Community Group Study Notes

  1. Have someone in your group give a brief recap of Sunday’s message, highlighting the primary Scripture points and the main idea of the message.

  2. How did this message strengthen and/or correct your previous ideas about ______________? Was there anything you heard for the first time or that caught your attention, challenged, or confused you? Did you learn anything new about God or yourself this week?

  3. Read Matthew 28:1-10. What do you think the two Mary’s were thinking as they made their way to the tomb of Jesus? What emotions would you have been experiencing if you had been in their place?

  4. The resurrection of Jesus is the most important fact of the Christian faith. Why? How does the resurrection of Jesus give us hope for today and for all eternity?

  5. Read Philippians 3:8-12. How is the power of the resurrection working in you today? 

  6. What action step do you need to take in response to this week’s message? How can your group hold you accountable to this step?


Action Step

Pray for opportunities this week to share how the story of the resurrection of Jesus has changed YOUR story. 



Sermon Transcript

 Well, happy Easter, everybody. Great to see you this morning. I was reading a funny Easter story recently about a little boy named Brian. He was only five years old, and he was preparing to be in his little church Easter play. And so he got an assignment for his Easter play, and all he had was really just kind of a simple line right from the Easter story that he was supposed to present. And it was this. "He is not here, he has risen," right? A five-year-old can generally handle something like that. So he went home, and he practiced, and practiced, and memorized this for his mom and dad, and they would have him repeat it all week. And then finally, the day of the performance came, and he got on stage, and it was time for his line. And the lights came on and he froze. Deer-in-headlights froze. Absolutely just blanked out. But he looked off stage and his teacher was getting his attention and she was going, "Brian, Brian." And he looked over and she said, she mouthed the words, "He is not here, he has risen." And confidently, he just looked over at his teacher and nodded, and took that microphone and said, "He is not here, he's in prison." Have you ever wanted a do-over?

- [Congregation] Yes.

- Maybe to undo something that you did? I don't know if little Brian actually wanted a do-over if he paid any attention at all, but I guarantee you his parents sitting in that church, they wanted a do-over at that point. We've all wanted that. When I was little, I grew up not terribly far from a public golf course. We didn't live on the golf course, and it was public, and we would go over there sometimes and it was just... I loved watching players play and running around on the course afterwards. It wasn't that I was playing, I was only probably six at the time. And my dad, he didn't play a lot, but one day, he kind of gave me the next best thing. He took me to a driving range and got a little mini bucket of balls for me, and I was gonna get to hit a few balls. Now, my little brother was also in tow, but he was supposed to be just watching. He was only four, maybe five. And so I was out there, my dad was hitting balls, and I was hitting a few balls, and I got to the very last ball that I had, and of course my little brother's back there just looking like puppy dog longingly, like, "I wish I could play." And so for the last ball, I said, "Steve, do you wanna hit the last ball?" He takes my club, he walks up to that ball, and he's just determined he's gonna take a mighty whack. But he never hit the ball because on his backswing, his club entered my mouth.

- [Congregation] Oh.

