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MARCH 27 2016

The God of Resurrection

 

[I. Introduction] Today is Easter. It is the day when the church celebrates the resurrection of Christ from the dead. The resurrection is the most glorious and most important event in all of history. It is so because of what it proves and that it reveals who God is: He is the God of resurrection.

 

Our Scripture reading this morning is from two short passages. The first is 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 and the second is  Philippians 3:8-10.

 

            For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.

(2 Corinthians 1:8-9 ESV)

 

            Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,

(Philippians 3:8-10 ESV)

 

[II.] The resurrection of Jesus Christ proves things. We ought not to believe things unless there is sufficient reason to do so. The resurrection of Christ itself is provable. Over the past 12 months, we have spoken about the powerful evidence that demonstrates that the resurrection of Christ is a reality. (That information is still available on our church website.) We will not revisit that evidence this morning. Once we see the truth of the resurrection, we can also see that it proves other things.

 

[A.] The resurrection proves that Jesus is who he claimed to be. There have been many people who have claimed to be special spokesmen for God and religions have arisen around them.

 

The religion with the largest number of followers in the world is the Christian faith. 2.4 billion people either claim to be Christians or are minor children in households of those who do. The second largest following are those who follow Muhhamad: 1.6 billion. Muhhamad claimed to have received revelations from an angel but he gave no evidence that this was so. He performed no miracles. He made no prophecies that could be tested. He lived a life of violence and sexual immorality. While his grave contains his bones, the grave of Jesus is empty!

 

The resurrection proves that Jesus is who he claimed to be.

 

Hinduism has 1 billion followers. It is based on a story book that has no real persons in it. Characters like Brahman, Krishna, Vishnu did not even exist. Sadly, Hinduism is a polytheistic religion that has no evidence that it has any reality.

 

Buddhism has about 400 million followers. How do we know that what Gautama Buddha taught was true? We cannot know. His cremated remains were distributed to his family members. His body is still ashes. But there is Someone who’s body rose again!

 

The resurrection proves that Jesus is who he claimed to be.

 

Then there is Scientology which was started in 1954 by L. Ron Hubbard and has only 100,000 adherents. How do we know that any of the bizarre claims of Hubbard are true? We cannot. And, Hubbard’s body was also cremated and the ashes scattered at sea. Those ashes are now resting at the bottom of the Pacific ocean coastline. But there is Someone’s body who rose again.

 

The resurrection proves that Jesus is who he claimed to be. And, he claimed to be the Son of God and the Savior of those who would place their faith in Him.

 

[B.] Secondly, the resurrection proves that death is conquered. Man has many enemies and lives in much turmoil in his short time on earth. But the greatest enemy and the most turmoil is death. Without a solid anchor of hope, death is a terrifying thing. It is a disconcerting thought that we will cease to exist. It is even more disconcerting to think that one might suffer after this life is over.

 

The resurrection proves that death has been conquered.

 

            For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

(1 Corinthians 15:21-22 ESV)

 

Death was brought into the world through sin. But Christ’s resurrection will make us alive. The phrase “all shall be made alive” should not be understood to teach a universal salvation. For, in the very next verse (v. 23) it is only those who belong to Christ who will experience being made alive. For those, death has been conquered!

 

[C.] The resurrection of Christ proves that our faith is not in vain. That is how important the resurrection is: without it our faith is nothing more than something that might make us feel good for a while but in the end it would not matter.

 

            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.

(1 Corinthians 15:14-19 ESV)

 

If Christ has not been raised then we are a pitiful people! We are believing something that is not true and that will make no difference in the end.

 

If Christ has not been raised then two things are true:

 

[1.] We will not be raised. This means that either we will cease to exist or we will exist as a spirit for all eternity. Neither one of those things are good. God did not create us to live as a spirit floating around. He created us as physical beings as well as spiritual beings. Physicality is good. Physicality itself is good because God made it and intends for it to continue. But, if we will not be raised then we will either cease to exist or live as a spirit forever.

 

[2.] We are still in our sins. Paul says this. “If Christ has not been raised then his sacrifice was not effective” is Paul’s thought. Then, we are still in our sins. This means that we will have to suffer for our sins throughout eternity! Do you see how important the resurrection is?

