THE RESURRECTION IS THE HEART OF CHRISTIANITY
Dear Christian Friends,
I like children getting involved in extra curricular activities. I like sports for kids. I like team sports especially. They build teamwork and keep people humble. It is hard to get a big head when each member contributes to the success or failure of the team.
This is no surprise to any of you; my favorite is football. You need to blend with ten other players on the field. If you are on offense and go to the line of scrimmage and move before the ball is snapped, the whole team is penalized. If you don’t explode off the line at the time the ball is snapped, your opponent will be in the middle of the backfield and mess up the play. One person can create havoc for the rest.
If you don’t like a football illustration, use the human body. The body works the same way. If one part isn’t functioning the whole body suffers. I just read that a lack of sleep causes one to be tired all the time. Metabolism slows down. The body doesn’t get rid of sugar; all kinds of havoc is created. Plaque forms in veins and circulation is damaged. Hypertension results and that affects the kidneys and heart and if that isn’t bad enough it can lead to a stroke. Oh, happy day!
So it is with the Bible! As we tend to slide away from Easter, Paul tells us not to let that happen. Remember the promises of Easter. Remember the resurrection; don’t doubt it. “There Are No ‘Ifs’ ‘Ands’ or ‘Buts’ with the Resurrection.” Let’s look at 1) the consequences of doubt about the resurrection; and 2) The comfort that comes from faith.
Back in 1979 Jerry Falwell, a Baptist preacher from Lynchburg, Virginia organized the Moral Majority. He did so in response to the decline of morals in our nation. In the early seventies abortion was legalized; Hollywood was filming programs and movies that glamorized divorce, ridiculed virginity and the Bible. Sex was a theme that drove and still drives the entertainment world. Drug almost seemed glamorized. Laws seemed to protect the amoral and the immoral under the guise of freedom. While the immoral and the amoral were loud, I do believe Falwell wanted to prove that America was still a Christian nation at heart. He formed the Moral Majority because he was tired of the fewer but loud immoral getting their way all the time.
After the apostle Paul spent eighteen months in Corinth and then left the church, a small but very loud group of people infiltrated and took over the church in Corinth. They didn’t believe in Easter; they didn’t believe in the resurrection. Paul writes a rather lengthy reply to them.
Perhaps that sounds ridiculous to think that someone could infiltrate the God’s church and deny the teaching that makes Christianity what it is. Yet in the ancient world, the thought of the resurrection was silly. An ancient Greek playwright Aeschylus once wrote, “When dust has drunk the blood of man, and he is dead, there is no more uprising.” Remember the time when Paul got into a discussion with Stoic and Epicurean philosophers; they called Paul a babbler when he spoke about the resurrection from the dead. The Epicureans had the philosophy of “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow you will die.” In other words get all you can out of life here, because there is no more after this.
It seems almost inconceivable that God’s church could be infiltrated by people who deny the resurrection from the dead, the very core of what we believe. Yet it happens. Back in the beginning of my ministry, the leader of another Lutheran Church body said that ‘it didn’t make any difference if Jesus’ body was moldering away in some Palestinian grave.” He said it was okay to believe that Jesus’ body was disintegrating and rotting away a few thousand miles away. Really? I will tell you this that a couple of million people who belonged to that Lutheran Synod should have gotten up and left as long as he remained the president. They didn’t. That’s a shame. A pastor who graduated from his Seminary back in 1973 said that not one single person in his graduation class believed that Jesus arose from the dead including himself. For two years he tried preaching on love every Sunday until he got sick of love. He then decided to read the Bible again and he realized the resurrection has to be front and center.
There is a term that we hear more and more when people are called sheeple. It is a disparaging word to describe those who voluntarily acquiesce to a suggestion without critical analysis or research. People are sheeple when they don’t listen carefully for and treasure the fact that Jesus arose from the dead and promises we will too.
That’s why everyone needs to go through God 101 class now and then. That’s why getting people ready for membership is not a place to cut corners by not sharing the teaching of Scripture with them.
