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If Christ is not raised, we are still in our sins

April 26th, 2016
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The birth of Jesus would be of no more significance than the birth of any other human being had not God validated his claims and reversed the court’s verdict of blasphemy and sedition by raising him from the dead. We probably would never have heard of him. And if we had heard of him, he would be just one more Jewish prophet martyred for preaching against injustice, one more apocalyptic fanatic deluded into thinking God would come to his rescue if he acted with enough faith.

The New Testament exists because Jesus was raised.

We know that Jesus is the Son of God, the Saviour of the World, the union of God and man, very God and very man only because, contrary to all expectations, God raised the crucified Jesus from the dead.

This is effectively what Paul says in

Romans 1:1-4

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God – 2 the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures 3 regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, 4 and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.

 But Paul makes another statement in the powerful chapter on the resurrection 1 Corinthians 15.

 Paul is countering Greek thought about the immortality of the soul.

 The Christian faith requires the resurrection – this is the raising of a body. Death, burial and after a time resurrection.

1 Corinthians 15:1-28

 1 Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance[a]: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas,[b] and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

9 For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them – yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 11 Whether, then, it is I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.

12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For he ‘has put everything under his feet’.[c] Now when it says that ‘everything’ has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. 28 When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.

 Did you notice

 1 Corinthians 15: 17

 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.

 The death of Jesus is not the full story. In fact on its own it just seems to be a capricious punishment.

Read more…

Message for the Day

Jesus is the Resurrection

April 25th, 2016
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As I said a couple of weeks ago :

 Yes Jesus had to die, but what is important about the suffering and torture of the cross is not what God is doing to the Son but how much Jesus enters and allows this rotten sin filled world to have power over him so as to destroy the same power over us by becoming a new creation of our humanity in death and resurrection.

 People too often don’t include the incarnation, the cross and the resurrection together, and thus do not focus on the truth that the Son of God became the new Adam—the new head of humanity—who came to reconcile the world to God on behalf of the Father and in the Holy Spirit, and not to condemn the world.

 Our sin is judged and condemned in Jesus. The wrath of God aims to burn away evil and the sin in us that has corrupted our very natures. Dying in him, we are separated and rescued from the evil in us for eternal life. We are given a share in Christ’s restored and sanctified humanity. God’s wrath serves his mercy. His righteousness serves his love.

 Jesus is the firstfruits of a new creation, pioneering humanity into its true purpose as the children of God.

 We see this unique life amongst us in the Lazarus account. Death is not some overwhelming power that determines who we are.

 Our sinful nature no longer defines us because the Spirit now does. We have a new identity. Not one defined by sin and death but now defined by life and righteousness. That is what we are in him. Thus we cannot be apart from him. We are to live out of this new identity.

Jesus is Life and Righteousness. He could look at all the agony of the human condition, entered it fully and overcome it for us.

This is well demonstrated in

John 11:11-27, 32-44

 Jesus is told Lazarus is ill. Jesus confidently says it will not end in death, but then deliberately waits two days.

 We pick up the story at verse 11

11 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.’

Somehow he knew Lazarus had died. But sleep is of no more resistance to Jesus than waking a person up.

12 His disciples replied, ‘Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.’ 13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.

14 So then he told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’

16 Then Thomas (also known as Didymus[a]) said to the rest of the disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’

Ever the realist.

17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days.

Lazarus has been dead for 4 days. Now that is really dead. He probably was dead before Jesus even heard he was ill.

18 Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, 19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.

21 ‘Lord,’ Martha said to Jesus, ‘if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.’

It is a remarkable statement of faith.

23 Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’

24 Martha answered, ‘I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’

 There was a general Jewish belief that for God to order his good creation he would at one time address the good and evil people did. This would necessitate resurrection.

 Resurrection was understood in the ancient world as what happened to a person after they died and their body was buried. At some time at the last judgement the person is raised with a new body. It had two stages.

 But Jesus makes a most amazing claim:

 25 Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?’

Present tense. Not a vague hope of the future. You can have guaranteed life now in me.

27 ‘Yes, Lord,’ she replied, ‘I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.’

Notice how John records a profound insight of faith by a woman – equivalent to Peter’s famous confession.

 Death is an enemy for all. It destroys relationships – it robs us of the life we shared with one another.

32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’

This is not as profound as Martha – it could be a veiled criticism.

33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 ‘Where have you laid him?’ he asked.

‘Come and see, Lord,’ they replied.

35 Jesus wept.

36 Then the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’

37 But some of them said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?’

38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb.

Death, grief, sorrow, mourning surrounded him. The very reason he had come in to this world was to destroy the power of sin and death.

As we saw in a previous sermon Jesus disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

 The victory was over everything against us. He stripped all the evil forces of their power and authority over us. By allowing these forces to have power over him, he overcame them.

These evil forces created the horrors and tortures of the cross. Jesus entered completely in to the helpless position of every human before these powers, looked them in the eye and and in the mystery of the atonement defeated them.

 Fear not, he said, I have overcome the world. And in him we overcome them – every enemy against us defeated.

 It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 ‘Take away the stone,’ he said.

‘But, Lord,’ said Martha, the sister of the dead man, ‘by this time there is a bad odour, for he has been there four days.’

40 Then Jesus said, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?’

41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.’

43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth round his face.

Jesus said to them, ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go.’

 This was just a resuscitation, but it showed that death has no power against God. He made us and he can take life and give life. This was pointing to something even greater..

 After the crucifixion with Rome and death the apparent victor over their hope in Jesus, we have the remarkable witness of something unique in human history.

 As you read John20 notice that there is a change in Jesus ‘ body that confuses them at first. He is the same Jesus but he has a new body. This is a body that would never die again, unlike the resuscitation of Lazarus.

 Notice again how John records that the witness of the resurrection was a woman.

 Jesus is not just resurrected – he is the resurrection. We are made alive in him, even when we were dead in our sins. Notice how we are included in his relationship to God the Father.

 John20

 1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!’

3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped round Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 10 Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.

Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene
11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

13 They asked her, ‘Woman, why are you crying?’

‘They have taken my Lord away,’ she said, ‘and I don’t know where they have put him.’ 14 At this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realise that it was Jesus.

15 He asked her, ‘Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?’

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.’

16 Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’

She turned towards him and cried out in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means ‘Teacher’).

17 Jesus said, ‘Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”’

18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: ‘I have seen the Lord!’ And she told them that he had said these things to her.

Jesus appears to his disciples
19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

21 Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.’

Jesus appears to Thomas
24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord!’

But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.’

26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ 27 Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’

28 Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’

29 Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’

The purpose of John’s gospel
30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Message for the Day

Rod Matthew’s Report on Nepal

April 22nd, 2016
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Nepal is regarded as the country with the fastest growing Christian church in the world. 82% of the population of over 31 million is Hindu and perhaps 3% Christian. The introduction in 1990 of a multi-party democracy brought a lessening of hostilities towards Christians although it’s still a very challenging place to be involved in the work of the taking the gospel to the people.

In March, my wife, Ruth, and I and our Southeast Asian pastoral coordinator, Wong Mein Kong and his wife, Chew Yeng, travelled to Kathmandu to visit our ministry partner there, the Himalayan Gospel Church (HGC), led by Deben Sam. As summer comes to Nepal, Deben has to make the most of the warmer months and takes trips to visit the rural congregations in the mountainous areas along the southern slopes of the Himalayas. So just prior to another of his trips, we had to squeeze a lot into a few days in Kathmandu.

To read the full report please click News from South Asia – 21Apr2016 (Nepal).

 

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