- Tell me about it. It wasn't you, it was me. You're acting like you got hurt. I ate that entire club. And I'm thinking to myself as I look back on this, I'm sure that my little brother wishes that he could undo the damage he did to my mouth. By the way, I wish I could undo the damage that he did to my mouth in that moment. It's probably why I don't play so much golf now. I mean, I play a little bit and I'm awesome. I'm incredible, not, but I play a little bit when we've got the four or five great days of weather that we have in the summertime here in Buffalo. But in the off season when you can't really go outside, there are these golf simulators where... You know what I'm talking about? Where you can just go in and you can play, and you can put in any course you wanna put in, and you get to hit it into this screen, and it tells you how far it went, and you're playing the course. It's really pretty cool for when you have to be indoors. And a friend of mine has invited me a few different times to go with him, and we've gone and played on this simulator, and you can put in any course you want to. It's Pebble Beach, right? It's definitely not Pebble Beach, but it's Pebble Beach on the computer, or Oakmont, or Oak Hill, or wherever, right? It's really, really awesome. But do you know what the greatest feature on this entire indoor golf simulator thing is? That I can hit an absolutely atrocious shot. Horrible. And I walk right over to the screen and I press a button that says Mulligan. And I get to completely do that bad boy all over again. It literally undoes my terrible, awful, horrible shot. That, friends, is how you play golf, right there. That is how you do it. I love thinking about being able to undo things. There's something so satisfying about it. Sometimes, when I'm writing a sermon, or I'm writing an article, or I'm writing a story, I may be going, and I'm going, and I'm going, and then I think to myself, "I don't really like what I'm doing here. This isn't any good. This story I'm writing here, it's not any good." And in Microsoft Word, in the top left corner, there's an icon that looks like this. And do you know what it's called? Undo. It is fantastic. There is something so satisfying about scrolling up to the top corner and hitting Undo, and I can literally undo a bad story. How great is that? Have you ever wondered: What would it be like if I had that ability in my own life to undo some of my own bad stories? Like maybe be able to undo some things that you're ashamed of now or that you regret. Maybe undo some things that you've said, maybe in anger or hurt, to people. Maybe undo some heart attitudes that you had or maybe undo the fear that has plagued or characterized your life. Or maybe undo the direction that your off-the-rails life has actually ended up going. If that's you, or maybe even if it's not and you don't realize it yet, I've got some really good news for you. Today is a great day for you to be here because what we're doing is we're celebrating the resurrection of Jesus, and here's why that's such good news. Because the resurrection of Jesus can undo your bad story. That's what we learned today. The resurrection of Jesus can undo your bad story. But too often, when we talk about Easter, we talk about the resurrection of Jesus and celebrating it on Easter, it's really just kind of a day in the calendar year that's kind of a pretext or a stage for us to be able to just have some people over, and cook some good food, and hang around for a little while, right? It's like we kinda lost sometimes what it's actually about what it means, and I'm afraid that there are people that don't really know what Easter really means. It's like the children's worker in church that was talking to the kids and asking them if they knew what Easter was. And one little boy raised his hand and he said, "Yeah, it's when my aunts and uncles come over, and we eat lots of food, and we watch football." The teacher said, "I think you're talking about Thanksgiving." Another little boy went, "Yeah, it's not that. It's when we put stockings up like on our mantle, and we sometimes bring a tree in, and we give each other gifts." And the teacher says, "No, I think you're talking about Christmas." And then one little girl says, "No, that's not it. I know what Easter is. Easter's about when Jesus was hung on a Cross and then put in a tomb for three days." And the teacher's like, "Yes, thank you. Somebody's gotten it right." But then the kid keeps talking and says, and then after that, everyone gathers around the tomb, and they wait to see if Jesus comes out and sees his shadow. My guess is, is that you know better what Easter is about, but I wonder sometimes if maybe you only think about Easter as an incredible miracle that God did in raising Jesus back to life. Which, by the way, it was every bit of that. It was an astonishing thing that Jesus was dead on Friday, but on Sunday, was risen from the dead. It is an overwhelming miracle of God, for sure. But I wonder. I wonder if we really think about the implications of what this miracle means in our real everyday lives. 'Cause for some of us, this is the only time we show up at church. It's like we'll say, "What's up?" to Jesus on Easter. I know I'm here every week, right? And that's just kind of sometimes what we do. I get it. But probably, when you do that, it's because you don't understand the real implications for your everyday life and what that really ultimately means. See, I'm here today. My job here today is to tell you that the resurrection of Jesus is so meaningful and so powerful that it can actually reverse the course of your life. The resurrection of Jesus, in other words, can undo your bad story. Now, to show you what I mean, I'm gonna take you to a garden. Actually, I'm gonna take you to two to be precise, but we're gonna start in the garden where it's the setting for where Jesus was resurrected from the dead. You might remember that Jesus was crucified, and when He was crucified on that Friday, it was near to a place where He would ultimately be buried. Jesus ended up ultimately dying on the Cross, and the Roman guards made sure that He was dead. They put a spear through His side where blood and water flowed and they made sure that He was actually dead. But once confirming that, a man named Joseph who was from a town called Arimathea, he actually came to the ruling governor there who was kind of controlling Jerusalem, who was a Roman named Pontius Pilate. And he asked Pontius Pilate if he could have Jesus' body so that he could bury him. Now, along with Joseph, the guy from