What Is Easter All About?

A member of Castlefields Church explains the vital importance of Easter.

I vividly remember a colleague’s question shortly after I started at work.  He asked me, “What do we celebrate at Easter?  What’s it actually about?” For anyone else wondering, I’ll try and explain.

At Easter, Christians celebrate the heart of their faith: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Why?  The Bible puts it like this: “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile…” (1 Corinthians 15:17). 

Why is Christianity pointless without the resurrection?

First, the problem.   The Bible says this about humankind, “No one does good, not even one” (Romans 3:12).  None of us is good enough for God, whose standard is perfection. The future doesn’t look good because “…it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).  God judges by his standards, not ours.

Second, the solution.  Out of love, God came to the rescue.  Enter Jesus of Nazareth. For 30 years he lives in obscurity.  Then for 3 years he goes about preaching.   He points to himself as the one who fulfils the promises in the Old Testament (the first part of the Bible) about a “Messiah” who would suffer as a substitute for his people.  By his many miracles, Jesus shows himself to be more than a mere man.  Here is God in human flesh.

Jealous authorities plot to kill him.  He’s arrested, falsely accused, and condemned to death.  Soldiers mock him.  A crown of thorns is pushed onto his head.

To the watching world this looks like defeat. But, as Jesus was led to a small hill outside Jerusalem and nailed to a wooden cross, the mockers were mistaken. They shouted, “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross” and “He saved others; he cannot save himself” (Matthew 27:40, 42).

What they didn’t realise was that Jesus was willingly being the substitute.  The perfect man was suffering God’s punishment for human sin.  Before he died, he declared for all to hear, “It is finished!” (John 19:30).

That’s Good Friday.  Now for Easter Sunday!

Jesus had said that he would be killed, and on the third day he would rise again.  

That’s what happened on that first Easter Sunday: resurrection!  Jesus was raised physically from the dead. Death couldn’t hold him prisoner.  The tomb was empty for all to see.

Jesus showed himself alive to many witnesses.   Instantly, their mood changed from grief to joy, from fear to faith.  The price was paid!  The rescue mission was complete.  Here was good news to live for.  Here was truth to die for (and many of them did).

After 40 days, Jesus went up into heaven again.  Mission accomplished.  He sat down at the right-hand of God.

So, that’s why for Christians, Easter is the most important event ever to have taken place.   It tells us that the price of our wrongdoing has been paid.  Jesus makes us ready to meet God.  There’s no need to fear death.  One day we will share in his resurrection.

10 Important Things You Need to Know About Spiritual Gifts

“I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you…” 2 Timothy 1 v 6

2 Timothy 1 v 6 is the urgent pastoral instruction of Paul to Timothy. Paul is in the ultimate ‘lock down’ of prison in Rome. Timothy is in the relative freedom of Ephesus but under great pressure from the culture around. The contemporary relevance of the whole book to our current situation is
quite startling.

The NKJV uses the words “stir up”; other versions use the expression, “fan into flames”. The picture is very clear, Timothy needed to do something to get the fire going again! Things were burning low, the heat was being lost, the fire was not very effective!

In the previous verse Paul tells the reader that he is reminded of Timothy’s “sincere” or “genuine” faith. Other passages in Paul’s Epistles make it plain that such faith is not earned, not inherited and not simply something you learn, it is a gift of God. If we are true Christians, we too have been given this precious gift. Nothing can remove that gift! What concerns Paul is that the gift of God that Timothy has been given alongside that faith, is burning low!

Timothy had been given the necessary gifting by God to be recognised by the Eldership in Ephesus to be full time in the role of Pastor / Teacher. This is clearly expressed by the allusion to the “laying on of hands”. This act did not “gift” Timothy, God had already done that! It was something done to commission him and set him going in this great task.

Timothy now must “stir up”, “fan into flame”, the gift and ensure it was used to the full. The difficult days and circumstances that surrounded him required him to use his God-given gifting to the full.

This instruction reaches down from Scripture to every one of us – not just the Pastor or the Elders! It is particularly relevant in our current ‘lock down’ situation when many avenues for Christian service are not possible.

