Death Is Only the Beginning: Reflections on Recent Tragic Deaths


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Death is only the beginning. Both for the redeemed and for the rebel.

There have been many tragedies strike the heart of southeastern Kentucky recently. Two young men have recently died and their deaths have shaken communities in Laurel and Clay Counties, and beyond. Two young men, Brian Keith Griffin (28) and Cameron Harville (24), died only days apart. The former died from a gunshot wound while hunting. Senseless tragedy. The latter died from a car accident. Words cannot describe how in shock I am that I just wrote that. These deaths are very close to me and have struck a deep chord in my heart. I went to high school with Cameron, though I did not know him. I did know Brian. He was named after my father and although he wasn’t directly related to me, I called him my cousin. I love his parents and his brother dearly and my heart breaks for his wife and daughters. The amount of tragedy that this family has had to endure is insurmountable from a human perspective. In the words of my aunt on the day of his funeral, “It just doesn’t seem fair.” Amen. My heart has been in constant prayer for this family, as well as for Cameron’s. I have personally struggled with Brian’s death. It brought me back to the tragic death of my first cousin Jon Hooker. Those feelings of searing loss are hard to shake. However, his death also helped awaken me to the things that truly matter. For example, are petty arguments with my wife really worth it? What a waste of precious, fleeting time!

In light of these two tragedies and the frequent chatter I have seen and taken part in about life, death, and the afterlife, I see fit to consider in this post the tragedy of death and the reality of eternity. I pray each heart that is hurting today and in the days to come will be comforted by the words that follow and/or awakened to the impending reality facing every man, woman, and child.

Death Brings Debate

Death is the single tragedy that shuts every mouth before an eternally living God. Death is tragic when a 28 year-old dies while hunting and when an 82 year-old dies warm in bed. Even for those who deny God’s existence in favor of a naturalistic or humanistic worldview are muted in the presence of death’s deafening silence. When someone dies, there is an instinctual sense of moral judgment that arises in the mind and heart. But what happens to a person after they die? This question causes great debate. Existence beyond the grave, to those with some sense of morality, depends upon the way one lived his or her life. For example, most people would believe Adolf Hitler and Osama Bin Laden to be suffering some kind of eternal punishment for the evil they inflicted throughout their lives. On the flip side, most people would believe that the innocent victims of these men, such as Anne Frank or the heroic firefighters and first responders to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, to be enjoying the bliss of eternal reward based on their good deeds. Essentially, good people go to heaven and evil people go to hell. When various people die around us, we become gods and start pronouncing sentences based on our own personal estimations. This, I would say, is the most common official/unofficial view of death in America. Many things within Christianity are denied by many people in America, but one thing that many Jesus-deniers will compromise on is their view of eternity when a loved one (or an evil dictator) dies. But is this a sufficient basis for viewing life after death?

Death Brings Fear

The afterlife takes an entirely different place in our minds when someone close to us dies. Death takes us to the edge of life and forces us to look down into the abyss of eternity. The problem is that we fear what we will see, so when we are taken to this edge, we look up or out. We develop our own personal philosophies and beliefs of eternity and we might even deny that there is any eternal state. Oh, how much easier it is for us to construe the belief that everyone goes to heaven, that hell does not exist, and/or physical death is the end of our existence.

However, when a loved one dies, we are taken back to the edge of this cliff and forced to consider the possibility that our existence does not end after death. And for those of us with a keen sense of morality, we are frightened by the height of the cliff on which we stand. Eternity is a deep abyss that holds no hope for those of us who are aware of our constant moral failures. Sure, we are certainly not as bad as Hitler, but if our eternal state is dependent on a good moral report card, we fear we will fall below the necessary grade point average. Death breeds not only grief and anger, but it also breeds fear in the heart of every red-blooded man and woman because we all know we are not good enough to stand before a perfectly holy God.

