By: Pastor Keith Castleberry | Victory Church – A United Pentecostal Church
1. Easter Sunday is right around the corner. In today’s culture, amongst the egg-hunts, candy, and frilly dresses, the true meaning of Easter can be overlooked. Could you offer some clarity concerning the real reason we celebrate Easter?
Our New Testament Easter (Acts 12:4) corresponds to the Old Testament Passover (Exodus 12), which dates back to the night the Jews were to leave Egypt. As long as the blood of the sacrificial lamb was applied to the door post of the home, in which the Jews prepared for their exodus, the death angel would pass over the home and not slay the first born. This is a type of the blood of Jesus Christ applied to the doorpost of our hearts and the death of the lamb slain for our redemption (1 Corinthians 5:7). Easter is not a celebration of the cross, or of the grave, for if that was the end, Easter would not be complete nor a celebration, but the resurrection is where the true hope comes into play; anyone can die and be buried, but only Jesus came to life again, thus declaring a power not seen in mortal men before (Romans 1:4). Our Easter, a holiday of new life, is our celebration of the true life we find though and in Jesus Christ. By his death, burial and especially the resurrection, Jesus Christ conquered death, hell and the grave (Revelation 1:18) and those of us that choose to follow him are given opportunity to new life through obedience to the gospel (John 15:14). What a great opportunity and reason to celebrate!
2. Why did Jesus have to die and come back to life?
Jesus Christ is our Savior due to the sacrifice he paid at Calvary. As the perfect lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8) only he could pay the price required to remit the sins of lost souls (Luke 1:77, 24:47, Acts 2:38, Romans 3:25). The blood sacrifice of Calvary was precedented first by the blood sacrifice made by God for the covering of the sins of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21) and again accepted and respected by God himself when Abel brought a blood sacrifice (Genesis 4:4). These and more early sacrifices, throughout the Old Testament, show us the need for the blood, but the blood of animals was never enough. It was only the sacrifice of this perfect Lamb, Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:19), that could wash away the sins of humanity. In writing to the church, the Apostles stated multiple times that the Church was bought by the blood of Jesus (Romans 5:9, Ephesians 1:7, Colossians 1:14). His blood, as seen in the shadows of old, serves to sanctify our hearts to serve the living God (Hebrews 9:14) when we obey the gospel preached by the Apostles (John 17:20). According to Hebrews 2:14, Jesus’ experience was more than just a sacrifice of blood, but was to take the power of death and hell from the devil, thus purchasing hope for the church. While much of mankind spends their life in fear of death, Jesus gave us power over that fear (Hebrews 2:15). Though the death of Jesus Christ was necessary, the resurrection holds the promise of life and that eternal (Hebrews 9:15).
3. What are your goals as a Pastor on Easter Sunday?
More than anything, Easter Sunday at Victory Church is to celebrate the salvation we have through Jesus Christ and to teach all people the good news, that Jesus Christ loved humanity so much that he came to earth, lived to experience our struggle, died for our sins, was buried and rose again, all for our salvation and hope. We Christians celebrate this work by emulating the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus in our own lives (Romans 6:3-6); though everyone has sinned (Romans 3:23), everyone has a door to salvation through Jesus Christ (John 10:9). Our goal is to motivate others to live, like Paul, so they can know the Lord, through not only his death and burial but through His resurrection. In doing this, we encourage all to repent of their sins (death to the flesh – Luke 13:3, Acts 2:38, Acts 17:30), be baptized in Jesus name (Acts 2:38, 8:16, 10:48 & 19:5) and be filled with the Spirit of God (Acts 2:4, 2:38, 8:18, 10:44, 19:6, Ephesians 5:18). In obeying the message preached on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) we follow the pattern set by the early church and Jesus Christ himself (Matthew 3:15). Knowing then that those that are baptized into Jesus Christ, are baptized into his death (Romans 6:3), we place special emphasis on baptism in the name of Jesus Christ. If we can do this through plays, skits, programs or other tools, we will, but the goal should end at the same result, people need to know Jesus in a way that really matters and changes them.
