“Christ Has Indeed Been Raised”              Easter                       March 31, 2013

1 Corinthians 15:1-22; 35-58

 

INTRO:  We are living in an era of Christian persecution. 

   That’s hard to imagine, here in peaceful Cullman, with a church on every corner. 

But according to a study by the Pew Forum, over 100,000 Christians are

   martyred because of their faith.

And a great many more are economically marginalized, denied education for their

   children, beaten, tortured, raped, and imprisoned. 

That same Pew Forum study said that 200 million Christians around the world

   live in communities where they are persecuted.

 

Just this week someone sent me an email from a Christian ministry in the United

   States that helps Christians in Pakistan.  They had raised money for a

   congregation in Lahore whose church building burned down by a Muslim mob.

And in this email, they were reporting the response of a pastor to these events.

   “We are suffering in Pakistan.  Even so, we are happy.  I cannot explain,

   but we are very, very happy. 

And then in this same email, he spoke of his plans to preach today, Easter Sunday.

   “What is the difference between Christianity and every other religion?  It is the resurrection. 

   No other religion has the resurrection which we have in the Lord Jesus Christ.”

 

This pastors says—We are happy, I cannot explain.  But then he does explain.

   He says—It is the resurrection. 

One thing about the early Christians that amazed the Romans

   was the way they faced death.

When lions were set loose on Christian men, women, and children in arenas—

   they didn’t scream and curse like people normally did.

   They sang and prayed for enemies.

 

Even those who hated them took note of this.

   What did they have that gave them such calm and joy?

This was it—Their character and the way they faced their circumstances,

   was shaped by what they knew their future to be.

They knew that death was not the end.  They believed they would rise again.

   They believed that all of their suffering would enhance their joy in next life.

This was totally different from their pagan neighbors

   In the Greek and Roman mind, if there was an afterlife,

   it was a dark and gloomy place, where the lost soul wandered in shadows.

For all practical purposes, this life is all that there is.

How could these early Christians be so certain about their future

   that they could face the lions with singing?  The resurrection. 

It was the fact of Jesus’ resurrection that was the basis for their future hope. 

   He was raised.  It really happened. 

   And through union with him, we too will be raised, because he has told us so. 

Their hope for the future was not wishful thinking.

   It wasn’t the power of positive thinking. 

   It was real, solid, certainty that came from the fact that Jesus is risen.

And that same hope is available to you.

 

Someone has said that today Christians don’t face lions—we face lumps.

   Doctor says:  It’s a lump.  It doesn’t look good.  We have to do biopsy.

   And that’s like a lion coming into the arena of your life.

How do you face your lumps?

   I don’t just mean medical problems—anything that threatens your future—

   you health, family, marriage, finances or anything else?

 

Do you sing or do you worry?  Do you stand firm or do you fall to pieces?

   It all depends on what you know your future is going to be.

   If you have no certainty about your future—every present crisis will shake you.

But if you know, as the early Christians knew so well—

   that Christ’s resurrection guarantees a wonderful future—

   then you will able to face all sorts of things with calm and joy.

 

1 Cor. 15, Paul ends this great resurrection chapter with this application:

   “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm.  Let nothing move you.”

   That’s what the resurrection can do for you when you really believe it.

I know all of you believe it or wouldn’t be here.  You believe it happened.

But when you really believe it—

   when it goes in deep, and you start to see what it means for your future—

   then you get a confident hope that enables you to stand firm against

   the lions and the lumps and anything else that comes against you.

 

So let’s look at this great resurrection passage and see three things that the resurrection guarantees will be the future of every person who trusts in Christ.

1.  Swallowed Suffering

2.  Stingless Death

3.  Spiritual Bodies    Credit where cedit is due.  Sermon by Dr. Timothy Keller


MP#1  Swallowed Suffering

Jesus’ resurrection guarantees swallowed suffering for everyone who trust in him. 

   “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

 

What do moms do at the end of the meal if there is a little bit of food left?

   Somebody eat this.  I don’t want to throw it away.  

They don’t want it to be wasted.  Want it to nourish their family.

   When you swallow food, it goes down into you and becomes part of you.

   Gives you energy and life.

The resurrection does not throw away your suffering—

   it swallows it in such a way that all of your suffering,

   becomes part of you and enhances your joy.

