The Resurrected Life
In I Corinthians 11:23-26, Paul encourages the church to share in the communion each Lord's Day and to do it as a public testimony or witness not only of the Lord's death, he says also to do this as a public confession of His resurrection as well, because he says to do this until he returns.
23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, "This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me." 25 In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me." 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes.
- I Corinthians 11:23-26
So it's not just the death that we commemorate - remember, but we also anticipate the return because we believe in the resurrection. Let's face it, if Jesus stayed dead, he couldn't return and there would be no need for a proclamation through communion.
This is what Christians do - we proclaim the resurrection of Jesus especially on the Lord's Day. Of course, this is what we do and this is what we say, but the world around us is not celebrating. The world around us is not proclaiming this message. The world around us is asking, "is this really true?" The world around us is talking about politics today. Wall-to-wall politics, sports, Hollywood gossip. That's what the world is talking about on Sunday. Not the resurrection of Jesus.
If this resurrection is not true, if it's just fiction, if it's only an idea based on a religious story, or a myth - then forget Jesus Christ and the religion that follows him. Why do this?
If it's not true, then Christianity is one of many religions and you're free to take it or leave it. You don't like this religion get yourself another religion that suits you better. If it's not true then its teachings may be a guide to a lifestyle, but they have no real authority over us... no moral force in our lives because a dead Jesus in the grave, is just a man, and His teaching is just the teaching of an ordinary human being. Good teaching, wise teaching - follow it if you wish, but not the teaching of God.
If it is true, if He is the Son of God gloriously resurrected as we say He did, then He is God.
As a matter of fact that's the thing you know some people say what was the moment that you - your conversion moment. For me it's too long a story, but it was the moment when the little light went on in my brain that said, and (growing up Catholic) I mean Jesus was everywhere - Catholic Church, statues, pictures, the rosary. But one day, when I was 27 or 28 years old. It clicked on me, and I realized wait a minute...wait a minute, I get it now. This Jesus - he's God. God is Jesus, you'd think I was pretty dumb. You know what I'm saying not realizing that before then but it was like it really connected. It's like these two things were separate but they were never connected in my mind, and all of a sudden they connected and the light went on. This Jesus - He's God. He is God and what he says is true and has absolute authority both morally and spiritually over each one of us, whether we believe it or not!
So if the resurrection is true then we can anticipate his return, but we can also anticipate his judgment, and we can accept the reality of both Heaven and Hell. Now we Christians - we celebrate the Lord's Supper because we firmly believe that Jesus's resurrection from the grave is true, is an historical event that affects our entire lives - is an event that has evidence to support it. In his famous book entitled The Case for Christ, author Lee Strobel lays out in courtroom fashion the case for believing that the resurrection is true.
You need to know something about Lee Strobel if you realize how important his book was. Lee Strobel was the legal editor for the Chicago Tribune newspaper. He wrote about trials and legal issues and matters involving new laws in the Supreme Court and so on and so forth. Lee Strobel, tough legal reporter, was a skeptic at best - probably an atheist. When his wife announced to him that she had become a Christian. Mr. Strobel in an effort to steer her away from her religious myths and Christian mumbo-jumbo. Undertook the task of disproving her faith using his skills as an investigator and a legal journalist studying the facts surrounding Christianity.
I plunged into the case with more vigor than any story I had ever pursued I applied the training I had received at Yale Law School as well as my experience as Legal Affairs Editor of the Chicago Tribune, and over time the evidence of the world of history, of science, of philosophy, and of psychology to point began to the unthinkable.
That's page 14 from the very beginning of his book. Now what Lee Strobel did was first of all read the Bible itself carefully and then travel the world interviewing the top scientists, historians, and archeologists for nearly two years trying to disprove the Bible record of the resurrection. In the end, the unthinkable thing he writes about actually took place. When all the evidence was laid out before him and looked at with his legally trained and critical eye. The conclusion he reached was the exact opposite of what he had originally set out to prove. The case for Christianity and especially for the resurrection proved beyond a reasonable doubt to be absolutely true.
In his book, he lists 14 pieces of evidence that supports the conclusion that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and rose from the dead. I don't have time to give you all of those but i'm going to give you a few that he laid out in his book. Very briefly, here are some of the pieces of evidence that he records in detail.
- The eyewitness evidence. Over 500 people saw Jesus after his resurrection. 1st Corinthians refers to this.
- The written evidence that still exists. We have the Gospels. We have the Epistles preserved.
- The archaeological evidence. Archaeological discoveries confirmed Jesus's life and the accounts of the Gospel.
- The prophetic evidence. All the prophecies in the Old Testament are accurately fulfilled in every detail, and here's the kicker - only by Jesus and no other.
- The missing body evidence. Neither the Romans nor the Jews could find the missing body, if the resurrection was as they said a hoax and believe me they tried.