Death Brings Bad News

Death causes us to pause and consider the brevity of life and the reality of eternity. Life is short. Death is certain. Heaven is real (no one deserves it). And so is hell (everyone deserves it). If you are trying to be a good enough person to merit heaven, you will fail. “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight” (Rom. 3:20). Whether Brian and Cameron were personally kind to you or not matters not with regard to their eternal destinies. Like you and me, Brian and Cameron were guilty of their sin before a holy God deserving of eternal punishment and separation from God in hell (Rom. 3:23; 6:23). There are not enough good things we can do to overcome the overwhelming guilt of our sin against God. Both Brian and Cameron in and of themselves had nothing to bring before God that would merit innocence. What horrible news for them and for us!

Death Brings Good News

Oh, but praise God for his grace in the gospel. The good news of the Bible is that sin and death have ultimately been defeated in Jesus (1 Cor. 15:54-57). Jesus lived the life we could not live (Heb. 4:15). He was holy for the sinful. Jesus died the death we deserve. He bore the wrath of God against us (Rom. 3:23-26; 5:6-8; Gal. 3:13; 1 Pt. 2:24; 2 Cor. 5:21). Jesus defeated death and sin by rising from the dead (1 Cor. 15:3-8). God the judge declares sinners like you and me to be innocent solely on the basis of the work of Jesus in our place. “Bearing shame and scoffing rude/In my place condemned he stood.” The innocent bore the sin of the guilty, so that the guilty may go free. By grace through faith in Jesus alone, you will be saved from the wrath of God. By God’s love, God’s wrath is appeased in Jesus. Works do indeed merit salvation, just not your works or my works. The works of Jesus on behalf of sinners merits salvation. And it is for this reason that to him belongs all blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might (Rev. 7:12).

So, there is hope for sinners who are heading toward the deep abyss of eternity. There is hope for the guilty. There is hope in the face of death, because Jesus defeated both physical and eternal death in his life, death, and resurrection. As certain as death is, so is the certainty of Christ’s victory over death!

Two Questions

I close with two questions that will impact your life for all eternity. (1) Will you reject Christ? If you do, you will remain in your guilt. You will live without him now and you will die without him forever. If this is you, non-Christian, death will remain an eternally dreaded enemy that you cannot overcome. “And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:12-15). (2) Will you trust Christ? If you do, then you die with Christ now (Gal. 2:20; Rom. 6:5-11) and live with him forever (John 11:25). Death for the Christian is not a dreaded foe, but rather a defeated foe that serves as a friend. Death for the Christian draws him or her into the very presence of the One he or she loves more than life itself (Phil. 1:20-23).

But regardless of your worldview and regardless of your response to the Christ that calls sinners to repentance and faith, death is certainly not the end. Either in heaven or in hell, you will continue to exist. I pray that by God’s grace you will be able to say with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “Oh, God, this is the end; for me the beginning of life.”

May God be glorified in your life and death.

Morning Mashup 04/23


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Why Your Church Needs a Social Media Policy - Brian Howard: “Social Media is a major part of most church ministries today. Email and Online messaging are our primary tool for communication. With these technologies come both benefits and challenges. Email and social media can be used for good or for harm. The wise use of these tools is essential for a church. Every church would be wise to have a written set of social media guidelines for its leaders. With this in mind, today I am posting a Social Media Policy from Grace Church in Orlando, FL. These guidelines were written by Grace’s Communications director, Kelly Adkins. I think you will find that they are a helpful start toward writing your own set of social media guidelines.”

The Universe Is Saying Something - Dan DeWitt, dean of Boyce College, writes for Desiring God in this post: “In this way, all of reality is the believer’s ally in sharing the gospel. Our universal longing for transcendent meaning actually points to a transcendent source. And only Jesus can satisfy this persistent craving. To paraphrase Pascal, this is a God-sized problem that only God can fix. Only the gospel provides an exclusive foundation for human flourishing. All other ground is sinking sand.”

The Secret to Gloria Furman’s Strength - A video detailing the source and secret of author Gloria Furman’s strength. She is the author of Glimpses of Grace and Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full. She is a huge help to wives and moms. My wife cannot get enough of her writing.

A 12-Minute Testimony of God’s Goodness - An amazing testimony from a woman who has suffered a lot. Her treasure was God and we would do well to listen and learn.

Books At a Glance - An excellent new website that is full of helpful book reviews, book summaries, interviews, and discussions. This is an excellent source for readers, pastors, students, and lay people alike. Check it out!

