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1 Corinthians 15:12-19; Objective Truth

04/19 1 Corinthians 15:12-19 Objective Truth; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150419_1cor15_12-19.mp3

1 Corinthians 15 [SBLGNT]

12 Εἰ δὲ Χριστὸς κηρύσσεται ὅτι ἐκ νεκρῶν ἐγήγερται, πῶς λέγουσιν ἐν ὑμῖν τινες ὅτι ἀνάστασις νεκρῶν οὐκ ἔστιν; 13 εἰ δὲ ἀνάστασις νεκρῶν οὐκ ἔστιν, οὐδὲ Χριστὸς ἐγήγερται· 14 εἰ δὲ Χριστὸς οὐκ ἐγήγερται, κενὸν ἄρα τὸ κήρυγμα ἡμῶν, κενὴ καὶ ἡ πίστις ὑμῶν, 15 εὑρισκόμεθα δὲ καὶ ψευδομάρτυρες τοῦ θεοῦ, ὅτι ἐμαρτυρήσαμεν κατὰ τοῦ θεοῦ ὅτι ἤγειρεν τὸν Χριστόν, ὃν οὐκ ἤγειρεν εἴπερ ἄρα νεκροὶ οὐκ ἐγείρονται. 16 εἰ γὰρ νεκροὶ οὐκ ἐγείρονται, οὐδὲ Χριστὸς ἐγήγερται· 17 εἰ δὲ Χριστὸς οὐκ ἐγήγερται, ματαία ἡ πίστις ὑμῶν, ἔτι ἐστὲ ἐν ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις ὑμῶν. 18 ἄρα καὶ οἱ κοιμηθέντες ἐν Χριστῷ ἀπώλοντο. 19 εἰ ἐν τῇ ζωῇ ταύτῃ ἐν Χριστῷ ἠλπικότες ἐσμὲν μόνον, ἐλεεινότεροι πάντων ἀνθρώπων ἐσμέν.

1 Corinthians 15 [ESV2011]

1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

I have recently talked to two different people who said very nearly the same thing. What they said went something like this. It doesn’t really matter what you believe or what faith you belong to, as long as you believe it and live by it and you are a better person for it. If everybody would really live and truly follow what they believe, we all would be better for it, and the world would be a better place. It doesn’t really matter what you believe, as long as whatever you believe makes you a better person.

This is appealing, this sounds inclusive, and there is even an element of truth to it. If the common denominator of all belief systems were love and being nice, that would make for a much more pleasant and peaceful coexistence on the planet. A major problem with this way of thinking is that this is simply not true. Many belief systems are openly hostile and hateful toward others who do not embrace their teachings. But even if it were true, this is a view that is limited to this life only. If life on this planet is all there is, and whatever you believe helps you to be a better world citizen, then this makes some sense. But if there is a God, and if there is existence beyond death, then it matters a great deal if what you believe is right or wrong, true or false. What if God has a dearly loved Son, whom he sent to die in my place for my sins, and he raised him from the dead as proof that he was who he claimed to be and accomplished what he set out to do, and what if I live a life that is good and I treat others with kindness, but give no regard to God or his Son? It matters not only that what I believe makes me a better person, but that what I believe is true. Really, objectively true.

This is what Paul deals with in our text today. He has built the historical case for the gospel – the good news that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was really and truly dead, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures and that he was really and truly alive, as attested to by many trustworthy eye-witnesses. These are the historical facts with theological meaning. Paul has given us himself as an example of a life radically transformed by the power of God’s resurrecting grace. And now he gives us some logic. He challenges us to use our brains. He reasons with us. He invites us to think clearly and carefully. Ideas have consequences. Some truth claims lead us to conclusions that are contrary to the evidence, so they must not be true. In verse 12, Paul states the problem. In verses 13-15 and in verses 16-18 he lays out two parallel lines of logical reasoning demonstrating by the necessary conclusions that their belief in verse 12 must be false. Then in verse 19, he gives a concluding logical argument.

