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Resurrection Realities

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The West Wing…(ok to disagree and still like someone)
The atmosphere was electric. The president of the United States was about to address a gathering of radio talk show hosts in the White House. As the president entered the hall, they all stood and applauded. All, that is, except one — a woman with strikingly blond hair, wearing a bright green suit. At first, her presence rattled the president. He lost his train of thought several times before he finally spoke directly to the sitting talk show host.
“Excuse me, doctor,” the president said to her. “It’s good to have you here. Are you an M.D.?”
“A Ph.D.,” she retorted smartly.
“In psychology?” he pursued.
“No, sir,” she said.
“Theology?”
“No.”
“Social work?”
“I have a Ph.D. in English literature,” she replied.
“I’m asking,” continued the president, “because on your show people call in for advice and you go by the title ‘doctor,’ and I didn’t know if maybe your listeners were confused by that and assumed you had advanced training in psychology, theology, or health care.”
“I don’t believe they are confused. No, sir,” she responded.
“Good,” said the president, raising his voice sarcastically. “I like your show. I like how you call homosexuality an abomination.”
“I don’t say homosexuality is an abomination, Mr. President,” she replied haughtily. “The Bible does.”
“Yes, it does!” he shouted. “Leviticus 18:22.” The president was just warming up. “I wanted to ask you a couple of questions while I had you here. I’m interested in selling my youngest daughter into slavery as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. She’s a Georgetown sophomore, speaks fluent Italian, always cleared the table when it was her turn. What would a good price for her be?”
After a brief moment, he continued: “While thinking about that, can I ask another? My chief of staff, Leo McGarry, insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly says he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself or is it OK to call the police?”
Now on a roll, the president steamed on triumphantly. “Here’s one that’s really important, ‘cause we’ve got a lot of sports fans in this town. Touching the skin of a dead pig makes one unclean, Leviticus 11:7. If they promise to wear gloves, can the Washington Redskins still play football? Can Notre Dame? Can West Point?
“Does the whole town really have to be together to stone my brother John for planting different crops side by side?
“Can I burn my mother in a small family gathering for wearing garments made from two different threads?
“Think about those questions, would you? One last thing. While you may be mistaking this for your monthly meeting of the ignorant tight-a** club, in this building when the president stands, nobody sits.”
The president paused to catch his breath. The silence that invaded the room was deafening. The once self-assured talk show host slowly rose to her feet, her face reddened with shame. Her quick come-backs and commanding presence wilted away. She had no response. The president of the United States had left her speechless. The very Bible that she had used to beat up on homosexuals had now beaten her into submissive silence.
Now, before you jump all over the president you should know this radio host had been known for her characterization of being hateful rather than loving. In other words…there truly is a wrong way to be right.
What would you do? How would you respond? Keep that answer in your mind as we unfold this passage this morning. Because, as we will see…Jesus is also lobbed a question regarding truth in the Scriptures…but, just like we’ve been seeing…his answer is both convicting and full of solid truth.

Who are the Sadducees?

Getting nowhere with the Pharisees and the Herodians, the Sanhedren send in their next group to try to destroy Jesus. This time it is members of the Sadduceean sect of Judiaism. The Sadducees as a party, just like their counterparts on the other end of the spectrum, the Pharisees rose up during and immediately after the Maccabean revolt against the Seleucids in the early 2nd centry BC.
As one writer noted: “Despite their common origin, they differed greatly in outlook. The Pharisees believed in divine sovereignty, while the Sadducees affirmed human free will alone; the Pharisees believed in angels and demons, whereas the Sadducees did not; the Pharisees accepted a broader understanding of Scripture and revelation, which included both written (Torah, Writings, and Prophets) and oral traditions, whereas the Sadducees accepted only the written Torah; and finally, as this story indicates, the Pharisees affirmed the resurrection of the dead, which the Sadducees expressly denied (12:18; ). The Sadducean denial of angels, demons, and the afterlife derived from their exclusive reliance on the Torah, which does not set forth these doctrines.”
He continued, “Differences between the two sects did not stop at doctrine, however. The Sadducees further differed from the Pharisees on social and political matters. The Sadducees comprised a clerical and lay aristocracy associated with the priesthood. Already prior to the Maccabean Revolt (167 b.c.) the priesthood had exerted a dominant influence among the Jews, and hence the Sadducees, like the priesthood, belonged to the highest social stratum of Jewish society, marked by “wealth” and “men of rank,” to quote Josephus”

