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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Note to Self: Live

I'm engaged in writing a funeral message for a young man (21) who was in a tragic ATV accident last week.

As I'm writing, I receive this helpful post from Joe Thorn: Note to Self: Live.

Joe and I were both at Moody at the same time. I really appreciate his blog and what their church is trying to be and do.

And I am always especially ministered to by his "Notes to Self."

This one especially:
[Self,] God has not promised you tomorrow, but he has given you right now. Make the most of it. Live. Live with purpose and earnestness and do all things in faith, so that whatever you are doing it is done for the glory of God.
Read the whole thing.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Don't Be a Trifler

"What has exceedingly hurt you in time past, nay, and I fear, to this day, is want of reading. I scarce ever knew a preacher who read so little. And perhaps, by neglecting it, you have lost the taste for it. Hence your talent in preaching does not increase. It is just the same as it was seven years ago. It is lively, but not deep; there is little variety; there is no compass of thought. Reading only can supply this, with meditation and daily prayer. You wrong yourself greatly by omitting this. You can never be a deep preacher without it, any more than a thorough Christian.

Oh begin! Fix some part of every day for private exercises. You may acquire the taste which you have not; what is tedious at first will afterwards be pleasant. Whether you like it or no, read and pray daily. It is for your life; there is no other way; else you will be a trifler all your days, and a pretty, superficial preacher. Do justice to your own soul; give it time and means to grow. Do not starve yourself any longer. Take up your cross and be a Christian altogether. Then will all the children of God rejoice (not grieve) over you; and in particular yours."

John Wesley, writing to a young preacher, quoted in D. A. Carson and John D. Woodbridge, Letters Along The Way, page 169.

[HT: RCO]

Sunday, April 26, 2009

[Matt's Messages] "No Resurrection? Why Bother?"

“No Resurrection? Why Bother?”
1 Corinthians 15:29-34
April 26, 2009

I said last week that the Resurrection is too important and too good[!] to confine it to just one Sunday per year. So we’re making this a Resurrection Month–not just Resurrection Sunday.

And we’re studying The Resurrection Chapter–1 Corinthians 15.

Remember that the apostle Paul was trying to fix a problem at the church in Corinth. The problem was that some people in that church actually denied the category of resurrection.

They were teaching that there was no such thing as resurrection!

And Paul countered that problem with a reminder of the good news (vv.1-11) which included a resurrection–the most important resurrection ever!!–the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

And then Paul went on to say (vv.12-19) that if Jesus Christ is not alive today then Christianity is worthless, empty, and futile. (V.19) “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” That’s what I told my hitchhiker friend.

Then last week (vv.20-28), we heard Paul turn the argument upside down and say “But Christ has indeed been raised.” And the Risen Christ has unleashed an unstoppable, inevitable chain of events that will culminate in our resurrection and the ultimate triumph of our God.

This isn’t just about Jesus Christ’s resurrection–it’s about our resurrection, too. He is the firstfruits. And we who believe in Him are to be the rest of the harvest! Amen?

Now, in this week’s paragraph (in vv.29-34), Paul goes back to the kind of argument that he was using in vv.12-29. He goes back to asking the question, “What if there is no resurrection?” And he goes back to showing how futile Christianity is without resurrection.

In essence, he says, “Why bother?” Why bother?

Why bother with Christianity, practicing it, preaching it, persevering in it?

Why bother? If there is “No Resurrection? Why Bother?”

Most of the Bible is easy to understand. It may not be easy to practice all the time, but it is easy enough to understand, to get the point.

But there are a few passages of Scripture that are very, very obscure. Even after much study, there are a few passages of Scripture that make me just scratch my head and say, “I’m not sure.”

Our v.29 is one of those passages of Scripture that have given fits to preachers and scholars for many, many years.

It’s one of those passages that when we get to heaven, when its time for questions, we’re going to want to ask about first. “Lord, what did you mean by 1 Corinthians 15:29?”

There are at least 40 different interpretations of v.29 that are all possible from one degree of probability to another. So it is hard to be too insistent on one interpretation.

However, the basic flow of the argument is very clear.

Paul is basically saying, if there is no resurrection, “Why bother with baptism?”

#1. WHY BOTHER WITH BAPTISM?

Let’s read v.29 again.

“Now if there is no resurrection [as we know some of them were claiming], what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them?”

Now, Paul’s basic point is clear: it is ridiculous to spend your valuable time with baptism, if what baptism symbolizes and anticipates is not real.

Baptism is about publically identifying with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and anticipating your own resurrection.

But if there is no resurrection of Jesus, why bother identifying with it? And if there is no personal resurrection to look forward to, why bother anticipating it? It’s a waste of time to get baptized. That’s pretty clear.

But the problem here is that Paul is not just talking about baptism, but specifically about (v.29) “baptism for the dead.”

And I don’t know what he’s talking about!

It seems that there was a practice at Corinth of baptizing living people on behalf of (or in proxy for) some other people who had died.

Now, that’s a strange practice and one that has no other parallel in either the Old or New Testament.

As far as we know, no other church had ever or did ever (for many many years after) practice this same “baptism by proxy.” It appears to have been a Corinthian innovation.

So, it’s hard to know how this particular church did it, when they did it, or (most importantly) why they did it.

My best guess is that some believers didn’t have enough time to get baptized before they died. Like the thief on the cross (as we saw on Palm Sunday), or a death-bed conversion.

And the Corinthians wanted these recently converted, recently deceased people to be included in the very important symbolism of baptism. So when someone came to faith but then died before getting baptized like that, at a baptism celebration, someone else would stand up and take their place and say something like, “Today I stand for our brother Epaphras and take that step of baptism that he would have taken if he had lived long enough. Epaphras believed in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, and I hereby identify him with the Jesus he has now gone to be with and publically anticipate the day when Epaphras will rise again.”

I don’t know, but that’s my best guess. It’s interesting to me that Paul does not tell us to practice this. And nowhere else do the Scriptures tell us to do it, either. Paul just recognizes that the Corinthians knew this practice and says that it would be stupid to bother with it if there is no resurrection planned by God.

“If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them?” Paul says, “Sounds like a waste of time to me.”

Now, you might have a different take on that verse. It’s not quite clear. But what IS clear is that Paul thinks that baptism would be ridiculous if there is no resurrection.

If Jesus is not alive today then don’t bother standing up for Him before the world. If He’s not going to raise you, then don’t bother getting dunked up in this baptistry or at the lake this Summer.

The practices of Christianity (including baptism) are worthless without a Risen Savior.

Of course, the opposite is also true. The practices of Christianity (including baptism) are incredibly worthwhile if Jesus is alive.

Paul is also saying (by negation) that since Jesus is alive, then baptism has relevance (even if he is not telling us to do it for dead people like they did in Corinth).

Have you been baptized since you came to faith in Jesus Christ?

If not, why not? It’s important!

Have you publically identified yourself with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ? Have you proclaimed to the world (by being immersed in water in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) that you anticipate Jesus’ raising you from the dead?

If Jesus is alive (and I believe He is!) then the practices of Christianity such as baptism have great significance.

I encourage you to be baptized.

This Summer, I would like to have a public baptism at a lake, like Curwensville Dam or Black Moshannon.

If you are ready to take that step (and that should be every believer in Jesus Christ!), then talk with me about our baptism class and making public your faith this Summer.

Because Jesus is alive!

So, we’ll bother with baptism.

Now, in the next verse, Paul moves off of their practices of baptism, onto his apostolic ministry, which was one of great suffering.

In essence he says, “If there is no resurrection, why bother with suffering for Christ?”

#2. WHY BOTHER WITH SUFFERING FOR CHRIST? Look at v.30.

“And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? I die every day–I mean that brothers–just as surely as I glory over you in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Paul is saying that his ministry was dangerous. Every day he faced the possibility of death for Christ–martyrdom. Every day had the chance of being his last–all because he was a missionary of Jesus Christ.

As surely as he loves to glory in the Corinthians’ faith, he surely is in danger.