Do the Work of an Evangelist - Article in the latest release of Themelios from D.A. Carson.

Confusing the root with the fruit will, in the long run, kill the tree. –John Piper

Praising God in Paradoxes


 

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As we seek to know God more in his Word, and as we do theology, we are going to be faced with paradoxes and complementary truths that we will be forced to hold in tension. The way we respond to paradoxes is a crucial demonstration of our view of God. Consider the doctrine of the Trinity. Our God is one and three. We cannot emphasize his oneness over his threeness or else fall into the error of unitarianism. However, we also cannot emphasize his threeness over his oneness or else become polytheists. According to Scripture, we must reconcile these two truths in our doctrine. So, yes, God is one. And, yes, God is three. He is singular and many. We have one God in three persons—God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Another example of this is found in salvation. God is sovereign and we are responsible. God’s sovereignty in his saving purposes must never be emphasized at the expense of human responsibility. If we do, we fall into fatalism. However, if we emphasize human responsibility with regard to salvation over God’s sovereignty, then we fall into the historical heresy of Pelagianism.[1] The Bible teaches that God is sovereign over us and yet we retain responsibility.

In both of these cases, it can be difficult to hold two apparently contradictory statements together. At first glance, it seems that God cannot be both one and three. Similarly, it seems that God cannot be sovereign if we are responsible (and vice-versa). However, we must uphold what Scripture upholds. We seek to know and understand as much as we can with the purpose of increased knowledge and worship of God. And where we cannot understand, we must submit to the truth of God’s Word. Truth is not dependent on our finite understanding. Paradoxical truths are difficult, yet necessary to uphold. In Ezekiel 11, we see the prophet Ezekiel struggling to uphold one such paradoxical set of truths—God’s judgment and his mercy.

God tells Ezekiel that there was impending judgment about to be unleashed on his people (Ezek. 11:1-12). Ezekiel doesn’t argue against God’s proclamation of judgment, but instead cries out, “Ah, Lord God! Will you make a full end of the remnant of Israel?” (v. 12). However, what Ezekiel struggled to understand was how God could destroy the very people he promised to preserve. He found it difficult to uphold the mercy of God in light of the judgment of God. How could God “by no means clear the guilty” (Ezek. 34:7) and yet at the same time, remain true to his covenant with Israel? Ezekiel knew that God was right to judge Israel with death, but he could not see how this could coincide with God’s promise to preserve his people (Lev. 26:44-45). Can God really preserve Israel and judge them?

The answer God gives is astounding. God answers this apparent predicament with divine intervention. He promises to preserve a remnant of Israel by giving them a new heart. Through the judgment of Israel, God would shower them with grace and mercy through the giving of a new heart of flesh—a heart that will be filled with true love and faith for him (vv. 14-21). It is God, the one who judges, who will intervene to bring about the obedience of his people. God judges and preserves his people.

In the same way, God judges and preserves his people climactically in Christ. On the cross, Jesus died the death that we deserve and he bore the wrath of God against sin and sinners. We are preserved through the judgment of Christ on our behalf. He became sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). However, in order for us to be counted righteous, we need our hearts of stone to be transformed into hearts of flesh (Ezek. 11:19). In order for us to go from being children of wrath to children of God, we need divine intervention. We need God to regenerate our hearts in order for us to exhibit saving faith, or else we will never see the kingdom of God (John 3:3). We need a God of judgment who is also a God of mercy.

May we be humbled by the fact that without God’s intervention, we would remain under his wrath (John 3:36). Oh, but because he is a God who judges and saves, a God who saves through judgment, we can be sure that in his sovereign wisdom, goodness, and grace, those whom he saves through the judgment of Christ, he preserves until the end (Phil. 1:6). Without God’s regeneration of our dead hearts (Eph. 2:1), we would not be able to trust Christ and would therefore not be united to him. Without union with Christ, we would not be justified, sanctified, or glorified. We would have no hope. All of our hope lies in the regenerating work of the Spirit. Praise God for his wrath-bearing Son who was judged in your place. Praise him for his life-giving Spirit who gives you a new heart that believes and obeys him. Praise him for the glorious paradoxes that magnify his majesty and reveal to us the way of salvation.

