Saturday, April 21, 2018

180401 What Does the Resurrection Prove?

 Psalm 16:8-11 I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. 9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. 10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. 11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
When David wrote the 16th Psalm. He was not writing about himself. Instead, he was writing about the one who was to come. One who would be born physically a descendant of David. There are several places in the Old Testament that speak of the resurrection. However, this passage is used in Peter’s first sermon (Acts 2:25-28) as evidence for the resurrection Jesus Christ.
Later, Paul would use the same evidence. We usually do not think of the Psalms as prophecy but clearly, they are. A promise was given in Psalm 16 and it was not given to David instead it referred to the Messiah. It could not have referred to David because he died and was buried and therefore saw corruption.
The promise was that Jesus would not see corruption. Let’s look at Paul’s use of the Psalm. Acts 13:30-35 But God raised him from the dead, 31 and for many days he appeared to those who had come up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now his witnesses to the people. 32 And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, 33 this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second Psalm, “ ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you.’ 34 And as for the fact that he raised him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he has spoken in this way, “‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’ 35 Therefore he says also in another psalm, “‘You will not let your Holy One see corruption.’
Paul is speaking to the synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia. In this sermon, he gives a quick summary of the people of Israel. He obviously assumes that the Jews in the synagogue knew about John the Baptist. John preached a baptism of repentance and stated that he was not the Messiah. Instead, he pointed to one who would come after him — namely Jesus!
The rulers of the people of Israel did not recognize the Lord of Glory. Even though they could not prove any guilt against him, nor could Pilate the Roman ruler, they crucified him. After his crucifixion, he was laid in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead. Then, Paul moves on quoting the 2nd Psalm and the 16th Psalm as evidence that the Messiah would be raised from the dead.
The promise was that Jesus would not see corruption because…
Jesus was the firstfruits of the dead. Let’s look at Paul’s message in 1 Corinthians 15:20-24 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.
This passage is part of a greater teaching that begins with Paul’s summary of the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:3-19). In that summary the word of God tells us that 1) Christ died for our sins, 2) he was buried, 3) he was raised to life on the third day, 4) after his resurrection Jesus appeared to hundreds proving himself to be alive and beyond corruption.
Paul goes on to explain that if Christ was not raised from the dead then our faith is empty. Paul concludes his summary with, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” The fact is, Christ has been raised from the dead and as such is the firstfruits of those who belong to him by faith in his name. Based on all of this, Paul concludes that in fact Christ has been raised from the dead! Not only raised from death to life eternal but, also, he becomes the firstfruits of the dead.
Let me explain. The term “firstfruits” refers to the beginning of a harvest. The firstfruits give a promise of what is to come. If we are the harvest that is to follow these “firstfruits” we can expect to have resurrection bodies like his when God raises us from the dead. Several times in the New Testament Jesus’ resurrection is linked to our final bodily resurrection (for example 1 Corinthians 6:14; 2 Corinthians 4:14). All of this gives us the promise of having a body like his. When he returns we shall be like him.
After his resurrection, Jesus was so perfect in body that he was not quickly recognized by his closest followers. He did have the scars in his hands, his feet and his side. Those scars are an eternal reminder of his suffering and death for us. He was raised in glory, not horrible disfigurement!
John, in his first little letter, tells us that “when he appears we shall be like him” (1 John 3:2) This does not indicate that we will have scars or imperfections! The “firstfruits” is sown perishable and is raised imperishable — incorruptible — and perfect. If we are to be like him, as the Scriptures promise, we will also be “imperishable”. As such our new bodies will not wear out or grow old or ever be subject to any kind of sickness or disease. The resurrection proves our perfect deliverance along with the creation that God will deliver at the end. Just as there will be a new heaven and a new earth so we will have new bodies.
Jesus’ suffered and died on the cross to deliver us from our sin. Remember, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” ( 2 Corinthians 5:21). He was buried in the grave to prove his death and he was raised eternally perfect to prove his eternal life and to grant us that same life.
He who died for our sins was raised to justify us. Let’s look at Romans 4:23-25 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.
The “him” mentioned in verse 23 is Abraham. Who, along with Sarah his wife, believed God and that belief, or faith, was counted to him as righteousness. Abraham, therefore, became the father of all who would believe as he did. Having our sins forgiven is the first half of the truth taught here. Faith accepts the fact that Jesus, our Lord, died for our sins and was raised for our justification.