Problem Stated

1 Corinthians 15:12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?

Paul has just declared the united preaching of all the apostolic witnesses of the resurrection. So we preached and so you believed. All the eye-witness agree and proclaim Christ as raised from the dead. That is the gospel message that was preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to it, unless you believed in vain. Some in Corinth were questioning the resurrection. It appears they were not specifically doubting the resurrection of Jesus, but rather questioning any kind of physical resurrection at all. Some were saying ‘the dead are not raised’ and ‘there is no resurrection of the dead.’ What happens when a person dies? We know physiologically, that the body decays, decomposes, is eaten by worms, and returns to dust. But is that all? We know that the Sadducees believed that there is no resurrection, and they came to Jesus with their own logical argument to try to prove the absurdity of the idea of resurrection (Mt.22:23; Mk.12:18; Lk.20:27). There was much in Greek and Roman thought that also doubted the idea of a resurrection. When Paul proclaimed the good news of the resurrection in the Areopagus at Athens, some mocked, but others were curious (Acts17:32). It seems some at Corinth had begun to question and doubt that resurrection was possible. Their issue was not what happens to your soul or spirit or consciousness after you die; their question had to do with what happens to your body. What happens to your person, to all of you? Does your decomposing rotting worm eaten flesh actually come back to life? That sounds impossible, that sounds creepy and gross. Paul challenges the logic of their thinking. If Christ is preached as raised from the dead, then how can you say there is no resurrection of the dead? You can’t have one without the other. Christ died for our sins. He was buried. Christ was one individual who died. If none of the dead are ever raised, then it follows that Christ was not raised, and Paul will now point out the tragic consequences of this idea.

Round One

1 Corinthians 15:13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.

Paul starts with their premise, that he will restate in verse 16, that ‘there is no resurrection of the dead.’ If this premise is absolutely true, then it follows that not even Christ has been raised. This leads to three unacceptable consequences.

Consequence one: our preaching is in vain. In verses 8-11, Paul used himself as an example of God’s resurrecting grace at work in someone who was once vehemently opposed to the gospel. If Christ has not been raised, all my missionary labors, all my hardships, all my pain and heartache and sacrifice, all the abuse and persecution I have suffered has been for nothing. It is empty, fruitless, worthless. There was no point. And not only Paul. Stephen had been stoned to death. James had been beheaded. All the preaching of all the eye-witness was empty, vain, useless, for nothing. A complete waste of time and energy and resources. Because if Christ has not been raised then there is no good news to bring, which leads to the second tragic consequence.

Consequence two: your faith is in vain. Paul had cautioned in verse 2 that they not believe in a way that is empty, fruitless, worthless, pointless. He encourages them to receive the gospel, to stand firm in the gospel, to hold fast to the gospel, to be transformed by the gospel. He will encourage them in verse 58 that their labor is not in vain in the Lord. But if Christ has not been raised from the dead, then all their believing, all their standing firm, all their holding fast is in vain. It accomplishes nothing. It is worthless, futile, empty. If Christ is not raised, your belief gets you nothing. Nothing. Zero.

Consequence three: We are shown to be false witnesses.

1 Corinthians 15:14 And if Christ has not been raised, …15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.

Not only did we who proclaimed the gospel of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus waste our time and accomplish nothing, but worse, we misrepresented God, we bore false testimony about God. We broke the ninth commandment, and probably also the third, to not take the name of the Lord in vain. We bore witness that God the Father raised Jesus Christ from the dead. If it is true, as you say that the dead are not raised, then God did not raise Christ from the dead, and we all, Peter and the twelve, the five hundred, James the Lord’s brother, and all the apostles together are demonstrated to be false witnesses. This is a grave accusation. They apparently did not think through the consequences of their assertions very carefully. Paul challenges them to think.

Round Two

1 Corinthians 15:16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.

Paul again revisits their premise, that ‘the dead are not raised,’ and again points them to the necessary logical conclusion that if that is true, not even Christ has been raised, and points them to three more devastating consequences of their truth claim.

Consequence one: Your faith is futile. He is picking up the middle of his first three consequences and fleshing it out. Their believing in vain was sandwiched between the vain preaching and false testimony of the eye-witnesses. Here he uses a synonym to the word ‘vain’ that he used there in verse 14. Worthless, empty, devoid of truth, bringing no results. Your belief in the gospel is futile.