Off-Base Questions

Again, the goal is to trip Jesus up. Unlike last week when the strategy was to turn either the people or the Romans against Jesus…this time their goal is to make Jesus look foolish to the other religious leaders and thus the people. The Sadducees were arrogant for sure…they were smug, especially in their very conservative beliefs about the Torah and the Resurrection. So, if they could make Jesus look foolish for believing in the resurrection…they could humiliate him while also jabbing at his followers and the Pharisees too while they’re at it. They knew Jesus believed in the resurrection, because he had spoken of it many times before to his disciples.
So, they attempt to use Scripture against Him. From our perspective, knowing who Jesus is and ultimately knowing the end of the story…this is foolishness beyond foolishness…using God’s Word in order to trip up God. Anyway, they do it…and they present this elaborate story based on the concept of levirate marriage.
Levirate marriage is the OT laws concerning the obligation of a man to marry his brother’s childless widow should he die.
In [5] “If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the dead man shall not be married outside the family to a stranger. Her husband's brother shall go in to her and take her as his wife and perform the duty of a husband's brother to her. [6] And the first son whom she bears shall succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel. [7] And if the man does not wish to take his brother's wife, then his brother's wife shall go up to the gate to the elders and say, ‘My husband's brother refuses to perpetuate his brother's name in Israel; he will not perform the duty of a husband's brother to me.’ [8] Then the elders of his city shall call him and speak to him, and if he persists, saying, ‘I do not wish to take her,’ [9] then his brother's wife shall go up to him in the presence of the elders and pull his sandal off his foot and spit in his face. And she shall answer and say, ‘So shall it be done to the man who does not build up his brother's house.’ [10] And the name of his house shall be called in Israel, ‘The house of him who had his sandal pulled off.’ (ESV)
This is most famously depicted in in all the mess surrounding Judah and Tamar. [8] Then Judah said to Onan, “Go in to your brother's wife and perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.” (ESV)
Laws Concerning Levirate Marriage
The Sadducees example is an elaborate one and their point is to force Jesus to say “I don’t know” or see him trip over himself in trying to answer the question.
[8] Then Judah said to Onan, “Go in to your brother's wife and perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.” (ESV)
[5] “If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the dead man shall not be married outside the family to a stranger. Her husband's brother shall go in to her and take her as his wife and perform the duty of a husband's brother to her. [6] And the first son whom she bears shall succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel. [7] And if the man does not wish to take his brother's wife, then his brother's wife shall go up to the gate to the elders and say, ‘My husband's brother refuses to perpetuate his brother's name in Israel; he will not perform the duty of a husband's brother to me.’ [8] Then the elders of his city shall call him and speak to him, and if he persists, saying, ‘I do not wish to take her,’ [9] then his brother's wife shall go up to him in the presence of the elders and pull his sandal off his foot and spit in his face. And she shall answer and say, ‘So shall it be done to the man who does not build up his brother's house.’ [10] And the name of his house shall be called in Israel, ‘The house of him who had his sandal pulled off.’ (ESV)

