4 Ways to be Confident in the Resurrection

Celtic CrossEaster makes Good Friday good. Without the resurrection, that Friday would’ve been the most terrible Friday in human history. The only thing that could compete would be if Adam and Eve ate from the tree (Genesis 3) on a Friday – but that must’ve happened on a Monday, because what good ever happens on a Monday?!

What would happen to your faith if Jesus never rose from the dead?

Some people may be tempted to say, “Well, I’d still believe. Jesus’ teachings are still worth following, and he did die for our sins even if he didn’t rise from the dead.”

The Apostle Paul says this,

“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.” (1 Corinthians 15:16-17)

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Honoring God by Honoring Your Parents

The word “Honor” literally means “to make heavy.” When my kids are stressing me out and I drown my stress in ice cream, I somehow don’t think this is what the Bible had in mind by being honored by my kids. What does it mean to honor your parents? This post serves as a general summary of the fifth commandment.

Cardboard figures of the family on opened book

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What’s So Dangerous About Busyness?

When I was interviewing for my current position as a youth pastor someone asked me, “What do you think is the greatest challenge facing teenagers today?”

It’s a great question. I remember giving some answer about postmodernism and the challenge of living in a relativistic culture. Blah blah blah. I’m sure my answer was brilliant… but let me take another crack at it.

Busyness

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It’s Not My Gift

This is the second message in our series “Think About It: Christian Cliches… what’s this even mean?” Last week’s cliche was “Let Go, Let God.” 

Imagine for a moment that all the church leaders came to you for advice, seeking your vast wisdom on the question, “What should the church be doing in the world?” What would you say?

You’d probably encourage the church to talk about God, to pray for people, to help the needy. What else would be on your list… and honestly ask yourself, “Am I doing those things?”

It’s so much easier (and comfortable!) to tell others what they’re supposed to be doing. When it’s our turn to be the doer… it becomes far more risky. When it’s our turn to start evangelizing or sacrificing our time and our stuff in order to serve those in need, that’s when we’re tempted to cry out, “That’s not my gift!” Too often, that’s nothing phrase is an excuse to avoid doing something risky and difficult.

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Christmas is War

“Dad, which is more important: Christmas or Easter?”

“Umm… well.. both are important. They need each other buddy. Without Christmas, Jesus couldn’t have died to forgive us of our sin. But without Easter we wouldn’t be able to be forgiven.”

“I think Christmas is more important, Dad. If Jesus wasn’t born then he couldn’t have died on the cross for us.”

This is a conversation I had with my seven-year-old son the other day. (He’s a pretty sharp kid. Plus, there’s the whole presents thing going for Christmas!) It’s a debate I know many have had before, and I’m not going to settle the debate, because Christmas and Easter need each other.

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How Temptation Becomes so Tempting

They say one of the best ways to win a battle is to understand your enemy. If you know how your enemy thinks and how they work then you’ll be able to come up with an effective strategy to fight victoriously.

Temptation…

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind? It’s probably something that you find tempting.

The very word brings up thoughts of struggle and indulgence. But what is it that makes temptation so tempting? There are a few things we can learn about temptation by looking in the Bible’s account of the first sin (Genesis 3:1-7).

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Our Need, the Cross, & the Empty Tomb

(Note: This is my manuscript from this EBC’s Sunrise Service. If it sounds a bit different from most of the writing on this blog, it’s because it was written for spoken communication.)

It is early, and we gather to remember the powerful but simple message of the gospel: Jesus Christ who lived and died and rose from the grave in order that we might be reconciled to God and share in his victory over sin and death. For a few minutes this morning, I want us to turn our brains on to think about our need, the cross, and the empty tomb.

I have read that Martin Luther often hosted Easter Egg Hunts where the men hid eggs for the women and children to find. He believed this to be a beautiful reminder about the excitement the women felt when they found the empty tomb. May we all remember that joy not only today, but whenever we consider the resurrection.

Our Need
In Romans 5 the Apostle Paul compares Jesus with Adam. He even calls Jesus “the second Adam,” and says that Adam was really a “type” and foreshadowing of Jesus Christ.

Rom. 5:12 says, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.”

In Adam, we all sinned, we all fell, and became guilty before a holy God. Indeed, none of us can think, “Oh man, Adam, what a failure. I would’ve done better! I wouldn’t have messed it all up like he did.” Yes, yes you would have!

The fruit of sin is death, that’s why they are always paired together in Scripture. Wherever you see sin, death is soon to follow; wherever you see death, sin is not absent. Because of sin, our relationship with God was broken. Our relationship with each other was broken. And our relationship with creation was broken. If you need any proof that these relationships (with God, with others, and with creation) are broken, just consider the winter we’ve had!