Justification is a difficult concept. I will try to explain it in a way that can be understood and yet remain true to the word.  He died for our sins but he was raised for our justification.
Wayne Grudem in his Systematic Theology, p 723, gives us a definition of justification: “Justification is an instantaneous legal act of God in which he (1) thinks of our sins as forgiven and Christ’s righteousness as belonging to us, and (2) declares us to be righteous in his sight.”
I once heard a preacher say that justification can be understood as: “just as if we had never sinned”. This is not because of any goodness in us or any right things that we have done it is completely the work of God.
Because of the work of Jesus on the cross, in the tomb and in his resurrection, we are declared not guilty of our sin eternally by faith in him. Justification is a legal declaration by God setting us free from sin and death.
When Martin Luther discovered the truth of justification by faith alone, he became a Christian and overflowed with the newness of joy found in the gospel. The change in him led him to confront the justification by works that was taught commonly throughout Christendom and ultimately to begin a new movement that, combined with the other reformers, created Protestant Christianity.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ was a common theme in the preaching of the first-century church. In order for Jesus to justify us there had to be evidence of the power of God that is shown in the resurrection.
Doctor Luke tells us that “He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs,” and that Jesus spent some 40 days with his disciples after the resurrection (Acts 1:3). All of this was to prove that he was really alive and not just some avatar or ghost. When the disciples watched him ascend into heaven and a cloud took him out of their sight the angels had representatives to watch them and remind them “This Jesus… will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11)
We must remember that…
He who was raised will come again. Let’s look at 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
Jesus died for our sins according to the Scriptures. When his work on the cross was done he was buried in the grave as evidence of his death. This was no swoon that he would awaken from later. One thing, absolutely certain, is the Romans knew how to tell when someone was dead. Jesus’ human nature died on the cross. His divine nature left his body when he paid the price for our sin. Doctor Luke records it this way: “Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” (Luke 23:46).  John, the beloved apostle, adds to this “he said, ‘It is finished, and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19:30).
Several times in the Gospels Jesus talked about his return. He warned them “You also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:44). The writer of Hebrews wrote that Christ “will appear a second time not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:28). The book of Revelation frequently refers to Jesus’ coming again. At the end of the book, Jesus promises “Surely I am coming soon.” To which John replies “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22: 20).
During the last few days of his human life…
Jesus promised we would be with him. John 14:2-3 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
There are several truths that we can take away from this passage. First, heaven is a real place! Jesus referred to it as “my Father’s house” and that would clearly be a specific place. It is very clear that when Jesus ascended into heaven he went to a real place.
When Stephen was martyred he was allowed to look into heaven and see the glory of God as well as Jesus standing at the right hand of power (Acts 7:56). He was looking into a spiritual dimension that really exists in our space/time universe.
When Saul of Tarsus was struck down on the road to Damascus a light from heaven shined around him and the living Lord Jesus spoke to him! (Acts 9:3).
Heaven is a real place and those who have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ will find it is their final home. Jesus’ resurrection and ascension give us assurance on that topic. Because of Christ’s work on our behalf, we will be able to join with him at the marriage supper of the Lamb and there will be a great multitude who have put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ!
Now, I hope I don’t confuse you when I say that…
We are already raised with him. Let’s look at Ephesians 2:4-7 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
It is an understatement to say that our way of understanding is completely different from God’s. 700 years before Jesus’ birth Isaiah wrote: “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9). David understood how incomprehensible God is when he wrote:Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it” (Psalm 139:6). Now let’s look back at the Ephesians 2 passage. The verbs here are all in the same tense. We have been “made alive” together with Christ. We have been raised up with him. We have been seated with him in heavenly places. In God’s view, we are already in heaven. He can see what we cannot because his vision is not limited by time and space the way ours is.
Jesus’ resurrection and ascension into heaven guarantee us that our inheritance is secure. He took our sins into his own body and nailed them to the cross. He took them to the grave and left them there. Jesus said, in those last days with his disciples, that he gave his glory to the disciples (John 17:22). From that point forward they were glorified. In the same way, all of those who have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ are called, justified and glorified (Romans 8:29-30). Our senses might deny these facts but I would far rather trust God and his word over my feelings. If God views us as in heaven we should agree with him and live heavenly lives on earth on our way to join God’s understanding of us. I hope you have confessed with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and have believed in your heart that God raised him from the dead.
