Flourishing in Life, Fearless in Death


In our pluralistic culture, it’s truly difficult to find much common ground between different groups of people. For example, in what ways are right wing fundamentalists, libertarians, and left wing socialists the same? Is there any common ground between religious hate groups and the people they hate? With the number of polarizing issues and worldviews marking the cultural landscape of America, it really is tough to find relatable common ground between you and someone you disagree with on every conceivable and important idea.

However, in my recent experience leading a non-Christian family through a funeral service and counseling them through the early days of the death of their loved one, it has become clear to me that we all relate to one another through four given expectations.

  1. We all want to live a reasonably pleasant, comfortable, and enjoyable life. We want to flourish in work, play, and home.
  2. None of us wants to die. But we all know death is coming. And none of us knows when it’s coming. True, some of us believe death is nothing more than a channel to an abyss of utter nothingness. Others believe death is a channel to true gain and lasting joy. But none of us wants to die, though we all know we will.
  3. We all want our lives to count. We want to matter. We want people to remember us with affection and miss our presence when we’re gone. We want to leave the world a better place than when we were born. We want to make our mark on the world through the things we believe, say, and do.

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 die.

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 die 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 die 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. True human flourishing in life and human conquering in death are only possible if it is true that a man named Jesus from Nazareth actually died and actually came back from the dead.

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 approach our deaths. God glorifies himself and brings his people joy in the death and resurrection of his Son.

It is an endless quest to seek to find fulfillment in those three basic desires in anything other than Christ. And that’s not just smug, my-way-is-best-so-deal-with-it talk. That’s real talk. Consider where you find most happiness in life. If you are trying to fabricate or manufacture happiness, or flourish by working yourself to death to prove yourself to others, you will be both exhausted and unfulfilled. And no matter how hard you try to convince yourself otherwise, thinking about your death scares the life out of you. You know death is coming. But the fact you don’t know when you die and you have no control over how you die scares you to death. Only in Jesus can we find certainties in and beyond death. Only in Jesus can we face death with hope.


19149367_2014653971893374_3834793165439186257_nMathew Gilbert is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is a student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God. Mathew and his wife, Erica, live in Tupelo with their two boys, Jude and Jack.

Can We Deny the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus and Preach the Gospel?


tomb61Is it possibile to deny the historicity of Jesus and advocate the preaching of the gospel? Can someone who denies the physical resurrection of Jesus, for example, even believe in the gospel?

While the consensus for evangelicals for the past 2000+ years has been to not only affirm, but to gladly affirm the bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ based on the authority of Scripture, including its historical significance, there has been opposition to this doctrine at different points in history. Lutheran theologian, Rudolph Bultmann presented an anti-existential understanding of the resurrection that is mind-boggling and in my opinion contrary to logic. Bultmann was a German Lutheran biblical scholar, who was famous for his approach of demythologization. Starting with the Bible as myth, Bultmann advocated peeling back its mythological surface so as to uncover its essential meaning, which he viewed in terms of existentialist philosophy.

Bultmann denied the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus by claiming that “a historical fact that involves a resurrection from the dead is utterly inconceivable.” Since there is no eyewitness account of the resurrection, Bultmann takes issue with the belief in its existential importance. Therefore, Bultmann claims that the bodily resurrection of Jesus is a “mythological conception” that needs to be abandoned since the historical Jesus is “relatively unimportant.” However, Bultmann affirmed that the preaching of Christ as crucified and risen is essential to the faith and the components of the faith, but reliance on their historicity is not what is important to the faith. His theory applied to the United States of America could be seen in affirming the “idea” of independence from Great Britain without necessarily believing in the historicity of the American Revolution. Bultmann’s theory would argue that belief in a historical war of independence from Great Britain is unimportant.

It is both logically dishonest and foolish to teach the idea of something if one does not believe there is any historicity in it. The apostle Paul would agree. The essential aspects of Paul’s gospel are all rooted not in “mythological conceptions,” but in historical realities (1 Cor. 15:1-8). The highlighted focus of this passage is the historical importance of the resurrection of Christ. Paul writes,

“…that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me” (1 Cor. 15:4-8).