But if there is no resurrection, why bother?

Why bother going on dangerous missions trips if Jesus is not alive?

Why bother taking a difficult assignment if you only have one life to live?

If there is nothing to this story about Jesus’ resurrection, then missionary work is a colossal waste of time.

Look at v.32.

“If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus for merely human reasons, what have I gained?”

Paul is talking about the riots and persecution he experienced at the hands of the unbelievers at Ephesus. His opponents were ferocious. He calls them “wild beasts.”

But he says, “If it was just for human reasons [like altruism or charity or humanitarianism] then what have I gained?”

Is it worth it to take on dangerous missions for a false future?

Paul didn’t think so.

If there is no resurrection, then all of his ministry in hard places was stupid.

And he had had it tough. Listen to Paul’s ministry report in 2 Corinthians 11, “Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, 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 own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. 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” (Vv.23-27).

How would you like to read a missionary prayer letter like that one?

Paul is saying, “I’m crazy to be doing this if there is no resurrection!”

Why bother suffering for Christ?

Henoc Lucien is our missionary in Haiti. He has something like 17 orphans living with him right now. They were orphaned by the latest round of Hurricanes.

Why bother feeding them if Jesus is not alive?

Kim and Jan Cone our missionaries to the Fulani in Central African Republic. They have had to struggle with banditry there. Bandits stealing things at gunpoint.

Is this kind of suffering worthwhile?

They could be home in the States with a cushy job and no bandits to worry about.

Is this kind of suffering worthwhile?

Only if Jesus is alive. Only if this life is not the only one we live! Only if there is a resurrection to be looked for to!

Henoc and Guerline & Kim and Jan Cone are not getting rich on the mission field. But they are storing up treasures to enjoy in the world to come. They are looking forward to a great reward that can only be collected in a resurrection body.

Why bother suffering for Christ if there is no resurrection?

But if there is a resurrection, then suffering for Christ has great reward!

1 Peter 4: “Rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you” (vv.13-14).

It is worth it to suffer for Christ because Jesus is alive and we will live again, too.

What is Jesus calling you to?

I promise you that there is an element of suffering in it.

It’s not just missionaries that suffer for Christ.

It’s every Christ follower.

You and I are called to suffer for Christ. Jesus has some pain for you to take on in His service.

But it is pain that is bearable and worthwhile because of the surpassing greatness of knowing the Risen Savior and the reward promised to you that you will receive when you rise again to life.

Follow Christ into suffering because He is alive, and it is worth it.

Take risks for Christ! Suffer for Him. Follow Him into hardship.

Let’s bother! Let’s bother to suffer for Christ–because He’s alive.

The last point is from vv.32-34.

Paul (in essence) asks not just “Why bother with baptism?” or “Why bother with suffering for Christ.” But also, “Why bother with being good?”

#3. WHY BOTHER WITH BEING GOOD?

Why bother with morality and holiness if there is no resurrection? Middle of v.32.

“If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die.’”

Do you get it?

Let me put it this way: “One life to live, so live it up!”

If this is all there is (if this is as good as it gets), then enjoy your food and enjoy your drink because tomorrow you will be food for the worms. And that’s it.

Don’t waste time with “right” and “wrong.” Just do what comes naturally.

There will be no “hell to pay.”

Why bother with being good if there is no heaven and there is no hell?

The New Living Translation renders v.32, “If there is no resurrection, ‘Let's feast and get drunk, for tomorrow we die!’”

Let’s live like there is no tomorrow.

That’s right, you know. Telling the truth, keeping your promises, staying faithful to your spouse, paying your taxes, praying for people, keeping your anger in check–all these things are worthless if this is it!

If this is a good as it gets, you better grab yours because they are going fast.

Imagine a Christian on the Titanic. Only so many life-boats. Only so many life-jackets. Right?

He’s making sure the women and children get on the boats first. He’s making sure that the feeble and elderly get on the boats first.

Someone comes to him and says, “Save yourself, man!” And he says, “I know where I’ll be at the end of today. I know that my Redeemer lives and I will live again.”

But then he begins to think that Christianity wasn’t true. Maybe Jesus never rose from the dead. Maybe Jesus’ promises to raise him are also not true. There is no resurrection.

Push over the children. Step over the old people. Knock a lady out of the boat. Use your might (and a weapon if you can find one) to maintain your spot on the raft.

Because once you die, that’s it. And you need to do everything you can to enjoy yourself while you can.

If Jesus is not alive again....why bother with being good?

Unfortunately, this is how many people (including Christians like the some of the Corinthians) live their lives. They may not go to such an extreme, but they don’t think about any world except the one that they are living in, which is so short, so temporary, comparatively.

If Jesus is not alive today, then why bother with living for Him?

But Jesus IS alive today!

And He is calling you and me to live holy lives. V.33.

“Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’ Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God–I say this to your shame.”

Paul says, “Don’t get carried away by this false teaching that there is no resurrection. Don’t hang around people who talk that! It will mess up the way you live. Keeping the bad company of people who deny the resurrection will corrupt your character into someone who just lives for the fleeting pleasure of the moment. Wake up to the consequences of this kind of idea. And stop sinning! Stop your lazy living because you think that this world is all that there is.”

I am convinced that our lives now would be radically altered if we could focus more attention on our lives to come. If we could get fixed in our mind’s eye the return of Jesus and our resurrection bodies, then we wouldn’t struggle so much with greed and lust and anxiety and pride.

“Stop sinning,” Paul says. Stop living like there is no tomorrow. For because of Jesus’ resurrection, THERE IS A TOMORROW!

Stop sinning and get back to what you’re supposed to be about.

Paul says (v.34), “...there are some who are ignorant of God–I say this to you shame.”

You Corinthians are so focused on this world that you have not taught those among you and those around you about God. You are so focused on your food and your drink and your sex and your money that the work of the church: discipleship and evangelism are going to completely un-cared-for.

How shameful! The very thing the church exists to do is going un-done because some of you are saying that there is no resurrection, and many of you are living like it!

Since Jesus IS alive, we are called to live holy lives of purity and teach others about God.

Let me ask you a question (in closing this morning), is your life a holy life? Are you living in purity and cleanness before God?

Is your life a holy life?

If it is not, you probably are denying the resurrection.

You may agree with it in your doctrinal statement, but you are not believing it in such a way as to let it affect the way you live your life.

1 John says, “We know that when [Christ] appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure” (3:3).

God is calling you and me to purity. He is saying to us, “Stop sinning.” Stop living like there is no tomorrow. Clean out the envy, anxiety, greed, and pride. Because of the resurrection there IS a tomorrow!

It is worth the bother to be baptized.
It is worth the bother to suffer for Christ.
And it is more than worth the bother to live a life of purity and goodness for the sake of Jesus.

Because He’s alive.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

4 Hot (and Orthodox) Candles

Believe it or not, this little blog turned 4 this month.

As we get another year older (and hopefully mature), I'm thankful for:
  1. The creative outlet that it provides for me.
  2. The way that it connects different streams of my life into one river.
  3. The folks (you!) who come here to read about Hot Orthodoxy.
  4. The ways that it's been a help to people--especially those who are struggling.
Thanks for visiting. We'll try to keep it hot and orthodox for another year...

Let the Fun Begin (Again)!


It's spring, when a younger pastor's thoughts turn to...classes?

Good news! I've been accepted into the Westminster Theological Seminary's doctor of ministry program with an emphasis on pastoral counseling.

This is actually the second round of classes offered by CCEF. This time, however, it's actually for credit and will be applied to an actual doctoral degree (assuming I actually finish).

The classes are August 17-28, offered in intense modules (classes run from 9am-9pm for 10 days!). I get to sit again under David Powlison (Dynamics of Biblical Change, Theology and Secular Psychology), Ed Welch (Methods of Biblical Change, Human Personality), Mike Emlet (Video Observation) and Tim Lane/Winston Smith (Counseling Practicum).

Can't wait!

