Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Resurrection: and life

Resurrection: and life

#1 "Resurrection"

RU<C 4/22/12

 

Easter is over, the lilies are gone, we found all the eggs, and the outfits are no longer new; so what is left? 

Before Easter, we talked a lot about Easter.  There was a lot of talk about how important the resurrection was.  There was a lot of talk about the power of the resurrection.  But where's that power now.  Two weeks after Easter, what is left?

What is left of Easter in our culture?  Not much.  The stores replaced the Easter trinkets with the trinkets for the Holiday du jour by 9 am Easter morning.

What is left of Easter In the church?  Outwardly, not much.  The decorations are back to normal.  Attendance is back to normal, the service is even back to normal.

So what difference did Easter make?  I'll tell you the same thing I told you before Easter.  Easter makes all the difference in the world. 

·         The resurrection of Jesus is the pivotal event in all of human history. 

·         The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the critical event in the 2100-year history of the church. 

·         The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most central event in the life of anyone who claims the name "Christian."  

 

Actually, it was Shane and Shelby that encouraged me to plan this series of sermons.  They did such a wonderful job, at the Sonrise service, sharing the difference the resurrection makes in their lives!  They got me to thinking, how would I answer that question in the larger context of the church.  What difference does the resurrection make in our life both individually and as the people of God in this place?  That is where this series of 5 sermons came from.  Today we begin with the resurrection and our identity as Christians.

 

In 1 Corinthians, Paul addressed the same question we do today.    What difference does the resurrection make?

Paul is writing to one of his favorite difficult churches.  If the bishop were to call to appoint a pastor to Corinth today he would say, "I have a CHALLENGE for you".  That would be his code word for, "they have really been a pain in my neck". 

Reading first Corinthians is like reading a menu of all the things that can go wrong in a church.

·         It was having personality conflicts,

·          Power struggles,

·         Ethics probes,

·         And even a personality cult. 

·         They were having trouble with sexual immorality,  

·         With members suing one another, 

·         Arguments about marriage, 

·         Arguments about the church's relationship to the culture,

·         Old timers versus new comers.

·          How to pay the preacher, 

·         How to dress for worship,  

·         How to celebrate communion,

·         Egotism and spiritual pride.

I probably missed some, but those are the big issues Paul discusses in 1 Corinthians before we ever get to the 15th chapter.  I am exhausted just reading that list of problems.   

 

After 14 chapters of struggling through these thorniest of issues, Paul comes to what may be the core doctrinal problem in Corinth.  It seems that some of the Corinthians had come to doubt the reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Actually they had come to doubt the possibility of any resurrection at all.

After all, it had been 20 years since Jesus' Resurrection and nothing more had happened.  At least that was the perspective of the Corinthian Christians.  They didn't have benefit of the Book of Acts as we do.  The Acts of the Apostles wouldn't be written for another 10 years.  Even though we know tremendous things were happening, like healings, prison escapes and dramatic conversions; I can understand their perspective.  As 20 years has now turned into 20 centuries, it is sometimes tempting to wonder if the resurrection "took".  It is sometimes tempting to think that maybe it was all a dream, or a trick or an illusion.

You have to admit the resurrection of Jesus is rather incredible.  We aren't talking about a near death experience, or a guy drowning and being revived.  We are talking about 3 days in the grave.  Three long days in a dark, damp, cave. 

Have you ever seen an un-embalmed body 3 days after death?  I have a couple of times and it is pretty hard to believe that after three days anyone is going to come back to life.  (Actually, I have to wonder if that's why God waited three days.  Any good doctor can bring someone back after 10 minutes.  Any credible mad scientist with a good lightning bolt can bring them back within 24 hours.  It takes GOD to do it after the body has a good start on decomposition.)

I'll be the first to admit- the resurrection is hard to grasp- it is unbelievable, incredible, it is mind boggling.  It is way beyond our science.  But that doesn't mean it didn't happen.  And that doesn't mean we can't believe.

 

In verse 3 Paul says.  "Remember the most important thing I know-- and the most important thing I ever told you:  'Christ died for you, was buried and WAS RAISED ON THE THIRD DAY JUST LIKE THE PROPHETS PREDICTED.'" 

Proof?  You want proof? He appeared to Peter and the disciples.  Yea, you're right they might have lied about it, but then he appeared to 500 more people.  There's no way you can get 500 people to tell the same lie.  The only conclusion is that it must have happened.  And if you need more, just ask me, Paul says, because even though I am the least of the apostles, (a play on words because Paulis means" least.")  …  Even though I am the least of the apostles, the risen Christ even appeared to me.