Paul gives multiple references to people who had seen Jesus as a bodily risen Savior. He basically declares to the Christians at Corinth that if they do not believe his testimony, they can go to one of the many of the five hundred who saw Jesus who are still alive (v. 6). The historicity of the resurrection of Jesus was of upmost importance to Paul’s gospel. This is because the “idea” of a risen Savior evidenced with a buried body gives no substance to the faith. Faith in a risen Savior who has not risen is utterly futile.

I am echoing Paul when he declared, “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain…And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins…If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Cor. 15:14, 17, 19). This is the crux of Christianity. If Christ has not actually risen from the dead, then we have no hope in this life or in the life to come. We are still in our sins. Paul grounds our future bodily resurrection in Christ’s actual bodily resurrection. If he was proclaiming a mythological conception that entails a deeper meaning that needs to be dug out, he has a strange way of doing it.

Preaching Christ is futile, foolish, and in vain if Christ has not risen bodily from the dead. The message we have to preach is predicated on the historicity of the bodily resurrection of Christ. Therefore, if Bultmann is consistent in his thinking, he should most certainly not preach Christ nor even believe in him. So, to answer the question at hand, Bultmann was most certainly not right to call Christians to preach the message of Christ because he would be encouraging the preaching of a message that is either contrary to Christ or contrary to his own theory. The gospel of the Bible is directly contrary to Bultmann’s theory due to its emphasis on the bodily resurrection of Christ. Likewise, a “gospel” message absent of an actual and historical resurrection of Christ is directly antithetical to Christ and his message. Frankly, any message of Christ that does not include Christ as historically and actually risen from the dead is no gospel at all. The work of Christ is null and void if we find his remains in a tomb.

The church has always and must continue to faithfully assert the biblical truth that the actual and historical resurrection of Christ is “God’s seal of approval on the death of Christ as complete payment for humanity’s sin and as a promise of the final bodily resurrection of all believers” (Gregg Allison, Historical Theology, 411).


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies, Dec. ’14). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.

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.

John Calvin on the Resurrection of Jesus


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Christian, I hope you are anticipating the celebration of our Lord’s resurrection by meditating on the glory of God in the resurrection of Jesus. The more deeply you allow your mind to wander into the complexities of God’s grace, the more your heart will delight in him and worship him. The fact that God chose to save sinners is enough to occupy our minds and hearts for trillions of years. And the way he did it, by means of the gospel (the life, death, and resurrection of his Son), is uniquely and supremely glorious and delightful. While there is a real temptation to grow weary of all of the “Jesus is alive!” chatter that seems to come and go with the Easter season, it is important that Christians never grow tired of hearing the gospel story. I hope you never cease to rejoice at the news that God sent his Son to die and be raised for sinners.

It is always helpful when you are meditating over a particular biblical and theological truth to see how other Christians throughout the centuries have understood that particular truth. John Calvin is always one I seem to turn to when I want to think more deeply about a theological truth. I gained true joy from reading Calvin’s thoughts on the resurrection of Jesus. May the meditations of this theological giant of the Reformation fuel your own meditations of the risen Son.

Next comes the resurrection from the dead. Without this what we have said so far would be incomplete. For since only weakness appears in the cross, death, and burial of Christ, faith must leap over all these things to attain its full strength. We have in his death the complete fulfillment of salvation, for through it we are reconciled to God, his righteous judgment is satisfied, the curse is removed, and the penalty paid in full. Nevertheless, we are said to ‘have been born anew to a living hope’ not through his death but ‘through his resurrection’ [I Peter 1:3 p.]. For as he in rising again, came forth victor over death, so the victory of our faith over death lies in his resurrection alone. Paul better expresses its nature: ‘He was put to death for our sins, and raised for our justification’ [Rom. 4:25]. This is as if he had said: ‘Sin was taken away by his death; righteousness was revived and restored by his resurrection.’ For how could he by dying have freed us from death if he had himself succumbed to death? How could he have acquired victory for us if he had failed in the struggle? Therefore, we divide the substance of our salvation between Christ’s death and resurrection as follows: through his death, sin was wiped out and death extinguished; through his resurrection, righteousness was restored and life raised up, so that–thanks to his resurrection–his death manifested its power and efficacy in us (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, II.xvi.13).