You might notice that the pile of books this year is smaller than last year. I'm thankful for that. I'm also thankful that I've already read more than half of the things we're assigned to read.

But there's still plenty of work to be done, including several pre-course papers.

So, as usual, I'd appreciate your prayers.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Isaac's Surgery - One Month Later


Believe it or not, Isaac's surgery was one month ago today. No lingering side-effects, no bad memories, no problems.

Just a happy busy boy.

Praise the Lord!

Finally Read "The Shack"

Back in July I wrote:
Right now there is a widely popular book out called “The Shack.” And I guess everyone is reading it. It’s supposedly Christian and has helped many people in their faith. I don’t doubt their sincere intentions, but I’m concerned about it.

I haven’t read it yet, I can’t read everything (try as I might), but from what I’ve read about it, it’s a harmful book for the people of God. Beware it.
Well, I finally have had the chance to read it.

It was much better than I expected, but also much worse.

I'd like to say that I could now cautiously recommend it, but I can't. While I think the author sees and feels many things extremely well (and I was moved at points with his clear vision!), he sees other things so poorly and states things so un-biblically at times that I can't recommend that anyone read it except as an exercise in discernment or care for someone who has read it. The immature or hurting should not read it.

I know that it's supposedly "just a novel," but the author is definitely trying to teach with his novel, in the vein of Dostoyevsky, Lewis, Alcorn, etc. And it is not a neutral book. He has an agenda, and it is not biblical.

I don't have time for a full review, perhaps another day.

For today: I say again, "Beware it."

Thursday, April 23, 2009

My Favorite Line from Fireproof

In the movie, the main character played by Kirk Cameron, is trying to win back the love of his wife.

He's doing something called "The Love Dare" which is a 40-day adventure sort of thing--learning to love biblically defined (sounds kind of like a sermon series I heard recently).

My favorite line comes almost at the end. The wife asks him what day he's on in the "Love Dare," and he answers something like, "43. Who says I have to stop?"

Yes! My fist pumped right into the air.

We need more of this in Christian marriages.

Fireproof

A few weeks ago, we got to watch the Christian marriage movie: Fireproof.

I didn't expect it to be as good as it was, but it was really good.

The counter-cultural messages about marriage in it were excellent.

For more about the movie, see this review by Andy Naselli. I agree wholeheartedly. It's exactly what I often am preaching and counseling about what marriage really is.

Watch it. Share it. Live it.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

[Matt's Messages] "Resurrection Guarantees"

“Resurrection Guarantees”
April 19, 2009
1 Corinthians 15:20-28

We were in 1 Corinthians 15 last week on Resurrection Sunday.

How many of you, as we were looking at verses 1 through 19, kept on reading all about resurrection through the rest of the chapter? I did! Or at least I wanted to.

1 Corinthians 15 is the “Resurrection Chapter”– the watershed chapter on resurrection in the whole Bible. And, I said last week that we didn’t have time to study the whole thing. And we didn’t, last week.

But it’s so glorious! And so important! I thought maybe we shouldn’t stop on Resurrection Sunday but should make this Resurrection Month! And keep going through 1 Corinthians 15. So, we will. There’s some really important stuff here.

Remember what’s going on in this chapter so far. It seems that there were some folks at Corinth who were teaching that there is no such thing as resurrection. Dead people don’t come back and live again. No such thing as resurrection.

So Paul has been countering this false teaching. He reminded them (in verses 1 through 11) that the gospel, the good news of Christianity, includes the resurrection as a key element. And they had believed it when he first came and presented the gospel to them. The gospel says Jesus Christ has come back from the dead.

And if God could raise one person, He can raise whomever He wants!

And then, what we emphasized last week, is that our faith would be useless and stupid if the resurrection of Jesus Christ was not real. Like I told my hitchhiker last week, if Christ has not been raised then we have no hope–there is no Christianity without a living Jesus Christ.

The apostles are no better than liars.
We are still doomed in our sins.
And we should be pitied more than all men.

BUT!

“Christ has indeed been raised from the dead[!]”

That is how our text begins today in verse 20.

Let’s read it. 1 Corinthians 15:20-28.

“But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 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. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he ‘has put everything under his feet.’ Now when it says that ‘everything’ has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.” (NIV)

Death could not hold Him.
The grave could not keep Him down.
Jesus Christ was dead but is alive again!

And Jesus’ resurrection set in motion a chain of inevitable events that are guaranteed.

This morning I want us to look at two glorious “Resurrection Guarantees.”

The next step in Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians chapter 15 is to demonstrate for us a few of the awesome, inevitable events which have been secured by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ’s resurrection set in motion a chain of inevitable events that are guaranteed. And they make all of the difference for our lives.

The first is in vv.20-23.

#1. JESUS’ RESURRECTION GUARANTEES THE RESURRECTION OF THOSE WHO BELONG TO HIM.

The “key word” for this section is “firstfruits.” Find it in v.20.

“But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the FIRSTFRUITS of those who have fallen asleep.”

Firstfruits. Now, you and I don’t tend to use that word. Many of us probably don’t really know what it means.

It’s an agricultural term. It’s a farmer’s word. The firstfruits are the initial showings of a planted crop (and harvested crop). The firstfruits are the beginning of the harvest.

I grew up on a farm in north-central Ohio. My Dad rented out the land to a local farmer who rotated his crops between soybeans and corn and few other things. Corn was my favorite because my brother and I could go running into the cornfield and play hide and seek over 70 acres.

But my brother and I didn’t always know what the farmers had planted. I’m sure if we asked my Dad he would have known, but we often didn’t know until the first shoots of corn would stick up from the ground. That’s kind of like what is meant here by “firstfruits.”

In ancient Israel, the firstfruits did three main things: (1) they testified that the harvest had begun, (2) they indicated what the rest of the crop would be like, and (3) they guaranteed that there was more like that on the way!

Do you see how that works?

The firstfruits testified that the harvest had begun, they indicated what the rest of the crop would be like, and they guaranteed that there was more like that on the way.

And Paul is saying that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead, and is the “FIRSTFRUITS of those who have fallen asleep (or died).”

The harvest of resurrection has begun. Isn’t that exciting?!

God has a plan to transform all of believing humanity into a new humanity. And anyone who dies with genuine faith in Christ is promised a resurrection body, a place in the “resurrection harvest.” And gloriously, in the resurrection of Jesus, the harvest has begun! He’s the firstfruits!

Moreover, he indicates what the crops (us) are going to be like! If the firstfruits of corn came up scrambly and scrawny, that’s what you could expect out the rest of the crop. If it came out healthy, hale, and strong, you could expect a robust harvest.

Well, what was Jesus like when He came up? Think about that for a few moments and ponder what your future is like!

Jesus’ resurrection body is the model for ours! We’ll see that more as we go further into 1 Corinthians 15. Jesus’ resurrection body is the model for ours! He is the firstfruits, indicating what the crop will be like.

And moreover, His resurrection guarantees that there are more like Him on the way. If a few shoots of corn pop up, corn is coming. If Jesus rises from the dead, the dead are going to rise! V.21.

“[...the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.] For since death camethrough 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.”

Paul is saying that it is guaranteed.
Just like it is guaranteed that everyone who is “In Adam” has death, everyone who is “in Christ” shall be made alive.

But there is a delay between the firstfruits and the rest of the crop. V.23.

“But each in his own turn: Christ, [and here’s our word again!] the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.”

Jesus’ resurrection is the firstfruits. And it guarantees that those who belong to Him will also receive resurrection. And it will happen, WHEN? This verse says, when Jesus returns. It says, “When He comes, those who belong to Him [will be raised].”

1 Thessalonians 4:16 says, “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.”

Jesus’ resurrection guarantees the resurrection of all who belong to Him. ...

Of course, the question that raises for us today is this: “Do you belong to Him?”

Do you belong to Jesus?

If you can answer that question with an overwhelming, unqualified, unreserved, absolute “Yes,” then you have great reason for rejoicing!