 

Notes

[1] Pelagianism is the doctrinal error that teaches that whatever humans need to do for salvation is already within them. Essentially, in this view, men and women are fully capable of saving themselves.

Morning Mashup 04/22


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I Love My Black Letter Bible - Matt Smethurst writes, “Indeed, when we treat the red letters more seriously than the black ones, we muzzle the Son who speaks in all of them.”

Walking Through Depression - Randy Alcorn writes that when you are walking through seasons of depression, you are not alone. God is with you.

Latest Issue of Themelios - 212 pages of theological articles and book reviews. Take time to check out this amazing resource. You will be the better for it.

A Response to Matthew Vines’ “God and the Gay Christian” - In a work edited by Albert Mohler, “Each chapter refutes Vines’s claims from six specific Scriptural references to homosexuality. Mohler’s chapter provides an overview critique of Vines’s book. Jim H. Hamilton Jr., professor of biblical theology, addresses the Old Testament claims; Denny Burk, professor of biblical studies, addresses New Testament claims; Owen Strachan, assistant professor of Christian theology looks at the church history assertions; and Heath Lambert, assistant professor of biblical counseling, answers whether there is such a thing as a ‘gay Christian.’”

A Subtle But Powerful Way to Love Your Spouse - There are obviously many ways to love your spouse, but Daniel Darling exposes a way to love them that can be easy to ignore. This is a short and helpful post.

Though your condition be changed, your Father’s love is not changed. –John Flavel

Morning Mashup 04/21


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Explaining Hard Things to Our Children - Christina Fox discusses how to talk to your children about some of life’s most difficult issues, such as death, divorce, etc.

Why Homosexuality Is Not Like Other Sins - Jonathan Parnell: “We are against any sin that restrains people from everlasting joy in God, and homosexual practice just gets all the press because, at this cultural moment, it’s the main sin that is so freshly endorsed in our context by the powers that be. Let’s hope that if there’s some new cultural agenda promoting thievery — one that says it’s now our right to take whatever we want from others by whatever means — that Christians will speak out against it. The issue is sin. That’s what we’re against. And that’s what should make our voice so unique when we speak into this debate.”

Review of “God and the Gay Christian” - Andrew Walker of the ERLC reviews Matthew Vines’ new book that seeks to argue for biblical affirmation of same-sex relationships.

Hope for Turkey - 75 million people. Only 7,000 Christians. Use this resource to pray for Turkey and learn more about the work being done for Christ among unreached people groups.

Secret Church Study Guide - If you participated in Secret Church and missed a blank (ok, so everyone!), you can find the complete study guide here. Also, there is still time to register for the simulcast and watch Secret Church after the fact. It was amazing and is well worth your time!

The awareness of God’s wrath makes us thankful for his loving act in Christ. –John Calvin

Why Sunday Is So Glorious: Five Resurrection Realities (Part 5/5)


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[In this final post in this series, we will look at how Christians can freely risk, give, and even lose their lives if necessary because Jesus is alive.]

Resurrection Reality #5: Believers Are to Be Envied

Paul writes, “If Christ has not been raised…If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” After hearing the account of John and Betty Stam do you see what Paul is meaning here? If Christ has not been raised, the gospel is false, the Stam’s faith is empty, they are guilty of their sin, and they have no hope after death. So, risking their lives and the life or their daughter is absolutely ludicrous—it is insane—if Christ has not been raised. We should feel so sorry for the Stams that they gave their lives and gave up comfort for a false Christ, if it is true that Christ has not been raised. But! But Christ has been raised! And so, the radical sacrifice of John and Betty Stam makes total sense and is enviable, as they found joy in risking all for Christ for the glory of Christ in all nations. Sacrificial obedience and radical risk-taking for Jesus is the only thing that makes sense if Christ has been raised. New Testament scholar Tom Schreiner writes, “The lordship of Jesus is inseperable from his resurrection.” Jesus walked into universal lordship and cosmic kingship when he walked out of the tomb.

