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Jericho Ridge Community Church (Archived)

Living as People of Hope

 “Living as People of Hope”

 Message @ Jericho Ridge Community Church – Sunday, April 8, 2012

Text: I Corinthians 15:1-7; 12-26; 50-57 // Series: “The Gospel”

 

Well good morning, friends.  It’s good to be back, Meg and I were away last weekend up in Vernon for my Grandfather’s funeral.  [Photo]

 

My Grandpa Mel Sumner was a wonderful influence in our family and in my life and just after we were up visiting him at Spring Break and took this photo, he passed away at age 91 of a heart attack while he was getting out of his truck after a Friday afternoon run to Hope Depot.  Now, my daughter, who is 6, hasn’t been to a lot of funerals that she remembers.  And I’m not entirely sure what she expected because she wanted to know why the funeral wasn’t devastatingly sad with people weeping and crying uncontrollably all over the place.  I think she wanted lots of drama.  So she still seemed skeptical when we told her that her Great-Grandpa had enjoyed a long and good life and so there was a lot to celebrate. 

 

But as we reflect on the theme of Easter this morning and the resurrection hope that we have in Jesus Christ, my daughter’s question reminds me that last Saturday, there was deeper reason why we as a family were not completely gripped by fear or doubt or sorrow.  I Thessalonians 4:13 reminds us that that is only because of Easter and the resurrection of Jesus that we do not grieve as those who have no hope.  And this morning we’re going to look into God’s Word in to see what the implications are for are for each of us as we face the ultimate questions of life and death. 

 

This has been highlighted very clearly for me in our teaching series this spring entitled “The Gospel”.  As we have moved through Lent and prepared our hearts for this or highest and most joyful celebration as people of faith, we have been working hard to answer the question that is at the very heart of Christianity.  We’ve looked at God and His work creating the world.  We’ve looked at our willful disobedience as humanity and reminded ourselves of the truth that each of us is accountable for our actions before God.  We’ve looked at God’s solution to the problem, how at just the right time in human history, God sent His Son Jesus Christ, born as fully God and Fully man, who lived and died and was raised to life again which is what we celebrate and proclaim this day.  And this morning, we want to look at the compelling conversation initiated for us last weekend by Dr. Brian Cooper, to ask if this is all true, “what then, is my response?” 

 

And I think that our response has to find traction in the circumstances of real life.  Like attending a family funeral.  Easter Sunday reminds us that the gospel and the resurrection are not simply cute stories that promise us fall off future glory, they have to bleed backwards and give us hope in challenging times like when a loved one dies.  As Christians, Easter Sunday reminds us perhaps more than any other time of the year, that we have a solid answer to one the ultimate questions of life: This weekend brings us face to face with the reality that we are all going to die eventually.  But the message of Easter means that as a Christian, I can live with hope and confidence because I have a solid answer to the question “what happens to me when I die?”  The resurrection allows me and you to live and to act as People of Hope.  Let’s look at God’s Word…

 

In one of the earliest songs and liturgies of the early Christian movement, recorded in the New Testament in I Corinthians 15, the foremost apologist of the first century, a man by the name of Paul, asks and answers a series of both philosophical but also deeply practical and compelling questions that each of us must confront about our own mortality.  And the thing that I appreciate about this text is that the Bible is not glib and doesn’t make light of any of these things.  But it does give us clarity and certainty in the face of one of the most unsettling unknowns that we face as human beings: the question of what happens to me when I get to the end of that treadmill?  Because the Gospel, if it really is the Good News that it claims to be, has to provide an answer to this question.  Look with me at what the Bible says in I Corinthians 15.  I’ll be reading selected verses from the New Living Translation so you can follow along with me on the YouVerion.com App on your smart phone or in your Bibles as most but not all of the text of I Corinthians 15 will appear on the side screens.  It’s a conversation about life, death and resurrection that begins in this way…I Cor. 15:1 [me 2 read]

 

I love this verse… It reminds us that the message of Jesus is Good News to be explored and to be welcomed.  And that when you allow it to take root in your life, it gives you a sense of confidence that you are standing firm on truth.  Let’s keep reading…  Verse 2.  This is what the whole of chapter 15 is going to tease out.  The whole foundation of the gospel: the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, is that true or untrue? 