If you belong to Jesus, then if you die, when He comes back, you get a resurrection body!

You get to join the harvest!
You get a body like Jesus’!
You get the power of an indestructible life!

You will follow the firstfruits and be a part of the harvested crop of resurrected believers!

Isn’t that exciting?

Do you sometimes feel like your life is going nowhere?

I know some folks who are really depressed right by our economy, by their life situation, by things they see going on in our country, by things they see going on around the world–and there are a lot of depressing things going on right now.

But it won’t always be that way.

History is going in a direction–towards an end.

And for believers–this is the end–the harvest of resurrection!

Isn’t that exciting?

Doesn’t that change the way that we think about our lives?

If you belong to Jesus, you will be like Him–the firstfruits of those who have died.

Rejoice!

However, if you can’t give an unqualified “yes” to that question–“Do you belong to Jesus?”, if your answer must be “No,” then you need to repent while you can because you will miss out on the harvest.

You are still “in Adam.” And everyone “in Adam” dies.

And there will be a resurrection for you, but it will not be to eternal life but to eternal death. The Lord Jesus said in John 5, “a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out...and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned” (vv.28-29).

And the Apostle John records these sobering words in Revelation 20, “ And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (vv.12-15).

If you do not belong to Jesus, if your name is not written in the book of life, you will not be a part of the harvest of resurrection to life.

Repent now while you still can.

The Lord Jesus will receive you if you turn to Him in faith. Agree with Him that you are a sinner and tell Him that you want Him to save you from the lake of fire. Trust in His Crosswork on your behalf. Confess Him as the Lord and Master of your life.

And the Lord Jesus will include you in His harvest. V.22

“IN CHRIST all will be made alive...those who belong to Him.”

Guaranteed by the Resurrection.

The second guarantee is in verses 24 through 28.

#2. JESUS’ RESURRECTION GUARANTEES GOD’S ULTIMATE TRIUMPH OVER ALL HIS ENEMIES.

The “key words” here are “Under His Feet.” Look at verses 24 and 25.

“Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies UNDER HIS FEET.”

“Under His Feet” was an Hebraic way of saying “total conquest.”

Remember what we saw a few weeks ago in Joshua chapter 10 when the Israelites, against all odds had defeated the 5 Amorite Kings? The ones who had hid in cave?

Joshua brought the enemy kings out and had his commanders do what?

Put their feet on their necks.

That’s a picture of total victory–your enemies are under your feet.

Got that picture in your mind?

Paul is saying that after the coming of Christ and the harvest of resurrection, Christ will destroy all “dominion, authority and power,” [that is all of His enemies] and put them under His feet and then hand over this triumphant Kingdom into the administrative hands of God the Father.

This is total victory by the Son of God.

There is coming a day, guaranteed by the resurrection of Jesus Christ that every enemy of God will be subdued. The Greek word here for “destroyed” means to render inoperative, to put out of action.

Right now, there are powerful enemies of God whom God in His inscrutable wisdom allows to continue in opposition to Him for a limited period of time. He rules them now by His sovereign and mysterious will. But there is coming a glorious day (I believe at the end of His millennial reign) when Jesus Christ shall see every single of foe of His “under His feet.”

Psalm 110 says that this will happen: “The LORD says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’ The LORD will extend your mighty scepter from Zion; you will rule in the midst of your enemies...The Lord is at your right hand; he will crush kings on the day of his wrath. He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead and crushing the rulers of the whole earth.” (1-2, 5-6)

The Lord Jesus will put every dominion, authority and power out of commission.

Now, why we I say that this is guaranteed by the resurrection of Jesus Christ? V.26.

“The last enemy to be destroyed (put out of commission) is death.”

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the decisive death blow dealt to death itself!

Do you know that death is a defeated enemy? And someday soon it will be rendered completely inoperative.
We’ll see that in more when we get to the end of chapter especially v.54.

But in v.26 we see that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the decisive death-blow struck against death itself. And one day soon, death itself “will draw its last breath” as an enemy of God and His people.

Revelation 20:14 says “Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.”

Do you see what that means? John the Revelator saw that Death will be thrown into the lake of fire which is the second death. Death itself will die!

Are you afraid of death?

It’s natural to be afraid of death.

Our whole world is afraid of death. Even Christians act afraid of death.

But death itself is defeated.

Death itself is doing to die!

And here’s how we know this–the resurrection guarantees it!

The resurrection of Jesus Christ guarantees that the end will come just like He says.

Jesus’ resurrection guarantees God’s ultimate triumph over all His enemies.

Notice I say, “God’s ultimate triumph” and not just Christ’s. Not because it isn’t Christ’s triumph (it is!), but because everything here is all moving toward the glory of God. V.27.

“For he ‘has put everything under his feet.’ Now when it says that ‘everything’ has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this [this subduing of all opposition], then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.”


Now get this! The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the first of a chain of unstoppable events that will culminate in the undisputed, unchallenged, unmatched, pervasive sovereignty of God.

When God is all in all, all of creation will be in glad submission to Him for all eternity. And even the uncreated God the Son will gladly hand over the “keys of the kingdom” to God the Father saying, “Father, my work of redemption has been perfectly accomplished. Here is a people and a world redeemed for Your glory. To You be the glory forever and ever, all in all, Amen and Amen!”

No more opposition. No more sin. No more resistance to the will of God.

The New Living Translation renders v.28 like this: “When he has conquered all things, the Son will present himself to God, so that God, who gave his Son authority over all things, WILL BE UTTERLY SUPREME OVER EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE.”

That’s right. At the end of the chain of unstoppable events begun by the defeat of death at the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a glorious eternity where God is utterly supreme over everything everywhere! ... Wow!

How does that make you feel?

Does your heart just thrill with this?

This is the future. This is where everything is headed.

All because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The question that leaves us is, “Are you a part of the Kingdom or the Opposition?”

Are you a part of the glorious Kingdom that God the Son is going to hand over to God the Father (v.24)?

If so, then you have everything to rejoice about, every day. Because you are a part of something unstoppable and glorious!

Jesus said, “your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).

You are a part of something unstoppable and glorious and...eternal!

Rejoice that you belong to the Kingdom of God.

This makes your life make sense.

Even if it doesn’t feel like it! This is where your life is headed–for the Kingdom!

But if you are still a part of the opposition, then I plead with you today to repent while you still can.

Come to Christ. Don’t wait another day. You may not be able to repent tomorrow.

If you are a part of the opposition (and you are either one or the other–there is no neutrality), you will be utterly destroyed and put under His feet.

Hear what John saw of the Risen Christ returning in judgment, Revelation 19: “ I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter.’

He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, ‘Come, gather together for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and mighty men, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, small and great.’

Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse and his army. But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. The rest of them were killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh” (vv.11-21).

Those words are in the Bible. They are going to come true at the end of time. If you still are a part of the opposition, lay down your weapons now.

You don’t have to be destroyed. Jesus died so that if you believe on Him you will not perish but have everlasting life!

And that’s His desire for you. He doesn’t desire your destruction, but your salvation! The Bible says, “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

Repent now, while you still can.

Because Jesus’ resurrection will guarantee your resurrection if you belong to Him. And Jesus’ resurrection will guarantee His ultimate triumph over all God’s enemies.

So leave the opposition and join the Kingdom.

It will be worth it, when God is all in all. Resurrection Guaranteed.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Unbridled Rejoicing

"The resurrection of Christ has determined our existence for all time and eternity. We do not merely live out our length of days and then have the hope of resurrection as an addendum; rather, as Paul makes plain in this passage, Christ's resurrection has set in motion a chain of inexorable events that absolutely determines our present and our future. Christ is the firstfruits of those who are his, who will be raised at his coming. That ought to both reform the way we live and to reshape our worship into seasons of unbridled rejoicing."

