With most celebrations of Easter this year wrapping up shortly for Christians (Orthodox Easter is Sunday, April 24), an evangelical faith leader shared thoughts for leading an invigorating new life, spiritually and otherwise, beyond the most sacred holiday, now that “God in Christ did all the heavy lifting” for believers.
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Rev. Samuel Rodriguez of California noted that “after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension into heaven, many of his followers began traveling to Jerusalem, Nazareth, Bethlehem, the Mount of Olives and the Sea of Galilee as a way of recalling sacred events, heavenly miracles, divine prophecies and revelations.”
Rodriguez, who heads up the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, shared thoughts with Fox News Digital via email. (The Christian leader was born to Puerto Rican parents here in the U.S.)
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Rodriguez said that many of the followers of Jesus were aware that “God had lived as a man in these very locales.”
And so, with great eagerness, “they traveled the same roads, visited the same synagogues and worshipped at the place of his crucifixion and the cave believed to have been His three-day tomb.”
It is why, said Rodriguez, that still to this very day, “Christians visit what is now called the ‘Holy Land’ to see the places where Jesus spent His time on earth.”
“Before believers undertook any of these pilgrimages, the Bible indicates that God designated some sites as sacred,” Rodriguez shared with Fox News Digital.
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“Such is the case for Gilgal, a place identified in the Old Testament as memorable for several significant reasons. When the Israelites finally reached the Promised Land after their forty years of wandering in the desert, Moses had died and God chose Joshua to take command.”
After that, “God told Joshua, ‘Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you’ (Joshua 5:9).”
These instructions, said Rodriguez, “shared a clear message to the younger generations: These newly circumcised men were getting another chance, a fresh start. They were now accomplishing what their ancestors did not.”
He said this is why “Easter celebrations provide us an emotional Gilgal — God’s way of allowing us to come clean before Him and start anew. It is as if the calendar is reset to begin a new year, a fresh beginning, a reboot of the spiritual system we have been running in the hard drive of the soul.”
On Easter Sunday, when Christians recognize the resurrection of Jesus and the impact that has on our lives, he said, “we are not only creating an altar to praise and thank God for getting us to this point — we also remember that God completely separated us from who we used to be. Our past sins, failures, shame and fear no longer define us.”
Instead, he said, “we discover God extends grace if we will only stop to take hold of it.”
This is why “God is now telling you that nothing in your past can stop your anointed future.”
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Rodriguez said the Easter message can be summed up “in one sentence: ‘Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!’ (2 Corinthians 5:17).”
“Your heavenly Father tells you he rolled the stone away from the grave, removing the shame, condemnation and pain,” he added.
Rodriguez offered further words of hope and faith: “When you remember the resurrection, God reminds you … that you are now his beloved son or daughter. You are not what you have done or left undone. You are not who others say you are or want you to be.”
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“God gives you His dream for your life, and the pain of your past becomes hope for a better future.”
“God in Christ did all the heavy lifting,” he said.
“Now, you are responsible for deciding whether you will delay the glorious adventure God has for you or take the next step.”