 

I Corinthians 15:3-7

Here in one place perhaps more than any other in the Bible, we have a summary of some our core beliefs as Christians.  So if you are new and visiting, this is a fantastic time to begin an exploration!  This is The Gospel (in a nutshell)

  1. Christ died for our sins…  (vicarious & substitutionary)God’s Son did something for us that we could not do for ourselves: set us free from the penalty of disobedience and my and your willful rebellious against a holy and almighty God to whom we are accountable.  And that this death was not accidental or unplanned: 
  2. According to the Scriptures…  (fulfillment of OT) – From the very beginning of the Bible in Genesis, God has a plan to set humanity free from the curse of sin and death that entered our world through our first parents, Adam and Eve.  We’ll see this come up again later.  
  3. He was buried…  (he was really, really dead!) – Certified by Roman centurions for whom execution was their bread & butter. 
  4. He was raised from the dead on the third day – The language is inclusive here, Good Friday being day 1, Holy “SadderDay” as we saw in that kids video was day 2, and Easter Sunday, is day 3.
  5. He was seen by over 500 eyewitnesses, including skeptics, at various places and different times over a period of 40 days.

These elements are the lynchpins of our faith!  That’s why Paul says in verse 15:3 that this is “most important”. I love the way New Testament scholar NT Wright puts it in his book Surprised by Hope: “Take Christmas away and in biblical terms, you lose two chapters at the front of Matthew and Luke, nothing else.  Take Easter away, and you don’t have a New Testament; you don’t have a Christianity; as Paul says, you are still in your sins…  This is our greatest day…  It ought to be an 8 day festival with champagne served after morning prayer or even before…  It is any wonder people find it hard to believe in the resurrection of Jesus if we don’t throw our hats in the air?”  That’s why the kids led us in that song: the greatest day in history really was the day some 2,000 years ago when through the resurrection of Jesus, death was beaten and you and I were rescued.

 

But then, as now, there are skeptics with legitimate questions about this whole idea of bodily resurrection.  They range from completely dismissive to genuinely curious.  Because when you think about it from our post-enlightenment standpoint, the whole idea of rising from the dead seems, well, impossible, doesn’t it?  So Paul continues the conversation in  

I Cor 15:12-26. [16-20 will come up on the screens]

 

In the ancient world, historians have established that every worldview believed in life after death.  The only debate was what form it took: did it involve your physical body (if so, how?) or was it simply an ethereal spirit thing?  But since the Enlightenment, Christians have had to defend both the possibility of AND the need for bodily resurrection.  So what Paul is arguing here is that are only two possibilities.  Either the accounts from the New Testament which we read earlier happened or they didn’t. 

IF resurrection of the body doesn’t happen, then:

  1. 1.    Over 500 people lived a lie and went to their deaths to perpetuate a historical hoax – many were tortured and killed and it is unlikely that they would have been willing to do so for something that they knew was not true.   
  2. 2.    God’s power doesn’t extend that far (death wins) – If this is the case, some might say “well, eat drink, be merry for tomorrow you die” (15:32).  In modern terms, we might suggest ‘we’re here for a good time, not a long time.”  Enjoy your life because when you get to the end of that treadmill, there’s nothing there!  In other words, you may say :well Brad,
  3. 3.    Life after death is a preposterous idea – but I would put to you today, is that a chance you really want to take?  I would agree with you that if Jesus didn’t rise from the grave, then…
  4. 4.    Faith in Jesus is useless (the pity party should begin)

If Jesus wasn’t raised from the dead, and this life is the highest hope and grandest dream that I can aspire to, then 2.18 billion people of all ages spread across all parts of the globe this morning are indeed completely delusional and should be openly mocked for believing in the most comprehensive and sick hoax that history has ever known.  If the resurrection didn’t happen, then you and I have based our lives on smoke and mirrors.  The message translation puts it this way: “If all we get out of Christ is a little inspiration for a few short years, we're a pretty sorry lot.” (15:19)

 

BUT, and this is the hinge moment upon which it all hangs, friends…  If the gospel is all true, if Christ has indeed by the power of Almighty God been raised to life, BUT, if Christ was raised from the dead, then:

  1. Resurrection is not merely a theoretical possibility, it is an historical reality – And here’s the real point that Paul is making in verse 20:  If it happened once, it can and will happen again. 