[Gordon Fee on 1 Corinthians 15:20-28 in his NICNT volume on 1 Corinthians, pg. 760]

Friday, April 17, 2009

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Isaac's Joke Book

Not to be left out, Isaac has started a joke book, too:

Q. What do sad mermaids do?

A. Mer-mer.


Peter's Joke Book

Peter has gotten into the act:

Q. What is an alligator's sickness?

A. Allergies!


Sunday, April 12, 2009

[Matt's Messages] "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Resurrection"

“If Christ Has Not Been Raised”
(aka "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Resurrection")

Resurrection Sunday
April 12, 2009

When I was young and dumb, I once picked up a hitchhiker who turned out be a criminal who had escaped from jail.

I was heading down Ohio State Route 30 to see my grandmother when I saw a guy in blue jeans and a black Megadeath tee-shirt thumbing for a ride on the side of the road.

And I was feeling full of the gospel and full of life right then. I was a student on break from Bible school at the time. And I stopped and offered him a ride.

Did I mention that I was young and dumb?

Well, we got right to talking. And it wasn’t long until I figured out that there was something different about this hitchhiker. He was nervous and excited and kept looking over his shoulder.

And he soon admitted to me that he was on the run from the law.

Now, I don’t know what I should have done at that point. Maybe dropped him right off right there or taken him to the nearest police station. You can decide on that.

What I did do was immediately start talking about Jesus.

Did I mention that I was a Bible school student on break?

I immediately started talking with my hitchhiker about Jesus.

And he had to listen because he was a captive audience.

I figured, if I was going to give him a ride, he was going to hear the good news about Jesus. Especially if this was the last conversation I was going to have!

And what do you think I emphasized? What did I go to in talking with this guy–he was probably one of those “bad guys” like we talked about last week–what do you think I ran to in talking about Jesus?

It was the resurrection.

Because the resurrection is a crucial key to the good news about Jesus.

Do you believe that?

How important is the resurrection?

We’ve sung about it this morning.
We’ve celebrated it.
We’ve given testimonies about it.

But just how important is it?

If you take out the resurrection, what is left of Christianity?

The Bible says that the good news, the gospel, the essence of Christianity hangs on the fact and truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The resurrection is essential. Crucial. All-important!

This is part of what the Apostle Paul is teaching about the resurrection in 1 Corinthians chapter 15.

I’d love to preach the whole thing this morning, but there is too much here for one message. We’re going to have to focus on just a few verses, 1 Corinthians 15:12-19.

But we’ll start by reading the first 8 verses of the chapter. 1 Corinthians 15, starting in verse 1.

“Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. [Oooh. Sounds important!] For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures [Good Friday], that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures [Resurrection Sunday!], 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.”

Now, what I want you to notice here is how important the resurrection is to the gospel.

When Paul summarizes the gospel, it includes these elements: Christ’s death for sins, predicted by the Scriptures, Christ’s burial, and Christ’s resurrection. “He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures”...and He appeared to a bunch of witnesses!

The resurrection is crucial to the gospel! And it is of first importance.

But you see, not everyone at Corinth believed this.

Paul was hearing reports that some people didn’t believe that there was any resurrection at all! Professing Christians at Corinth!

It seems that some people within the church had begun teaching that there is no such thing as resurrection from the dead. They said that dead people don’t live again. Dead bodies don’t get back up and walk. Corpses don’t carry on conversations. Cadavers don’t breathe, or eat, or dance, or sing. There is no such thing as resurrection.

Do you believe in something as “far out” as...resurrection?

Paul did. And to counter this pernicious idea, Paul explains what is at stake in believing in the resurrection of the dead. Let’s read 1 Corinthians 15:12-19.

“But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 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. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” (NIV)

I asked my hitchhiker what he thought of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

He didn’t think anything about it. It wasn’t on his radar screen.

He didn’t know. Maybe it was just a made up story.

I insisted that Jesus Christ came back from the dead, and it made all of the difference.

Look at v.12.

“But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead [and we know it is because he just went over that in vv.1-8], how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?”

Paul begins this section by pointing out that any resurrection from the dead means that the dead can be and will be resurrected. And he also points out that they have already believed in a resurrection–namely Christ’s. V.13.

“If there is no resurrection of the dead [as some of you are claiming], then not even Christ has been raised.”

You’ve got to be consistent here.

It only takes one resurrection to prove the rule. And the one that’s been proven is the also the most important.

Because if they are right...and there are no resurrections ever, ever, ever, then Christ was not ever resurrected Himself.

And that would forever alter Christianity. It would make it...futile, useless. V.14.

“And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”

There can be Buddhism without a living Buddha. Confucianism without a living Confucius. Christian Science without a living Mary Baker Eddy. Mormonism without a living Joseph Smith. Islam without a living Mohammed.

But there is no real Christianity without a living Jesus Christ.

“If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”

Here is why:

#1. IF CHRIST HAS NOT BEEN RAISED, THEN ALL THE APOSTLES ARE LIARS. V.15.

“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 has not been resurrected, then all the apostles are no better than liars. That’s what he means when he says in v.14 that their preaching is useless and in v.15 when he says they are found to be “false witnesses about God.”

Here’s what I said to my hitchhiker. [Did I mention that I was young and dumb?]

I said, “Did you know that all of the apostles died for the resurrection of Jesus Christ?

Many of the apostles were martyrs, that is people who were killed (whether actively like Peter crucified upside down or passively like John exiled to a prison island, killed) for the story about Jesus being alive again.

Did you know that?” Then I said, “Imagine that you were an apostle that said that Jesus was alive again. And then imagine that I had a gun pointed at your head...”

That got his attention! I think he thought that he was in the car with a nutcase, not the other way around!

But I was hot on making this point.

“Imagine that you were an apostle that insisted that you had seen Jesus dead...then alive again. With your own eyes. An eyewitness.

And I put a gun to your head and say, ‘Take that back. If you keep on saying that Jesus Christ is Lord because he’s alive again, I’m going to shoot you. But I’ll let you go if you take it back. Tell me that you lied. You and your apostle-buddies made this one up. You can’t be sure. Maybe you were mistaken. You didn’t see it yourself, you just heard about it and you aren’t sure.’

What would you do?”

That’s what I asked him.

And that’s what I’m asking you. Would you die for a lie?

I wouldn’t.

But these men all went to their graves insisting that Jesus had died and came back again.

More than 500 check-able eye-witnesses according to verse 6! The evidence is overwhelming.

But, what if they’re lying? What if the apostles were lying?

Well, then, they aren’t worth listening to!

Why bother listening to what the apostles say if they are wrong about the most fundamental facts in their story? They can’t be trusted!

In other words, don’t read your Bible! Don’t bother! Throw it away!

If these guys can’t get their facts straight about whether or not the Jewish Carpenter from Nazareth who was crucified under the auspices of the Roman Prelate Pontius Pilate came back from the dead or not, don’t bother listening to anything else they have to say!

If your mechanic told you it was time to get new brakes, but he couldn’t figure out where the engine was in your model, you wouldn’t bother with the brake-job!

So, don’t bother reading your Bible. Don’t listen to what they say. They are no better than liars if Jesus is not alive. Either they are doddering fools or malicious deceivers–and, either way–don’t trust them. That’s what Paul is saying!

However, the opposite is also true. If Jesus IS alive, if Christ has been raised, then all the apostles are telling the truth!

And if that’s the case, you’d better listen to what they have to say. Because if they’re right about that, I think they may have a handle on the truth in other areas.

If Jesus is alive, the apostles become trustworthy. We’d better read what they have to say!

It all hinges, though, on whether or not Jesus came back from the dead.

#2. IF CHRIST HAS NOT BEEN RAISED, THEN THOSE WHO BELIEVE THE APOSTLES ARE DOOMED. V.16

“For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith if futile; you are still in your sins.”

Uh oh. The apostles have taught that Jesus died for our sins and was raised for our justification, our salvation (Romans 4:25).

But if they are wrong, then we who believed them are still sinners with no hope. We’re doomed.

Jesus’ resurrection is the completion of the promised benefits purchased in His death. And if there is no resurrection...no benefits.