Consequence two: you are still in your sins. This gets to the root of the gospel and the reason for the vain futility of their faith if the resurrection didn’t happen. The good news proclaims that Christ died for our sins. If Jesus claimed to die for our sins, and then he stayed dead, his claim is empty. He didn’t accomplish what he set out to do. Romans 1 tells us that the resurrection validated that Jesus was who he claimed to be.

Romans 1:4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, (cf. Acts 17:31)

And Romans 4 tells us:

Romans 4:25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

If Jesus stayed dead, then he was a fraud and his death accomplished nothing for us. This highlights the absolute centrality and necessity of Jesus. If Jesus wasn’t who he claimed to be, as evidenced by the resurrection, then you are still in your sins. There is no other way for sins to be dealt with. Jesus claimed to be the way; the only way to God (Jn. 14:6). If Jesus’ sacrifice was not accepted by the Father, there is no way to be delivered from our sins. We are finally and forever lost. Our salvation, our justification, our forgiveness is contingent on the resurrection.

Consequence three: those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. To fall asleep is a gentle euphemism for the death of a believer. To die is merely to fall asleep, with the confidence that you will wake refreshed. But if the dead are not raised, and the resurrection of Jesus did not happen, then those who put their confidence in Christ, those who were depending on Jesus, holding fast to the gospel, they have perished. He is not saying that they simply died and ceased to exist. That is not how Paul uses the word ‘perish’. In chapter 1:18-19, he uses this word to contrast those who are being saved with those who are perishing, who are being completely destroyed, whom God is opposing, shaming, bringing to nothing. God’s justice demands that if our sins are not paid for by another, we will pay for them through eternity.

Conclusion

Paul now brings this part of his argument to a conclusion. If the dead are not raised, then Christ is not raised. If Christ is not raised, the gospel is false, preaching is worthless, believing the gospel will profit nothing, you are still in your sins. All we have left then is whatever benefit we have in this life.

1 Corinthians 15:19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

What if it’s not true? What if there is no resurrection? What if the gospel we believed turns out to be a lie? At least we were sincere and it gave us hope and we were better citizens, right? It doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you are sincere and it makes you a better person, right? Paul’s answer is No! If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. Pathetic. Miserable. Pitiable. How can Paul say this? Isn’t the Christian lifestyle better, even if it is not true? Doesn’t it make you a better person, a better citizen?

Paul does say in 1 Timothy 4:8 that

1 Timothy 4:8 godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come

He exhorts us to be good fathers, husbands, citizens, good employees and employers. But if what we believe is not true, we are pitiable, miserable. Why?

As followers of Jesus, we are to be good citizens and live in submission to the authorities, but we are citizens of a different country and submit first to a higher authority. We are to be good husbands and parents, but we are to be devoted to our first love that takes precedence over all earthly loves. We are to serve our employers well, but all our service answers ultimately to the supreme Master.

Look at Paul, for example. It seems that in almost every city Paul visited a riot broke out. The authorities had to work overtime to try to keep the peace. He often required a military escort and protection. He moved around a lot, sometimes picking up jobs, sometimes taking donations to cover his expenses. He spent a lot of time in prison. Whenever he opened his mouth he was offending someone. Sometimes what he said hurt local businesses and they ran him out of town. He got himself beat up and almost killed on multiple occasions. He was successful in persuading many people to leave their long held religious beliefs and follow his teaching. He stirred things up so much that people were taking vows to assassinate him. Paul the model citizen!

Paul was passionate about one thing; making Jesus known. If the resurrection was not an historical reality, Paul wasted his life. We should feel sorry for him.

What about you? What about me? Do we live this life in such a way that if the resurrection were not true, if Jesus were not who he claimed to be, our lives would be viewed as a colossal waste? Have you sacrificed? Have you suffered for the sake of Christ? Is it true of you that if you have hope in Christ in this life only, you would be of all people most to be pitied? Or is your best life now? Is life comfortable and safe and happy and not too much is risked for the gospel? Do people view you as a good person, a respectable citizen, a responsible neighbor, or do they see a life so transformed by God’s resurrecting grace, so centered on Jesus, that there is tangible evidence that Jesus is really alive today?