If you want to waste your life, then live as if Christ has not been raised. Risk nothing. Sacrifice nothing. Obey only yourself. Gain every comfort you possibly can. In the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:32 “If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”

If you claim comfort as your king, yet you claim Christ as your Savior, you are serving a dead Jesus. Oh, how long will we live like we believe in a dead Jesus? How long will we ignore the poverty that surrounds us? How long will we ignore the lost people that we see every single day? How long will we neglect the nations and the over 2 billion unreached peoples who have little to no access to the gospel? Will we come to the end of our lives and reflect back saying, “I’ve wasted it”?

May we start living in light of the unavoidable truth of the resurrection. Paul ends this chapter with these words: “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (v. 58). Christ has been raised! So, spend your life for his glory. Give selflessly. Love passionately. Serve sacrificially. Take radical risks for Christ and his glory in your neighborhood and in all nations. Commit yourself today to not waste your life, but to live a life worthy of being envied—a life that delights in risk-taking obedience to Jesus, the Lord of life and death. The life that is not wasted is the life that is spent for Christ for his glory and our joy.

Conclusion

Missionary C.T. Studd once famously wrote, “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.” You only have one life. The way you live this life is eternally important. The way you view your death is equally important. The resurrection changes everything about the way you live and the way you approach your impending death. Will you live for Christ? Will you die in Christ? If your current answer to either of these questions is No, then this invitation is for you. I am inviting you to respond to the gospel today. Respond to the call of a risen Savior to trust in the death he died for you and to walk in the resurrection life he gives. Because Jesus was raised from the dead and is reigning right now over all, this gospel is true, your faith in him is not empty, believers stand forgiven, the dead in Christ are alive, and believers are to be envied.

Consider this final question. What if you lived your life like you truly believed Jesus has been raised from the dead? What would that look like? Christ has been raised! Come to the risen and reigning Savior and receive forgiveness of your sins. Come to the risen and reigning Savior for grace to fight sin in your life. Come to the risen and reigning Savior to commit your life to not be wasted, but to be well spent for his glory and the joy of all peoples. Make your life count for something of eternal significance. Christ has been raised. So, don’t waste your life.

Why Sunday Is So Glorious: Five Resurrection Realities (Part 4/5)


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[In this post, we will examine the most comforting reality that is true and only true because Jesus is alive.]

Resurrection Reality #4: The Dead in Christ are Alive

Paul writes, “And if Christ has not been raised…Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished” (vv. 17-18). If Christ has not been raised, we have seen that the wrath of God therefore remains on every sinner. So, all who have died believing in a dead Jesus will perish. If Christ has not been raised, then death is an undefeated enemy and death has the last word. There is a great reality facing us all and coming for us all. His name is Death. He comes swiftly and he comes unexpectedly. He is an equal-opportunity robber of life. He severs relationships. He wounds the living. He leaves great scars on the grieving. And he is coming for you. He is coming for me. If Christ is not raised, then there is no hope for you beyond the grave. You will die and then you will bear the wrath of God against your sin in an eternal hell.

Oh, but praise the grace of God today! Praise God! Christ has been raised from the dead! You can face death with confidence that he has been defeated. Paul would later write, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” Death has been defeated in the death of Christ and this is proclaimed in the resurrection of Christ. You can rest in the assurance that those you know who have died in faith in Jesus are alive today and will one day be resurrected with a perfected and glorified body. So, bring on all forms of disease. Bring on all deformities and disasters. No matter what happens to your body on this earth, if you are in Christ by faith, you will inherit a body that is more glorious than your wildest dreams! Death is a dreaded enemy. But death is also a conquered enemy!

There is one story that my wife and I have read multiple times that I want to share with you to help drive this point of the hope we have beyond the grave in the resurrection of Christ home. It is one of those stories that we cannot shake from our minds, particularly with where we are in our lives. It is the story of John and Betty Stam. They risked all for the sake of Christ. They met as students at Moody Bible Institute and both surrendered their lives to be missionaries in China. They signed up with the China Inland Mission in response to a call for 200 new missionaries to be sent to China. China was an incredibly hostile place for a missionary to be at this time. However, fear found no place in John Stam’s mind. In his address to the graduating class at Moody in 1932, he said:

 Shall we beat a retreat, and turn back from our high calling in Christ Jesus; or dare we advance at God’s command, in the face of the impossible?…Let us remind ourselves that the Great Commission was never qualified by clauses calling for advance only if funds were plentiful and [if there is] no hardship or self-denial involved. On the contrary, we are told to expect tribulation and even persecution, but with it victory in Christ.