Let me put it this way:

No resurrection life for Jesus, no eternal life for You and Me.

No forgiveness, no heaven, no new bodies, no eternal happiness, no joy in God’s presence, and no eternal pleasures at God’s right hand (Psalm 16:11).

Just sin and then judgment and then wrath.

If Christ Has Not Been Raised, Then Those Who Believe the Apostles’ Gospel Are Doomed.

That’s what Paul is trying to bring home in v.18.

“Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.”

Those people who died believing the apostle’s story are lost. They’re just gone. There’s nothing next for them.

I think about some of the saints from this church who have died in the last decade: Marie Wertz, Marie Benton, Tiny Older, Mabel Carlson. Dempsey Kyler, Raph Johnson, George Neidrick. And many others.

If Jesus is not alive today, then those folks are lost. They died believing in the apostles’ gospel of Jesus’ resurrection. And if it was a lie, then they are already doomed...and we will be, too.

However, if Jesus is alive, then those who believe the apostles can be saved. If Jesus is resurrected, then salvation can come to those who believe.

Sins can be forgiven. Debts can be cancelled. Promises can be fulfilled. Joy in God’s presence, pleasures forevermore from God’s right hand, and eternal life are a reality for those who put their faith in the good news of the Risen Jesus.

If Jesus is alive, then Marie, and Marie, and Tiny, and Mabel and Dempsey and Raph and George have a short wait until they, too, get a resurrection body. The rest of the chapter talks about those new bodies that we have “on order.”

But if Christ has not been raised, then don’t bother!

There are some people who think that living like a Christian is the best thing to do even if it’s not all true.

I’ve heard people say, “I would still live like a Christian even if Jesus has not risen from the dead.”

But that’s not what Paul says! He says the opposite! And he was a major leader in the early church!

Here’s what Paul says:

#3. IF CHRIST HAS NOT BEEN RAISED, THEN ALL CHRISTIANS SHOULD BE PITIED (MORE THAN ALL OTHER PEOPLE). V.19.

“If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.”

If you are banking on Jesus and there is no Jesus left, just 2000 year old rotting bones in some unknown tomb in Jerusalem, then Paul says that you should be pitied.

You’ve wasted your life.

Other people bank on things that count in this world. You’ve put all your stock in a resurrected body and a new heavens and new earth still to come. Pie in the sky!

You’re too heavenly minded to be any earthly good. You’ve wasted your life on Jesus. You’ve built your life on a lie. You should be pitied.

I was talking about this with my buddy Kipp this week.

This is what he said:

“If Christ is not risen, the birth of Christ is irrelevant.
If Christ is not risen, the example of Christ is meaningless.
If Christ is not risen, the teachings of Christ are foolish.

If Christ is not risen, the cross of Christ is pointless...

If Christ is not risen, if there is no resurrection, then ANY other religion is better than Christianity. Why? Because every other religion is based on rules, and rules work without a risen Christ. But we preach grace, and grace cannot exist without an empty tomb.

If Christ is not risen, we should all convert to Islam or Buddhism or Pastafarianism. If Christ is not risen, we should throw away every Bible, close every church, give back every tithe, and apologize daily for leading people so astray.”

That’s exactly right.

If Christ is not risen, then all Christians should be pitied more than all other men.

People should feel sorry for us.

Do you know that many people do? There are many people who call Christianity “a crutch.” Just something to prop you up. Something to make you feel a little better as you travel this ugly road called life. And they feel sorry for us that we need to make up these stories about Jesus. They feel sorry for us that we spend so much time in church and in ministry and give so much of our resources away.

“Poor religious fools.”

And they’re right....if Jesus is still dead.

But if Jesus is alive again, then we should feel pity for them!

If Jesus is alive again, then Christians should be congratulated more than all other people!

If Jesus is alive again, we have every reason to rejoice every day!

If Jesus is alive again, our faith is NOT FUTILE! It is fantastic!

It’s wonderful. It’s worth getting excited about every day. It’s worth sharing. It’s worth suffering for. It’s worth dying for. It’s not futile, it’s fantastic!

If Jesus is alive today, our faith in Him is worth building our life upon.

That’s what I was trying to get across to my hitchhiker.

And that’s what I’m bringing before you today.

I’d guess that you’re wondering how my hitchhiker story ends.

I’d like to say that he trusted Jesus Christ right there in my car and that he turned from his sin and asked me to turn him in to the police.

But that’s not what happened. I simply took him to the next exit, encouraged him to turn himself in before he gets into more trouble and to consider whether or not Jesus Christ came back from the dead.

Because if He did, it affects everything!

But the question today is not what happened to my hitchhiker, but what you are going to do with Jesus Christ.

Do you believe that He is alive today?

It makes all the difference.

If He isn’t alive today, then the apostles have been lying to you. Don’t believe a word they say.
If He isn’t alive today, then you and I stand condemned, hopeless, in our sins, lost and doomed.
If He isn’t alive today, then you and I should be pitied for wasting our short lives on Jesus. We have a futile faith.

If you take out the resurrection, there is nothing left of Christianity.

But (first part of verse 20), “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead!”

He is alive! So you I can trust what the apostles have said in the Bible.

You and I can put our faith in the Resurrected Jesus and be saved from our sins.

You and I can have a fantastic, to-be-congratulated faith, worth dying for, and worth living for, and worth building our life upon. And worth sharing!

Do you believe?

I invite you to believe today and to build your life on this essential, inescapable, and glorious truth of the resurrection.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Resurrection Reflections: Our Reason for Hope

Jack Brooks on The Resurrection as Our Reason for Hope

People need hope. We can't live on the poison soup of pessimism. People are drawn to the hopeful, like campers who huddle around a fire on a cold winter's night. We're so desperate for hope that we'll vote for a candidate who just keeps saying the word "hope" over and over, without meaning anything by it. But Christianity offers real hope.
Read the whole thing.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

If the Cross Were the End of the Story

My best friend from college, Kipp Wilson, has been mentally chewing on the essentiality of resurrection. He writes:
"And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins," (1 Cor. 15:17).

I've been chewing and chewing that one over. I am ashamed to say this, but I was taught, and mostly live and believe in, a theology that could accommodate a tomb with Jesus' body still inside. I can easily see, with a few major but not paradigm-shifting tweaks how the message we preach could still be preached if Christ were not risen. If the cross were the end of the story. And yet...there's Paul's statement above. Do we really, honestly believe that? Do we? Think about the implications!

If Christ is not risen, the birth of Christ is irrelevant.
If Christ is not risen, the example of Christ is meaningless.
If Christ is not risen, the teachings of Christ are foolish.

If Christ is not risen, the cross of Christ is pointless.

Think about what Paul goes on to say next, in verse 19. "If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied." He was speaking in a multi-religious context, not in an atheist one. If Christ is not risen, if there is no resurrection, then ANY other religion is better than Christianity. Why? Because every other religion is based on rules, and rules work without a risen Christ. But we preach grace, and grace cannot exist without an empty tomb.

If Christ is not risen, we should all convert to Islam or Buddhism or Rastafarianism. If Christ is not risen, we should throw away every Bible, close every church, give back every tithe, and apologize daily for leading people so astray.

"But," Paul says...

Yeah, I know. You know what verse I'm going to cite next. I know it's obvious and predictable and the fact that I'm typing this with my eyes misting up means I'm a helpless theological romantic. Tough. I'm going to say it anyway.

But.
Christ.
Has.
Indeed.
Been.
Raised!

Believe it. Preach it. Treasure it. Live it.
Amen.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Resurrection Reflections: A Religion of Life

Jack Brooks on Christianity as The Religion of Life.

One More

From the comments on that last post:

If you subscribe to RSS Feeds, read just enough-- too many of them, and you will vomit. Proverbs 25:16 -Posted by Carol Jean

Yep, I needed to hear that one.

Scripture for Online Interaction

Psalm 141:3

Set a guard, O Lord, over my keyboard;
keep watch over the door of my send button!

James 1:19
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to read, slow to reply all, slow to click send.

