Risen & Lives Forever

Where are you in your faith in Jesus Christ? Do you believe all of this stuff you have read so far these past 6 weeks? How would you complete the statement, “Jesus is __________.”?

These are questions I invite you to ponder now because if there is anything that is challenging about anything we have read so far, take some time to pray (communicate with God) your apprehensions. This week we will talk about something even greater than the previous weeks.

Jesus Christ rose from the dead.

Let’s read the scripture (Luke 24:1-12 NIV):

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’” Then they remembered his words.

When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. 12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.

Easter Sunday, all around the world, and throughout history, the proclamation is “Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed!” This is the statement, the profession of belief, that reminds us no matter what goes on in this life, no matter how bad things get, no matter how dark our lives seem, Christ walked out of that tomb.

Let that sink in for a minute. The powerful grip of death, the grip that does not let it’s victims go, could not hold Christ. Jesus broke the grip of death on this world. He lives! Not only that. He lives eternally, which is a fancy way of saying he will never die again.

There are many people who will give some false claims about the resurrection. Some will say the disciples took Jesus’ body and hid it. Some will say Jesus just fell asleep and never really died. Some will say the crucifixion never happened and there is no evidence to prove it.

We actually do have written, historical evidence to prove the witness accounts of the resurrection. For one thing, we have 27 accounts that make up our New Testament. Not only that, but we have sources outside of the Biblical records. One example is a well-respected Jewish historian from the first century: Josephus.

Who was Josephus? “Flavius Josephus (A.D. 37 – c. 100) was a Jewish historian born in Jerusalem four years after the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth in the same city. Because of this proximity to Jesus in terms of time and place, his writings have a near-eyewitness quality as they relate to the entire cultural background of the New Testament era. But their scope is much wider than this, encompassing also the world of the Old Testament. His two greatest works are Jewish Antiquities, unveiling Hebrew history from the Creation to the start of the great war with Rome in A.D. 66, while his Jewish War, though written first, carries the record on to the destruction of Jerusalem and the fall of Masada in A.D. 73.”[1]

He writes:

“About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man.  For he was one who performed surprising deeds and was a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Messiah. And when, upon the accusation of the principal men among us, Pilate had condemned him to a cross, those who had first come to love him did not cease.  He appeared to them spending a third day restored to life, for the prophets of God had foretold these things and a thousand other marvels about him.  And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared.” [2]

The early followers of Jesus Christ staked their entire lives on the message and truth Christ had been raised from the dead. There was so much spiritual change in the lives they touched, and the world has never been the same. Many of the early followers even went to death sticking to the proclamation Christ is risen. So, why would they go to their grave living for a lie?

Now, I know there are people who live with a lie, or as a lie, their entire lives and still do not change or admit the truth, even on their death bed. The difference here is most of these people would not have the incredible results from their life as the disciples and followers of Christ had and have today.

Think about this. The people who were searching for Jesus went to the tomb. They were searching where they last saw him, but they were actually

LOOKING FOR JESUS IN THE WRONG PLACES.

This is something we do today. We are constantly trying to see “real”, tangible evidence Jesus lives. Our lives today are almost two thousand years away from witnessing the empty tomb ourselves, as it was originally, but this doesn’t mean the evidence isn’t around us.

People still want to know if Jesus had really been raised from the dead. Our world is filled with skepticism. We do not always believe the stuff we read about or watch (unless we see it on social media, then we seem to share without much fact checking”).

Professor and author, Stephen Seamands writes, “according to New Testament scholar, Timothy Johnson, the most important questions about Jesus is whether he is dead or alive. If he is dead, the memory of his life and accomplishments may still exert a significant influence, but his words and actions have ended. His life is over. Finished. Complete. The dead lie still. But if he is alive, then everything is radically different. He can show up on our doorstep. Do new things. Surprise, confront, encourage, instruct us. Encounter us as one living person encounters another.”[3]

So we have to pay attention to where it is we are looking for Jesus. He will not be found in the empty tombs, even though we go back every time to the last place we saw him. He will not be found, easily, where nothing good or eternally lasting happens. He will not be found in places of greed, lust, pride, laziness, etc.

Wherever Jesus is, there is life. In the Gospel of John chapter 20, we read about Jesus is doing the work of a gardener. He is restoring the creation by working it. He is bringing new life with him.

So we have to ask, “where can we find Jesus today?” Look in the dark places. Look where the people are who are more interested in themselves. Jesus is there, he’s just harder to see because there is a lot of work to be done.