Arimathea was a man named Nicodemus who was also a teacher of the law. And together, they were going to take Jesus' body and give him a dignified burial. And here's how John's gospel actually tells us how this unfolded is in John 19, beginning of verse 40. It says, "Taking Jesus' body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. And at the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there." See, these men, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, wanted to give Jesus the dignity of a proper burial. But like everyone else, they were sure that Jesus was never to be heard from again. I mean, even some of Jesus' closest followers, like a woman named Mary who was from a town called Magdala. That's why she was called Mary Magdalene because she was from a town called Magdala. Not even she believed that she was ever gonna hear from Jesus again. I mean, after all, you saw what happened on Friday. He was dead, and death is just final, and that was that. But John's gospel records actually what happens next. It's the beginning of Chapter 20, it says this. "Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one who Jesus loved, that's John, and said, 'They've taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don't know where they have put him.'" See, Mary assumes, actually, that the grave has been robbed and Jesus' body has been stolen. And so she goes and she ends up telling the other disciples, she runs to tell them. And then what they do is they run to check out if he's there or if he's not, and they go and learn that he's not there. And then they leave and she's still there in the garden by herself next to the tomb. And here's how John records that story. It says, now, Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white seated where Jesus' body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. And the angels asked her, "Woman, why are you crying?" "They've taken my Lord away," she said, "and I don't know where they've put him." And at this, she turned around and she saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. Jesus asked her, "Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?" And thinking that Jesus was the gardener, she said, "Sir, if you've carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him." And Jesus said to her, "Mary." And she turned toward him and she cried out in Aramaic, her language, "Rabboni!" which means teacher. And Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I'm ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'" And Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news, "I have seen the Lord!" And she told them that he had said these things to her. What a remarkable story. Mary is in a garden crying, thinking about everything that has transpired. Have you ever been in that place? I'm not talking about the garden that she was actually in. I'm not saying, "Have you literally been there?" I'm saying, "Have you ever been in that emotional place of having something happen in your life, maybe something really difficult happened in your life, and you're just kind of sitting there trying to make sense of it all?" Wondering, "What happened?" Sometimes, in those moments, what can creep in is fear. Fear can show itself in the questions that we hear ourselves asking. What has happened to my life? Where do I go from here? Or maybe even even along with fear comes maybe shame or regret. And maybe we start thinking things like, "What if I would've done this or that? Would this have happened? If I would've made this choice, would this have been the outcome?" I'm guessing we've all been in that place. And I'm guessing also Mary was in that exact place in that exact moment. She was standing in the garden and she was crying, and I don't think she was just thinking about the indignity of Jesus' body being gone. In her mind, she thought, "Somebody's taken his body," and she's probably crying thinking about the indignity of that. But my guess is that she's probably thinking about everything. She's probably thinking about what her life was like. I don't know if you know anything about her background, but it was awful. She was tormented. This was a woman who the Bible records as being filled with demons, seven to be exact, and she was living life every single day tormented in her life until she met Jesus. And in meeting Jesus, everything changed. Her whole life changed. Everything was turned upside down. She'd never been seen like she was seen by Jesus. She'd never been loved with such a pure and a holy love. But now, Jesus is gone, and I'm sure that that fear was very present with her. Not just the fear that she wouldn't see his body again, but the fear that death brings over all of us, right? The fear that death just kind of tells us, "Everything is so final, that's the end of the road." And I'm guessing it wasn't just fear, but she was probably also dealing with some sense of maybe shame or regret. You think she was probably wondering, "Was all this for nothing? Like, I followed after him, and he kept pointing to things that were to come, and telling us about the kingdom of God, and now he's dead, and I don't even see his body anymore. Somebody stolen it, the indignity of it all." She's probably wondering what all her friends would say from Magdala because she left that place a different person to follow after Jesus. I wonder if she thought to herself, "Am I gonna fall back into being who I was before I knew him? Am I destined for a life of torment? Well, I have to hide from everyone that I know because they're gonna look at me and say she was wrong about him. Will I have to hide from God because of the things that I've done that I thought maybe were forgiven, but maybe they're actually not?" These are the things that she's dealing with, fear and shame in a garden. Does that story sound familiar to anybody? Fear and shame in a garden? It may sound familiar to you if you're familiar with the Bible at all, but maybe you're not, and that's okay. We're so glad that you're here. But I want to remind you that Mary's story, it's actually just a micro story of a much bigger story. The story of all of us. See, Mary's story is our story, and it's like a small story of the picture of the story of humanity. Why do I say that? I say that because John's gospel gives us clues that that's what he's talking about. You see, in the very beginning of John's gospel, he starts it, very, very beginning of the Book of John. He starts it this way with these words. "In the beginning..." Have you heard those words before? I bet you have because it's on the first page of every