The Cross: The Love and Wrath of God
But Paul continues in verses 18-21, “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

What’s this all mean? It means that just as all creation fell in the first Adam, so all creation will be restored and redeemed in the second Adam, Jesus Christ. Through Christ’s death, sin and death were satisfied; through his resurrection they were conquered and given a death-sentence.

Because of the cross, the wrath of God was poured out on Jesus on our behalf. He was our substitute, in our place he hung. When we consider the love of God to us, we have no need to look any further than the cross. When we consider his wrath, again, the cross is where we should look. It was on the cross that the fullness of God’s love and the fullness of his wrath were simultaneously poured out in order to redeem his people.

The Empty Tomb: The Power and Hope of God
Good Friday would not be “good” without Easter Sunday. It would have been as tragic and devastating as it felt to the disciples on Saturday. If Christ died as our substitute but didn’t rise from the dead then our faith would be useless and we would still be under the curse of sin. Because of the resurrection, death is no longer an undefeated champion over humanity. Instead, the empty tomb gave death itself a death sentence.

The cross and the empty tomb must never be separated in our understanding of the gospel. So how shall we live in response to the cross and the empty tomb?

Paul writes that since we are in Christ, we have been brought from death to life, and we should live like it. Sin brings death… and so we walk away from sin and we present ourselves to God, as instruments of righteousness.

Because Jesus lives, we have new life and forgiveness of sins and an eternal hope.

It is important for us to always remember our need and God’s provision through Jesus Christ. Praise be to God who gave us Jesus, who died in our place and who rose in victory over sin and death so that we could be forgiven and restored before a holy God.

Was Jesus Judgmental?

“Jesus wouldn’t judge someone, why should we?!” This is something we’ve all heard, and something we may have even said. But is it true?

In Matthew 7:1-6 when Jesus says, “Do not Judge” is he really saying we should be completely accepting of everyone? On another occasion (John 8:1-11), the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery before Jesus, and instead of condemning her he replied, “If anyone is without sin let him cast the first stone.”

Since these are the two most strongest and most popular examples, these will be the two we’ll look at below.

“Do Not Judge” (Matthew 7:1-6)
Jesus was constantly battling the Pharisees, who were known for their righteousness and strict study of God’s Word. They were also known for adding extra burdens on people, just to make sure they don’t fall into sin. They were so focused on preventing sin, it seemed that sin was always on their minds.

Instead of focusing on other people’s sin, Jesus told them to look at themselves first. “Take the plank out of your own eye.” Sometimes we point out other people’s sin because it’s so much more comfortable than paying attention to the sin in our own lives. Ironically, we even notice the very sin we are blind to in ourselves as what is most repulsive and off-putting when we see it in others. Jesus’ reminder to look in the mirror is something everyone needs to follow.

It is important, however, to notice that Jesus says, “First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Jesus does not say, “Only worry about yourself, accept others just as they are.” Instead, he reminds us that if we’re going to do surgery, we need to make sure we can see clearly. If we are going to help others walk faithfully with God then we should be faithful too!

Finally, it’s worth pointing out that Jesus is talking about helping a “brother.” Christian, you cannot expect nonChristians to follow God’s Word. We are to encourage and rebuke others to claim to be Christians, to direct them towards godliness. Those who are not Christians need the Gospel more than they need the Law, they need to know who God is and how to get right before a holy God before they can be expected to live rightly.

Jesus and the Adulterous Woman (John 8:1-11)
As Jesus was teaching in the temple, the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in the act of adultery. Leviticus 20:10 says that both the woman and the man should be stoned to death. Curiously, the man is absent from court before Jesus, further showing that the Pharisees aren’t truly interested in justice but only in trapping Jesus between Scripture and popularity. Will Jesus choose to condemn the woman who is obviously guilty of adultery, or will let her free and show that he values the people’s opinion over what the Bible says?

Instead, Jesus turns the tables. He tells them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw the stone at her.” Everyone slowly walks away… except for Jesus. The sinless judge remains. But instead of throwing a stone, he acknowledges her sin while showing grace. “Go, and sin no more.” That simple statement is Jesus telling her, “Yes, you sinned. You are guilty. But I will show you grace. Go, and let that grace change you so that you aren’t found guilty again.”

Jesus is THE Judge
Jesus wasn’t only judgmental, he is THE Judge (John 5:22John 9:39, Acts 10:42, Romans 2:16, Revelation 19:11-21). Jesus will be the one who separates the sheep from the goats (Matthew 25:31-46), the wheat from the tares (Matthew 13:24-20, 36-43), the good fish and the bad fish (Matthew 13:47-50). Not only would Jesus judge someone… one day he will judge everyone. Judgement is real, and God’s judgment is eternal. It is not pleasant to talk about. If you truly believe in any kind of judgment before God, warning others would be the kind and merciful thing to do. We are not the judge, but shouldn’t we warn others if we are persuaded they would be found guilty?