 

When the disciples saw Jesus on Easter—what did he call their attention to?

   His wounds.  Look at my hands and feet.  Touch them.

   Look at my side where the spear pierced.  Touch it.

Why did Jesus still bear the marks of his suffering?

   If he had been raised and glorified, why weren’t those completely wiped away?

 

If heaven is a happy place, then wouldn’t those scars cause a problem?

If he looked at his scars, wouldn’t that remind him of the cross?

   Wouldn’t his scars remind him of the betrayal, abuse, cruelty?

   Wouldn’t that detract from the joy of heaven?

Not at all.  In fact, the very opposite. 

   It is by seeing the marks of his suffering, that his joy is made greater.

   Jesus’ sufferings part of who he is.  He will forever be the Lamb that was slain. 

They enhance his glory.

 

His wounds weren’t removed, they were swallowed up in victory.

   It’s going to be the very same way with your suffering if you are in Christ.

Paul says:  “We will bear the likeness of the man from heaven.”

   We are going to be like Jesus in his glory and in his scars.

 

The resurrection means that God is going to take your suffering—

   and he is not going to throw it away,

   or wipe away your memory of it—He’s going to glorify it.

That means that even the worst things you have suffered

   will end up making your joy and glory

   even greater than it would have been if you had never suffered.

The resurrection is a guarantee that your most intense suffering

   will be swallowed up in victory—even death.

Your scars will be like Jesus’ scars—trophies you look at

   that will intensify the joy of life with God.

That’s the way the early Christians could look at persecution and sing.

   Because the resurrection was so real to them,

   that they knew they would bear the likeness of Christ—scars would be trophies.

 

Think of all the ways people try to wipe away their suffering—idolatries, addictions

   Sometimes they end up doing even more damage to themselves than original hurt.

But no matter how hard you try to get rid of your pain.

   it’s always going to come back to you.

A person, or a conversation, or a memory is going to tear the wound open again.

   Because we live in a fallen world.

   And it is impossible to deaden or do away with all suffering.

 

The resurrection gives us a much better hope.

   Like Jesus, all our sufferings, even our death swallowed up one day,

   and making our future life and joy that much more intense. 

Most of you know the name Joni Earekson Tada, maybe you’ve read her books.

   As a teenager, she broke her neck in a diving accident and has been a quadriplegic

   for over 40 years.  She once wrote:

 

I sure hope I can bring my wheelchair to heaven.  Now, I know that’s not theologically correct.

   But I hope to bring it and put it in a little corner of heaven, and then in my new, perfect,

   glorified body, standing on grateful glorified legs, I’ll stand next to my Savior, holding his

   nail-pierced hands.

I’ll say, “Thank you, Jesus,” and he will know that I mean it, because he knows me.

   He’ll recognize me from the fellowship we’re now sharing in his sufferings.

And I will say,

   “Jesus, do you see that wheelchair?  You were right when you said that in this world we

   would have trouble, because that thing was a lot of trouble.  But the weaker I was in that

   thing, the harder I leaned on you.  And the harder I leaned on you, the stronger I discovered

   you to be.  It never would have happened had you not given me the bruising of the blessing of

   that wheelchair.”

Then the real ticker-tape parade of praise will begin.  And all of earth will join in the party.

   And at that point Christ will open up our eyes to the great fountain of joy in his heart for us

   beyond all that we ever experienced on earth.  And when we’re able to stop laughing and

   crying, the Lord Jesus really will wipe away our tears.

 

What wonder—everything bad in your life, even death, swallowed up in victory. 

But there is a flip side to this.

If you have not put your trust in Jesus,

   then your sufferings will not be swallowed up in victory.

   They will just be foretastes of hell.

 

Don’t let that happen.  This is Easter Sunday.

   If you haven’t trusted Jesus, open your heart to him.

Stingless death, swallowed suffering, and . . .
MP#2  Stingless Death

Jesus’ resurrection guarantees a stingless death for everyone who trusts in him.

   “Where, O death, is your sting?”

Once when I was 12 I stumbled on a nest of yellow jackets and they swarmed me.

   If you’ve ever been stung by a wasp or yellow jacket, you know that it’s totally

   different from getting poked with a pin—it burns.

There’s poison in the sting and it can sometimes kill a person.

 

Paul says:  “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.”

