THE LASTING EFFECTS OF CHRIST'S RESURRECTION
Dear Christian friends,
We need to be careful that we don’t equate emotions with faith. Emotions, the chill down the spine or the feeling in the pit of the stomach don’t save us; Jesus and only Jesus, saves us. I am not saying that our faith doesn’t emit emotion. The love of God, the forgiveness of sins and the depths he went to present it to us is stirring. But how we react and the degree to which we react can be so different from one person to another. One person might be brought to tears, another a smile, still another might actually look quite stoic. On the inside, however, there is a quiet confidence in God’s love.
Being emotional isn’t a bad thing either. King David was very emotional. The many psalms he wrote let us see into his heart. He was very emotional about his sin; he was very emotional about the God’s forgiveness. Here is a portion of Psalm 6: “All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes.” Have you ever stayed up all night weeping over the sins you have done? Have you ever drenched your bed with your tears? Remember he was a manly man too. He went to war against the giant Goliath. He slew a bear and a lion as a shepherd. He led his armies into battle. He was no wimp in case people equate emotion with being a wimp. (That’s a man thing)
The apostle Paul wrote thirteen letters that are part of the Holy Scripture. He was a driven man, obsessed with the Gospel once he came to know it. I don’t think there is a letter with possibly the exception of II Timothy (The last one he wrote before he was martyred) where he bares his insides like he does in II Corinthians.
This is the last Sunday of the Easter season. Ascension Thursday was this past week. Even though we get farther from Easter, don’t forget Easter. We never forget Easter. Paul teaches us that today. Paul speaks about “The Lasting Effects of the Resurrection” 1) for the church; 2) for us as individuals.
The second letter to the church in Corinth takes some careful study. It appears that there was an element in the Corinthian congregation which kept questioning Paul’s motives for ministry. They seem to think he had no right to claim apostleship for himself.
He had promised to come to the congregation but his plans were changed where he would come later. If living now, an email or a text message or even a tweet would have cleared everything up. Some apparently questioned his integrity and motives as an apostle because of it.
Just because he was an apostle didn’t make him perfect, but questioning his motives for preaching the Gospel wasn’t fair. He mentions earlier that some preach to make money. That just wasn’t true of Paul. In fact, he supported his preaching by making tents so that accusation could never be leveled against him that he had money on his mind.
If you read the verses just prior to the sermon verses he teaches that God carries out his work with clay jars that have treasure in them. His preachers, his church are the clay jars but we have the treasure, the Gospel, inside. I have a pastor friend who says anyone who is a clay jar is a cracked pot.
But then we all fall into that category, don’t we? He isn’t speaking about pastors but every member of his Church and is used by the good Lord to do ministry.
We have Sunday School teachers and church council members. We have committee members and project leaders. We have musicians and singers. We have Christian parents whose responsibility is to bring their children in the training and instruction of the Lord. We have a congregation who comes to worship and encourage and grow together. Are we all up for the task? Do any of us do what we do for the Lord perfectly?
Last Sunday was confirmation and during the Sunday School hour I examined the confirmands. I was quizzing our confirmands about sin and grace. I just so happened to ask the one whose name is Johnny C. Baehman if he thought his pastor was a sinner. It was quiet for a moment. Johnny answered. I think he had too much of a smirk on his face and way too much confidence and too much delight in his voice when he said, “Yes!” Yet, we know that question wasn’t a lucky guess on a 50/50 question. We all are. We are fragile clay plots.
With that background we will better understand what Paul means when he says in verse thirteen, “It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Follow me on this. When Paul says “it is written,” he is actually quoting from Psalm 116. In that psalm the psalmist speaks about three important truths. He speaks about great affliction he was experiencing, the Lord’s deliverance and then the psalmist’s gratitude for the Lord’s help. The psalmist wails that “the cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came over me; I was overcome by distress and sorrow.” That’s the affliction he is experiencing. The cords of death are entangled around him; the anguish of the grave and distress and sorrow are all around! Why? Because he is a sinner living in a sinful world!