But look in the places where lives are being changed. Look where people are choosing life over death. Look where people are working to transform the world into the Kingdom of Heaven even though it does not give them earthly riches or rewards. Look where drug dealers, prostitutes, gamblers, adulterers, abusers, etc. are turning their lives around because they are experiencing a change on the inside and they truly want to live in freedom.

That’s where Jesus is.

Jesus is also found in the seemingly ordinary places. When you see a mother nurse and feed her child. When you see a father encourage his children and love his wife. When you see people who once were enemies become friends. When you see teachers, construction workers, bank tellers, trash collectors, etc. do their work with a smile on their face because they have a joy inside no one can snatch.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ does all of this. Because Christ is alive, we witness and are part of incredible world changes that begin with the changed life of a single person who goes out to show people how their life can and will be changed because of Jesus Christ, because he lives.

To do this, we have to

REMEMBER WHAT JESUS TAUGHT

What was it Jesus taught? We will hear all kinds of things Jesus taught from other people. The best place to start is in the actual words he said. Now, here’s something that may not have been considered before. Jesus’ words do not begin in the New Testament.

Remember we have talked about Jesus as God in flesh. This means that he is God. Since he is God, Jesus has always existed and is eternal (has no beginning or end). Yes, he does have a human, earthly, beginning when he was born as a man; but Jesus is still eternal.

To find the words Jesus said and taught we really have to begin in the book of Genesis. The Bible has so much to say. So much history. So many names. So many places. If we’re not careful when reading it, we can get confused.

Where should we start reading? The New Testament. Specifically, I would recommend the Gospel of Mark. Why? Because it is the shortest Gospel and it shows the power and mission of Jesus clearly.

We have been going through this series looking at the Gospel of Luke. This Gospel shows Jesus’ humanity and his incredible care for humanity. I have heard people call it “The Gospel of Nobodies” because that’s who Jesus came to save “the lost.”[4]These are the people society has cast aside. These are the people no one seems to care about. These are the people who desire to be restored and redeemed. These people represent you and me.

When Jesus rose from the dead, he was demonstrating his incredible power over the final enemy of humanity—death. Jesus had already shown forgiveness of sins through his healing ministry. He had also defeated sin through his death on the cross. We see now that because Jesus is alive, death has no more power over the world.

Yes, we will still pass away and enter into the next chapter of our lives—life everlasting with Jesus Christ—but we do not have to fear it or have death reassert any power over us. The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15, “’Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”[5]

But what about us now? What do we do while we are still alive?

STAY OBEDIENT TO ORDINARY TASKS

Do you ever feel like the small tasks in life really do not count? They may be incredibly boring to us or a waste of time to us. Each of us has a different idea of what a small task is that we do not want to do. For my kids, it is keeping their room clean. For me, it is anything that will take me away from what I need to do at the moment.

Here’s the thing about the small, seemingly insignificant, tasks…this is where we find out where our hearts really are. Read that again. You’ll find out the true state of your heart in the tasks you do not really want to do but know it still needs to be done. Do we do them with a spirit of love? Or with a spirit of contempt because we really do not want to do them?

Jesus was a busy man. He had many things to do and people to see. He got interrupted all the time. Every time he got interrupted he continued to show compassion to the people who needed help. He showed the heart of God. Re-read the Gospel of Luke and see how Jesus interacted with all people.

Think about how you respond when you get interrupted from the work or mission, you are doing? I have witnessed most people, especially myself, like to stay focused on the task at hand. (I know some people may do what they can to avoid the work – that is a different message for laziness.) We tend to like to feel accomplished and see what we can do. At least, this is me. I have a hard time, sometimes, switching tasks. What is even harder for me is switching tasks with the right attitude.

The ordinary of things in life show us our hearts and our real attitudes. Remember this when faced with a task that seems too small for you, one that is an inconvenience, one that you really don’t want to do.

Above all of this, know

JESUS CONTINUES TO LIVE. SO DO WE. DO YOU BELIEVE THIS?

Jesus lives! Let us continue to proclaim with Christians all through history, “Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Hallelujah!”

This is the cry of victory. Because Christ lives, and we follow him and place our lives in his hands, we too get to live in and claim that same victory. When we share our faith with others, it is not to try to “win them to Christ,” rather it is to help them understand the war has already been won. The world’s enslavement to Sin and Death has been defeated. The individual battle still ensues and Christ’s victory. The victory and power we claim gives us the ability to win individually.