- The evidence of the appearances of Jesus. Unlike other religious leaders throughout history who claimed to have a secret vision or a one time message from an angel. Jesus's miraculous appearances after the resurrection occurred many times in different places with different kinds of people (over 500 of them), and recorded by many different individuals. This is unique among all other records of religious leaders or prophets.
- The experiential evidence. After the resurrection, thousands of Jews gave up their cherished religions and traditions to follow Jesus. Throughout history millions of people have been totally transformed by their relationship with Jesus Christ. You see a hoax - a hoax and a dead body. A madman. Just a religious idea no matter how sublime cannot affect dramatic change in people's character and conduct. Only a living being can do this.
In the end Lee Strobel reviewed all of the evidence not just what i shared with you this morning, but all of the evidence. He went over all of the interviews and all of the research and he wrote the following;
...all of this I now believe. The evidence of history and of my own experience was too strong to ignore.
Throughout history there have been many Lee Strobels. His journey may be an exaggerated version of our own coming to faith. One thing is sure for every generation however, there are more than enough eyewitnesses as well as historical, circumstantial, and logical evidence to lead anyone to the reasonable conclusion that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a fact, and a fact of history.
Actually, not believing requires more effort than believing because in not believing you must deny or set aside critical evidence.
You have to make an effort to not believe, and so we gather to take the communion each Sunday to proclaim to the world that we believe in the resurrection of Jesus. This is our response to the skeptics and to the naysayers. We believe the resurrection to be true. We believe the evidence.
There is, however, another question that is produced by this proclamation of faith and it is this. If you believe that the resurrection of Jesus is true, where then is your resurrection? Where's that resurrection?
In other words, if Christ has passed from death to life in that tomb on that Sunday morning. Where is the evidence that his disciples have experienced the same type of transformation because this is the promise. You see Jesus left a public witness of his resurrection from the dead. I mean it would be useless to us if He would have been left to rot in the grave for all to see. I mean what kind of gospel or good news would it be if the Apostles would have preached that "well it's okay, don't worry, God will take away the dead body and one one day He will resurrect you from the dead. He didn't resurrect Jesus, but that's just a small point." Who would follow Jesus then? Would anyone give up their lives for this type of promise? Could you have confidence in your dark moments, if the bones of your Savior were withering away in a grave somewhere in the Middle East? Of course not.
We live and serve and even die for a risen Savior not a dead decaying one, and so the question that naturally comes is the one that I've asked you already once. What makes us think that we can make a witness for a risen Savior when we have a dead spiritual life of our own?
In the time of Malachi the prophet, God rejected ritual worship because it was offered by people who were dead spiritually. You know they were just going through the motions. The same old thing all the time round and round every you know. Does that sound familiar? The same routine. The same prayers. The same thing at the same moment. Let me read to you what God says to these people. Malachi, Chapter One, God says:
6 "'A son honors his father, and a servant his master. Then if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is My respect?' says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests who despise My name. But you say, 'How have we despised Your name?' 7 You are presenting defiled food upon My altar. But you say, 'How have we defiled You?' In that you say, 'The table of the Lord is to be despised.' 8 But when you present the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you present the lame and sick, is it not evil? Why not offer it to your governor? Would he be pleased with you? Or would he receive you kindly?" says the Lord of hosts. 9 "But now will you not entreat God's favor, that He may be gracious to us? With such an offering on your part, will He receive any of you kindly?" says the Lord of hosts. 10 "Oh that there were one among you who would shut the gates, that you might not uselessly kindle fire on My altar! I am not pleased with you," says the Lord of hosts, "nor will I accept an offering from you. 11 For from the rising of the sun even to its setting, My name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense is going to be offered to My name, and a grain offering that is pure; for My name will be great among the nations," says the Lord of hosts. 12 "But you are profaning it, in that you say, 'The table of the Lord is defiled, and as for its fruit, its food is to be despised.' 13 You also say, 'My, how tiresome it is!' And you disdainfully sniff at it," says the Lord of hosts, "and you bring what was taken by robbery and what is lame or sick; so you bring the offering! Should I receive that from your hand?" says the Lord. 14 "But cursed be the swindler who has a male in his flock and vows it, but sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord, for I am a great King," says the Lord of hosts, "and My name is feared among the nations."
What makes us think that we can succeed in doing the very same thing today? When I say, "where is your resurrection?" I'm asking about the transformation in your life that has taken place because of Christ. Most here were baptized at one time or another when they became Christians. Peter says that immersion in water in Jesus's name brings us forgiveness and the new experience of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit of God (Acts 2:38). This burial in water symbolizes the actual burial of the old man of sin and the resurrection literally of a new person in Jesus Christ. This is what Paul is talking about in Chapter 6 of Romans, he says the following,
3 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;
And then in Galatians 3:23-26. Paul talks about the same thing he says,
23 But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. 24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. 26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
As I said, most here were baptized. This is good. This is wonderful. This is the correct biblical response to the preaching of the gospel. This is the proper way of expressing our faith in the risen Christ.