 

It not only proves that our faith is not in vain but that we will rise also! Praise God! We will rise if we belong to Christ! This is glorious!

 

[D.] Finally, the resurrection of Christ proves that the power of God is available to the follower of Christ now! It not only ensures our forgiveness and our resurrection in a future day (thus giving us great hope!), but it makes power available to us now!

 

Returning to our passage in I Cor 1, Paul said that he was “utterly burdened beyond [his] strength and that [he] despaired of life itself. “ Have you ever been utterly burdened? Was it beyond your strength to bear? Did you ever despair of life itself? Paul did. I have. What was Paul’s solution? He stopped relying on himself and turned to God “who raises the dead!”

 

Paul is saying that God, who raised the dead, can raise you out of your pit by the power of the resurrection!

 

This power was available to Paul and it is available to you! Amen?

 

Paul knew this power. And,

 

[III.] We can know the power of the resurrection. In Philippians 3:10 we see that Paul sought to know Christ and the power of his resurrection.

 

[A.] Why did Paul seek to know the power of his resurrection? One reason is that it gave him a certain hope for the general resurrection. We saw that in I Corinthians 15. Another reason is that it gave him a conditional hope for the “out-resurrection” from the dead that he speaks of in verse 11. (The word translated as “resurrection” here is a unique word and is, literally, “out-resurrection.”)  There will be a first resurrection before the general resurrection. We read about this in Revelation 20. It is a conditional resurrection, contingent upon worthiness, and it was at the forefront of Paul’s mind.

 

There is another reason that Paul sought to know the power of Christ’s resurrection. It is connected to his striving to take part in the first resurrection, but it is more basic than that. Even though it is basic and fundamental, at the same time it is a truth that is sorely neglected.

 

Knowing the power of the resurrection fulfills God’s eternal purpose.

 

Consider Paul’s words carefully. In verse 8 he expresses his desire to “gain Christ.”

 

Verse 9: He wants to “be found in him, not having a righteousness of [his] own,” but receiving the righteousness that comes from God simply on faith. He speaks here of justification.

 

Verse 10 is where he expresses his desire to know Christ and the power of his resurrection. But then, in the last half of verse 10, he says something which we might think is peculiar. He expresses a desire to share in Christ’s sufferings! Why did he want to share in Christ’s sufferings? The ultimate object of all suffering is the accomplishment of God's eternal purpose. That purpose has been revealed to us through the Scriptures, but it can only be realized in us through suffering.

 

What is that purpose? God desires to impart Himself to man and give him the life that he so sorely needs to depart from sin and live to represent God. For the individual – you and me – this begins when we are born again and then continues throughout our life.

 

God can work on behalf of man, but the nature of the living God cannot unite with the nature of man simply because he does things for us. On the other hand, when the God of resurrection works to impart Himself, He communicates Himself to man by that which He does for him. There is a difference. Let me cite two illustrations to show the difference.

 

When the children of Israel were in a hopeless plight in the wilderness, the living God opened a way for them across the Red Sea. The dividing of the Red Sea was a miracle which demonstrated to them that God was the living God, yet that miracle performed for them did not bring any measure of the life of God into them. They witnessed many other divine acts in the wilderness—e.g., God gave them bread from heaven and water out of the rock—but despite those and other wonders performed by God for them, nothing of God Himself was thereby imparted to them.

In contrast to this, the apostle Paul testifies to knowing not only the living God, but also the God of resurrection. Paul was so sorely tried that he despaired of life, but it was thus he learned to trust in the God who raises the dead. When the God of resurrection acted on his behalf to raise him from the dead, that divine act not only accomplished something for Paul; it also communicated God's own nature to Paul.