We do not fight for the world to try to bring victory. Instead, we walk in the world confident that Christ has already won. We live our lives from a place of victory. This is what makes the difference. Fear has no power over us. Sin has no power over us. We do not need to worry when faced with temptations because the power of God will keep us from giving in (if we listen and live into this power).

Philosopher Stephen Davis sums up Jesus’ resurrection well:

“[The resurrection] assures us that God will win and that accordingly, the world is not mad. Events do happen that we cannot explain. Irrational tragedies and horrible outrages do occur. But because God raised Jesus from the dead after the catastrophe of the cross, we can be sure that God will one day overcome all catastrophes…The resurrection is proof that no matter how bad things get, we can trust in God. God loves us. God has our interests at heart. God works to achieve what is beneficial to us. And in the end, God will win.”[6]

I fully believe that Jesus rose from the grave. I fully believe he is alive. I fully believe he is Lord. Not only that, I count on this each and every day. I hope you do too.

 

Works Cited:

[1]https://www.namb.net/apologetics-blog/josephus-and-jesus/

[2]https://www.namb.net/apologetics-blog/josephus-and-jesus/

[3]Seamands, Stephen. “Give Them Christ”. Page 99

[4]Luke 19:10

[5]1 Corinthians 15:54b-57 NIV

[6]Stephens Seamands, “Give Them Christ” Page 119

SENT OUT: to Follow

What do you seek? Why are you Christian? Why do you go to the church you attend? When was the last time you thought about the consequences to following Jesus?

Do you really like to be a follower? Or, would we rather be the one(s) in charge and receive the glory and recognition?

Last week we began a new sermon series called SENT OUT. We talked about how our identity as a child of God defines our purpose and gives us greater things to live for instead of our own comfort and our own preferences. This week, our focus is we are SENT OUT in the world to follow Jesus Christ.

I invite you to click on the link and take time to read John 1:29-42.

“Lamb Of God”

Disciples did not know what they were getting into when they said yes to following Jesus. Think about that for a second. Would they have followed a man who would end up at the cross? If we were in their position, would you? It may seem like a pointless endeavor to follow someone who would die just a few years later.

When John calls Jesus the “Lamb of God,” I’m sure the image of lambs in the Old Testament would have come into the minds of the people. Lambs were used for slaughter and sacrifice to “remove” the sin of the people. This is a great foreshadowing of what will occur to Jesus in the next three or so years. So basically John could have been saying “Here comes the dead man walking who will show you what it means to live fully in the presence of God.”

Later on in scripture, Jesus tells his followers they are to “take up their cross and follow him.” This means that he is calling us to be living sacrifices and deny ourselves for the grander purpose of the Kingdom of God. I love the following story of what “take up your cross” means to different cultures.

One market day in their village, two Chwang tribesmen heard a colporteur preach the Gospel. Then he began to sell Gospels, promising blessing to those who not only read but obeyed the precepts contained therein. Both men purchased copies, and taking them home, they read along till they came to the statement, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” In their desire to obey the Word of God, they made two crosses of bamboo, and tied them on their backs. (The Chinese translation of the words, “Take up his cross,” is “Bear his cross on his back.”) They carried these crosses as they visited the market or went about the country, and then carefully hung them on the front of their houses when they were home. Seeing their earnestness of heart, God did not leave them long in the dark. Soon a Chinese worker discovered them, briefly explained the Gospel to them, and advised them to go to Liuchow for further instruction. They did so, and after a week of instruction returned to their village and began to witness for the Lord. Several months later they went back to Liuchow, requesting baptism and further instruction. We were glad to grant both their requests as they exhibited an earnestness seldom seen anywhere. (Alliance Weekly)

“Come and see”

Jesus’ invitation to his new followers was not as gruesome as the death seen of the cross. Neither was it, “get your act together and then follow me.” Disciples asked Jesus,  “Where are you staying?” Jesus answered, “Come and see”

The invitation is to follow…we don’t have to be perfect. How does this make you feel? Aren’t you glad you do not have to be perfect before we accept the invitation of Jesus Christ?

Jesus did not leave the disciples in the place of remaining in their sin. Nor did he allow them to be the same. The imperfect disciples grew in their love and faith as they followed Jesus.

What does all this mean for us today?

S. I. McMillen, in his book None of These Diseases, tells a story of a young woman who wanted to go to college, but her heart sank when she read the question on the application blank that asked, “Are you a leader?” Being both honest and conscientious, she wrote, “No,” and returned the application, expecting the worst. To her surprise, she received this letter from the college: “Dear Applicant: A study of the application forms reveals that this year our college will have 1,452 new leaders. We are accepting you because we feel it is imperative that they have at least one follower.”