4. How do you keep the true meaning of Easter alive in your home as well as your church?
Though somewhat traditional, Easter Sunday at Victory Church is spent like many other churches; we put forth special effort to reach and support our guest as they reach out to the church, as many only come to church on Easter. But our real effort to keep the true meaning of Easter alive in our home and church comes on a day to day relationship with Jesus Christ. Yes, we do dress in our best, make special preparations, presentations and spend our entire day at the church celebrating on Easter Sunday, and sadly, many do celebrate just that day, but I believe Christians should celebrate Easter with a new life, every day, every week and every year. With the Spirit of God in our hearts, the joy of salvation in our souls, and the hope of eternal life in our minds, we no longer desire what we used to desire, our focus is now, at all times, on the things of God (Ephesians 5:8). So the new life, celebrated only on Easter by many, is our whole life.
5. Some people want to strengthen their relationship with Christ, but simply don’t know where to begin. What are some first steps that you would suggest for these individuals?
As addressed above, and common throughout the New Testament church, we must all repent, be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ and to be filled with the Spirit of God, and this obedience brings peace. Though we do these spiritual things, we remain in the flesh, thus we have to mortify the flesh (Romans 8:13). In order to strengthen our relationship with God, we must often weaken our relationship with the world. John the Baptist set a great example; though having not the Spirit, he served God to the best of his ability, using the simple motto “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). Thus we must abstain from some things that war against the soul first (1 Peter 2:11), then we must embrace the things that bless the work of the Spirit (2 Peter 1:3-8). One thing that is a good medicine for the soul is regular reading and studying of the Word (2 Timothy 2:15-18, 3:16). But possibly the most important thing to strengthen a person’s relationship with Christ is found in simple fellowship with the body, His Church (Ephesians 5:23) and the church has been given the Word, and ministers for the perfecting of the saints, to build up the body (Ephesians 4:11-13). Like a coach at the gym, they should challenge us, push us and perfect us, if they don’t, they aren’t doing their job.
6. Churches are made up of people, and people aren’t perfect. What advice would you give to an individual that is wary of trying church because they were hurt by the church in the past?
Come back, please… we do love you, and we care that you have been hurt before. Yes, there are people that seem to be able to mess up the beauty of the church and yes, there is some hard teaching and preaching that must be endured. But, just like at work or even within our family, that happens. Realize, though, we all do what we want to do; we all go to work because we want the reward of work, we go to the doctor because we desire what the doctor can do for us, and if we want the reward of being part of the body, we will go to church (Ephesians 1:18). If any person wants to be a living part of the body of Christ, a relationship with other parts of the body is demanded (1 Corinthians 12:12-25, Ephesians 4:16). Just as each part of our physical bodies can have less desirable parts, there are parts of the church that seem to be less desirable. We must also recognize another very important fact; there must be flaws, even false teaching, among the church, to expose the beauty of the truth (1 Corinthians 11:19). In other words, the test of persecution, suffering and shame, are not just test from the world, often times they can come from within the church. Find a church that truly loves souls, that is one that preaches against sin and stands for truth no matter what the world does, and there you will find a church that loves you (Hebrews 3:12-13). Neglect feelings, embrace the Word, walk by faith and not by sight. A simple understanding of the divisions of the New Testament will help one understand the need the body has always had for correction and instruction; the New Testament is divided into four types of books, the first is the gospels, conveying the birth, life and sacrifice of Jesus, the second is the book of Acts, which stands alone as the foundational history of the church, and setting an example to the church today, then Romans through Jude tells us, by letters from the apostles to the Church (most addressed “to the church at ___”), correction and instruction on how to live for God and lastly, the book of revelation declares the triumphant end for Christ and His bride (His Church). 21 of the 27 books of the New Testament are directed at instruction or correction of the church. Come back, we love you.
7. What is something that the Lord has been teaching you recently?
It seems that I am a work in progress, with the Lord constantly teaching me something. Of course, many lessons come into focus as we go through trials and seasons in our lives, and lately I’ve been reminded of three points to one simple principle; 1) some things only God can do (healing, miracles, infilling of the Spirit, etc), and some things only we can do (go to work, church, eat, etc) but some things we have to work together on (salvation, works of the church, etc). While scripture is full of the miraculous power of God and humanity has just enough power to work and care for himself, much of the miraculous occurred when humanity, in its weakness, bent to God’s will and way. Whatever you and I are going through, we must recognize that if we do our best, God will do the rest. With the will of God being that we not be satisfied in our present at the cost of our salvation in the future, we must recognize the part we play and never give up on trying to live righteously through all situations. Let God be God, don’t try to manipulate and manage Him for your good, manage yourself for His good and you will be better off. Yes, we must do our best and let God do the rest, but we can’t expect God to carry us when we don’t try.
13107 State Highway 30
College Station, Texas 77845