Nice Try…He Is Risen


Matt Maher – Christ Is Risen (Listen while reading if you wish)

In my devotional reading this morning, John Piper expounded on the biblical truth that Jesus cannot be hindered, stopped, knocked down, kept out, or pushed away in any capacity in one of his meditations titled “They Gave it Their Best Shot in Vain”. I have been gripped by this thought and have a few of my own to add.

The authorities may give it their best shot to keep Jesus down, but it is all in vain. Jesus is a conquering lion, an all-powerful super Savior who cannot be defeated and will not be defeated. Victory and glory are the only possible ends for him. The Jewish leaders tried to silence him with death, but death could not hold him. Indeed he gave his life up and took it back again–he is sovereign (John 10:17-18).

All Hail the Power of Jesus' NamePiper moves on to say that “China was closed for forty years to Western missionaries”. This was not because Jesus had fallen asleep. No! This did not take him by surprise. Did Jesus’ death shock him? Did he fall into his tomb unwillingly? No, Jesus went into Jerusalem to be killed. He had a date with the predestined plan of the Father to redeem sinners on a hill called Golgotha (Acts 2:23). In the same way, when the way for western missionaries to tread into China was blocked, “he saved fifty million Chinese from the inside”. He did it without Western missionaries. So, go ahead, give it your best shot! Try to keep him out by closing the door to missionaries. “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). And China cannot keep the Spirit out. He goes where he pleases according to the will of the Father, regenerating sinners. God saved Chinese men and women from the inside and “when it was time, he pushed the stone away so we could see what he had done”. You cannot stop Jesus. Give it your best shot.

Our government tries to take Jesus out of public schools, but staggering numbers of students come to faith in Christ every year due to clubs such as Fellowship of Christian Athletes and First Priority, just to name a couple. Sinners who will not hear of Jesus from their teachers are being led to him by their friends! School districts and governments can give it their best shot to keep Jesus down, but their attempts are in vain. He gave up his life…and he took it back.

So, go ahead. Give it your best shot. Try to keep Jesus out of your workplace. Try to keep him out of your city, your state, your country. If death could not hold him down, what makes you think you can?

RisenChristian, take joy in this all-powerful, sovereign, death-defeating Savior. Cling to him today. Trust him no matter what. You can confidently speak of him to your co-worker, your classmate, your brother or sister today. You can confidently sacrifice your money, time, and energies for his Kingdom today. The world may shut the door in your face. It may knock you down. You may be shunned, neglected, unappreciated, hated, outcast, abused, beaten, imprisoned, and maybe even killed. But in the darkness of the night a light will come bursting forth in glory. For Jesus is no longer here, He is risen (Matt. 28:6)! In the end, you cannot lose!

God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it (Acts 2:24)

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you (Romans 8:11)

‘Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?’ (1 Corinthians 15:55)

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:56-57)

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us (Romans 8:37)

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith. (1 John 5:4)

Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:5)

But take heart; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. (Revelation 3:21)

StandStand with your arms held high and your eyes gazing in awestruck wonder at the unmistakable, immaculate, quiet, and invincible power of the King of kings and the Lord of lords, the conquering Lion, Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 6:15; Rev. 5:5).

For twenty centuries the world has given it their best shot–in vain. They can’t bury him. They can’t hold him in. They can’t silence him or limit him. Jesus is alive and utterly free to go and come wherever he pleases. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18). All things were made through him and for him and he is absolutely supreme over all other powers (Col. 1:16-17). (John Piper, Taste and See: Savoring the Supremacy of God in All of Life, Colorado Springs: Multnomah Books, 1999, 2005, p. 113)