Truth Head On

Jesus answers them addressing two main things....their flawed logic and their false ideas.
First, he tells them their clever little trick didn’t work. He retorts in verse 24...
Now, don’t miss this…Jesus is hitting them where it hurts because he wants to cut to the heart and expose their falsehood.
He addresses the two things the Sadducees claim to have the corner market on…the Torah and their power influence over the nation. They were men of Torah and men of power. And here comes Jesus again saying to them...
Jesus’ words against them regarding the Scriptures reveal two things in which they are in error. First, they dismiss the rest of the Hebrew Bible where God has clearly revealed himself further and inspired His Word. Secondly, they obviously don’t even know or understand the Torah as well as they claim.
They also doubt the power of God. The Sadducees tended to be very literal. They viewed the doctrine of the resurrection as false…because their idea of it was a prolonged continued earth-like existance. They had no room in their theology for the idea of heavenly glory and spiritual power. Since they did not believe in angels…that realm of existance was foreign to them.
But, they don’t know that the resurrection is not a prolonged earthly existance but an entirely new and different existance. They would not have believed with Paul when he wrote in [40] There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. [41] There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. [42] So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. [43] It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. [44] It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. (ESV)
Jesus is going against even the Pharisees understanding of resurrection here. Though they believed in the resurrection, they assumed things would be like they are on earth. That marriage would continue. But, Jesus says it will not be like that…that marriage and earthly things are not continued in the life to come. Now, let’s be clear that when Jesus says we will be like the angels…he is not saying we become angels. That is a pop-culture error when people say their loved ones become angels. No, angels are created heavenly spiritual beings. They don’t become human and humans don’t become them. Jesus is simply using them as an example of the reality of life in glory. That in glory, things like marriage do not matter any longer. Marriage remember is a picture of Christ and the church…in heaven…there is no longer a need for a picture…it is reality.
Now, some people have questions at this point I’m sure. We don’t have time to go into detail but let me address a couple things that may be on your mind.
First, some people are upset when they learn they will no longer be married to their spouse in glory. Allow me to share a story from the late Dr. RC Sproul concerning the lift to come…he once said, “I am reminded of a statement my mentor, Dr. John Gerstner, once made to me after a seminary chapel in which a speaker had attacked nearly everything precious to classical Reformed theology. As we were leaving the chapel, I caught up with Dr. Gerstner, and because I was quite distressed about what I had heard from the speaker, I blurted out, “If John Calvin could have heard that address, he would have turned over in his grave.” Dr. Gerstner stopped, turned to me, and said, “Young man, don’t you know that nothing could possibly destroy the felicity that John Calvin enjoys at this moment?” I was taken aback, but I quickly saw his point. We do not understand the depth of joy and delight that God has prepared for His people in heaven.”
Second, some worry that since we will no longer be married, we will also not know one another. To that, I think the Scriptures are clear that we maintain our identities in heaven. What makes you, you is more than the hydrogen and carbon elements that make up your body…your soul is just as much you. Many passages in Scripure refer to people who have gone on as though they are still alive…this passage this morning is one as we will see in a moment. But, recall Jesus’ encounter on the Mt. of tranfiguration…he met with Moses and Elijah…both of which were themselves. The greatest example is Jesus himself…we know Jesus remains the man he was on earth in his glorified estate. Therefore I can say with a great deal of certainty that we retain our personhood in heaven…and we will know one another…in fact, we’ll know many more than we currently do.
So, back to Jesus’ response. We’ve seen him attack their logic…but he also addresses facts. The resurrection is true. To prove his point, he doesn’t go to the prophets…which he could since he is the authority on the matter…instead, he uses the Torah to further drive home the point that they do not know of what they speak.
Jesus quotes to them from . In the encounter between Moses and God in the burning bush, God does not declare I Was the God of… He says I am. This is more than just a case made by God using the present tense…it speaks to God’s character. God is a covenant keeping God…a promise keeping God. He made promises and he keeps them. If the resurrection were not a reality, God’s promises would be limited to just the earthly existance of these patriarchs…but, that is not the case…because of the reality of the Resurrection…those promises are eternal. God’s promises are to the living…because of the resurrection. One author noted: “God would not pledge himself to the dead unless the dead were raised to life. Jesus’ argument for the reality of resurrection is based on the assumption that the call of God establishes a relationship with God, and once a relationship with God is established, it bears the promise of God and cannot be ended, even by death.”
Jesus ends his encounter with them by saying “you are quite wrong.” The word means something like “off base” Jesus countered their off base comments by giving them a solid dose of biblical truth. As you think back to the opening illustration, I wonder how you would do when you are challenged to defend the Scriptures in a similar way. Because the reality is, our world is off base…our world is quite wrong, gravely mistaken.

Truth Head On

One of the most significant effects of the postmodern mindset in our world today is the relativity of truth. Truth, in our world, is not absolute, it is fluid. You’ll hear phrases like “this is my truth…or that’s their truth” The idea behind that is there can be different truths for different people…and all are equally valid…as long as they don’t violate the secular ethics of the day.
This week our nation has been in search of truth. The circus at the Senate has been very straining on our political system and the general mood of the nation. We are being ripped apart at the seams over the political wars going on in Washington. I’m not going to speak politically to this issue. My views and opinions do not matter…but I do want to use this as an example for our passage this morning. What we’ve seen displayed this week is a society that holds to relative truth strain ahead to uncover absolute truth. It’s pretty amazing actually, from a Christian perspective, to sit back and watch this play out. Here are two sides of a political issue…each side having abandoned God’s Word as absolute truth both trying to arrive at a definative conclusion while still holding onto the relativity of truth. It’s like watching them punch at the air…they are getting nowhere. The reality is, neither side really cares about the absolute truth of the matter…what they care about is “their truth” winning.
Our country is really being ripped apart at the seams. So, I ask…where is the church in that? Where should the church be? How should you and I be responding to those tears in the fabric of our society?
Unfortunately, what we are seeing is many Christians jumping in and helping rip the country apart by running to one side or the other. We see Christians running right and left every day instead of standing in the gap as citizens of a heavenly kingdom with a message for both sides about God and His Word. We should be filling in the gaps left by those fractures and offering both sides of our polarized society the absolute truth of God’s Word. We have a prophetic message because we have God’s word…and our country needs a prophetic message.