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

April 19, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

John 11-12; Resurrection Belief

04/20/14 Resurrection Sunday Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140420_resurrection-belief.mp3

Resurrection Sunday

Today is Resurrection Sunday, the day we celebrate our Lord and King triumphing over death. Experiencing deep emotional distress, betrayal by a friend, run through multiple courts that made a mockery of justice, having been whipped, beaten, mocked, spit at, nailed to a cross, a spear thrust into his heart to verify he was dead, taken down, quickly embalmed, and placed in a tomb. And those are merely the physical things he endured. The scriptures tell us that he died ‘for our sins’. He endured the wrath of God toward every sin I have ever committed. And after all that, Jesus didn’t stay dead! Some of his followers showed up after the Sabbath was over, on the morning of the first day of the week, and found the stone had been removed from the entrance to the tomb, and the body was missing. Jesus began to appear to his followers, and over the next 40 days, he presented himself alive, walked, talked, cooked, ate, and taught his disciples, sometimes with one or two, sometimes with the 11 disciples, sometimes in large groups, even appearing to more than 500 at once. At the end of the 40 days, he went out with his disciples to Bethany, commissioned them to make disciples of all nations, and then ascended into the sky while they were all watching and disappeared from sight. This is amazing!

What do you think of this story? Different people respond differently to news like this. There are several possible responses to a supernatural event like this.

Aurora, Texas

Let me tell you another story. Early morning April 17, 1897 something crash landed near the north Texas town of Aurora. A newspaper described a mysterious cigar shaped airship that ran into a windmill, spreading debris across several acres. Among the wreckage, there was a small humanoid body discovered, which an eye-witness described as “not an inhabitant of this world.” That body was buried at the local cemetery in Aurora. Is there an alien buried in Aurora, Texas? Is it a hoax? What do you think of this story? I tell that story, not because I think there is any truth to it, or any similarity between it and the resurrection of our Lord, but only to demonstrate that there are several different responses we can have to unbelievable supernatural news.

Resurrection of Lazarus

Turn with me in your bibles to John chapter 11. I want to look at the resurrection of Lazarus, and some of the different responses people had to that supernatural manifestation of Jesus’ divine power. I think as we look at this, each of us will be able to identify what our response is to Jesus’ resurrection. What you think really happened in Aurora, Texas in 1897 doesn’t make much difference at all in your life today. What you believe about the resurrection of Jesus makes all the difference, and the way you live life will be radically different depending on what your response is to this amazing news.

In John 11, we read that Jesus purposely waited two days after he had received news that Lazarus was ill, then he told his disciples that Lazarus had died and that he intended to go raise him from the dead so that his disciples would believe. When Jesus arrives near Bethany, Lazarus had been dead four days. Jesus talks with Lazarus’ sister Martha outside the village, and then sends her to get Mary. There was a group of Jews who were there mourning the death of Lazarus. They followed Mary and Jesus to the tomb, and Jesus ordered that the stone be removed from the opening of the tomb. Jesus prayed to his Father out loud for the benefit of the people that were present. Then he commanded Lazarus to come out. Lazarus, who had been dead four days, came out of the tomb, bound hand and foot with the linen burial strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Then Jesus ordered the bystanders to set him free from the burial cloths. That would have been an amazing event to witness!

John 11:45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, 46 but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”

Here we see some of the responses to the supernatural. Many of the eye-witnesses believed in Jesus. They saw what Jesus did. They drew conclusions based on the evidence they had seen, and they believed him to be the life-giver, the Messiah.

Predisposed to Disbelieve

But some went and told on him to the religious leaders. They gave their eye-witness accounts to the chief priests and the Pharisees. The religious leaders had a problem. There was no denying the evidence. Jesus had done many supernatural signs, identifying himself as the King who comes in the name of the Lord. They were worried that if they let him go on doing miraculous signs, everyone would believe in him. We begin to see another response to resurrection. These religious leaders were predisposed to disbelieve. They were so hardened in their own opinion that they refused to consider the possibility that they were wrong. Don’t confuse me with the facts, my mind is already made up. They were presented with the evidence, but the implication of that evidence was a threat to them. They had a place and a people. They had power, authority, control. Because so many were believing in Jesus, they were in danger of losing their privileges and their position. These men were not interested in the truth. They knew the evidence. But they personally had a lot to lose, and they considered what they would lose as more important than the truth.