So was he helpless and hopeless? Not at all! The psalmist goes on in Psalm 116, “Then I called on the name of the Lord: “Lord, save me!” The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. The Lord protects the unwary; when I was brought low, he saved me.” God saves. The Lord is full of grace and provides the righteousness the psalmist needed. God is full of compassion. In spite of his sin and all that entangles, God saves.
The psalmist responds, “I believe; therefore I speak.” He wants to tell others what was true for him was also true for others.
By quoting this psalm Paul is saying that he really identifies with that. He too felt weakness and sin all around. He felt so unworthy! He confessed that he was clay pot. What was true of the psalmist was true of Paul. What is true of the psalmist and Paul is true of every member of God’s church. In other words, that’s you and me.
Paul says, “Since we have that same spirit of faith…We also believe and therefore speak,because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself.” Clay pots we are - so fragile, so breakable, so inadequate - yet by God’s grace we know God raised Jesus from the dead to let us know how much he loves us and how fully and freely he forgives us.
We are useful to him. The psalmist spoke out, Paul spoke out. God’s church speaks out. What cured the psalmist cured Paul and cures us – the love of God demonstrated in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Imagine if a doctor who had cancer developed a cure for his own cancer and was only satisfied to cure himself and didn’t share. Unthinkable! It is unthinkable if God’s church doesn’t see that speaking out isn’t our main task and doesn’t designate the necessary resources of time and talent and treasure to let that be known.
Here we are MessiahLutheranChurch. Our members come from every direction with all kinds of backgrounds, ethnicities, talents and skills but we believe in Jesus as Savior and Lord of all. God has entrusted the message to us clay jars. Yet we are powerful only because the message we believe is the message to share. That’s the lasting purpose of his church – to proclaim it.
Now listen to Paul as he explains what we speak and share will give to each member of God’s church. Paul says God promises he “will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself.”
People like to hear that human beings are basically good inside and capable of doing so many good things for each other. What God says and what reality is, is quite different. If that is true then why is there so much violence and dishonesty and lovelessness in the world? Everyone can see it. The Bible explains the reality. We were sinners the moment we were conceived and born. Sin is not learned, it is natural. In fact, the Bible says that man is born dead to God and all will die as the fair wages of sin.
But God intervenes. Paul says that God “will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself.” What Paul is saying is this: Just as Jesus was once dead and raised to life, we who were dead to God inside were given life too. That’s the work of the Holy Spirit. That why Baptism is so important. That’s the means by which God began his good work in us. He did that to each of us and then gathered us together so we worship together and study the Scripture together. We enjoy each other’s company and enjoy serving the Lord on projects for his kingdom. We walk together. You know something else? We make Satan really frustrated when he sees that happen, besides the most important work of serving Jesus.
So keep plugging away. We are in this for a lifetime. Paul says, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” Physically a toll was being taken on Paul’s body. Later in this letter he shared the ordeals he went through. He said that he hadbeen “exposed to death again and again.Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea,I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers.I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.” What an extraordinary commitment Paul had to serve the Lord. His body was wasting away. It is hard to understand how people can preach a prosperity Gospel that basically teaches that once you follow Jesus you will be healthy and wealthy. Have they not read the ordeals of Paul?
While we are all getting older, we too feel our bodies wasting away. Young people, just wait! While the outer wastes away, the inner self keeps getting renewed by Word and sacrament and the promises God gives in them.
Yet Paul says, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” All this will one day pass when we get to heaven. Just keep your eyes on what is ahead beyond the finish line.
That promise means so much to us especially when it comes from the pen of the apostle Paul. He was one of a very few people on this earth to whom God chose to give a glimpse. He writes in the twelfth chapter of this letter that “was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body he didn’t know only God knew and heard…inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.” He saw and experienced some awesome things that have no earthly equivalent. They were so awesome that God gave Paul a thorn in the flesh just to keep him humble. Yet the day is coming when what was hidden will be revealed that no human words can describe. It is ours through Christ and his resurrection. Talking about the lasting effect of the resurrection – that effect lasts forever.