Proverbs 10:19
When blogging is abundant, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his keyboard is prudent.

Proverbs 12:18
There is one whose comments on blogs are like sword thrusts, but the comments of the wise brings healing.

Proverbs 14:7
Don't follow the Twitter feed of a fool, for there you do not meet words of knowledge.

Proverbs 12:23
A prudent man conceals knowledge, but the Twitter feed of fools proclaims folly.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The Book of Joshua: Possessing the Promises

1. Be Strong and Courageous (Joshua 1:1-18)

2. Rahab's Rescue (Joshua 2:1-24)

3. What Do These Stones Mean? (Joshua 3:1-4:24)

4. Just Before Jericho (Joshua 5:1-15)

5. By Faith the Walls of Jericho Fell (Joshua 6:1-27)

6. Sin is Serious (Joshua 7:1-8:35)

7. Even When (Joshua 9:1-27)

8. Surely the LORD Was Fighting for Israel! (Joshua 10:1-12:24)

9. Possessing the Promises (Joshua 13:1-21:45)

10. Together (Joshua 22:1-34)

11. Serve the Lord (Joshua 23:1-24:33)

Sunday, April 05, 2009

[Matt's Messages] "Between Two Bad Guys"

“Between Two Bad Guys”
April 5, 2008
Luke 23:39-43

Today is Palm Sunday, and Blair read for us the story of the Triumphal Entry at the beginning of Passion Week–the most fateful week in all of human history.

In today’s message, I want to fast forward through the week to the events of Friday, what we often call “Good Friday”–the day on which our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified.

He wasn’t crucified alone. It happened that on that fateful Friday, two other men were being crucified at the same time. The Bible tells us that these two men were criminals. Two of the gospels say, “robbers” or “thieves.” Luke uses the word “kakourgos” which means basically “bad guys.” The King James says, “malefactors.” “Mal” is “bad” and “factors” is “someone who does.” “Benefactor” is someone who does good. Malefactors are ones who do bad. Bad guys.

The Lord Jesus was hung on a cross–“Between Two Bad Guys.”

Judas had betrayed him (Luke chapter 22).

They had eaten the Last Supper, which we will remember together at this Table in a few minutes.

The disciples had promised to stay with him but couldn’t stay awake through a hour of prayer.

Jesus had been arrested and tortured.

Peter had denied him.

The Lord stood trial before sinful men, rulers of the Jews and the Romans. Chapter 23.

The Roman governor, Pilate, tried to set Him free, but the crowd egged on by the Religious Leaders kept shouting “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

And so they did.

In chapter 23, verse 26, we see Him struggling up the road with His cross.

A man named Simon from North Africa was made to carry His cross, He was so weak.

A crowd followed, many crying, weeping and wailing. V.32

“Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull [Golgotha], there they crucified him, along with the criminals–one on his right, the other on his left.”

There He is. Nailed to a pole.

Hanging there being crucified.

You know, we don’t know what that is!

If we saw this, for real, we would puke.

Crucifixion is one of the world’s worst forms of torture and death.

And Jesus was being crucified.

The Bible doesn’t go into the gory details. It doesn’t have to.

Just knowing what it is, being nailed to a pole so that you have to pull up on your arms to breath otherwise your lungs will have no oxygen.

And then you can’t hold yourself up any longer so you slump down. But there’s nothing to rest on. And you can’t breathe. And it hurts. And it hurts. And it hurts.

And there is no end to it. It can go on and on for hours and even days. And then death.

And there were two bad guys getting the same treatment. V.33 says, “On his right” and “on his left.”

Jesus was hung between two bad guys. And they were being crucified, too.

If the pain wasn’t enough, there was also the mocking. V.35 says, “The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.’ The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, ‘If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.’ There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.”

But they didn’t mean it.

They were just mocking Him. They were just insulting Him.

The Gospel of Matthew says that both of the criminals on either side of Him were mocking Him, too (Matthew 27:44).

This went on for hours.

And then, there was this interaction between the three men being crucified.

It’s our text for today; it’s verses 39 through 43.

Kathy Moore created a colorful mural of this text that is hanging out there in the foyer this morning.

The awesome thing about that mural is that I didn’t tell Kathy what text I had picked for this morning. I picked it out last Summer! And I told her that we needed a new mural, but I didn’t tell her what to put on it. I think Somebody Else did! V.39

“One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: ‘Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!’”

Criminal #1, we don’t know his name, basically said, “Save Yourself!”

#1. SAVE YOURSELF.

If you really are Who you have claimed to be–and everybody in Israel knows Who you’ve claimed to be!–then save yourself (and us too!).

Use your power and get down off of the Cross!

He, obviously, had no faith. No belief that Jesus was Who He had claimed to be.

This bad guy was rejecting who Jesus is.

The word for “insult” in verse 39 is “eblasphemei,” and it means what it sounds like. He blasphemed Jesus.

He blasted Him and insulted Him and rejected Him.

And he is like all of us before we came to Christ.

No one is genuinely neutral about Jesus. You are either for Him or against Him.

Some people would like to think of themselves as neutral on Jesus. “On the fence,” we say.

“I like Jesus. I think he’s a good teacher. I think he was a good man. A prophet. A holy man. We can learn a lot from him. He had a lot of great ideas. I’m not against him.”

But Jesus said, “If you are not for me, you are against me.”

Even if you aren’t hurling insults at Him, if you are not following Him by faith, you are, effectively, a bad guy, an enemy. Jesus’ enemy.

Of course, what could it hurt? They were both dying by crucifixion! What was left but to say what you want say?! This man was hurling his heart at Jesus. And it didn’t seem like it mattered.

Does it seem to you right now like nothing matters?

“Live, and then die, and then that’s it.

Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die! And we’re worm’s food.”

Why not just let it all hang out? Especially if life hurts.

“Save Yourself!”

If you don’t have to go through this, why choose it?

For this bad guy hanging next to Jesus, it proved that Jesus was not the Messiah if He let Himself be crucified.

Messiah’s don’t die, much less die by crucifixion!

“Save yourself! If you can...”

But there was something much deeper going on here than what it seems.

Things are not always as they seem. And if your life seems chaotic and meaningless right now–hear this–things are not always as they seem. God is at work.

And here, Jesus was choosing not to save Himself–so that He could save others.

The fact that He staid on the Cross was actually proof that He is the Messiah.

Messiahs do die. And this Messiah dies a sacrificial death.

Jesus was identifying Himself with sinners like you and me.

And the other bad guy–this is almost unbelievable–he “gets it!”

The second bad guy gets it.

As far as we know, Jesus didn’t say anything to the first criminal. He is silent.

But the other criminal rebukes the first criminal! V.40

“But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don't you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’”

Now, catch this. V.42. This man is being crucified. V.42.

“Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’”

Wow!

What’s going on here?!

This bad guy is turning!

This bad guy is trusting!

This bad guy has faith. He believes!

He recognizes that they are suffering justly. They deserve it.

But Jesus doesn’t.

Now, this criminal probably doesn’t know how right his words are.

He may not know that Jesus is perfectly sinless. But he knows that Jesus is innocent of the charges that have Him on this cross.

And He has somehow come to believe that Jesus will inherit a Kingdom!

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

In essence, he’s saying, “Save Me!”

#2. SAVE ME!

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

He believed that Jesus was innocent, and more than that, that He was King!

He probably didn’t know that how it all worked, but he believed that Jesus did. And he put his faith and trust in Him and asked Him to save him and give Him a place in His kingdom!

Wow!

Save Me!

Not just get me off of this cross, but give me eternal life in the divine kingdom.

Forgive me. Find forgiveness for me so that I can live in the Kingdom of God.

And save me!

Have you asked Jesus for that yourself?

That’s what He was dying for.

More than this man understood, Jesus was innocent.

He was perfectly innocent. He had never sinned!

And at this moment, He was taking on Himself the punishment, the penalty, the debt that we sinners had earned for ourselves.

He was not just coming between two criminals.