Bible ever printed in Genesis 1. It says, "In the beginning..." You see, what John is doing right from the beginning of his gospel is he's calling our minds back to the idea of creation. Because what he's gonna present to us is an idea of new creation. And then when he says on the first day of the week where Jesus had risen from the dead, he uses that terminology. Do you know what that is? That's Genesis language again. Now, he's not only talking about in the beginning, but he's bookending it now by talking about the very first day of the week. And he's using the language of Genesis and the story of creation to point us to a new creation of sorts. You see, the reason Jesus was in a grave that was in a garden is because the first humans made a grave out of a garden. Maybe you remember that story, right? In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, and the earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the surface of the deep, and the spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And then God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. It was a reminder to us that God had made everything, created everything: sun, moon, stars, earth, plants, sea, fish, animals, and then the pinnacle of his creation, human beings, and our first forebearers called Adam and Eve, male and female, he made them, and he placed them in a garden in a place called Eden. These humans were given the opportunity to enjoy the place that they were in the garden. The garden was filled with trees, and fruit, and all that stuff. And God said, "Have at it. Climb trees, shake them, eat, snack. Whatever you want, you can have everything. It's all available to you except one. There's one. It's called the knowledge of the tree, of the knowledge of good and evil. Do not, do not eat from that." Now, they didn't realize that God was saying that for their good, but God was saying that for their good. But you know how the story went. There's a serpent that enters in that can talk because it's personifying Satan himself, and he deceives the woman and basically says to her, "Did God really say that? It seems like God's holding out on you." That's my paraphrase. "It seems like God's holding out on you." And so she decides she's gonna eat, but she brings the man with her, and he's not deceived, he's just disobedient. She's deceived, he's a rebel. And they both eat. And after they disobeyed God, notice how the story portrays what happened to them in Genesis 3. Says, "When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized that they were naked; so they sowed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord, the Lord God, as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, 'Where are you?' And the man answered, 'I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.'" Fear, shame, hiding. That's what we inherited. Right there. The result of their sin was devastating to them and devastating to their relationship with God. And that sin, by the way, came with a curse, one of them I really love because it was a curse toward the serpent. Not only did he say, "You're just gonna slither around on your belly," but he said, "You think that you are gonna do something evil. And I wanna remind you that there's an offspring coming from this woman's womb, and this offspring that's coming, he's gonna fix all of this. And you're going to bruise his heel, but he's going to crush your head." But then there were curses that were associated with the woman and the man, with childbearing for the woman and then with the man about working outside of the garden, and that the ground was gonna be filled with thorns, and it was gonna be hard, and you'd have to work by the sweat of your brow. And not only with those curses came, but they also were banished from the garden. Listen to how Genesis records it. "So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. And after he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim, that's talking about angels, and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life." You see, what God did in his mercy is to make sure that they couldn't get back in, eat from the tree of life, and forever be in a state of cursed sinfulness. He put angels with a flaming sword to guard the entrance to Eden and he banished them. You see, what happened to that day is in a real way, death occurred for Adam and Eve, a broken fellowship with God, a spiritual separation, a spiritual death that would ultimately result in physical death. And so what happened is this. They left a grave, so to speak, in a garden. And friends, we felt the effects of this ever since. We've all been cursed with sinful natures. We inherit them by birth no matter who we are. Some of you're thinking to yourself, "Not me." You're the case in point. No matter how beautifully behaved your children were when they were little, here's what you didn't do. You didn't have to teach them how to lie. You didn't sit down with them, give them a little seminar. Here's Lying 101, Junior. They just knew how to do it. You didn't have to teach them how to be selfish when they were playing with their toys and they said, "Mine." You didn't teach them to do that. You were trying to tell them not to do that. But that comes part of the wiring. It is part of the package of what it means to be human. And although we try to convince other people and we try to convince ourselves that we're really awesome, we all know actually deep down inside of us, sometimes our thoughts are vile, and angry, and selfish, and hateful. And sometimes, so are our behaviors. We actually do know. We actually do know that we have all sinned if we just pause to think about it for more than a second. We know. We know we failed. We know we haven't measured up. We know that we have sinned. And do you know what that sin causes? It causes a broken fellowship with God. We've experienced the curse of sin and we have been banished from fellowship with God, and we have no hope on our own to get back in. Just as you saw in the garden, angels with flaming swords saying, "No chance to get back in here," we have no hope on our own to get back in. And what our sin does is it naturally causes fear, and shame, and hiding of various sorts. Maybe we try and hide our sin from people to make them think how great we are. Maybe we try and hide it from God. Maybe we try to hide from God. That's why, friends, the resurrection of Jesus matters so much to us for our everyday lives. It's why Mary's hope is actually our hope. It's why this bad and tragic story of humanity can be undone by what Jesus has accomplished. 

