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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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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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.

Worth Your Time 4/3/15

Each Friday I try to provide a few articles that are worth the time of parents and youth workers. These articles span a number of issues, and not all are written by Christians, but they are all “worth your time.” Here’s the latest edition:

4 Reasons to Believe in the Empty Tomb, by Rez Rezkalla (The Gospel Coalition)
“Was the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth found empty after his crucifixion? If not, then Christianity is the greatest lie in history. The apostle Paul says, “If Christ has not been raised fro the dead then your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:17). While the historicity of the empty tomb does not by itself prove the resurrection, it plays an important role.”

Is Mental Illness Actually Biblical?, by Stephen Altrogge (The Blazing Center)
“If I believe that sin has affected every part of my body, including my brain, then it shouldn’t surprise me when my brain doesn’t work correctly. I’m not surprised when I get a cold; why should I be surprised if I experience mental illness? To say that depression, anxiety, ADHD, bipolar, and every other disorder, are purely spiritual disorders is to ignore the fact that we are both body and soul. Mental illness is not something invented by secular psychiatrists. Rather, it is part and parcel with living in fallen, sinful world.”

It’s Time To Bench Virginity Pledges, by Cameron Cole (Rooted)
“Purity pledges tend to emphasize the commitment of the young person. The decision, signified by the certificate or ring, is central. Given our desperate need for God’s help in such a challenging struggle, greater attention needs to be given to God’s commitment to us. When we face temptation, God pledges to give us a way out. When we are caving, God promises us the Holy Spirit to lead us away from sin. When we fall, God commits to forgive and restore us in our contrition.”

Researchers Pinpoint the Optimal Amount of Math & Science Homework, by Jim Liebelt (HomeWord)
“When it comes to adolescents with math and science homework, more isn’t necessarily better — an hour a day is optimal — but doing it alone and regularly produces the biggest knowledge gain, according to research.”

Contradicting Bible Contradictions (website)
This is a website that answers specific “contradictions” that skeptics raise to show why we should not trust the Bible. This is a helpful site that is worth bookmarking on your internet browser so you can find it again when the need arises.

Why Easter Matters: Christ Put Sin to Death

This is a summary of what I shared in the sunrise service for Easter this morning:

Sin & Death are always interconnected throughout Scripture.  Whenever we read of one, the other’s footsteps are never far behind.  God’s conquest against Sin & Death is one of the key threads that holds all of Scripture together.  Through Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, God put sin to death. I’d like to trace this important thread by looking at a some key texts and make a few brief comments about each.

 Creation & Fall: Sin brings Death

“And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.”  (Genesis 3:22–24)

Before Adam and Eve sinned they ate from the Tree of Life and death had no place in their lives, but by disobeying God they brought sin into the world… and death came with it.  While they did not immediately drop dead, they became susceptible to death and pain and suffering because of sin. God judged their sin and banished them from the Garden of Eden, but He did not abandon them as a failed ‘project.’

Fall & Sacrificial System: Death brings the need for Atonement from Sin (repeated by the individual)

Eventually God called Israel out and made them a nation, providing them with the sacrificial system as a way to provide forgiveness of sin when they break God’s law.  Leviticus 4-5 is filled with many different ways to make atonement for your sins depending on who you are and what type of sin you’re atoning for.

“In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Hebrews 9:22)

The sacrificial system provided a foreshadowing of what we celebrate on Easter.  But while the sacrificial system was continuous (each new sin required a new sacrifice/death) and individual (each person had to make atonement for his own sins), Christ died once for all (1 Peter 3:18).

Redemption & Christ: Christ’s Death brings Full Atonement (once for all)

“But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:20–21) 

Just as sin reigns in the Kingdom of death, grace reigns through the righteousness of Jesus Christ our Lord.  At the moment Christ claimed victory over death and sin all of your sin was cancelled and atoned for.  All your past, present, and future sins have been paid for!  This doesn’t give us a license to sin and it doesn’t downplay the extent to which we must always resist temptation, but it points to the perfection of Christ’s victory over sin and death and calls us to live in the kingdom of righteousness.

Christ’s resurrection demonstrated his victory and authority over death and sin. They have no place in His eternal Kingdom.

Restoration & New Heavens/Earth: No Sin, No Death

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:1–5)

In Revelation 20 we see Satan’s judgment and the death of death. Immediately following the death of death, we read about the New Heavens, New Earth and the New Jerusalem.  In them there will be absolutely no sin and no death.  Truly, God is making everything new!  What we believe will become tangible… our faith will become sight.

As we celebrate Christ’s resurrection, may we remember the bigger picture of what God did through Christ’s victory over sin and death.  May we live in Christ’s kingdom by faith today, even as we wait for His victory to be fully established here among us when He returns again.

Reflecting on the Cross of Jesus Christ

In his book, My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers reflects on Galatians 6:14 (“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”) and writes, “Break away from your personal concern over your spiritual condition and with a completely open spirit consider the tragedy of God.  Instantly the power of God will be in you.”

What are you focused on today?  Are you focusing on your “spiritual condition,” or on the Cross of Christ… or on something completely different? It is not a bad thing to be focused on reading your Bible daily, or on praying for at least thirty minutes a day, or on community service so that you may become more humble; but these things are not what we, as Christians, are called to primarily focus on.

As Christians, we are called to focus on the Cross, and on what happened there.  As Chambers wrote, “…with a completely open spirit consider the tragedy of God.”  The cross was a tragedy, and how often we perceive it in a completely different light.  When most of us reflect on the Cross, we look and see what we receive from it; we look with selfish eyes and see our own personal gain.

I find it extremely ironic that the most selfless act in history is now nearly always looked at with selfish eyes.  God did not need to send his Son for us!  Who are we that God should sacrifice His son for us, so that we may have eternal life?  Who are we that God should love us so much that this sacrifice would be made?

This year, when you look upon the cross and celebrate Good Friday and Easter, look not at what you get out of it, but rather what God put onto it: His beloved Son, filled with love.

Think about what your focus on right now?  Is your focus on getting good grades in school so that you can graduate and get a good job and be successful in the future?  Is your focus on getting a date with that person that you’ve been eyeballing since the beginning of the year?  Or is your focus on reading the Bible every day for at least an hour, in hopes of attaining “Christian enlightenment?”

Focus on the Cross of Christ.  When we focus on the man on the cross, and on what was given there.  When we focus on the Cross of Christ, then everything else will fall into automatic focus.  Not every problem in life will be instantly “fixed,” but life with begin to fall into better focus.

May we truly be able to say, (“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”)