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The Message of the Gospel, Part 4: The Resurrection Life True and Passionate
1 Corinthians 15:4 Rob Wilkerson April 11, 2004 Introduction Several days ago, on April 2, the pastor of a church in Pakistan – even smaller than our own little flock here – was shot and killed in the village of Manawala, near Lahore, Pakistan. George Masih, aged 42, was the leader of a small village church which met in his home. He and his wife, Aniata, were active in reaching out to the villagers in the primarily Muslim village in order to share the gospel with them. Masih had worked previously as an elder in a Church of Pakistan congregation in Lahore. He and his wife had relocated the family two years ago to Manawala and were looking to plant a church there. They were known in the village for the worship songs that could be heard coming from their house, and for ministering house to house reaching out to neighbors and praying for those who were sick – even if they were Muslims. There is only one other Christian family in the village. The Christian work of Pastor Masih and his family drew the anger of a Muslim neighbor named Shokat Ali. Ali was irritated by the Christian meetings in Masih’s home, and urged the landlord to kick the family out. On more
2 than one occasion Ali threatened to kill Masih if he continued preaching, according to Voice of the Martyr sources in Pakistan. On Friday, April 2, around noon, Masih, his wife and four children were watching the JESUS film in their home. When the movie finished, Aniata got up to go out of the house. When she opened the door, two masked attackers burst in. One grabbed Aniata and covered her mouth, threatening her with death if she tried to cry out for help. The other attacker fired a shotgun point blank at Pastor Masih’s face. As the Christian man lay dying, the assailant hit him in the head with the butt of the gun. Then both men fled. Hearing the cries of Aniata, many neighbors gathered. One neighbor who did not show up was Shokat Ali. About 300 people gathered in the home of George’s brother for the funeral, including many Muslims who had been blessed by his ministry. Pastor Mukhtar, the pastor who led George to Christ, called the martyred Christian “a true and passionate believer” and said, “he always tried to win the souls with his preaching.” Pastor Masih leaves behind a wife, three sons (8,4,2) and a daughter (1). Transition In 1 Corinthians 15, which has been our text for the past several weeks, Paul asks a key question that we must answer, and it is a question that Pastor Masih’s wife must answer, and one that the Pastor himself already answered when he kept on preaching after receiving the threat on his life. I take that question from the first half of verse 29: “If the dead will not be raised,
3 then what point is there in…” preaching in a Muslim populated village even when you know you’ll be killed for it? In verse30, Paul goes on to ask, “And why should we ourselves be continually risking our lives, facing death hour by hour?” He continues to explain in verse 31. “For I swear, brothers and sisters, I face death daily.” Then in verse 32, he recounts his struggle with the riotous Ephesians who dragged Paul’s companions off to the amphitheatre, and would have hurt Paul also if they couldn’t gotten their hands on him. So Paul asks, “why in the world do I submit myself to physical and verbal danger to both my person and my reputation, if I didn’t believe in the resurrection from the dead?” In effect, he is saying what Pastor Masih believe in his heart – the fact that I am purposefully facing death and harm is precisely because I believe that no matter what happens to me, I will be raised from the dead like my Savior! Proposition This is what I’m after this morning, beloved. I’m after something plain, straightforward and simple. I want to see the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ so deeply engrained on your hearts and minds that you will live like you believe in it, and that you will do so passionately. And I want to do that by simply and briefly touching once more the truths of the gospel we’ve already discovered together, but this time with their logical and biblical result of resurrection. Sermon The focus of the resurrection begins with a focus on Christ’s death for sin. The message of the gospel is that Christ satisfied the wrath of God against our sin. The
4 message is that Christ died in our place, acting as our substitute. The message is that He did it to forgive our sins, completely removing them from the eyes and mind of God. Therefore, if we believe in Jesus Christ as that propitiation, substitution and expiation, then the demands of God’s law for sin have been met. That demand is death, and death has been satisfied. Therefore, for those who believe in Jesus, not only is sin forgiven, but its consequence – death - is not a reality anymore. His death was the satisfaction of God’s wrath. Therefore we do not have to die. His death was a substitution for ours, therefore we will not have to die. His death was an expiation for our sins, therefore we will never see the consequences of those sins, which his death. This is what the author of Hebrews seeks to teach in 2:9 when he says, “But we see him who was made a little lower than the angels, even Jesus, crowned with glory and honor, because he let himself be put to death so that by the grace of God he might undergo death for all men” (BBE). In the end, there are only two results that can come from all of this. The first is that our souls will not die because Jesus died for us! If we put our faith in Jesus Christ as our propitiation, substitution and expiation, then death is no worry for us because Jesus already took care of it for us. He taught in John 6:50-51, “The bread which comes from heaven is such bread that a man may take it for food and never see death. I am the living bread which has come from heaven: if any man takes this bread for food he will have life for ever…” He also taught in 8:51 that if we keep His words we will never see death. In 11:26, He proclaimed, “And no one who is living and has faith in me will ever see death.” This is the Jesus John saw and heard and reported about in Revelation 1:17-18