We too are buried, but we too resurrect from the waters of baptism with Him, but my question comes back but where is the resurrected life that follows this. Jesus showed himself to hundreds of different people for 40 days and nights in order to create faith and hope and his disciples that his word and his promises were indeed true. When they saw the resurrected Lord they said to themselves everything he said is true. Everything. After all, if he could be resurrected by the Holy Spirit then the same Holy Spirit received at baptism would also resurrect all believers as well (Romans 8:9-11).
So I asked this question yet another time. Where is our resurrected life? Where is our 40 days or 40 years of resurrected witness? Where is our power to bring faith and hope to other lives? When you read the different accounts of Jesus's resurrection and the 40 days and nights afterwards you find that his essential nature changed. I mean the Apostles said that Jesus appeared and disappeared at will. He shown brightly. He made the scriptures come alive and then he ascended into heaven. Unlike his other times with the Apostles before His resurrection, after His resurrection Jesus truly displayed an other worldly nature as befitting one who has crossed over to the other side of death. He was with them, but he wasn't like them anymore. With this in mind, the question continues to pursue us by asking the obvious. Where is our other worldly appearance? Where is our other worldly nature?
- Paul talks about this in Galatians and Ephesians when he encourages the brethren to walk by the spirit and put on the new self in the image of God.
- James alludes to this personal resurrection when he tells disciples to seek and display the righteousness and the gentle wisdom from above and not the jealous and ambitious wisdom from below.
And so, whether it's Sunday, or it's Monday, or any day, do other people actually see and feel a difference in us? In other words, do they see an other worldliness about us?
The worst insult that wasn't meant to be an insult to me. When I became a Christian and only been a Christian not long, a few months, four or five months. And I was working for a large corporation Bristol-Myers in an office and so on and so forth and at one point at lunchtime with one of my work fellows. We were just talking and chit-chatting you know how you do in the lunchroom and you know I...we talked about religion and I said, oh, I said, I'm a Christian you know. I'm going...boy, wow. I'm going all out for Christ now man. I'm going to do it. You know. Yeah, I'm a Christian and he looked at me say, yeah, so am I but I never thought you were. Ouch! I still remember that. I still remember that to this day.
What was he saying? I don't see any other worldliness in you. I knew he was a Christian. There was something about him, but that something about him, it wasn't about me. I didn't have that thing that he had. That's what I'm talking about. Brothers and sisters what good does it do us if we come here each week and we proclaim the Lord's resurrection in the same old way, and take this communion, but we fail to live the resurrected life that He calls us to live when we leave this place.
His resurrection is true. Nothing can change it, nothing can deny it, but unless we are living resurrected lives, His resurrection is in vain for us personally, and so we've gathered here to share in communion this morning. Paul said that we do this to proclaim our faith in Jesus's resurrection until he returns, and when Jesus returns, the resurrected Jesus will gather Christians who are asleep in their graves, and the living Christians who are experiencing resurrected lives. So this morning, we're going to sing our song of invitation before we take the Lord's Supper, in order to call out to some of you here today.
Our songs call out to those who have not yet believed in the resurrection, and the song calls on you to change your mind, and believe the evidence at hand. From the moment Jesus came to earth he called on would be believers and disciples to express their faith in him through baptism.
At first, John the Baptist prepared for his arrival by baptizing those who accepted his message. Then Jesus and His apostles baptized those who believed in him and confessed His name. Afterwards, the apostles and all those preaching the gospel have baptized those who repented of their sins and confessed their faith in Jesus Christ, from that day to this day, and so today we follow that biblical example and teaching by calling on all those who have not done so of their own free will to go ahead confess Christ, repent of your sins, be baptized, in order to wash away all of your sins and begin that new resurrected life with Jesus Christ.
Secondly, our invitation songs also called to those who have not led resurrected lives even though they have once been buried in the waters of baptism. This may be the day you wish to match the symbolism of your baptism with the reality of a life resurrected above the love of the world, above the lust of the flesh, above the sinfulness of pride, above laziness and unfaithfulness. You know what? Perhaps it's time to begin to live the resurrected life that you've only pretended to have in the past. Maybe that day is today, and then our songs also call on all those who need to depend on the risen Lord to sustain them in their hour of suffering. Perhaps you're a baptized believer needing help to live the resurrected life, and you want to experience it, but too weak to achieve and need the ministry of the church.
In 1st Corinthians 11:33, Paul tells the brethren to wait for one another so all can take the communion together as one body. So as we share the Lord's Supper today remembering that glorious resurrection so long ago, and anticipating our own final and full resurrection when Jesus returns. Let us wait for one another before we partake. Wait for the one more song, so that those who need to come to the Lord's table through the waters of baptism, or through healing or forgiving prayers of the church or ministry. Let's wait for those who need to prepare themselves in their minds and in their hearts. If you're not ready to take communion then please prepare yourself in the way that you need to as we stand as we sing this medley of songs as our invitation this morning.