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

180415 The Law of the Harvest

Galatians 6:6-10 Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
Every farmer knows that what you sow is what you get! This is true in all areas of life. There are results that impel us to obey these unwritten laws. One of the unwritten laws, at least as far as we’re concerned, is the law of gravity. We may not know exactly how to define it but we certainly know what it is. Is not very intelligent to make light of this law. Many a child has tried to work out a way to override gravity. Maybe just in taking a swing to its highest level or even to jumping off a barn roof into a pile of hay. The results are always the same. If you break the law of gravity, either intentionally or by accident, you will definitely suffer the consequences! The same is true when we try to violate the rules of planting. Let me tell you a true story from my own family that occurred during the Great Depression.
Immediately after the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, he began to try to solve the problems caused by the great stock market crash of 1929. One of the things that he initiated was to help farmers financially. My grandpas both were farmers and were looking forward to getting the government help. I really don’t know how things worked out for grandpa Kelley because I’ve never heard about his experience. I do recall being told specifically what happened to grandpa Bray. He was so convinced that the government was going to take care of his needs he did not plant that spring. I believe it would have been 1932. My grandma Bray told the story. When the government woman came to the farm she looked over the garden plot and then went into the fields to look around. She came back and had some words with my grandpa. She sat down and filled out some papers and before she left she showed them to my grandma. It said something like this, “The garden is not planted, the cornfields are not planted, there is apparently no preparation for food production. I recommend that there be no aid given to this family.” And her word prevailed! There was no aid for the family and it was a very lean year. In this case, it wasn’t a matter of reap what you sow it was a matter of without sowing there would be no reaping.
My first point in developing this sermon is more than a little uncomfortable to me. I suspect it might be uncomfortable to some of you as well. As a general rule, I don’t necessarily like to talk about money. How many times have you heard someone say, “All the church wants is your money!” Often, we see in the news where the love of money has pulled down another ministry. At the same time, the Scripture is very clear. In writing to the Corinthians the Apostle Paul reached back into the law of Moses in order to establish the rule…
Pay the pastor. Let’s turn to 1 Corinthians 9:9-10. For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? 10 Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop.
I am not entirely comfortable with this topic. Too many times pastors, or preachers, have apparently been in the ministry for money. That must never be the case! In writing to the Corinthians Paul quotes one of the Old Testament laws that speaks of letting the laborer receive benefit from his labor. When Paul wrote to Timothy about the subject (1 Timothy 5:17-18) he said: “elders who rule well should be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.” “Double honor” is not a plaque to put on the wall or a letter of recommendation. The term could be translated as “double value” speaking of financial remuneration. Or to make it more simple double pay. In fact, Jesus himself said, “The laborer deserves his wages.” In 1 Corinthians 9:12 the Apostle speaks of himself when he says “Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right,” Paul was very careful not to let money get in the way of ministry.
About 30 years ago there were some significant news stories concerning prominent Christian leaders who were receiving very large pay packages. At the same time, many of them were apparently involved in ungodly activities. At that time we discontinued the practice of “passing the plate” for an offering and instead put the offering box in the entryway. My feeling at that time was we should stay as far as possible away from any greed. In his counsel to Timothy Paul said: “for the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.” (1 Timothy 6:10) We wanted to be sure no one ever considered this church to be “all about money”! Now, we have “Pay the Pastor” out-of-the-way let’s go on with “The Law of the Harvest”.
God made the rule. Let’s look at 2 Corinthians 9:6-8. The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.
A friend of mine once told me that when people leave the church they usually start by reducing or stopping their giving. Several weeks before leaving they will usually stop giving. It is very grievous to me that there seems to be a spirit of selfishness that invades many homes in the church.
Friends you can’t out give God and you can’t compel God to do anything by manipulating your giving. Holding your offering hostage doesn’t cause God to change his ways with regard to your family life. In fact, the opposite would be true. As we give we should give bountifully so that we can receive bountifully.
Let me tell you the story of R. G. LeTourneau. This material comes from He and his wife gave away 90% of their income.