Christ is the first in a long legacy of those who are going to leave the cemeteries.  This June, our extended family will head to Salt Spring Island to burry my grandfather in the family plot, but we don’t do so thinking that he will stay there for all eternity or that we’ll never see him again.  Because Jesus was raised from the dead that first Easter Sunday morning, we believe, as those infused with Christian hope that those who respond to Jesus by placing their faith and confidence in Him, will be raised again to life.  Look with me at I Corinthians 15:21-26… 

 

If Christ is raised from the dead, not only will everyone who belongs to Christ experience resurrection life, but notice the language of conquest that is used here.  In the resurrection,  

  1. God demonstrated His power & vindicated Jesus – proving He was whom he said that he was, the Son of God. 
  2. The power of sin and death has been broken – this is why we can have a funeral for my grandfather that isn’t wracked with sorrow.  Because in verse 26, the text is clear that death has been beaten.  So while it can be very natural to fear the process of dying, Hebrews 2:15 reminds us that as people of faith, we do not have to “enslaved by a fear of death”.  Yes, each of us will die, but as Christians, we have confidence that we face death with someone by our side who has defeated it and who is more powerful than it.  It’s like brining someone much, much stronger to face the school yard bully with you… suddenly, they don’t seem so frightening anymore because you have someone in your corner who is stronger. 

 

And that’s why N.T. Wright says that Easter is our greatest moment and should be a celebration with champagne before morning prayer. Because

  1. Faith in Jesus is anything but useless (the celebration should begin)

 

Look with me at the final verses of this chapter: I Cor. 15:26, 54-57

Other religions don’t claim deity or resurrection status for their originators.  Mohamed or Joseph Smith of Mormonism are hailed by their followers as prophets who lived and who died.  But Christianity lives and dies with the claims of Christ’s resurrection and what it accomplishes for you and me.  Not just in the future, but also in the here and now.  Christ won for us victory over sin and death and the fear that accompanies them for us today. The resurrection has very clear & present implications.  Because

You orient your life differently when your ultimate hope lies beyond your tombstone

When we were looking through my grandfather’s files, we found a file that was titled “when I die…” and it included thought on his service, who should be called to inform them of his death, notes about his will & other end of life items. But it also contained a note that he wrote last summer which influenced the way in which he lived his life each day as a 91 year old widower who had lost my grandmother 8 years earlier.  The note read:

          - “I AM IN NO WAY AFRAID OF DEATH. The Lord and I have lived together in reasonable harmony all these years and I am so grateful to Him for having given me the privilege of living in His world along with my dear companion, Allison, whom He now has with Him.”

                                                        Mel Sumner  (Aug 30, 2011)

When you don’t fear death, you have the freedom to live your life with a courage and a hope and a gratitude that comes from knowing that your ultimate hope lies beyond your tombstone.  There’s a freedom that comes in the way in which you give generously of your time because you know that it’s all a gift from God to you.  There’s a passion that comes in helping other people in places like Guatemala as our teams do each year, because you want to extend the message of hope to those who are suffering.  There’s a passion that comes in sharing with your family members and neighbours that you do not fear death because of the hope we have in Christ.  You parent your kids differently because you know that your ultimate hope and prayer and goal is that they come to know Jesus not simply or solely become a well-adjusted member of society.  When your ultimate hope lies beyond your tombstone, you are fearless and bold in living as a person of hope and calling others to embrace it.   

 

Perhaps today this idea is a new one for you.  Perhaps you have always thought of the story of a Jesus as an interesting narrative designed to give hope to people for their few short years while they circle this globe.  But I love the way John Updike puts it in his poem “Seven Stanzas for Easter”  

 

Let us not mock God with metaphor,

analogy, sidestepping, transcendence;

making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the

faded credulity of earlier ages:

let us walk through the door.

 

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mâché,

not a stone in a story,

but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow

grinding of time will eclipse for each of us

the wide light of day.       

Each of us will one day be faced with that rock that eclipses the light of day. And you see, that makes the resurrection not simply a philosophical question of who God is and what God has done.  It is also a question of very personal response.  The Scripture is clear that this hope is available to all who are “in Christ”.  And the response that it calls for is Faith and repentance which are two sides of the same coin…  That’s how resurrection hope gets appropriated into my life and yours.  And you need to know, if you are here and have not taken the steps of faith and repentance, that is our deepest prayer and desire for you.  That you would come to a place of responding to God, recognizing your sin, repenting of it and receiving the gift that Jesus offers – restoration of relationship with God not only in this life, but also for all eternity in the life to come.

 

Are you here today looking for answers to life’s ultimate questions?  The Resurrection Response means that

  • You can experience hope today – Prayer team is available
  • You can experience victory over sin - freedom

You can have confidence facing ultimate questions of life & death

The team is going to come.  I invite you to make that decision today.  

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