 

I knew a brother who, before he became a Christian, was the powerlifting champion for the state of Texas in the light heavyweight division. He took steroids which may have been a contributing factor to him contracting lymphoma. After having tests run, he was told that the kind of lymphoma that he had was incurable and that he only had six months to live. When he learned this terrible news he began reading his Bible. He read where Hezekiah had become ill unto death, but he prayed to the Lord and the Lord healed him. He believed that, if God healed Hezekiah from a death sentence, then God could heal him. He repented and believed the gospel. Then he began to fast and pray, drinking nothing but water for days on end. And, God answered his prayer! He was a Christian and he was healed. He testifies to the fact that God is the living God. Yet within a short time of his recovery he plunges into a life of extreme judgmentalism. When I knew him he was constantly criticizing and judging everyone else in the church. He even changed his last name to Shaphat which means “Judge” in Hebrew. He was asked to leave the church he attended because of his attitude, yet he still remembers that God is the living God and that God preserved his life from death. But he has experienced no increase of divine life; he has only experienced a miracle of healing.

 

Another brother becomes ill. Day after day passes without a vestige of improvement. For long he keeps hovering at the edge of the grave. Then, when he has completely despaired of life, in the depths of his being he gradually becomes aware of God. Resurrection life begins to work within, and he awakens to the fact that this resurrection life is a life that can overcome all affliction and can even swallow up death. He is still conscious of much weakness and is sorely tested; nevertheless, the realization deepens that God is not working to make His might known in external acts, but is working to impart Himself. Light breaks upon him gradually, and gradually health returns. This brother does not just experience a healing; he comes into a new experience of God. The other brother could testify to a miracle wrought in his body, and shortly after could plunge right into the world; but if this brother gives a word of testimony there is nothing sensational about it, and there is no stress on the healing; yet, you meet God in his life.

 

What do these two illustrations show? That God simply doing miracles may not impart Himself into you. But knowing the God of resurrection, not just as an outward act but as an inward reality, will bring his life and nature into you through suffering.

 

Knowing the power fulfills God’s eternal purpose, bringing God into you in a greater way than in our rebirth, and God uses suffering to do this.

 

[B.] This power that Paul sought is in Christ’s life and this life is available to us. How can the resurrection life become our life?

 

According to God’s word, in resurrection Christ became the life-giving Spirit (I Cor 15:45). The life of this life-giving Spirit is Christ as life, the eternal life of God. When this life is given to you, it is given as the Spirit. The Spirit is the reality of all that Christ is. The Lord Jesus told his disciples that the Spirit of reality testifies concerning him (John 15:26) and guides the believers into all the reality of who He is (John 16:13).

 

This means that Christ is made real to us through the Spirit. This is the Spirit of life. This is the Spirit of Christ’s resurrection! On the very day of his resurrection he appeared to his disciples in the evening and breathed into them, saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” And they did. (John 20:22)

 

The resurrection life, the Spirit, becomes ours in knowing the power and experiencing it through suffering as Paul did.

 

“But preacher, I do not want to experience more suffering. I’ve had enough already in my life.” If someone else were preaching this message, that is what I would say, at least to myself. It is probably true that most of us do not have the same intensity of desire that Paul had to be completely given over and conformed to Christ. Therefore, we may not have the desire to be conformed to Christ’s sufferings.

 

There is another way. It is to ask and ask again and ask again. To persist in asking. To seek the Spirit. To not be satisfied with mediocrity in your walk as a disciple of Christ. The Lord has promised that our persistence in asking for the Holy Spirit in greater measure will be answered. Just do not be surprised if the Lord chooses to allow suffering as part of the answer.

 

[IV. Conclusion] The resurrection of Christ is the greatest event in all of history.

 

  • It proves that Jesus is who he claimed to be.
  • It proves that death is conquered.
  • It proves that our faith is not in vain.
  • It proves that power is available to the follower of Christ.
  • This power is Christ’s life and it is available to you today.

 

That is the meaning of the resurrection!

 

There is a hymn with these lyrics:

 

Death cannot hold the resurrection life,

 

The life of God eternal manifest;

 

’Tis uncreated, indestructible,

 

’Tis Christ Himself, unconqu’rable, expressed

     

 

Death cannot hold the resurrection life,

 

The more interred, the more it multiplies;

 

All kinds of suff’ring only help it grow

 

And fruits of life abundant realize.

     

 

Oh, may I know this resurrection life,

 

In every kind of death its pow’r outpoured,

 

In my experience ever realize

 

This life is nought but Christ my living Lord.