Calling Wrong Wrong, Wrongly

Let’s be clear, part of the prophetic role the church has in our society is to call wrong, wrong. We should be clear about demonstating what the Bible says is truth and standing by it. But, the reality is we can go about that the wrong way. We can call wrong, wrong, wrongly.
And I mean more than simply saying, “don’t be a jerk for Jesus” We know who those people are and we’ve seen them…but, I’m hoping thats not you…I don’t think it is. Its more than than, more subtly than that. We err a lot when we’re hypocrites. Our prophetic message is severly damaged by our hypocracy. The world sees us railing against all these social issues that become our pet causes while ignoring others.
What’s amazing is that Jesus gives us a cure for our hypocracy in this passage:
Know the Scriptures
Paul tells us in [16] All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, [17] that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (ESV)
I am writing hoping to open a dialogue between our two churches for a proposed shared facility agreement. New Beginnings Bible Fellowship Church has been in existence for 14 years and has had a home in Woodbury Heights for the last 10 years. Recently, due to a desire to decrease debt and allow more funds to go directly into the ministry we have decided to sell our building and look to meet elsewhere.
The desire of our church is to find ourselves able to serve the same communities here in northern Gloucester County but also have a presence within a neighborhood. As a Wenonah resident myself, and very involved in our community I thought Wenonah UMC was a perfect church to approach and begin to see what God might do in strengthening His witness to Wenonah while also allowing both churches to benefit from each other’s ministry.
As you consider whether or not to proceed with discussing this, please understand that all this is dependent on our ability to sell the building. We have no timeline at this point, so we cannot make any definitive decisions. We are merely trying to explore options so that we are not left without a place to meet should the building sell quickly.
We would be looking to meet on Sundays for worship, we average about 70 people. I see your service is at 11:00, so perhaps we could discuss an earlier start time for us so we could be out of your way. We also have a youth group of about 12 teens that meet on Sunday evenings. Our other Bible studies and gatherings can be moved to homes.
I look forward to meeting with you on Sunday to discuss this further and answer any questions you may have. Again, we cannot make a formal request to you until we know more about how our building will do on the market.
In Christ,
Tim Nessler
PastorDear Rev. Pillot and Members:
So, Scripture guards us against hypocrisy because is it profitable for:
I am writing hoping to open a dialogue between our two churches for a proposed shared facility agreement. New Beginnings Bible Fellowship Church has been in existence for 14 years and has had a home in Woodbury Heights for the last 10 years. Recently, due to a desire to decrease debt and allow more funds to go directly into the ministry we have decided to sell our building and look to meet elsewhere.
The desire of our church is to find ourselves able to serve the same communities here in northern Gloucester County but also have a presence within a neighborhood. As a Wenonah resident myself, and very involved in our community I thought Wenonah UMC was a perfect church to approach and begin to see what God might do in strengthening His witness to Wenonah while also allowing both churches to benefit from each other’s ministry.
Teaching - . Broad term for the discipline of teaching. To make wise, to instruct. Scripture gives us information.
As you consider whether or not to proceed with discussing this, please understand that all this is dependent on our ability to sell the building. We have no timeline at this point, so we cannot make any definitive decisions. We are merely trying to explore options so that we are not left without a place to meet should the building sell quickly.
Reproof - God uses Scripture to convict and rebuke. His word declares a standard…it teaches of his holiness, his power, his moral expectations and commands. And we see we do not measure up. So, the scripture brings conviction of sin through the ministry of the Holy Spirit in shining the light of God’s word into our hearts.
[16] All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, [17] that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (ESV)
We would be looking to meet on Sundays for worship, we average about 70 people. I see your service is at 11:00, so perhaps we could discuss an earlier start time for us so we could be out of your way. We also have a youth group of about 12 teens that meet on Sunday evenings. Our other Bible studies and gatherings can be moved to homes.
Correction - This word carries the idea of setting something right. Where reproof carries a negative idea of focusing on sin…correction is a positive term showing restoration. So, not only does Scripture convict us of sin…it provides restoration through the promises of God. This after all is God’s grace. God graciously shows us our sin that we may embrace Christ. How are we to grow without an ever-increasing awareness of our sin and an ever-growing awareness of our need for grace and an ever-growing love for our Savior. This leads to...
I look forward to meeting with you on Sunday to discuss this further and answer any questions you may have. Again, we cannot make a formal request to you until we know more about how our building will do on the market.
In Christ,
Training in Righteousness - This is education with a specific aim at character development. Carries both negative and positive aspects. We are both disciplined and made to grow in our Christlikeness. In fact, God uses our weaknesses to make us stronger....he brings us to awareness of our sin in order to grow us.
Tim Nessler
Know the power of God
Pastor
Know the power of God
A large part of that is believing what the Scripture says about God. We cannot claim to believe in a Sovereign, righteous God and live our lives as though he does not exist or that he does not matter. To know the power of God is to know Jesus Christ…and to know Jesus Christ is to be changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Because, don’t miss this…the power of God is not impersonal. It is not some force like in Star Wars…the power of God is a personal power…it comes from a God who has made himself known…and further a God who has made himself human in order to save His creation from its own sin.

