Editor’s note: Have you looked at www.CTAinc.com lately? You’ll find more than a dozen themes for Easter preparation! There are devotion books, family activities, send-home gifts, and much more! This week’s devotion is slightly adapted from the FREE sermon outlines that accompany This Is Love, one of CTA’s themes for the Easter season.
What do The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia, and Back to the Future all have in common?
Among other commonalities, each is an epic story, a saga - complete with sequels, prequels, and the involvement of multiple generations of characters.
Each has become a legend, inviting us to wonder, not just about the characters currently on the screen and their life stories, but also about their parents, their grandparents, their children and grandchildren. How does each character fit into the story line as that story stretches across decades and even centuries? Questions like that keep us buying tickets as each new episode is released.
Each episode, each generation, has its own story to tell. Which heroes will become villains? Which villains will become heroes? Yes, each episode has its own story to tell, but each episode also adds much of significance to the ongoing, overarching story, too.
Have you ever thought about the Christian faith in terms like that? In terms of an epic story, a multigenerational legend like that? The story of your faith family is in fact very much like that. Furthermore, judging by the comments coming from the apostles - especially in the Book of Acts - the story of our faith family arguably should be seen like that, like a multigenerational legend. This legend is true in every detail and, as yet, unfinished. The story still goes on.
As the apostles explained the meaning of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection to the people of their day, they frequently referred back to all that had led up to these momentous events. The history they recounted was, as we might say today, a prequel or a series of prequels. All of Old Testament history culminated in Jesus’ ministry and in what Jesus accomplished for us. Those events point in one direction - toward faith in the Promised One, in Messiah, the Savior to come. The prophets spoke in ways sometimes subtle and often bold. Their message was a prequel to the message so familiar to us today:
We will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus (Acts 15:11 ESV).
Behind those 11 words stands God’s unshakable love for you. Behind those 11 words stands all of biblical history from beginning to end:
- God’s creation of the universe - as a home for us, members of his family
- God’s promise to send Messiah, the Savior, after his first people, Adam and Eve, rebelled
- God’s adoption of Abraham - as the father of the faithful and of the one unique Descendant (or Offspring - Galatians 3:16) through whom God would keep his promise of salvation
- God’s call and continuing care in the lives of Abraham’s descendants down through the centuries. These people were prophets, priests, and kings, people like Moses, Ruth, Samuel, David, Elijah, Ezra, and so many, many others.
- God’s sending his own Son, Jesus, on the first Christmas to be the ultimate Prophet, Priest, and King - our Savior from sin
- Jesus’ sinless life, agonizing death, and glorious resurrection on our behalf
Peter summed this all up in his Acts 3 sermon:
All the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, “And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed” (Acts 3:24–25 ESV).
The prophets promised a Savior. The covenant of Abraham promised salvation, forgiveness, restoration, a living relationship with the living God. It is an epic saga! Prequels - in ancient history. Sequels - in church history. And through it all, the ongoing story of our faith family, the account of where we have come from and where we are going. Like Peter’s first-century audience, you and I are the “sons of the prophets,” heirs of the message they proclaimed. “This is love,” we too proclaim, as we point to the cross of Christ and to his empty tomb.
This story of our faith family is an uplifting story, a wonderful story. A temptation lurks here though. In our “me, me, me” generation, we may be inclined to see in this story just one more nudge toward self-centeredness, just one more invitation to conceit and selfishness.
That is, though, just the opposite of what our Lord intends. The path of self-centeredness leads in a direction that contrasts sharply with the direction our Savior would have us take in these days leading up to Easter. Instead of selfishness, we move toward community, faith community. We move toward love. Authentic love. We look toward our Savior’s cross and the sin he bore there for us and remind ourselves, “This is love!”
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