5 – “Fear not; I am the first and the last, and the Living one; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades. Jesus is THE way, THE truth, and THE life! So we must believe Him when He says the things He says about not seeing death. What exactly does He mean then by these statements? After all, we know so many godly persons who have died, and we know from great probability that we too will die one day? So how can He say we will never see death? I mean, look at Lazarus! Jesus made the statement about not seeing death after Lazarus had already died! But notice the other perspective, the more biblical and truthful perspective. He made that proclamation not only after Lazarus had died, but He especially made it BEFORE He raised Lazarus from the dead! But all of this is still confusing because Lazarus ended up dying again! So did the widow’s son whom Jesus raised, and so did all the others whom Jesus raised from the dead. This is where the first result needs more explanation, and the second result needs proclamation. You see, not only will we not die because Jesus died for us, but our bodies will be raised to life again because His was! We know our body will probably die one day. When it does, our soul will be immediately ushered into the presence of God. Our soul is that immaterial part of us which is where sanctification takes place. It is the spiritual heart where Jesus comes to take up residence when we believe in Him. It is the part of us where indwelling sin resides, although it has already been forgiven. It is that place where we do battle with sin by the power of the truth of the gospel that Jesus has already defeated it! It is that invisible place of our being no one sees but God.
6 It is real and definite. And it will experience an existence when it is separate from our body. For the Christian it is that part of our being of which Paul speaks when he says in 2 Corinthians 5:8 that to be absent from the body is to be at home with the Lord. Jesus speak of a first and second death in Revelation 20. If the second death is eternal hell where the sinner’s body will exist forever with his soul, then the first death must refer to his physical death after which his soul is immediately ushered into the presence of hell. This is why Jesus proclaims in 20:6 – “Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power…” That first resurrection refers to the resurrection of the bodies of the righteous at the second coming of Christ. Though our bodies may lie dead in the grave, we are promised in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 and following that Jesus Himself will raise us up from the grave to live with Him forever. Now meditate on this truth of the resurrection. Jesus went into the pit of death where the door was slammed behind Him. But He arose again and unlocked the door of death from the inside, something no human has ever done before! He came out of death’s pit with a glorified body and arose to heaven. And as for our bodies, they too will one day be ushered into the presence of the Lord! Because He unlocked death’s door from the inside, we will not have to even walk through that door, ever! You see, His death for us meant defeating death for us. And this defeat conquered its consequences both spiritually AND physically. Spiritually, our souls will never see death. And even though our bodies may see death physically, that death is only temporary, isn’t it? Can it really be said to be death when our bodies will be resurrected like Jesus’ body was? That’s why Jesus referred to Lazarus’ death in John 11 as sleep! That’s why Paul referred to it as sleep in 1 Corinthians 15:51 –
7 “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed” (NASB). He continues in verses 52-57 to explain: “It will happen in a moment, in the blinking of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, the Christians who have died will be raised with transformed bodies. And then we who are living will be transformed so that we will never die. For our perishable earthly bodies must be transformed into heavenly bodies that will never die. When this happens – when our perishable earthly bodies have been transformed into heavenly bodies that will never die – then at last the Scriptures will come true: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. How we thank God, who gives us victory over sin and death through Jesus Christ our Lord!” 1. Pray for Christ’s return!
When He returns, if you are still alive, your body will not have to undergo a physical death, but it will simply and instantaneously and miraculously transformed into a body that cannot die. To a person who is suffering with a terminable disease, there is no greater anxiety reliever than to look forward to the return of Christ, who may return at any moment and save that body from the ravages of sickness and death. But, even if He should not come back before we die, there is still no greater encouragement and relief to a suffering person than to know that dying is gain (Phil. 2:21). This is why we must also make every effort to…
8 2. Live and die by the truth of the resurrection!