 We actually do know. We actually do know that we have all sinned if we just pause to think about it for more than a second. We know. We know we failed. We know we haven't measured up. We know that we have sinned. And do you know what that sin causes? It causes a broken fellowship with God. We've experienced the curse of sin, and we have been banished from fellowship with God, and we have no hope on our own to get back in. Just as you saw in the garden, angels with flaming swords saying, "No chance to get back in here," we have no hope on our own to get back in. And what our sin does is it naturally causes fear, and shame, and hiding of various sorts. Maybe we try and hide our sin from people to make them think how great we are. Maybe we try and hide it from God. Maybe we try to hide from God. That's why, friends, the resurrection of Jesus matters so much to us for our everyday lives. It's why Mary's hope is actually our hope. It's why this bad and tragic story of humanity can be undone by what Jesus has accomplished. You see, John's gospel shows us a different story. It shows us a better story. It's as if John portrays Mary as the new Eve, sad, crying in a garden, and dealing with her own fear, and shame, and maybe even her desire to hide. But instead of in that garden having angels with flaming swords that are keeping her from it, there are angels in the empty tomb where Jesus was pointing her back into the garden. She isn't kicked out. She's invited in. And while she remains in this garden where she is, she turns around from the tomb and her crying, and she sees Jesus standing there. And she doesn't know it's him. She thinks he's the gardener. And guess what? She's not altogether wrong. You remember Adam? He was given charge of the garden, and his charge was, was to extend the garden as far out as the rivers flow. That Adam was functionally a gardener, a caretaker, but he failed in his assignment. He rebelled against the Lord. He disobeyed God. That's why this story is so great because who Jesus is, is He's the new and better Adam. The New Testament calls him the Second Adam, that where Adam failed, Jesus succeeded. Jesus obeyed the Lord perfectly. He never wavered, He never sinned, and as a result of that, He was the only one that through His perfect life, could offer His life for everyone who is imperfect so that God could pour out His just wrath and His justice against sin. Because a God who doesn't judge sin is a God that we do not want to be a part of. And God in His justice, pours it out on the one who didn't deserve it, who was standing in our place because we deserved it. This is the good news of what Jesus has done on our behalf so that he could ultimately undo these things. See, that's why when Jesus went to a Cross right before he went. The soldiers took thorns of the ground and made a mocking crown out of it, and placed it on Jesus' head. But do you know what that was teaching the world? That this is the beautiful, perfect son of God, taking the curse of humanity sin upon Himself so that He could reverse the curse, He could undo the curse, and set us free from the power and the guilt of sin and reconcile us to God. Jesus was raised to life in a garden to give us a demonstration that He was, in fact, a new kind of Adam, whom everyone who believes can be remade for the life that they were actually destined for. You see, when we look at Mary in the garden, it's as if we can see her fear and her shame just evaporating before us when she realizes that standing next to her is, in fact, Jesus. And do you know when she realized it was Jesus? When He said her name. He said, "Mary." Much like Adam, who actually named the woman Eve because she would be the mother of all the living, now Jesus calls Mary's name as if she will be, in type, the mother of a new living kind of person, the person who trust in what Jesus has done by His death on the Cross for sin, and through His resurrection from the grave that He can reconcile us to the Father by that death and resurrection. See, instead of God calling out to Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, "Where are you?" Because they were hiding. Jesus undoes that story, and now asks a different question of Mary. "Who is it you're looking for?" He says. Because she doesn't need to hide anymore. She's on the lookout to find Jesus. And I can sure tell you Jesus isn't hiding because no grave or stone could hide His body for long. Because now, in seeing Jesus, Mary doesn't feel hopeless anymore, but hope rises up in her. And now, when she looks at it, she looks at Jesus. She's not face to face with judgment, but she sees in his eyes the very mercy of God. She doesn't now see Jesus as condemning her, but now realizes that the forgiveness of sins that she thought she had, she really does have. It's total and it's complete because He's done what He said He was going to do. She's not banished from the garden, she's welcomed into it. She doesn't get consigned to death, but instead comes to life in a way that she's never known before. And her story can be our story because of Jesus' resurrection, friends. See, there's a garden and a grave in Eden and there's a garden and a grave in Jerusalem. But that grave in Jerusalem that held Jesus' body is empty. The stone is rolled away not so Jesus could get out. Are you kidding me? Do you think an aging rock could hold the rock of ages? The stone wasn't moved so He could get out. It was moved so that we could come in, so that we could experience the fact that Jesus is alive. And because He's alive, He has the power to undo our bad stories. See, Jesus' death was a death for you. It was in your place. Te judgment you deserved, Jesus took on for you, because our sin separates us from God and our sin will result in spiritual death. It will result in the proper judgment of our sin, it will result in our banishment from fellowship with God, and we cannot get back on our own. But God so loved the world and so loved you that He gave His only son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but will have everlasting life. He died in your place and for your sake, and He was raised up so that now, by faith in what He's done, you can be forgiven, you can be made new. You can be justified before God. God sent Jesus to undo our bad stories. That's what I'm here to tell you today. So... So no matter what your mistakes, or your regrets, or your sins, the ones you realize and the ones you don't, His mercy and His grace is bigger and stronger than all of them. Only Jesus has the power to undo your story that has you on the road to destruction. Even if you're sitting there thinking, "My life's not on the road to destruction, I'm doing pretty good. I drive a nice car, have a nice family, all that stuff." Listen, you may just be on the path of ease, on the way to eternal destruction. But Jesus is the only one that has the power to undo your direction in the road of destruction and bring you to new life. And here's why I know. He's done it for me. I'm not just up here talking. You think I came out of the womb a preacher? I lived hard for a while, and Jesus rescued me. He came to where I was, and He saved me, and He lifted me up out of the mud in the mire, and He set my feet upon a rock and He gave me a firm place to stand. I know it to be true about my own life. You asked me how I know He lives. He lives inside of me. And I know it's true for hundreds and thousands more that have listened to my words today. And it's also true for Rich and Yvonne. Take a look at their story.