When we follow Jesus Christ, our actions change and what we have the heart of God for the least, the last, and the lost. We get to follow wherever Jesus is leading us in our lives. Keep in mind, this does not mean we are passive and do not take the lead. There are times, many times, that Christ calls us to lead people. We are able to lead better because we follow Christ.

So, what are some things we can do to tangibly keep our lives and church in line with Christ’s mission for His church? The challenge is that we will look at all of this and say “I don’t have time to do everything!” or “We’ve never done that / we’ve tried that before.” Or “Ok, if I do this, I’ll keep my place in heaven.”

What are some things you can see yourself / your church community doing to reach out into the world in the love of Jesus Christ?

  • Community missions such as food pantry, clothes closet, helping with utilities, etc?
  • Community (off church site) Bible Studies and times of prayer and worship?
  • Form or strengthen care ministries to the community of faith (homebound, nursing homes, hospitals, sick, etc) and to those in the community?
  • What else can you add to this list?

These are just a few ideas that will have lasting impact within the community and the church community which will end up spreading the love of Jesus Christ out into the whole world.

We do not do this alone! We are empowered by the Holy Spirit to go where Christ calls and do the work he calls us to. This is done because we are being leaders in our community (or faithfully being the helpers). We are able to do this because we follow the call mission of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8 as examples). It is ALL by God’s grace that we are able to do these acts (Ephesians 2:8-10).

We do not have to do everything; but we can ALL do something!

Are you ready to follow?

  • Bring people to faith in Christ by building authentic relationships and bring them to worship
  • Care for the sick and homebound (widows and orphans)
  • Find out what the community needs (from the community people) and find ways to make it happen)

Carry your cross on your back, check the box that you can follow and not have to lead…

Follow Christ to see where He is leading us in 2017 so we can continue to provide ministry through this church for the future generations (thinking for the next 100 years) to come to follow, know, and love Jesus Christ.

Let’s talk about the vision God is giving you for your life and His church.

Jesus is Alive!

Yesterday, we celebrated and rejoiced in the truth the Jesus Christ has been resurrected from the dead and still lives. This is a key teaching and cornerstone to the Christian Faith. It was a great time in worship. How do you celebrate the Risen Lord? What brought you to a place of belief?
When we read about the resurrection in the Gospel of John (John 20:1-18), we first see Mary Magdeline go to the empty tomb, then the disciples John and Peter. What I find interesting is each one of them had a different reaction when approaching the empty tomb:

  • Mary made a snap judgement someone stole the body of Jesus just by seeing the stone had been rolled away
  • John knelt down and glanced in, noticing the grave cloths and finally entered and believed
  • Peter pushed his way in and began investigatin the scene

None of these reactions are wrong, they are just different. But these also show us how we react to people and news today. It is easier to make a quick judgement and decision without ever trying to figure out the entire story. Adults teach this to children; yet we, as adults, still make snap/quick judgements on people, news, circumstances, etc. without ever trying to figure out the whole truth of what happened, what was said. There are others who get quick snippets of the situation and come to their own conclusions, whether or not it is the whole truth. Then, there are those who take time to investigate and try to understand wholeheartedly.

I believe it is important to have all of these traits and reactions. We should quickly look to see what happened. Then we should glance in to get more information. Finally, we should investigate and examine what is presented to get to the core of the truth.

One of my favorite stories about Mother Teresa is when she teaches someone searching for her about trust versus clarity.

 “John Kavanaugh, the noted and famous ethicist, went to Calcutta, he was seeking Mother Teresa … and more. He went for three months to work at “the house of the dying” to find out how best he could spend the rest of his life.

When he met Mother Teresa, he asked her to pray for him. “What do you want me to pray for?” she replied. He then uttered the request he had carried thousands of miles: “Clarity. Pray that I have clarity.”
“No,” Mother Teresa answered, “I will not do that.” When he asked her why, she said, “Clarity is the last thing you are clinging to and must let go of.” When Kavanaugh said that she always seemed to have clarity, the very kind of clarity he was looking for, Mother Teresa laughed and said: “I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust. So I will pray that you trust God.”

Jesus asks us to follow and trust Him through our life journey. Because He is risen and alive, He is with us (Matthew 28:20). The question asked of the congregation yesterday was, “Do you believe this?”

I hope and pray you do. Jesus is alive! Alleluia!

Sermon “Do You Believe” (Easter Sunday 2016) http://youtu.be/uUNE5o3gvWM