He means that death is more than physical—

   there is a poison in death that burns even deeper.

The poisonous sting of death is that when you die,

   your whole life is judged by the law of God.

Every thought, word, deed—

   everything hidden—things no one else knows you have done,

   you hidden sins, your darkest motives, your cravings—everything is judged.

 

One of the ways the Bible describes it is that the books will be opened.

   Everything about you has been written down.

   That record of your life will be judged by the law of God.

The Bible also describes it in terms of the light a person has received.

   If you’ve known the Bible, you will be judged by God’s law revealed there.

   If a person has never heard about the Bible or Jesus, will be judged by his

   conscience—the law of God written on the heart.

But everyone has sinned against the light they have received.

   So death brings the sting of sin and the powerful condemnation of the law.

 

Most people don’t ever think about the sting of death.

   They don’t think about their death period—they hold it at arm’s length.

But Christians think about it all the time because we see it in the cross.

   Why did Jesus groan aloud and sweat drops of blood in Gethsemane?

   Was he scared of the nails.  Was he scared of the crown of thorns?

Of course not.  He was a strong man with a perfectly clean conscience.

   If it was just a matter of physical pain he could have handled it.

Physically speaking, there have been many people who have suffered what

   Jesus suffered—and worse.  He was not the only person ever crucified.

He groaned was in agony because he knew he was about to feel

   the sting and poison of the law. 

He was going to suffer wrath for the guilt of our sins.

Then there are those three terrible hours of darkness—the darkness of hell.

   And Jesus crying out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.”

   That is the sting of death.  That is the judgment we all face.

The resurrection is proof that your guilt has been paid for.

   It’s a receipt for the sting of death.

If you walk out of a store and clerk stops you and says—You haven’t paid.

   You pull the receipt out of the bag and say—Yes, I have.  Look.  Proof.

   The resurrection is the receipt.  It’s assurance that price is paid.

   Jesus took our judgment so the sting of death is gone—the guilt and shame.

So death can’t really hurt you, it can only make you better.

 

At the recent funeral of Woody Jacob’s sister, Pam Keller, her husband told

   an amazing story.  A number of years ago he and Pam were on an airplane,

   when suddenly it began to dive, cabin filled with fog, and oxygen masks dropped. 

All the passengers were screaming. 

   But when he looked over at Pam, she was completely calm. 

   She took his hand and said—I’m ready to go to heaven. 

In that moment, I was determined to have the faith in Christ that she had. 

 

See, you don’t have to wait until death to experience the power of this certainty.

   It frees you from fear now—so that you can live a happier life.

Are you troubled with guilt?  Things you have done and left undone?

   People you have wronged.  Sins against God.

Any time you are troubled by guilt, can pull the receipt out of the bag.

   He is risen.  All of my sins have been paid for, payment has been accepted

   My death will not sting.  I can face God unafraid.

 

That’s how the early Christians could face the lions.

   No guilt in life.  No fear in death.  Jesus’ resurrection is the guarantee.

And if you know that about your death—then you can certainly

   stand up against anything else that comes against you.

 

But there is a flip side to this.

   If you have not put your faith in Jesus, and repented of your sins,

   then your death is going to sting.  It’s going to sting like hell.

Because you will die and face God and the law, and be judged for your own sins.

   Don’t delay, trust in Christ.

   So that you can rejoice in his resurrection

   and enjoy all the benefits of complete forgiveness.  Stingless death


MP#3  Spiritual Bodies

Jesus’ resurrection guarantees a spiritual body for everyone who trusts in him.

   Joni Earekson mentioned it already. 

When a believer dies, his soul goes to heaven to be with the Lord,

   and his body is buried.  But that’s not the way it will be forever.

 

God created us with bodies—and that is how we are going to live forever.

   We are going to be like Jesus, with a resurrected body.

   It will be a body different in wonderful ways from the bodies we have now.

A spiritual body, Paul calls it. 

   A body without weaknesses and limitations, empowered by the Holy Spirit.

 

How can we understand this mystery?  Paul gives three illustrations.

He compares it to putting on new clothes.  Taking off old, putting on new.

   It’s taking off all weakness and decay, all sinful desires,

   and putting on power, purity, immortality.

 

Paul also compares this new body to sleeping and waking.

   Emphasis is that one day our bodies will be awakened.