In 1 Cor 12 v 1 Paul writes, “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant”. So that we are not similarly lacking in understanding about this subject, here are ten vital things that you need to know about spiritual gifts in our context today.

  1. Spiritual gifts are given by God the Holy Spirit to every Christian believer.
    Paul makes it clear in 1 Cor 12 v 7 that they are given “to each one for the profit of all”. They are given, alongside saving faith, to be exercised in our “new life that is in Christ Jesus”, not for selfish use, but for the profit (the good) of all.
  2. Spiritual gifts are not the same as “natural aptitudes”.
    In Daniel 1 v 17 we are told that God gave “knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom” to Daniel and his three friends. Unbelievers as well as believers are blessed with such things. God is the giver of all good gifts. Everyone blessed with them must study and work hard to develop such aptitudes. Such things are then useful to the society around and the world at large. We thank God for unbelievers who teach us, nurse us, govern us and function in many other aspects of society.
    It is to the Christian, however, that God gives “spiritual gifts” which are specifically for service for Him and for His people. In Daniel’s case we read that he was given the gift of being able to understand visions and dreams! That gift was certainly used in special ways for the ongoing of God’s purposes in his days. Read the rest of Daniel to find out!
  3. Spiritual gifts are given individually.
    1 Cor 12 v 11 reads “… but one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills”. No one else will have exactly the same gift or range of gifts as you!
    We are never to be jealous of others or covet their gifts – you are gifted in a way that God sees just right for you! No one else will be gifted in exactly the same way.
  4. Spiritual gifts given by God for today are called “ordinary” gifts. They are no longer the “extraordinary” gifts of Apostolic times (sometimes called “charismatic” or “miraculous” gifts).
    This does not mean that the spiritual gifts that God gives to every believer today are in some way second class or inferior. Nothing that God gives can ever fall into that category!
    The gifts given to Daniel that we have referred to above were “extraordinary” indeed! So too the ability of those in Apostolic times to prophesy, heal and speak in other languages (without having learned them!). What we might term “ordinary” gifts are just right for His church today. Our extraordinary God uses them for His purposes, through His people.
  5. Spiritual gifts are to be exercised – to be used!
    They are not to lay dormant! That is clear from what Paul wrote to Timothy in 1 Tim 4 v 14. Paul told him that he must not “neglect” the gifting that God had given to him. In Rom 12 v 6 Paul says, “Having gifts differing according to the grace given to us, let us use them”. To neglect to use the gifts that God has given us is not right.
  6. Spiritual gifts are many and various!
    In Romans 12 we read one of a number of lists of spiritual gifts that appear in Scripture. That list includes; preaching, teaching, serving others, exhorting, encouraging, giving, leading others, showing mercy, showing kindness. Other New Testament lists includes practical gifts relating to organisation such as administrations and simply that of helps. The total list is huge – and various!
  7. Spiritual gifts are given in the context of every Christian being part of a church fellowship.
    They are given by God to be used by every individual within, and working out from, the church into which God has called you by grace and in His providence.
  8. Spiritual gifts are individually given so that the body of each church might function fully and effectively under Christ as the Head.
    Reading the letters that Paul wrote to the churches in Rome and Corinth is instructive. Both use the picture of the church being a body, and every member contributing to the functioning of the whole. Every member brings gifts to that church. Timothy was to exercise his God given gifts in the context of the church of which he was Pastor – the church at Ephesus. If we do not use our gifts well, the church cannot be as effective as it could be.
  9. Spiritual gifts are given for the edification of the whole church.
    They are to profit others and profit the whole through “edification”. This is a key expression in what Paul writes to the church in Corinth about spiritual gifts. Edification means building up, strengthening and helping to grow. They are not for selfish use to draw attention to them, or us!
  10. The greatest spiritual gift is that of self-giving (agape) love
    All other gifts are to be used and exercised in the context of this gift. Paul is quite clear about this in 1 Cor 13 v 1. He stresses that he might be able to demonstrate that he has wonderful spiritual gifts but if they are not exercised with self-giving love they are as useful as an empty can being kicked down the street! Paul says, in effect, I am nothing and have nothing to give to others, or to the church as a whole, without Christ-like love.