Verse 53 gives their shocking conclusion:

John 11:53 So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.

They are so threatened, that they want to discount and demolish and destroy the evidence. The evidence poses a threat to them that they must dispose of the evidence. Jesus must be stopped. He must be killed.

Let’s keep reading.

John 11:57 Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where he was, he should let them know, so that they might arrest him.

John 12:1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table.

This was quite the dinner party. Both Jesus, the miracle worker who raised his friend from the dead, and Lazarus, the one who had been in the tomb four days, who is now alive, were having dinner together. Then down in verse 9:

John 12:9 When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, 11 because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.

There were pharisees who actually wanted to take Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead, and put him to death. Lazarus was incontestable evidence that Jesus was who he claimed to be, but rather than reconsider their conclusions in light of the evidence, they simply wanted to do away with the evidence. These religious leaders were willing to bear false witness and even commit murder, in order to get rid of the evidence. If your leaders are willing to break the commandments in order to protect their position, it is time to stop following those wicked men.

John 12:17 The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. 18 The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”

This tells us that the Palm Sunday crowd that welcomed Jesus as ‘the King of Israel, who comes in the name of the Lord’ came because they had heard about the resurrection of Lazarus. The crowd that had witnessed that supernatural event had continued to testify to the truth of the identity of Jesus, and they were gaining momentum.

The Rich Man and Lazarus

Many say that if they are only presented with enough evidence, they will be convinced. But that is simply not true. Some are so content with their pride power, privilege and position that there is no evidence that would persuade them, in fact they will seek to destroy the evidence. Jesus told a story about a rich man and a poor beggar named Lazarus. Both died, Lazarus was carried to the side of Abraham, and the rich man to a place of torment, where he was in anguish in the flame. When he could get no relief, he asked for Lazarus to be sent back to warn his brothers, so that they would not also end up in the place of torment.

Luke 16:29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”

The rich man believes that if his brothers just have enough evidence, supernatural evidence, then they will believe. He is wrong. Abraham points them back to Moses and the Prophets, back to the written word of God, the Old Testament Scriptures. That is enough. Supernatural experiences do not save. This is a heart problem. Some of you today might be in this position, your heart is hardened to the possibility that the Bible is true and Jesus is who he claimed to be. Some of you might be so comfortable and content with what you believe about God that even if what you believe is contradicted by all the evidence and the clear teaching of the word of God, you will stay where you are because you feel threatened, you feel you have too much to lose. It’s hard to be wrong. It’s harder to admit you were wrong. Some people are so proud that they will go to hell before they admit they were wrong. Even if Jesus really is who he claims to be, and all the evidence points in that direction, some will refuse to believe.

Curious Onlookers

What can we say about those who saw Lazarus raised from the dead and did not believe, but instead went and reported to the religious leaders what had happened? They believed, in a sense. They saw what they saw. The dead man came out of the tomb. They may have even helped to unwrap him. They believed that the event happened. But they did not believe what that supernatural event meant. They did not believe in Jesus. They didn’t follow Jesus. They went and reported what they had seen. They were curious onlookers. They were fascinated, amazed, excited, they didn’t want to miss out on anything, They came to see. There were some who came to the dinner, who were not so interested in Jesus as they were in seeing the man who was in the tomb four days and now was alive. They were intrigued.

Did you ever notice, driving along the freeway, traffic slows to a crawl for what seems hours, and you finally get to the accident scene, and there is a crunched car and a few emergency vehicles with lights flashing, they are not even on your side of the freeway, and there are no lanes blocked? Why is it that everyone slows down when passing an accident scene? They don’t intend to stop and get out and help, they just want to see, they want to know what’s going on. They might want to snap a picture and post it on facebook to tell their friends how long they sat in traffic. They don’t really care about the people involved, and wouldn’t think of inconveniencing themselves to get involved. They just want to be in the know. And they want to have the information to pass on to others.

Do you think these people who told the chief priests and Pharisees what Jesus had done intended to play a part in getting him killed? Do you think they cared? They believed that the event really happened. But they went on with life as if it was just one more wreck on the side of the road that they got to see.