When wake up from a long sleep, refreshed, new day is dawning.

   You get up and go out into a new world.

And a new earth is exactly the home that God is preparing—

   this world restored, for our use, and pleasure, and work.

 

Paul’s third illustration, his longest—compares this new body to a seed and plant.

   A seed is buried, it dies in a sense—out of that comes a plant

   that is much more glorious than the seed itself. 

I’ve said this before on Easter but whenever I read this I think of tomato seeds.

   You look at that little brown, fuzzy seed in March and it’s hard to believe

   that in late July you’ll be standing in hot, humid Alabama summer,

   looking at this green vine covered with tomatoes.

That’s just a little picture of how much greater our resurrection bodies

   will be from the bodies we have now.  These are just seeds of something great.

   Jesus’ resurrection is the guarantee.

 

This is such an amazing promise—hard to comprehend.

   New, glorified bodies, animated and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

   Living and working in a new earth, perfectly restored.

How does this future hope help us to face the lions and lumps?

Obviously, a great help when it comes to lumps specifically.

   All of us, sooner or later deal with the pain and decay of our bodies.

   And we watch the bodies of people we love falling apart.

Hurts because we love them body and soul. 

   You hold our mother’s hands and you think—these are the hands that fed me,

   these are the hands that felt forehead when I had fever, these are the hands that

   spanked me when needed, waved goodbye to me when I grew up and went away.

I love these hands.  I don’t want these hands to get old, weak, cold, and dead.

 

What a great hope it is to know one day we will not just get well, be made new.

   All of our prayers for healing will be answered in amazing ways.

   Whenever you doubt that you can look at Jesus’ resurrection and know true.

But there is something deeper.

 

The resurrection of our bodies means that what we do with our bodies now matters.

   Yes, our bodies turn to dust. 

   Yes the martyrs’ bodies eaten by beasts and burned by flames.

But there is a connection between what we do with these bodies—

   and the future bodies we will receive.

 

The more you use your mouth to bless—

   the more beautiful your mouth and voice will be.

The more you use your mind to think on what is true, noble, right, pure, excellent—

   the sharper your resurrected mind will be.

The more you use your eyes to look at what is really beautiful—

   the sharper your sight will be.

The more you use your hands to perform the skills God has given you—

   the stronger and more skilled your glorified hands will be.

The more you use your feet to go where he wants you to go—

   the swifter your feet will be—you will walk on water as Jesus did.

 

And that’s a huge help when it comes to facing the lions and lumps.

   The way I live with this body has a bearing on my resurrected body.

But the supernatural body that Paul describes is only for believers.

If you don’t trust Jesus, you will be raised on the last day—

   but not by the Holy Spirit within you. 

You will be summoned by the bare command of God,

   calling you to step forward for judgment.

 

And you will suffer for your rebellion in the body in that terrible place

   where Jesus himself says that the worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.

If you have not put your faith in Jesus, asked him to save you—

   do not leave this morning before you do, too much at stake, too much to lose.

 

CONC:  Armando Valladares—was arrested when he was in his 20s for political

   opposition to Fidel Castro.  He was not a Christian when he was arrested.

But he became a Christian after witnessing the execution of several Christians.

   Just before they were shot, they all shouted—Viva Christo Rey!

   “Long live Christ the King!”

Armando knew in that moment that he needed Jesus Christ.

 

He was in prison 22 years, and the Communists tried to crush his spirit.

   They brutalized his body, they tried to destroy his hope.

They would tell him: 

   All your family and friends have turned against you.

   You are forgotten.  The Revolution is victorious.  Viva la Revolucion!

   And he would say:  Viva Christo Rey.

 

The title of his autobiography is interesting—Against All Hope

   From Romans 4:18  “Abraham, against all hope, in hope believed.”

It was that hope—hope in the risen, living Christ made him never lose hope. 

   Because he knew that even if his body died, that he would rise again.

 

How do you stand firm and let nothing move you? 

   Where do you find strength for situation, relationship, person never changes.

   As you look, it doesn’t seem that it will change. 

How do you face the lions and the lumps?  In the risen Lord Jesus.

   His resurrection guarantees that your suffering will be swallowed in victory,

   and your death robbed of its sting, and your body raised spiritual, indestructible.

 

It really happened.  Christ has indeed been raised.