Betty left for China one year before John in 1931, but they were reunited and married in 1933. In September of 1934 Betty gave birth to a baby girl. In December of that same year, Communists ravaged the village they were serving in and took them captive. John and Betty were both 25 years old and had an infant. On December 6, 1934, John Stam wrote a letter to his superiors at the China Inland Mission informing them of his capture. He concluded his letter with these words:

Things happened so quickly this a.m. They were in the city just a few hours after the ever-persistent rumors really became alarming, so that we could not prepare to leave in time. We were just too late. The Lord bless and guide you, and as for us, may God be glorified whether by life or by death.

Two days later, John and Betty Stam hid their daughter in a basket to save her from execution just before they were stripped of their clothes and paraded through the streets of a neighboring town. They were then taken to a hill outside the village. John was ordered to kneel before his wife. The last thing Betty saw of her husband was a long sword taking off his head. Betty was next. It is told that she did not scream, but trembled as she lay down next to her husband’s lifeless body. With a similar swing, the same sword that beheaded her husband ended her life.

I have always asked myself, “Why didn’t she scream?” I like to think that behind her soft tears, a deep thought welled up in her heart that cried, “That sword does not have the final word! Because Christ has been raised, his head is coming back and so is mine! You may end our lives on earth, but we are far from dead because we are united to the one who is alive!”

Because of the resurrection of Jesus, the dead in Christ will never perish! The life that is not wasted is the life that faces death confidently and takes risks for Christ boldly knowing death has been forever defeated.

Why Sunday Is So Glorious: Five Resurrection Realities (Part 3/5)


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[In this post, we will examine the third and most central resurrection reality]

Resurrection Reality #3: Believers Stand Forgiven

This is the most crucial point of them all. Paul argues, if Christ has not been raised, then the Corinthian believers are still in their sins! This is the most terrifying part of Paul’s argument. John Piper picks up on the horror of this when he says, “If God holds our sins against us then there is no hope of anything else from God. The foundation for every other blessing from God is that God won’t hold our sins against us. Everything hangs on forgiveness.”

If Christ has not been raised, then his death was like that of so many others. There are no saving benefits tied to the death of Jesus if he was not raised from the dead. Without the resurrection, Jesus’ death was merely a crucifixion. The crucifixion of Jesus becomes the cross of Christ when the tomb is found empty! The cross secures forgiveness of sins and the resurrection pronounces the forgiveness of sins! Jesus’ resurrection assures that the sins of those he died for are forever forgiven. The Bible most frequently speaks of Jesus’ resurrection as being passive. This means that it was the Father who raised the Son. This is because the resurrection is the Father’s “Amen!” to the work of the Son on the cross. The resurrection is a public statement by the Father that he is fully satisfied with the Savior’s substitutionary sacrifice on the cross for our sins. R.C. Sproul says it this way, “Then there was a major burst of glory when God shook the whole earth and brought His Son back from the dead in order to indicate that He was completely satisfied with His Son’s work.”

Non-Christian, your greatest need this morning is the forgiveness of your sins. If you are not in Christ by faith, then you stand guilty in your sin before a holy God. John 3:36 says that all who do not believe in the Son remain under the wrath of God. Because of the perfect holiness of God, the wrath of God will be poured out on all rebels, on all sinners who are outside the grace of God in Jesus. But praise God that in his perfect love, in his great grace, he sent his Son to bear the wrath of God in your place. Jesus took the cup of God’s wrath, drank it to the dregs, tossed it on the ground and cried out “It is finished!” And in the resurrection, the Father shouts with him, “Yes it is!”

This is the greatest news in the whole world. The God you have defamed and hated gives you himself through his Son! Jesus has been raised! Believe in this risen Savior and your sins will be forever forgiven!