Even if we die, our bodies will be raised again and made like Jesus. Why then do we spend so much time pampering our bodies with safety, security, and beauty? Why do we spend so much time praying for healing rather than looking forward to the resurrection? I’ll tell you why. It is all because we don’t really believe in the doctrine of the resurrection. And since this doctrine is an inseparable part of the gospel of Jesus Christ, it can be and should be said that we don’t really believe in the gospel! If we did, we would look to Jesus not only as our substitutionary death for the forgiveness of our sins, but we would also look to Him as our substitutionary death for the resurrection of our bodies! We would live as those who really do take no thought for our bodies in terms of what we will eat, drink and wear (Matt. 6:25). We will realize that God knows what we need to survive, and that our main task in life is to glorify Him and satisfy ourselves in Him by seeking His kingdom and righteousness first (6:32-33). The end of Paul’s explanation regarding the resurrection of your body is about working as hard as you can for Jesus Christ. He says, “So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and steady, always enthusiastic about the Lord’s work, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless” (1 Cor. 15:58, NLT). The solution for your life when you are weak and unstable is the resurrection, dear brothers and sisters! The only reason you would be weak and unstable is because you’ve forgotten what is going to happen to you! And if you are probably going to experience an earthly death, and if you are definitely going to experience a heavenly transformation of that earthly body of yours, why worry about what will
9 happen to you? Why wallow in anxiety? And most of all, why hold back in your ministry and service to the Lord? Prove to yourself that you believe in the gospel! Prove it to yourself, to your church body, to the Lord, and to the world that you do believe in Jesus’ proclamation of resurrection. Prove it by going out and seeking that most difficult way of life and most “risky” kind of ministry you can find. Start spending huge amounts of time in the downtown suburbs of the inner city and pour your life out there! Or better yet, move there! Take a “risk” and go to the mission field for a short time, and don’t just go to any mission field! Go to third world mission fields where you can give substance to your proof that you don’t care what happens to you when you are working for Jesus. Sell that second car and give the money away, and see what happens! Sell your home and move into a smaller one, and give the equity away and see what happens! Prove to everyone around you and especially to the Lord that you are a lover of Jesus, that you do desperately believe in the gospel of Christ, and that you most definitely do not care for your earthly body more than you do your resurrection body! 3. Be Resurrected from Your Apathy!
Apathy is the one thing that almost every Christian is guilty of at some point in their lives. It kills life because it ignores it. It pays virtually no attention to the lifegiving force of the Spirit, nor to the means God has given us to keep that life alive, fresh, invigorated, and joyous. Christ rose from the dead so that you could be raised from your apathy. He conquered death with life, so let’s see the life! Isn’t it amazing how many Christians act like He never rose from the dead. Yet it is the single truth of the resurrection that conquers death and
10 everything associated with it – especially the sorrow and the stench. If you have been raised to life with Christ, then act like you are alive! A life that professes to have been raised with Christ but loves sin smells with the stench of death. And a life that professes to have been raised with Christ but is never joyful is trapped by the sorrow of His death. To use a modern phrase – “Get a life!” Get Jesus’ life! Do whatever you must do to obtain resurrection life! Conclusion This is the simple call this morning. This is the life Jesus presents as giving to those who call upon Him and who desire to follow after Him. This is the only kind of life He gives. So examine your life this morning. How does the life you say you have in Him compare with this kind of life that He says gives at salvation? Is the life you say you have in Jesus as abundant and powerful as the resurrection life? You are probably asking: “How in the world can anyone ever hope to live like that?” I would say ask Pastor Masih, but he’s enjoying his eternal life with Christ right now, because he believed in the resurrection from the dead and lived like it! His testimony alone proves to us that people can live like that. And the reason you and I can live like that today is because the same power that raised Christ from the dead, was the same power that worked in Paul, that worked in Pastor Masih, and that works in you, if indeed you are truly saved. Resurrection life will prove itself to be vibrant, energetic, powerful, renewing, invigorating, unstoppable, consistent, always getting back up when it is knocked down whether by other people or your own sin. It keeps its eyes on the prize – heaven where Christ Jesus now sits ready to welcome you as a good and faithful servant.
11 Will you come to receive this life this morning if you don’t have it? And if you do have it won’t you come to Him again this morning for a resurrection recharge? Ask Him to fill you with that abundant life that He offers, but be sure you want it before you ask for it! And if you really do want it but don’t get it as soon as you ask, then read the Word, especially the NT, and especially Paul’s letters. Read them over and over again, praying as you read, that God would grant you a fresh and powerful recharge of that resurrection life. And after you’re done praying and reading, go out and look for something you can do, some kind of ministry that God desires of you, where you can prove that you have that life!
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