An Easter message from The Salvation Army’s international leader
Salvation can be found in no one else. Throughout the whole world, no other name has been given among humans through which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12, CEB)
Easter is a time for us to reflect upon the incredible, extravagant and measureless grace of God. Through Christ he provided a way for mere mortal human beings to be both reconciled to him and enabled to enjoy the matchless benefits of a personal relationship with him.
Sadly, for many, Easter weekend may not represent anything more than an opportunity to have an extended break from the relentless pursuit of other personal goals and ambitions.
We live in a world resolutely turned towards materialism, to the almost total exclusion of the other elements we require to find fulfilment and purpose—to be complete and totally satisfied. Modern society offers us many of the things we need from a material perspective, but these are not enough to ensure happiness and freedom.
If you think material possessions bring happiness, think again! You only have to take a look at society today to see the negative effects of materialistic consumerism.
Despite all that we have, modern humankind remains unsatisfied, seeking to find the point of our very existence and assurance that there is something after death.
In the midst of that context, the Christian message is unique because the message is not about a set of doctrines and beliefs but about a person, Jesus Christ.
We recognise the fact that we are not perfect people, but Easter brings the hope of new life—one that has been changed and transformed. The fact that we are imperfect is not, however, an excuse to justify a life of continual sin and rebellion.
Sadly, we recognise that some people in society have turned their backs on the Church because they feel that Christians are lacking in credibility. We preach love, yet the Church can be the most unforgiving place. We preach spiritual values, yet in reality Christians often aspire to material wealth, power and influence. We preach justice for the oppressed, but how many of us actually do anything to make a difference?
The apostle Paul reminds us in Romans 3:23 that ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’. It is because of sin that humanity is unable to enjoy a relationship with God, and this explains why so many of our contemporaries are unsatisfied and seeking.
Despite a world that appears to be resolutely materialistic, we do see much evidence of people who search for meaning, who seek spiritual answers to the most preoccupying question of all: is there life after death? Could it be that many in our world today are trying to fill the spiritual void and find ways through their own efforts to reach the eternal paradise?
Jesus came to reconcile the world to God—this is the primary reason for his incarnation. Everything else resulting from the presence of Jesus in the world and in our lives is a direct result of us being reconciled to God.
Jesus came to fill the void that separates us from God. What is absolutely extraordinary—and what we need to remember every day of our lives—is the incredible fact that God in Jesus took the initiative so we might be reconciled to him!
It is for this reason that Jesus willingly paid the price so that people like us who were considered to be ‘enemies’ could be reconciled as a result: ‘Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behaviour. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation’ (Colossians 1:21-22).
What more do you need? Is Jesus not sufficient for you? If you have discovered the blessing and peace that only Jesus can bring then you will agree with the songwriter* when he says:
When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll,
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to know
It is well, it is well with my soul.
It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate
And hath shed his own blood for my soul.
For me be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live;
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper thy peace to my soul.
But Lord, ’tis for thee, for thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
O trump of the angel! O voice of the Lord!
Blessèd hope, blessèd rest of my soul!
*‘It is Well with my Soul’ by Horatio Gates Spafford (Song 741, The Song Book of The Salvation Army).