As we approach Easter, many of us are observing Lent in some way, either by participating in an act of self-deprivation or by dedicating ourselves to Bible study and prayer. We do these things to remind ourselves of the sacrifice that Jesus made on our behalf in His suffering and death on the cross. I believe that it is wise to dedicate a portion of the year to this remembrance because I find that as I live my life, I can become too bogged down with the demands of daily living to really focus on and remember the sufferings of Christ. And yet, we also do a disservice to God’s ultimate act of love when we consign it to a single moment in history that has passed. Yes, the action happened once and was sufficient to fulfill God’s plan for the redemption of the world, but the implications of Easter far surpass the three-day span on a hillside outside Jerusalem some two thousand years ago. The Gospel, the Good News of the resurrection of Christ, had implications for the disciples and those around Jesus, but it also has a significant impact on my life and yours as believers in 2015. Jesus has given us victory over death and the grave. “Then the saying will come true: ‘Death swallowed by triumphant Life! Who got the last word, oh, Death? Oh, Death, who’s afraid of you now?’ It was sin that made death so frightening and law-code guilt that gave sin its leverage, its destructive power. But now in a single victorious stroke of Life, all three – sin, guilt, death – are gone, the gift of our Master, Jesus Christ. Thank God!” (1 Corinthians 15:55-57, The Message). When you read this passage, don’t you just want to throw a party and celebrate? From the time that Adam and Eve bought into the temptation of the serpent in the garden, people have been enslaved to sin. But through the work of Christ on the cross, and in His resurrection from the dead, “in a single victorious stroke of Life,” Jesus changed all of that! Yes, we will all face death someday, as long as Jesus tarries. Sickness, disease, sin, and all the heartache they bring are still an ever-present reality in our world. But for those of us in Christ, the fear of these things is gone. In Christ, we have the hope of heaven. We know that He has already had the final victory of which we are only seeing the first-fruits. It is “the gift of our Master, Jesus Christ.” Praise the Lord! As believers, we can have victory over sin and all its strongholds. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, NIV). We each face strongholds in life, whether food, shopping, drug abuse, or the need for approval. Sin and temptation lurk around every corner and are always within our reach. As believers, we have a choice. We can give in to the temptations in front of us and live with the guilt and shame they inevitably bring, or we can choose victory over sin through Christ. When Jesus died on the cross, He took the penalty of sin away, and through His resurrection, He gave us the ability to stand firm against Satan’s strategies to keep us in bondage. Walking away from sin and temptation is not easy especially if it is a long-term, ongoing struggle, but with God’s grace and help, it is possible. If you are facing a stronghold today, I am praying for you. Seek help from a trusted Christian friend or counselor, and commit today to putting the past behind you. Move forward in the grace of Christ! We have confidence as we approach God in prayer because Jesus is there interceding for us. “In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence” (Ephesians 3:12, NIV). In the past few weeks, I have prayed many things, but more often I find myself bringing requests to God not knowing exactly how to pray. Sometimes my emotions overwhelm me, and I don’t have the words that I need. It is through those moments that I am ever more aware that Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father, and along with the Holy Spirit, He brings my requests to God. Jesus prays on our behalf. How absolutely amazing is that? When we don’t know what or how to pray, He does. When we can’t find the perfect words, He does. Even when we don’t pray rightly, asking for things that are not ours to ask, He prays perfectly for our needs. We cannot mess up when we pray because Jesus has committed to stand in the gap for us. We can live today in full confidence and faith because Jesus finished the work He was sent to do. “My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you’ve been given. You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live him. You’re deeply rooted in him. You’re well-constructed upon him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you’ve been taught. School’s out; quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving” (Colossians 2:6-7, The Message). Easter reminds us of the hope to come in an eternity in heaven and that we are free from the sting of death. But don’t lose sight of the freedom we enjoy today because of Jesus’ sacrificial death. God has given us grace for today for living now. I love the passage above – “School’s out; quit studying the subject and start living it!” God intends for you and me to live victoriously today as people who know the land has already been conquered, the battle has already been won – because it has! It is this truth that enables us to move past our strongholds and to have confidence in prayer. Christ has won the victory! Easter is a joyful celebration of all that Christ did that weekend in Jerusalem, of all that He is doing now to work and shape our lives in 2015, and of all that He will do when He brings us to His Kingdom in the future. We have reason to celebrate this Easter. Jesus finished the work of the Father. He has called us to Himself, has given us so many good gifts through His grace and mercy, and has allowed us to live a victorious life now while looking forward to ultimate victory in heaven. Thanks be to God!