Because Jesus has been raised from the dead, you are no longer in your sins! So, why do we live as if Jesus has not been raised by allowing sin to take us captive? Why do we not fight sin with every fiber in our being? Why do we allow sin to reign over us as if we are its slaves? Indeed, you are a slave to sin, you are dead in your sins, and you are under God’s wrath if Jesus has not been raised. But Christ has been raised! Find lasting joy in the assurance of your forgiveness by Christ’s resurrection. Find lasting joy in the grace-empowered war you wage against sin in your life. The life that is not wasted is the life that trusts in Jesus for forgiveness of sins. The words of a hymn written by Keith and Kristyn Getty capture the essence of this third point well:

Oh, to see my name
Written in the wounds,
For through Your suffering I am free.

Death is crushed to death;
Life is mine to live,
Won through Your selfless love.

This, the pow’r of the cross:
Son of God—slain for us.
What a love! What a cost!
We stand forgiven at the cross.

Why Sunday Is So Glorious: Five Resurrection Realities (Part 2/5)


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After establishing the context of 1 Corinthians 15 in part one, part two in this series will examine two of the five crucial realities that exist only because Jesus has been raised from the dead based on Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians 15:12-20.

“Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 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. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” –1 Corinthians 15:12-20

Resurrection Reality #1: The Gospel is True

Paul first argues that if Christ has not been raised, then the preaching of the apostles is in vain. The word preaching here is not referring to the actual act of preaching, but rather to what is being preached. If Jesus has not been raised from the dead, then everything Paul and John and Luke and Peter and James said is to be discredited. This means that the New Testament is a fairy tale. If Jesus remained dead and buried in a tomb, then there is as much to be found in the Bible as there is in Aesop’s fables. What’s more, the Bible is an incredibly foolish book if Jesus was not raised. There is no substance to any of Paul’s preaching if Jesus has not been raised. We cannot call sinners to repentance and trust in a dead Savior. There is nothing salvific in a rotting corpse.

But Christ has been raised! So, we find absolute truth in Paul’s preaching. We can rest in the absolute truth in the Word of God. We can confidently build our lives on the foundation of God’s Word. You can respond to the call to repent of your sin and trust in the work of a Savior, because that Savior is alive! The preaching of the gospel finds meaning and truth in the resurrection of Jesus. We preach because Jesus was raised. Find joy in the fact that each week you come here, the basis of every word that is preached is the resurrection of Jesus. The life that is not wasted is the life that rejoices in the truth of the gospel and radically works to make it known.

Resurrection Reality #2: Faith in Christ is Meaningful

Paul continues in his argument. If Christ has not been raised, then the faith of his people is in vain—it is empty. This is directly connected to preaching, because Paul sees the direct connection between saving faith and the gospel. Faith in anything other than the gospel of Christ is meaningless. And so, Paul argues, if there is no resurrection, there is no gospel, and where there is no gospel, there is no faith. There is no meaning found in faith in a dead Jesus. Non-Christian, if you are trusting in any religion, idea, philosophy, or worldview outside of one who died and rose for your sins, then your faith is misplaced and empty. There is no joy to be found in an empty faith.

We know this from experience. Faith in an untrustworthy person is empty. We all desire relationships with people who are trustworthy. If we put our faith in someone, we do not want that faith to be in vain. I am here to tell you that Jesus Christ is the most trustworthy person to have lived. He proved it in his resurrection.

Your faith in Christ is in vain if he has not been raised. But Christ has been raised! You have a risen Savior to trust in. You do not have a leader who is dead in a grave. You do not have an idol you have created out of wood or stone. No, you have a sinless Savior who suffered in your place and was raised for your salvation. Find joy in the fact that your faith is well-founded on a risen and reigning Savior—the most trustworthy one of all. The life that is not wasted is the life that finds a friend in Jesus and takes great risks for his glory, because he is trustworthy.

Why Sunday Is So Glorious: Five Resurrection Realities (Part 1/5)


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Over the course of this weekend, we have looked at why Friday is so good. We have looked at why Saturday is so confusing. Now it is time to think about why Sunday is so glorious. Why is the resurrection of Jesus so overwhelmingly glorious? A little over a month ago, I preached a sermon on 1 Corinthians 15:12-20, which focused on the resurrection of Christ and how his resurrection from the dead directly impacts our lives today. I challenged those gathered on that March Sunday to not waste their lives, but willingly risk their lives for the sake of the gospel, because Christ has been raised. Over the course of Easter Sunday 2014, I plan to post a series of five posts (including this one) throughout the day. These posts are based on that sermon and will examine five realities that we should live in because Christ is alive. This post will offer an introduction and provide some necessary context that will construct a foundation that each subsequent post will build upon. I pray this series of posts that serve as meditations on the resurrected Christ would deepen your joy in the God who saves sinners by the blood of his Son who died and rose for you.