Some of you today might believe that Jesus was really crucified, and that he really rose from the dead, but that information doesn’t change the way you live. Friends, Jesus is alive, and one day you will stand before him and answer to him. If you knew that I died for you and rose from the dead, why didn’t you follow me?

The Fact of the Resurrection

The resurrection of Jesus is a historical fact. There was a man named Jesus, who lived in Nazareth, who was executed by Rome on a cross, who was buried in a tomb, that tomb was secured by a Roman guard, and the body went missing. His enemies could not produce the body. Literally hundreds of eye witnesses claimed to see the risen Lord with their own eyes over the next 40 days, many in groups. Many of them were skeptical and had to be convinced. They witnessed him eating and drinking, some even having the opportunity to touch his physical body and physically authenticate the wounds from crucifixion. A large group saw his body ascend into the sky and disappear. Many of his followers suffered execution because they continued to testify to the identity and resurrection of Jesus.

The only viable explanation of the evidence is that Jesus really did supernaturally rise from the dead. If that is true, then we must look carefully at who Jesus claimed to be and what he taught. Jesus claimed to be the way, the truth, the life, the only way to the Father. He claimed to be one with his Father. He calls us to come to him and to follow him. We must take seriously what he said. The only religious leader who claimed to be God and then rose from the dead deserves not just to be talked about. He deserves to be followed.

Skeptics

I imagine that very few of those who were present when Lazarus was raised from the dead doubted that the event really happened. But I imagine that many who weren’t there but heard their story were very skeptical. That may be why they showed up at dinner in Bethany. There is nothing wrong with being skeptical. Most of the disciples were skeptics about Jesus’ resurrection. The disciples didn’t believe the women who first went to the tomb when they claimed to have seen Jesus (Lk.24:11). Peter went back to fishing (Jn.21:3). Thomas refused to believe unless he could touch the evidence with his own hands (Jn.20:25). Jesus gladly presented him with the evidence he desired. Thomas is not rebuked for being a skeptic. But after presenting him with evidence, he does tell him to stop doubting and believe.

Some of you today might be skeptics. To you I want to say ‘welcome!’ Ask questions. Investigate. Scrutinize the evidence. Passionately pursue the truth. But make sure that you are willing to follow the truth, whatever it costs.

Some Believed

Some who saw the supernatural sign, or heard about it, listened to Jesus and believed in him. They became his followers. Some gave up their business, their livelihood, their families to follow Jesus. Some gave up everything. Many of them suffered horrific deaths that they could have escaped if only they would renounce Jesus as a fraud. Jesus’ followers experienced and taught that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead was at work in his followers. That same resurrection power began to clothe the timid with boldness, it transformed fishermen, tax collectors and zealots into heralds of the truth, transformed sinners into forgiven warriors willing to lay down their lives for the sake of their Master, willing to let go of everything and go to the ends of the earth to make him known.

So I ask you again, where do you see yourself? Are you so set in what you believe that you are not even interested in what is true? Are you a curious onlooker, intrigued by the supernatural, even believing that Jesus is who he claimed to be, but it makes no difference in your life? Are you skeptical, but you really want to know the truth? Or are you convinced that Jesus is God in the flesh come to die for your sins, you have come to him to be forgiven of all your sins, and you are willing to follow him wherever he leads?

It is my prayer that wherever you are, God would so work in your heart that you would become a believer, a follower of Jesus and experience his resurrection power transforming you. Experience life!

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

April 20, 2014 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Disciple-Making Disciples: Teach about God

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20110109_teach_about_god

01/09 Make Disciples: Teach about God

Jesus made some astonishing claims. He claimed that everything was all about him. He claimed to be the fulfillment of all prophetic scripture, that all history revolved around him. He claimed an unique relationship to God as one of a kind Son of the Father. He claimed a kind of authority that only God could possess. He claimed to be distinct from the rest of humanity, in a class absolutely by himself

And he demanded unquestioning allegiance from his followers. He demanded that we put him in first place far above every other priority or responsibility. He demanded to be loved and honored as God. And he entrusted to us the great privilege and responsibility of calling others to follow him. He puts it this way:

Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

We – all of us who claim to follow Jesus – are called by Jesus to be disciple-making disciples. What does that mean? What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus? According to Jesus, a disciple is one who is immersed into the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and taught to obey everything Jesus commanded. If I am to be a disciple-making disciple of our Lord Jesus, then I am to pass on information, character and passion that will translate into a transformed life. So here’s the question: What exactly am I to pass on? What is the information, what is the character, what is the passion that I am to have and to pass on to other would-be followers of Jesus? What is the conviction, the character and the content that needs to be contagious in my life? Today we will focus on the bedrock foundation in the life of a disciple of Jesus that will provide the unshakeable basis for everything else that we will build on it.

