Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Keeping the Resurrection Real


Rodney Buchanan shares this story -- I read a recent magazine article about a pastor and his encounter with some unbelievers while having breakfast. Here is how he tells the story: “My wife and I were vacationing in Estes Park, Colorado, and had breakfast in a coffee shop. It was empty except for four men at another table. One was mocking Christianity, and in particular, the Resurrection of Christ. He went on and on about what a stupid teaching that was. I could feel the Lord asking me: ‘Are you going to let this go unchallenged?’ However I was thinking, But I don’t even know these guys. He’s bigger than me. He’s got cowboy boots on and looks tough. I was agitated and frightened about doing anything. But I knew I had to stand for Jesus. Finally, I told Susan to pray. I took my last drink of water and went over and challenged him. With probably a squeaky voice, I said, ‘I’ve been listening to you, and you don’t know what you’re talking about.’ I did my best to give him a flying rundown of the proofs for the resurrection. He was speechless, and I was half dead. I must have shaken for an hour after that. But I had to take a stand. We cannot remain anonymous in our faith forever. God has a way of flushing us out of our quiet little places, and when He does we must be ready to speak for him.” I admire this pastor’s courage and his determination to be a witness, regardless of how difficult it was. A lot of Christians would have just sat there in fear or fumed, thinking about how terrible the things were that these men were saying. I realize that I have the opportunity of looking back with hindsight on the situation, but it seems to me that he missed the most important and impressive proof of the resurrection — his own life. I wonder if it would not have been more effective to walk over to the men at the table and say something like this: “You know, I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation, and found it very interesting. If you don’t mind, I would like to pay for all of your breakfasts. The reason I want to do this is that, because of the resurrection, Jesus Christ has changed my life and lives in me, and wants to communicate his tremendous love for you.” Rational arguments do not change people…changed lives do. Changed lives change the lives of others, and thereby change the world. 

I want to take a closer look at resurrection applied, now that we are about a month removed from Easter.  Resurrection does not mean a whole lot to us unless we are living like “resurrection” people who one day will be resurrected. And this brings us to Pauls’ explanation concerning the importance of the resurrection for us. (1 Corinthians 15:1-23) Paul is addressing the Corinthian church, and there are some there who have some misunderstandings concerning Jesus’ resurrection.  Paul seeks to correct these issues.  Paul shares that one of the greatest proofs of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ were His many post-resurrection appearances.  15:6 says that Jesus appears to more than 500 people!  So, there are many people that could testify to the trustworthiness of the Resurrection of Jesus. The reality of His appearance is that a transformation in Jesus’ followers takes place. This is evidence of the reality of the resurrection.  Lee Strobel writes, “Nobody willingly dies for something that they know is false.”(Case for Easter, p.88). But they know that the Resurrection is true, so they are willing their lives because of their belief in the resurrection of Jesus.  And the reality of the resurrection’s transforming power doesn’t stop with the eyewitnesses, but ultimately affects thousands of people.

So the question is, “Why should Christ’s resurrection be important to me?”  As we have seen, the Resurrection proves that Jesus is God and not an imposter. Paul opens the letter to the Romans (1:1-4) and reveals that the Resurrection proves Jesus to be the Son of God and brings us face to face with the fact that He is who He claims to be -- God. The founder of every other religion has found a way to die and stayed dead. Jesus rose again. This is important to us because it forces us to make a decision about our lives. Since Christ is who He claimed to be, how will you respond to Him? We need to come to understand that the Resurrection makes your salvation possible. Without the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, every person is still dead in their sins. If Christ did not rise, then you are still dead in your sins and your Christian faith is worthless and anyone you’ve known who died a believer is just as lost as an unbeliever. But, faith in Christ is not in vain. “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” (Romans 4:25)  It is important to you, because Jesus’ being alive means the way to God has been “paved” by Jesus and you can be made right with Him and have relationship with Him this morning.

One final, important matter to consider is that the Resurrection makes your resurrection possible.  You and I are spirit and body -- we are spiritual and physical. Our resurrection is only made possible by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. As Stanley Horton points out, “Christ’s resurrection and ours are part of one and the same plan of God.” (Horton, Stanley. I & II Corinthians. p. 150)  Christ’s resurrection guarantees our own “spiritual,” bodily resurrection. The Bible refers to Him as being the ‘first fruits,’ which guarantees the whole harvest, of which you and I are a part if we are in Christ. In other words, since He was raised first, we know we will be raised. (vv. 20-23)  Paul says, “We ourselves, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.” (Romans 8:23)  This ‘first fruits of the Spirit’ spoken of in Romans 8:23 is elsewhere referred to as a deposit or guarantee, in Ephesians 1:14, 2 Corinthians 1:22 and 2 Corinthians 5:5.  The Spirit’s indwelling is a guarantee that much more is on the way. We have the down payment of the Spirit, but are awaiting the full transaction that will come to fruition when our bodies are resurrected and we live forever with Him. When will our resurrection take place? The passage says “When he comes”…whenever that is to be. When we receive “resurrected” spiritual bodies at Jesus’ second coming, our current bodies will be transformed.  They will be bodies completely perfect and dominated by the Spirit rather than the sinful nature. We are awaiting the day our bodies are completely made new and free of the weight of sin and be entirely spiritual. “For in this hope we were saved” indeed…resurrection is our hope.  When Christ returns we will see Him and we will be transformed -- what a blessed hope indeed!

Unlike the beliefs of the Greek philosophers who thought the body was evil and something we should want to be released from, God made our bodies as part of who we are and they complete us. Right now our bodies are affected by sin and they die, but God has a plan to resurrect our bodies to perfection. So now, just look at yourself. Take a minute. Do you feel too fat? Too thin? Got hurting knees or allergies? Losing your hair? Whatever problems and imperfections you have are temporary and will one day be changed in the twinkling of an eye…if you are in Christ.  That is our hope. It is the completion for us of “the extreme body makeover”…a heavenly body for eternal living. While you may be as broken as Humpty Dumpty because of sin that is not fixable by anyone in the world, the tomb is genuinely empty and Jesus is definitely alive.  What He did on the cross paid for your sins and you’ve been given an opportunity to not only be fixed, but to become a new creation and to have fellowship with God. This is the joy of living in the Resurrection. God can fix you spiritually and you can have the hope that He will one day complete your redemption by redeeming your body to be something like Jesus’ body!  

Blessings, Don