- My name is Rich Carroll. Can I get a grande latte, please? My father was a mechanic, hard worker, and I learned the value of hard work from him. That's how we related. But my father was also an alcoholic. And I watched him as he went through the withdrawal process, and he didn't make it through that, and I watched my father pass away. I had never had a drink in my life when I was 17. I enlisted in the Army when I went away from training, and it didn't take very long for me to find out about alcohol. And that's when it started. And after a period of time, I met my soon-to-be wife, and we were married in 1992. But after 18 years, she had had enough of it. She had had enough of the drinking, the lack of love in our marriage, the selfishness that I was exhibiting. All of those things added up to divorce. On October 30th, 2015, I got down on my knees and I just admitted to God that although I had tried in so many different ways to get rid of that addiction, to walk away from alcohol abuse, I couldn't do it on my own. I needed Him. And to this day, I don't know how it happened, other than it was God. I woke up that next morning and that addiction was gone. The thirst, the hunger for it, the psychological need for it, the physical need for it was gone. From there, God continued to rebuild our relationship. God stepped into my life, and I still cannot believe how quickly He started to turn that life around. He undid the mess that I made of my life. May 27th, 2017, my wife and I remarried each other.

- When we came back together, we focused on prayer. Focused on God. And we knew only through Him that this could be accomplished.