So what did Jesus command his disciples? What is the content of the teaching that we are to pass on to future generations of disciples?

A Word to Superficial Religious People

Much of what Jesus taught was to correct distorted views of God. The religious people of his day thought they understood God and related to him in a proper way. They thought the were following the scriptures, but Jesus challenged their thinking and confronted their hypocrisy. He said:

Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus then proceeded to tell the people in what ways the religious leaders fell short. Keeping the letter of the outward commands like ‘thou shalt not murder’ and ‘thou shalt not commit adultery’ was not enough; these commands were not merely prohibiting the external act, but had implications on the heart – the thoughts and intents like hatred and lust. Jesus demands that we love not only our neighbor, but even our enemy and those who persecute us because it is the character of God to extend his common grace to both the good and the wicked. Jesus cautions about practicing righteousness publicly – giving and praying and fasting in such a way that we seek to impress those around us. He warns about the spiritual dangers of treasuring anything outside of God and having divided affections. He warns us not to point out flaws in others while overlooking our own character defects. He invites us to ask because God is good and loves to give good gifts to whoever asks. Jesus warns that the way to destruction is wide and easy and many go there. The way to life is hard and narrow and few go there. He warns of the diseased fruit of false teachers who pretend at outward religion but have no heart transformation. He warns that many who claim the name of Jesus and do great deeds in his name have no real relationship with him and will be told ‘I never knew you; depart from me you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matt.7:23). In fact, Jesus not only warned his followers of the dangers of superficial religion, but he confronted those who were involved in it. He said some severe things like:

Matthew 23:13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. 15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. 16 “Woe to you, blind guides, … 17 You blind fools! … 19 You blind men! … 23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! 25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self–indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. 27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. … 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?

Harsh, huh? That’s Jesus. He had some severe things to say to those who pretended to be religious leaders and didn’t have any real relationship with God. The stakes were too high to be soft with them. They misrepresented God for their own personal gain and led others down the path to destruction. So Jesus frankly tells them where they are headed and calls them to repent and warns us not to be deceived by them. Jesus steers us back to the path by telling us what God is really like. He is not impressed with outward show. He sees the heart. Jesus tells us that a real relationship – knowing the only true God – is the only path to eternal life.

Knowing God

John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

So if knowing God is the definition of eternal life, then it is critical that we have a true understanding of who God is. And Jesus has a lot to say about his Father. In fact, Jesus claims exclusive right to tell us what the Father is like.

Matthew 11:27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

Luke 10:22 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

John 1:18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father‘s side, he has made him known.

John 5:37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen,

John 6:46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.

Here are some of the things that Jesus tells us about his Father. Jesus said that God is the Creator (Mk.10:6; 13:19). God is the one who controls the solar system and the weather (Mt.5:45). God is the giver of life (Jn.5:21, 26). God deserves all the glory and worship (Mt.4;10; 5:16; 6:9; Lk.4:8; 11:2; Jn.4:21-23, 5:23; 12:28; 13:31-32; 14:13; 15:8; 17:1). He is to be loved with all the heart, soul, mind and strength (Mk.12:30; Lk.10:27). God is eternal (Jn.17:5, 24). God is spirit and by nature invisible (Jn.1:18; 4:24; 5:37; 6:46). He sees everything – even what is done in secret (Mt.6:4-6, 18). He knows everything (Mt.6:8, 32; Lk.12:30 16:15). He is Lord of heaven and earth (Mt.11:25, Lk.10:21). He commands all the angels (Mt.26:53). God owns everything (Mt.22:21). He is able to do everything (Mk.14:36; Lk.3:8). He is all-powerful (Mt.22:29; Lk.1:37; 18:27). He is even concerned with little birds (Mt.10:29; Lk.12:6, 24). God is true (Jn.3:33). He is righteous and just (Mt.6:33; Lk.7:29). He is perfect (Mt.5:48). He is merciful (Lk.6:36). He is the giver of all good things (Lk.11:13; 12:32; Jn.4:10; 6:32;). He is full of compassion and forgiveness (Lk.15:20-22). God is love (Jn.3:16; 5:20; 15:9; 16:27; 17:24). God alone is good (Mk.10:18; Lk.18:19).