The apostle Paul explains how the Christian faith is emptied when people deny the resurrection. “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.” If there is no resurrection then you can strip Jesus of his godhead. You can strip Jesus of all the divine characteristics; you can strip him of his omniscience, his omnipresence, his omnipotence. Don’t bother asking him anything because he can’t do anything to help us. When you are alone then you are alone and his promise to be with you wherever you are is just nonsense. If he couldn’t rise from the dead, then he is not God.
“And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised.” If Christ is still in the grave, then Paul certainly wasted a lot of time in his life. All the hardships he endured for Christ were fruitless and worthless. I have wasted 35 years of my life preaching it and wasted the time of all who listened. In fact, I have spent the last thirty five years of my life lying to people. Your faith is all for nothing. It is like jumping out of an airplane into a cumulus cloud that looks like one big ball of cotton only to slip through. Your faith is worthless if Christ was not raised from the dead.
“And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” If Christ was not raise from the dead, then feel the weight return to your very soul. The weight you feel is the responsibility and guilt that comes from your sin. You will need to fear death and judgment again because without the resurrection you are still in your sins.
Paul says, “Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.” If Jesus was not raised from the dead, then the “see you later” you said at the coffin of your Dad or Mom or son or daughter or any other loved one who died in Christ is an illusion. It really was a good bye forever. You will never see them again…if Christ was not raised from the dead.
“If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” We are to be pitied more than anyone if Jesus was not raised from the dead. All the commitment, all the sincerity of heart, all the worship time, all the talent used to support his work, all the money resources were poured into the offering plates and special gifts were poured down the proverbial black hole; all the study time spent in God’s word, the commitment of putting Jesus first even above spouse and children was all for naught…if Jesus had not been raised from the dead.
While those are the consequences of doubt in the resurrection, stop the doubts and believe what Jesus did for you. The resurrection is real. “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” Jesus did rise from the dead. Early in this chapter, Paul lists a bunch of resurrection appearances along with people who saw. “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.” Quite the list, don’t you think! Think about the story of the apostle Paul. He hated Jesus. The last person he was looking for was Jesus as he made his way to Damascus to create even more havoc in the LORD’S church. But Jesus appeared to him. Over 500 people saw him.
In fact, Jesus is called the first fruits of them that sleep. The first fruit was the first crop that was to be given back to the LORD. When someone dedicated the first fruit back to the Lord, the Lord promised that he would give more. Jesus’ resurrection is the promise that there will be more people rising from the dead – you and me on the last day. Jesus’ resurrection is a preview of more after.
Do we ever need that assurance! Our Lord Jesus came to this earth on a mission to correct what Adam had messed up. Paul says, “For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” There is that saying that there is nothing more certain in life than death and taxes. I am not here to discuss the tax situation. You need to talk that over with some government officials. I can tell you a bit about death though. Doctors would say that death comes from viruses and bacteria. It comes from accidents and bad health habits. As a person who believes in the Scripture those things are symptoms of a greater bigger problem. The wages of sin is death. Sin is linked to a person – Adam. “For since death came through a man”… and “For as in Adam all die.” There is an undeniable reality about life…it ends with death! What is the cause? “Death came through a man” or “In Adam all die.” By man death came to this world. That man was Adam. That was no imaginary tree. That was no imaginary fruit. That was not imaginary rebellion against God and there were no imaginary consequences. “In the day that you eat of it, you will die.” And that is exactly what happened…. “In Adam all die.” This is a universal law. No universal healthcare will change that.
Every cemetery you see; every hearse that passes by, every obituary you read says the same thing: Adam is our brother. He sinned and we sin. He died and we will die. .
But it doesn’t stop there. There is another universal truth that is known by Jesus’ children. Yeah, it is true that “death came through a man,” but it is also true (and praise God it is true), “the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.” While it is true “As in Adam all die, it is also true, “in Christ all will be made alive.” Mr. Christian, Ms. Christian, if you and I are not alive when Jesus comes but in the grave, we are going to undergo a truly great and glorious experience, the resurrection from the dead. Even if we are alive we will witness it. What happened at creation when God took a clod of dirt and put life into it will happen again. That old clod of dirt which rotted and went to the ground will have life again, with the soul that once occupied that clod of dirt.
There is hope; there is a future. All because of Jesus! He died on Good Friday to pay for sin; on Easter Sunday we have the assurance it was paid in full.