LeTourneau was one of the more unlikely leaders of 20th-century industry. From humble beginnings and a 7th-grade education, he taught himself engineering and eventually built a manufacturing empire. His earth-moving machines helped win WWII and construct the highway infrastructure of modern America.  By the end of his life, he held more than 300 patents. He had also become one of the leading spokespersons in the lay-led faith and work movement.
The decision to give away 90 percent of his personal income and stock in the company was the result of a previous decision--made when he was 30 and deeply in debt--to make God His business partner. Chastised by his missionary sister to get serious about serving God, LeTourneau was confused.  Like most people, he believed that sincere dedication to God required that he become a preacher, an evangelist, or a missionary. He attended a revival meeting at church and gave in. Thinking he was headed to the mission field, he sought guidance from his pastor. After praying together, his pastor said, “You know Brother LeTourneau, God needs businessmen as well as preachers and missionaries.” LeTourneau responded, “All right if that's what God wants me to be, I'll try to be His businessman.”
LeTourneau took his business partnership with God seriously, although he felt like God was getting “a sorry specimen as a partner.” When financial success came years later, he believed this made him a debtor to God as well as his fellowman. His commitment to give away so much of his wealth was not a flash of generosity as much as a logical progression from his earlier decision to make God his business partner.
When people understand that their work matters to God and recognize that He is their business partner, LeTourneau's perspective is a natural response: “The question is not how much of my money I give to God, but rather how much of God’s money I keep for myself.” 
I first heard those words from my father when he said, “I’m not concerned about what people do with what I give I’m concerned about what I do with what I keep.” The rule that God made is simply…
You reap what you sow. Let’s turn to Luke 6:38. Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
These are the words of our Lord Jesus! He commends the giving and promises that there will be a return. Not only will there be a return it will be substantial! God does not short the return to people. The measure is pressed down, shaken together, running over! If you give faithfully you will receive bountifully. I am not saying that you will receive a certain kind of return. Some of the false teachers have done that to the damage of many people. I recall a friend who called me to say he had just heard something on the radio and wanted me to respond to it. What he had heard the evangelist say was “add up all your bills and send me the money” if they did this God would give them 100 times what they had given to the evangelist! Obviously, if you could work such a deal it would be easy to pay your bills with all the gifts that would be poured out on you. Please, never fall for such a scheme.
Remember, “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils” all of these schemes simply show our greed! I remember a T-shirt that had written on it, “God, let me prove that you can trust me. Let me win the lottery!” I can’t think of any worse attitude concerning God and money. I will tell you that God always takes care of the faithful. It is possible to accumulate some treasure here on earth but…
Our real treasure is in heaven. Turn with me to 1 Peter 1:3-5. 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, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
We need to praise God that he has a reserve account in heaven. Social Security is not secure! The Federal Reserve can fail to protect our national wealth. By the resurrection from the dead of Jesus Christ God demonstrated his power! By our faith in him, we have an inheritance protected for us — not by the power of the federal government — but by the power of God! That inheritance is not here on earth it is in heaven and will be revealed by God’s own time! Meanwhile, we are toDo good. Let’s turn to the words of Peter found in Acts 10:38. God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.
Peter followed Jesus for about three years and observed all the good things that he did. He knew that Jesus demonstrated servant leadership and he demonstrated it. Peter could remember the words of the Lord Jesus when he said he had not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28). We must…
Remember, we are part of a family. Let’s look at Philippians 3:17-21. Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
In the same way that Paul followed Christ, he wanted his disciples to follow himself. Our treasure is in heaven and so is our citizenship. Like the old song says “this world is not my home I’m just a passing through”. We are to do good to everyone, especially those who are of the household of faith. There needs to be a giving attitude in our life towards everyone. I can assure you that we serve a God who has a giving attitude. We are not to get tired of doing good instead we are to concentrate on helping each other.
We are to be led by the Spirit and not by our feelings. We have a serious obligation to bear the burdens of our family. Everyone is a burden-bearer. Every believer is to pull our brothers and sisters out of the ditch when they fall into it. Are you a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ? Have you recognized that, apart from Jesus, we have no hope in the world? Having received Christ have you followed through with baptism and involvement in the church? Today could be your day!

All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.