Tuesday March 22, 2016
Do you ever wonder if the Christian faith is true? Perhaps it’s late at night just before you fall asleep. Maybe you’re going through a tough time or an unbelieving friend questions your faith and you think (but of course, would never say) that all of this might just be some gigantic con game and I’ve believed a bunch of lies.
God knew you would wonder. From the very beginning, God knew he would do something so astounding, so wonderful, so unbelievable and so incredible that nobody would believe it without some kind of space and time evidence.
The resurrection of Christ is that evidence.
(In fact, there is more clear, irrefutable, and factual evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ than for the life of Julius Caesar or for almost any other historical event. If you want to do some research, a good place to begin is with Frank Morison’s book, Who Moved the Stone?)
Paul makes this intriguing statement: “And if Christ has not been raised…we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:17, 19).
I often tell my seminary students that a sermon’s “teaching points” must answer the question, “So what?” A sermon is not a demonstration of knowledge or a way to get people to understand; but rather, it is an answer to the question: What difference does it make?
The question of “So what?” is an appropriate one to ask about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. If it happened—and it did, a long time ago—what possible difference could that make to you (and to me) right now?
A lot. Four of the most important questions we can ask are answered in an incredible way because once, and only once, a dead man got out of a grave and came back to tell us about it.
Who Am I?
“And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile” (1 Corinthians 15:17).
The world will tell you that you’re a blob of protoplasm, a rat running through a maze or an unimportant statistic. As Matthew Arnold put it, we are “a wave” in the “midmost ocean” that foams a moment and then dies. As Charles Kingsley put it, “Men must work, and women must weep, and the sooner it’s over, the sooner to sleep.” You get up in the morning to make enough money to pay the mortgage so you can have a place to sleep so you can get up in the morning to make enough money to pay the mortgage so…
…And then you die.
If the unbelieving world is right (even though most aren’t willing to face the inevitable conclusions), there is no good or evil, no love or hate, and no right or wrong. There is only what is—a lonely road between two hospitals. You are born in one and you die in the other…and it doesn’t matter. If there is no God, there is no value; if there is no value, there is no meaning; and, if there is no meaning, then you’re a turnip. You don’t matter and when you die your sole purpose will be to provide fertilizer for a dying world.
But what if there is a Creator God? What if he really came to us? What if he has called us to himself and given us value? What if God spoke clearly and we knew it?
He did. The resurrection of Christ is the intentional statement of a Creator God that there is more than what you thought there was. It is God’s “exclamation point” at the end of the incarnation in which God vested the world with meaning, value and purpose. The resurrection of Christ is good news for those “who lived in darkness.”
What Am I Doing Here?
“If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:19).
I think I’ll die the next time someone says to me, “It’s not about you, it’s about God.” I want to say, “Yeah, I know that. I’m Reformed.” I’m a Calvinist and all Calvinists know that it’s about God…but if it isn’t about me too, it doesn’t make much sense and, even if it does make sense, it doesn’t matter.
The God of the universe called us to participate with him in a grand adventure defined by hope and joy. And the resurrection of Christ is the one place where that happens. It is when the connection is established. Being made in God’s image intersects with the reality of being God’s child.
The God of the universe called us to participate with him in a grand adventure defined by hope and joy.
Peter wrote, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…” (1 Peter 1:3).
Most religions worship mythical figures or dead founders. The founder of the Christian faith isn’t providing fertilizer for flowers. He invites you and me to be in a joyous relationship with him. He says, “Follow me!”
Where Am I Going?
“Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” (1 Corinthians 15:12).
The astounding truth of the resurrection isn’t just that a dead man got up and walked; it is the joyous announcement that we could too. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26).
I watched my mother die with great grace…because she was going Home. In those final months, my wife Anna and I moved in with my mother to be with her and that last Christmas was bittersweet. The entire family was there to say their good-byes. As we watched my mother slowly die, I wanted to call my friends over so they could see how a godly woman dies.
My mother knew Jesus. She knew that God had “prepared for her a city” and she was as sure of going there as she would be if she were already there. Home is a great hope. Someday I’m going to be with my mother, father and brother in heaven. You and I both have that hope.
The risen Christ promised. He never lies.
How Am I Going To Get There?
“And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17).
I’ve stood beside a lot of deathbeds. Some were people haunted by their sin and the fear of meeting a God who would judge them made their deaths very difficult. I tried to tell them what Christ would do for them, how he would forgive them and how they could stand before God without any condemnation. But the truth is, most people die the way they have lived…trying to be good, to earn their way to heaven and to stand on their own righteousness.
The risen Christ made a way for needy, sinful and lost people. If he is the dead founder of our faith, he may have had some nice things to say, but so did Lincoln. But if that dead man got up and walked, what he said about freedom, grace and mercy is true. If Jesus walked out of the tomb, the Father who is merciful and kind is the real God, and some people have not been telling us the truth.
I received a letter from a friend not too long ago who asked me if I was sure about grace. My friend had just been “beaten up” by a very self-righteous and angry “Christian” who told him he was going to hell and said it like he was glad. My friend was worried because he knew he wasn’t good, he was sometimes disobedient, and he was sometimes very afraid when he thought about himself and how far short he had fallen of the commands of God.
What did I tell him? Are you crazy? I reminded him about Jesus. I reminded him about forgiveness and about meaning. I told him the old, old story of Jesus and his love.
Was I sure? Am I sure? Of course I’m sure because…
Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed!
Time To Draw Away
Read Luke 23:26-24:12 & Romans 8:1, 31-39
What does Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection mean to you personally? Think about it and let it sink in. Freedom, grace, mercy, forgiveness and meaning are yours. It is truly the old, old story of Jesus and his love. And there is nothing that can separate you from his love…ever.