Introduction

I know four things about every single one of you. The first is that you will live your life. The second is that you will die. I know! Very profound! The third is that you desire satisfaction or joy in your life and death. The fourth is that you want your life to count. You want your life to matter. Because of these four things, the way you live your life and the way you view your death are absolutely crucial! So much so, that I tremble as I approach this topic. It is no small thing to talk about the way you live your life and the way you view your death. Both of these topics are offensive to think about and offensive to talk about. It is offensive to presume to tell someone how to live his or her life and it is offensive to tell someone how to view his or her death. In fact, if there are two topics that are most uncomfortable for us to discuss with our families and friends, they are life and death. This is why we excel at small talk. This is why we make excuses for those we care about when they live recklessly. This is why we avoid visiting cemeteries and gloss over the reality of death by reminiscing good memories of the deceased. But the truth is, the most important realities in your life and my life are the way we live and the way we view death.

And the pressing questions that come from this consideration are these: Can you find lasting joy and satisfaction in life and death? And, will you waste your life? I believe there is no other worldview, no other religion, and no other philosophy that probes these issues, which can provide an adequate answer to these questions. But, in the Christian faith we find answers to these questions that surpass all of our desires and fulfill all of our deepest longings.

The way we live and the way we view death are directly impacted by whether or not Jesus was raised from the dead. The resurrection of Jesus informs us on what a wasted and unwasted life looks like. It also shows us where lasting joy can be found.

The way we live and the way we view death must center on Christ. A Christ-centered perspective of life and death is the perspective that brings joy to the heart and purpose to life in the midst of tragedy and turmoil. This is because the point that Paul is screaming at the top of his lungs in this passage is this: The resurrection of Jesus is central to the gospel! If there is no resurrection, there is no gospel. If there is no gospel, then there is no hope of lasting joy for anyone.

Lasting joy and satisfaction in life and death are only found in an empty tomb and in a risen Savior. The resurrection of Jesus directly impacts the way we live our lives and the way we view our deaths. God glorifies himself and brings his people joy in the death and resurrection of his Son. I see in the text before us today five powerful implications of the resurrection of Jesus that should change the way we live and the way we view death in such a way that it brings us lasting joy and brings God supreme glory. In other words, I believe Paul has given us five joy invoking realities that result directly from the resurrection of Jesus and inform us on what it looks like to not waste your life.

Context

In chapter 15 of his letter to the Corinthians, Paul confronts the erroneous thought in the minds of the Corinthian believers that there was no resurrection of the dead. This kind of thinking could have resulted from multiple junctures. Firstly, ancient Greek philosophy taught that the soul was immortal and while on earth, it is trapped or imprisoned in the body. At death, the soul would return to the heavens to no longer be tainted by the flesh. Resurrection was unthinkable for ancient Greeks and some of this dualistic philosophy could have crept into the church at Corinth. Secondly, there was the Jewish sect known as the Sadducees who also denied the resurrection of the dead. Death was also viewed as an escape of the soul from the body.

Paul interrupts this line of thought with alarming logic. He says that if that is true, if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then there is no Christian faith. The gospel is void without the resurrection. Paul is addressing an issue that had the potential to poison the church at Corinth. Denying the resurrection of the body after death is detrimental. This is because if the resurrection of the dead is a myth, then so is the Christian faith. Why? Because if there is no resurrection of the dead, then there is no risen Christ. And it is at this point that Paul begins to show us the absolute necessity of the resurrection of Jesus to our lives and deaths by using logic to eliminate the error of denying the resurrection. He highlights five implications of Christ not being raised. In light of verse 20, over the next five posts I want us to look at these negative points made by Paul in the reverse to identify five implications of the resurrection of Jesus.