Bring us to the Cross
Unfortunately, Christians today are known by the way they have judged others and shown themselves to still be sinners in need of grace. Yes, we have judged others in ways we should not. But some of that “judging” is right. For we are called to call sin “sin” and bad “bad.” When we accept with is sinful and say that it is fine and good, then we have lost our saltiness and we our light has been snuffed out (Matthew 5:13-16).

Jesus frequently issued warnings about judgment and the wrath of God, and he called people to repentance so that they would stop sinning and start doing what is right. He did so with love and mercy, because he never wrote anyone off as “too far gone.” As we follow Jesus’ example, let’s be sure to remember the two examples above.

In the midst of trying to discern how to show love and grace and humility while acknowledging the reality of sin in our own lives and in the lives of others, may we continually point people to the love of God poured out for us on the cross. For it is on the cross where the wrath of God was poured out against all sin, even while the love of God was fully displayed, because he took that wrath upon himself so that we could “go, and sin no more.”

How To Know God’s Will

This lesson is part of our “You Asked for it!” series, where students shared some tough questions they want answers to. This week, we’re looking at the question, “How do I know what God wants me to do?” There are three basic steps we walked through.

God's Plan a Mystery

Clarification: What do we mean by “God’s Will?”
Think about a Will that someone leaves behind when they die. It reveals to others what they want to be done with their stuff. Technically, “will” and “desire” have the same roots… So “God’s will” is the same as “God’s desire.” Asking “What is God’s will?” is the same as asking “What does God want?” (it’s just a more Christianese and “religious” way of saying it).

Step 1: Let the Bible Make You Wise
God isn’t hiding, and his will isn’t meant to be a mystery. God has given us the Bible in order to reveal his will and his desires. The Bible is way more than a book of wisdom, so don’t think of it as a list of do’s and don’ts… but there are definitely commands to be followed. If you want to know what kind of person God wants you to be, that is clearly available for you in Scripture. Read through the Gospels and see how Jesus lived, how he treated people, and what he taught. Read through the Old Testament and see the examples of people who walked with God (they had their flaws, and sometimes they made stupidly terrible decisions).

Step 2: Make the Wisest Choice You Can
You won’t find the answer to “What college should I attend?” or “Should I ask that girl on a date?” But if you have followed step one and if you are consistently seeking God’s wisdom, then that should steer you towards making wise choices (and away from making stupid and foolish ones). There are many things God simply leaves up for us to decide: what to wear, what to eat, etc. If we stressed over ruining God’s grand plan by messing up one of the hundreds of decisions we make every day, then we’d be overwhelmed and paralyzed. We’d never do anything out of fear of messing up God’s will.

Step 3: Trust God With Every Step
Trust that God is big enough and powerful enough to use your good choices and your bad ones too. He is honored and pleased by your wise choices, and he uses the bad ones for his glory too. Just look at how many times in the Bible people made really really bad choices but God’s will was totally fulfilled anyway (Here’s looking at you Joseph).

Big Idea: The Bible make you wise, make the wisest decision you can, and learn to trust God with every step. 

365 Fear Not’s in the Bible?

Yesterday my wife was reading a book that mentioned the Bible saying “Do not fear” 365 times… once for every day of the week.  As kindly as I could, I responded, “That’s not true. I read a blog post about that and it said it’s not true.”  She kindly did not smack me for being a know-it-all.  But she did respond by saying, “So you think this writer didn’t research it at all before writing it in her book?”

This morning I was curious and re-read the blog post (A “Do Not Be Afraid” For Every Day of the Year?) I remembered debunking this “myth” and then did some homework myself (even though I should’ve been finishing my sermon for Sunday).  I pulled up Accordance Bible Software (which I very highly recommend, and is available for both Mac and PC) and did a basic search in English with “not <and> fear” and got 327 hits, then did another with “no <and> fear” and got another 65 hits. Not all of these quite fit the criteria to support the “365 fear nots” since some are like Lev. 25:36 (“Take no interest from him or profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live beside you.”) have a different root word and meaning for “fear.”

To be honest, I was looking to debunk this “one fear not for each day” statement but after doing some research and changing up the different ways the “fear not” statements could be said, I think it could actually be mostly true.  I doubt the Bible says  “Do not be afraid” exactly 365 times, but the number of times the Bible makes some variation of that statement does seem to be in the 300’s.  Thankfully, we don’t need one “Fear not” for each day in order to live with confidence and courage.

Jesus has received all authority in heaven and on earth, and he has promised to be with us always, even to the very end of time (Matthew 28:18-20).  That is reason enough for us to live without fear.