- There was fertile ground there for our relationship to be regrown. All of a sudden, we were both deciding we need to get back to church. God drew me to Him and caused me to go through the waters of baptism. Mission trip, other things, working on my spiritual formation, so that I was ready to be the husband that she needed.

- He's... done a complete 180 as a husband, as a father.

- We were divorced for seven years, but God wasn't done with us.

- God can restore, even in the face of an addiction.

- He undid everything that we had destroyed and put it all back together, and we were married to each other again.

- What an incredible story, huh? An incredible story about how the resurrected Jesus can bring dead things back to life, dead people back to spiritual life. That's the beauty. And I know that there are thousands of stories that I've been talking to today and you're thinking, "Jerry, you couldn't possibly know my story." And you're right. Or maybe I do. 'Cause I think, really, we all have just one of two stories. Either like the rest of humanity, we've left a garden and we've entered a grave, or we've put our trust in Jesus and we've left a grave to walk with Him in a garden. It's one of those two. You see, when we put our trust in Jesus, and we turn from our sin, and place our faith in what He's done for us on the Cross and through His death and resurrection, you can not only know new life now, forgiveness, and new life, and hope right now, but you can also have the assurance of life forever with Him. And He told us He's going to return. And when He does, He's gonna bring new creation with Him. And do you know what it looks like? A garden city where there are no graves. That's what's standing in front of us. But, the Scripture tells us that we've all sinned and come short of the glory of God, and we can't possibly save ourselves anymore, that Adam and Eve could force their way back into the garden. Only God can do that for us. Only God can open that door. And do you know where that door is? It's Jesus. He said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." There is only one name under heaven by which anyone can be saved, and it is the name of Jesus. And I cannot think of a better day than Resurrection Sunday and a better place than here. That if you've never settled that issue in your own heart of entrusting your life to Jesus, turning from trusting in yourself or your sin, or thinking that you could somehow earn your way into God's presence, leaving all of that behind and trusting in the mercy that God has shown you in what He's done through Jesus. When you put your faith in Him, I can't think of a better place than here and a better time than now for you to do that. So if you would, would you just bow your heads with me for a moment? I don't know exactly where you are in your own life, but if you've never before really genuinely entrusted your life to Jesus, turned from your sin and put your faith in Him, then would you do that today? I stand here as just an emissary of the Lord just asking, "Would you do that today?" Because His arms stand wide open, ready to receive you and to embrace you. And if you say, "Well, Jerry, I don't really know how to do that." Well, you simply ask Him by faith. "I don't really know what to say." I'll help you with that. But understand that my words aren't magic. You just need to make these sentiments your own, with your own faith in your own heart. But if that's your desire to have sins forgiven and to be made new, to know that you can be different in the now and that you can have a home for the future when we pass from this life, instead of being separated from Him, then maybe just pray this in your heart right now if you mean it. Just by faith, pray something along the lines of these words silently in your heart. "Lord, Jesus, I know that I've sinned and I can't save myself. I believe you died for my sin, and you died because of my sin. And I believe that you rose from the dead, conquering sin, and hell, and the judgment. So with all the faith that I have, I put my trust in you to save me, and forgive me, and change me."

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Subject: Easter Sunday 2024

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