 

Then to seal the deal, Paul embarks on an imaginary journey into a world in which Jesus' body is still sealed in the grave.

 

(Slide 1) Paul argues on in Verse 12, "IF YOU ARE RIGHT" Just suppose for a moment that you are right, the resurrection was a trick, the appearances of Christ have all been illusions, and there is no resurrection from the dead.

Well, if there is no resurrection from the dead then Jesus did not rise again,

·         If He is dead, then everything we believe in comes crashing down around us.

·         If there is no resurrection from the dead, then Jesus Himself is no better than the thousands of other religious nuts who falsely claimed to be sent from God.

·         If he did not rise, then His death was the unfortunate end to a misspent life and His teachings are nothing more than the raving of some maniacal lunatic!

·          If it is true, if there is no resurrection from the dead, then the very system of belief that we cherish so deeply is nothing more than just another broken promise that offers nothing to anyone.

·          If Jesus is still in that tomb today, then our way of life is a farce and Paul says, "We are among the greatest of fools to have ever walked upon this planet."

·          For, if Jesus is dead, then our system of belief is dead, our foundations have crumbled beneath us and we might as well go home right now!

 

But it gets worse. (Slide 2)

Paul goes on… if Christ has not been raised our preaching has been in vain.  All the sermons that have ever been preached, all the prayers every prayed, all the words that have ever been written, all the stories ever told would be but wasted breath.  Mary, and Peter, and Paul and Augustine, and Luther and Wesley and Spurgeon and Grahm and Boatman and Nolte and Plocher would have wasted their breath and their lives preaching an untruth.

 

But it gets worse.

Paul tells us that if Jesus is still dead, then we are wasting our time serving him and worshiping him.  If Jesus is really still dead, then you would be just as well off worshiping a rock, a tree or an image of some type.  If Jesus is still in the grave, then everything we do is false, phony and foolish!  If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then all the preaching you have listened to over the years is a lie, all your praying, serving, witnessing, and church attendance have all been a waste of your time.

Just consider for a moment what a leap of faith Paul had made.  Here was a man of wealth, social standing, influence and great education.  Yet, he was willing to throw all of that away for the cause of Jesus.  He was beaten, imprisoned, assaulted, stoned and left for dead, all for the name of Jesus.  If Jesus did not rise from the dead then he was the victim of the most cruel hoax ever played on humanity, and the Christian faith is the greatest joke of all time.

 

 (slide 3)You would think that things couldn't get any worse, Paul now tells us that if Jesus isn't alive, then we are still lost, hell bound and still in our sins this morning.  The heart of the Gospel message is the great truth that Jesus Christ left Heaven above, was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life and died on the cross to pay for the sins of the world.  It doesn't stop there!  The Bible goes on to say that He rose again the third day for our justification.  If Jesus is still dead, then we cannot be justified and we are still lost in sin this morning!  If He is dead today, then we are still looking for a redeemer and we are all headed to Hell!

 

(slide 4) Paul then moves beyond this life to consider things of an eternal nature.  He tells us that if Jesus is still dead, then death is the best hope we have. .

One of the blessings of the Christian life is the knowledge that one day, we will participate in an eternal life with the Lord Jesus Christ.  However, Paul tells us that if Jesus did not rise from the dead, then everyone who dies is forever lost.  Either we rot in the grave, or we go to Hell to be forever separated from God.  If there is not resurrection, there is no Heaven, no hope, and no future to anticipate.  If Jesus is still dead, then we might as well live it up down here and enjoy the time we have left.  If Jesus is dead, then we are all but dust and when we die, we are gone forever!

(slide 5)If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then we have all wasted our lives living for Jesus.  We have believed a lie and lived the same lie.

 

 

BUT(click slide 5)

That is the most important word in this whole passage and the whole sermon.

BUT

Say it together BUT

 

Paul writes "In fact Christ has been raised from the dead" (Slide 6)

Christ is Raised from the dead, so…

·         Because Christ is risen We do have a firm foundation

·         Because Christ is risen Our preaching is not in vain

·         Because Christ is risen Our faith is not in vain

·         Because Christ is risen Our witness is not in vain

·         Because Christ is risen We are forgiven

·         Because Christ is risen we do have a future!

Because Christ is risen from the grave we have life now- and we have it abundantly!

AMEN

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