These are some of the things Jesus said about his Father. If eternal life is all about knowing God, and Jesus claims to be the exclusive authority on God, then we should listen to what he says.

John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

What Jesus Says About Himself

The stunning thing here is Jesus includes himself. Eternal life is knowing God and knowing Jesus Christ. For any mere man to put himself on that level would sound absurd. If I were to say ‘This is what eternal life is all about – you need to know the only true God, and you need to know me, Rodney, the anointed one, sent by God’ – I hope you would do more than squirm in your seats. I hope you wouldn’t all nod politely and drift off back to sleep. To put yourself in the same sentence with God is startling, offensive and blasphemous. But that’s what Jesus did. You need to know God and you need to know me.

But Jesus goes even farther than this. He identifies himself completely with the Father.

John 14:7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” 8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? …11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

In fact he went so far as to say:

John 10:30 I and the Father are one.”

The Jews perceived in John 5:18 that he was ‘making himself equal with God’. In verse 23 He demanded the same honor that was to be given to God.

John 5:23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.

Jesus put himself on the same level with God, he claimed to be equal with God, he demanded the same honor as God, and he demanded that we believe that he is all that.

John 8:23 He said to them, “… I am from above. … I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”

What Jesus Says About The Holy Spirit:

If we stopped here, the picture we have of what Jesus taught us about God would be incomplete. Jesus talked much about his Father. He talked much about himself. And he talked much about the Spirit of God. Jesus was said to have been conceived by the Holy Spirit (Mt.1:18-20; Lk.1:35 ). John said Jesus would baptize us with the Holy Spirit (Mt.3:11; Mk.1:8; Lk.3:16; Jn.1:33). God’s Spirit descended upon Jesus at his baptism (Mt.3:16, 12:18; Mk.1:10; Lk.3:22; Jn.1:32). Jesus was led by the Spirit (Mt.4:1; Mk.1:12; Lk.4:1, 14, 18) and claimed to do miracles by the Spirit of God (Mt.12:28) and he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit (Lk.10:21).

Jesus considered the Holy Spirit to be God. Speaking against the Holy Spirit was blasphemy (Mt.12:31-32; Mk.3:29; Lk.12:10). Jesus considered the Holy Spirit to be the one who authored the Scriptures (Mk.12:36), and he would be the one to speak through the apostles (Mk.13:11; Lk.12:12). Jesus taught that the Spirit would give new birth. (Jn.3:5-8, 6:63). Jesus said that the Father would give the Holy Spirit to those who asked (Lk.11:13; Jn.7:39, 20:22)

When Jesus told his disciples that he would not be with them much longer, they were grieved. He encouraged them by pointing them to the Holy Spirit.

John 14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. 18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

John 14:25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

John 15:26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.

John 16:7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. 12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would be the one who would equip his disciples with the ability to make disciples.

Luke 24:49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Acts 1:4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” …8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Jesus Taught that there is only One God

Jesus clearly taught that there is only one God. When asked what is the first and greatest commandment, Jesus answered:

Mark 12:29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.

When Jesus claimed to be God, we don’t hear him say ‘I and the Father are the two’. Rather, he says ‘I and the Father are one’ (Jn.10:30)

Jesus commanded that we immerse in the one Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Mt.28:19)

Conclusion

If we call ourselves disciples of Jesus, and we want to teach others to follow Jesus, then we need to understand what Jesus taught, especially about God. Jesus taught that God is by nature spirit – invisible. He taught that God is eternal, that he is the Creator and life-giver, that he has all power, is present everywhere, knows everything, that he is worthy of all our affections and all our worship. Jesus taught that there is only one God, and that God exists in the person of the Father, the person of the Son, and the person of the Holy Spirit.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org


January 9, 2011 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment