in humanity as that of Satan himself – to be God.  For atheists, they proclaim humanity to be the highest intelligence in the universe, a coincidental by-product of billions of years of evolution after the universe exploded into existence out of nothing.  If that reasoning makes us the highest intelligence in the universe, then atheism is indeed an oxymoron.  And then you have the fence-straddling agnostics, the Thomas’ who need absolute, beyond the shadow of a doubt proof, before they will commit to either side.  For them, there is Lee Strobel’s book which was passed out to each of you this morning, “The Case for Easter”.  And he has written many more books such as “The Case for Christ” that go even more in depth in giving logical reasons and solid proofs for why one should believe the Bible and put their faith in Jesus.  Jesus said to Thomas in John 20:27, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe”, which shows that Jesus wants to reach those who have doubts, but whose hearts want to believe.

          And for those who follow other religions, they have been misled into following a false god, one who cannot offer them eternal life in heaven.  The promises they have received are empty promises, lies that will only make them out to be the butt of the worst April Fools joke ever, as Satan laughs at them throughout all eternity. 

          The rapper, Lacrae, said, “If I’m wrong about my beliefs, I have wasted my life.  If you’re wrong about God, you have wasted your eternity.”  This is actually a paraphrase of what is known as “Pascal’s Wager”.  Rabbi Marc Gellman explained what that is for Newsday this past January when asked about Lecrae’s quote.  He wrote that “Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) was a French philosopher and mathematician who began his intellectual life as a skeptic of religion but then on Nov. 23, 1654, he experienced a profound religious revelation of the truth of God and of Christianity for his life. He became a believing Christian to the end of his life.  The idea of the wager is that, according to Pascal, we humans cannot determine either the truth or the falsity of religious claims through the unaided use of human reason. We just can’t prove and so we just can’t know if God exists, but one of the two alternatives is clearly true. God is either real or not real, and each of us must decide which theological option is true for our life. If we decide to believe that God is real and we are right, then our immortal souls are likely to be ushered into an eternity of bliss in heaven after death. If, on the other hand, we choose to deny God’s existence and we are wrong because it turns out that God is real, then our souls are banished with other non-believers to the pit of hell. So Pascal concluded that the prudent course is to believe in God even though one cannot prove that this belief is true. If it turns out that God is not real, we have lost nothing. That is Pascal’s wager in brutal summation.”  Even written from a Jewish viewpoint, I like Rabbi Gellman’s conclusion: “My view is that human reason can get us a long way to belief in God. Einstein looked at the universe rationally and then thought of God and said, ‘Could so great a symphony have no conductor?’  I also believe that there is a leap of faith at the end of reason’s path to God. It is a leap of hope and not intellect. It is a leap of love and not calculation. It is a leap of the will and, most assuredly, it is not a wager.”

          In closing, I would like to add that, I do believe with all my heart that Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God, who came to earth to be born in human form in order to die for our sins, as the ultimate and final sacrifice necessary to cleanse us to be fit for entry into heaven, that He rose again to break the chains that death and hell had on us, and that I am saved through His grace alone, by placing my faith in Him.  But I add to the Pascal wager, that even on the remote chance that I am wrong, I have not only lost nothing, but in this life I have gained purpose, I have gained hope, I have gained love even when surrounded by hate, I have gained courage to face the pain and evil in this world, I have gained joy amid sorrow, I have found forgiveness for guilt, I have found beauty among ashes.  And if I am right, I have also gained an eternity with my Savior who loves me, in a world where there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.  It’s definitely a win/win. 

          And to those on the other side of that wager, even if you are right, in this life you have no real hope other than brief moments of temporal happiness, and material possessions, both of which will pass like dust in the wind.  If there is no ultimate meaning to life, than what purpose do you serve?  What fulfillment can life give you?  To bring another child into a world of pain?  To race against the clock to make a name for yourself, so nice words can be put on a tombstone that you’ll be under, but never read?  Even King Solomon mused in the Book of Ecclesiastes, “Everything is meaningless.  What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun?  …No one remembers the former generations, and even those yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow them.  …I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure.  My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil.  Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.”  Yes, King Solomon, the richest and wisest man on earth, came to the realization that we need to “Remember him - before the silver cord is severed, and the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, and the wheel broken at the well, and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it”.

          So today, how will you respond to Pascal’s wager?  Will you choose to put your faith in Christ, in his death and resurrection, for your eternal salvation? Will you choose to follow the path of life?  Will you bet on the certain win/win of true Christianity?  Not just on Easter but for the rest of your days?

          Or will you choose to not believe, to reject Christ’s offer of salvation, to follow the path of death, to think of Christianity as nothing more than an April’s Joke, even though it is the lose/lose bet in this wager?  My prayer goes out to you, that the Holy Spirit would open your eyes to His presence, and open your heart to the His truth, that the joy of salvation would replace depression and despair in your life, and that the light of heaven would replace the darkness of hell in your eternity.  Amen. 

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