Give them the LORD!

So, the second thing I want to emphasize in being a prophetic voice to our world is this…Give them the LORD!
Jesus tells the Sadducees they don’t know the Scriptures nor the power of God. As I though about that and the mess we see in our country today…the thing I kept coming back to was the need for us to be specific in our message to the world. For a long time, I believe, Christians have been too generic. We talk about God a lot in our society. Our politicians close speeches with “God bless America” We talk about the need for God to be in our schools, etc. But, here’s the problem…in our pluralistic postmodern world…we have to be careful about being too generic with our description of God. We cannot allow God to be mistaken for the countless idols of human imagination that also call their god by that Title. Here’s the problem, about 75% of Americans self-identify as Christians. So, one would not be surprised to hear God mentioned a lot in our society. But, begin widdling down specifics in those numbers. Remove openly apostate and cultish Christian groups…narrow down even to evangelicals…keep narrowing down to specifically those who hold to key doctrines of the faith like the deity of Christ, justification by faith alone, the sovereignty of God, and the inspiration and infallability of Scripture and you’re less than 5%. In our area of south jersey, its is more like 3-4% of the population that believes in the God of the Scriptures as he has revealed himself.
So, if 3% of the population holds the truth about who God is and what He has said…if 3%of the population bears the responsibility of speaking prophetically to the world around them…there is absolutely no room for being vague and generic. Our world doesn’t need “god” Our world needs the LORD! Our world needs the Triune God of the Bible…the only true living God. Our world needs the God and Father of Ab, Is, Ja…the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…our World needs the 2nd person of the trinity who took on humanity in order to save us…we need the Holy Spirit who convicts the world of righteousness, applies the gospel to the heart, indwells the believer and empowers them for sanctification and service. Our world doesn’t need us to be shy about who it is we’re speaking of…and don’t take for granted that when we say God…that is what we mean.
One of the most comforting things I see when reading the Psalms is all the times when we you see LORD in all caps. What does that tell you? Well, normally in our english Bibles that is indicating that the word there is being substituted for the tetragrammaton…the 4 Hebrew consonents that make up the name of God…Yahweh. What does that tell us? It tells us God desires us to know him personally. He is not a generic God…he is a personal God…he is living…he is power.
Our world is in search of truth…and Jesus has sent us out bearing the message of truth.
The fundamental error of the Sadducees according to Jesus is that they did not know the Scriptures nor the power of God…in other words they did not know Him. Jesus Christ is the Word and the Power of God. The answer to their problem was standing in front of them speaking truth to them.
As we confront day after day misunderstanding and false ideas and accusations about what we believe…I hope what you see is not to cower in fear but to realize those who hurl such insults do not know the Scriptures nor the power of God…they do not know Jesus. Our calling is not to win arguments for the sake of being right…our calling is to offer people the bread of life that fills and never leaves you hungry…to offer them the water for which no one ever thirsts again.
Jesus said in “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (ESV)
If we really believe that…it should shape the way we interact with the world around us. Are we engaging our culture with Jesus, or are we engaging our culture to win a philosophical battle. Who are you being discipled by…the news media or the Bible?
Brothers and sisters our world doesn’t know it…but we know it…it needs Jesus. It needs the God of the Bible who has made himself known to us. We need to give them Jesus. Be a voice not for your favorite side of the debate…be a voice for the one who died in your place…who gave you all that he earned. Let’s show our nation that as Christians we serve a higher purpose…we serve a greater kingdom.
[6] Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (ESV)
Maybe you’re here today with those same doubts about the word…what you need is Jesus...
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