He was coming between God and Humanity.

And taking our place.

Verses 44 through 49 tell what it was like when He died.

Unnatural darkness for three hours.
The sun stopped shining.
Jesus yelled out and died.
A Roman soldier came to faith.
Witnesses beat their breasts and went away.
The other gospels tell us that there was an earthquake.

V.45 says that the curtain of the temple was torn in two!

Jesus was taking our place and opening up the way to a holy God!!!!

He was saving sinners!

Like this one. Like this bad guy. This is what our Lord said to Him on the Cross. V.43

“Jesus answered him, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.’”

#3. YOU ARE SAVED!

Isn’t this the greatest news in all the world?

Assuming Jesus knows what He’s talking about. And next week, we’ll see that He certainly does! Resurrection Sunday is right around the corner.

This is great news.

For one, because it’s based on grace!

What did this man do to go to paradise today?

Absolutely nothing! This was a bad guy.

This was not a good guy.

He hadn’t gone to church.
He hadn’t given any money.
He hadn’t lived a fine upstanding life.
He hadn’t any good works to show to earn him some salvation.

He didn’t even have a chance to get baptized!

He was a bad guy!

And Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.’”

It’s based on grace. It’s not based on what this guy did but on what Jesus did for Him.

And that’s how anyone is saved.

The Bible says, “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.”

It’s grace!

You can’t impress God, but you can receive His grace on your behalf.

Are you a bad guy?

We all are.

We’re all bad guys! But the question is, what kind of bad guy are we going to be?

The kind on Jesus’ left or Jesus’ right?

Will we reject or will we believe?

Because God is in the business of saving bad guys!

Kathy titled her mural, “More Than We Deserve!” That’s right!

It’s all grace.

Isn’t that the greatest news in all the world?

It’s also great because it shows how real change is possible.

This man really changed. Yes, he didn’t have time to live out a full life of service to God. He didn’t have time to make restitution for his robberies. He didn’t have time to change his lifestyle that got him here.

But he did change. He changed from insulting Jesus to rebuking those who do.

He changed from unbelieving to believing.

He changed from shouting to asking.

He changed from wrong thing to right thinking–on the Cross!

He’s being crucified and Jesus is changing Him right then and there!

He changed from loving his own kingdom to wanting Jesus’ kingdom to come.

Real change is possible through Jesus–for bad guys!

Is there someone that you’ve written off as unchangeable?

“Well, they’re never going to change! A leopard can’t change his spots. Nothing can be done there.”

No!

If this guy can change, so can whatever bad guy you are praying for.

It may not happen on your time-table.

But if God sets out to change a bad guy into a good guy, nothing can stop Him!

Real change is possible because of Christ.

Isn’t that the greatest news?

Maybe you’re the bad guy you are praying about!

You wish that you were changed. Trust Him. He is transforming you.

When He says, “You are saved,” He isn’t just saving you from the penalty of your sin, He’s saving you from the power of sin and changing you from the inside out.

Real change is possible.

This is great news, thirdly, because of the guarantee of the future.

Jesus promises: “Today you will be with me in paradise.”

That’s a sure thing.

I love how this bad guy doesn’t have to wait! He goes to paradise (heaven) the same day that he dies.

And so will we. And so did any of your believing loved ones.

Absent from the body means present with the Lord.

Today. Guaranteed.

Do you know that you are going to be with Jesus when you die, guaranteed?

That’s the promise here. If you believe in Jesus.

But it’s more than that. There is a future kingdom coming that you’ll get to be a part of, too!

The bad guy believed that. “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

His kingdom is coming! And we will get to be a part of it forever and ever.

New heavens, new earth, new bodies–always with the Lord.

That’s the future that we have to look forward to.

And it’s all because Jesus died for us.

You Are Saved!

Saved by grace.
Saved for change.
And Saved for a glorious future, guaranteed!

Three simple applications as we go to the Table together.

#1. Don’t be like the first bad guy. Don’t reject Jesus and don’t reject Him by sitting on the fence. Trust in Jesus like the second bad guy. Believe He is Who He said He is and did what He said He’d do–and you will be saved.

Turn and put all of your trust in Jesus and Jesus alone.

Don’t try to clean up your act and become a good guy and see if Jesus will take you.

That’s not how it works. It works by grace.

Gift. Free. Unmerited. Unearned. Undeserving.

Receive His grace. Ask to be saved on the merits of Christ and Christ alone!

If you’d like to pray with someone about that, Dave and Jane Catanzaro are going to be in the prayer room this morning, and would be so thankful to talk with you about being saved.

I’d be glad to talk with you, as well.

Don’t walk away today like the first bad guy.

#2. Be thankful for Jesus hanging between the two criminals. Sing “Jesus, Thank You!” in your soul! As we eat this communion meal, the most important thing for us to feel is thanksgiving.

Because it should have been us.

It should have been us! V.41 “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

He did nothing wrong.

But He did this for us.

Be thankful.

And third application: Tell others.

Tell others that life is not meaningless.
Tell others that real change is possible.
Tell others that God is in the business of saving bad guys!

Tell others about this One who hung between two thieves.

And died for us.

And promises us that we will be with Him in paradise.

And forever in His Kingdom to come.

It’s the greatest news in all the world!

Let’s get out there and tell people.

Friday, April 03, 2009

"That's a Stupid Place for a Stop Sign"

Matt Frey:

"I finished my study of Ecclesiastes with the brothers this morning. 'The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.'

Sometimes I don’t know why God puts the stop signs there

I know my duty however, and I think I need to worry more about that."

Read the whole thing.

This Is Your EFCA

The latest issue of EFCA Today is dedicated to helping others understand what we're all about.

This video graphically tells the story (and encourages folks to buy the special issue).



I am pleased to be a part of this gospel-centered association of churches.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

We Must Go Through Samaria

Our Allegheny District Conference was about more than just Riding the Wave of Church Planting.

It was also about "not taking the by-pass around Samaria." (A line from Super Jeff Powell's conference address.)

In keeping with the theme of the last two EFCA National Leadership Conferences, we focused on reaching and loving those people who are near us but not like us, just like Jesus did in John 4. (See my reports and reflections from those conferences: 2007, 2008.)

The national director of Samaritan Way, the reconciliation ministry of the EFCA, Alvin Sanders was our keynote speaker. He spoke humbly, passionately, and biblically about reconciliation between God and people and then how that affects reconciliation between people, too. In a break-out session (provacatively titled "The Drama of Obama"), Alvin explained how we live in a post-racial society right now--which is not to say that race (as a social construct) doesn't matter at all, but that it has a different meaning and significance now than it did in the past. Very helpful.

Check out the Samaritan Way website for resources to get you thinking about "your Samaria."

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Ride the Wave

Our Allegheny District of the EFCA is currently engaged in a campaign to raise cash to fund the mission that God has given us.

It's called Ride the Wave, and it has 3 parts, one of which is a special offering.

If you are looking for a place to invest in Kingdom work, this is a great opportunity.

You can even give online.

Maple Sugar Mitchells

Heather, the boys, and I got to go to Parker Dam for a maple sugaring demonstration at the Sugar Shack.

And we got into this photo essay on the local online news outlet.

Watch for Drew picking a spot to drill a tree, Peter actually drilling it, and Isaac pounding in a stile to catch the drip! Heather and I have cameos, too.

Robin was away doing children's ministry at Crossroads Community Church in Altoona.

Resurrection

It's the time of year to be thinking about resurrection--one of, if not the, most glorious of Christian thoughts!

Today's reflection comes from Paul Miller, author of Loved Walked Among Us (one of the most refreshing books I've read in the last year--all of our church's Link Groups are using it to learn how to love).

Unfortunately, Miller has had a good reason to think about resurrection in the last few months--his son's baby was stillborn. Heather and I had the same thing happen to us about this time 10 years ago. It is devastating.

Yesterday, Miller wrote about the many and varied reasons he believes in the resurrection: Why I Believe in the Resurrection. Read it.