AN EXTREME LIFESTYLE - Easter 2006
AN EXTREME LIFESTYLE
I COR. 15: 1- 1-20
We hear lot’s of messages that that claim that if we will just buy their product or take their course it will change your life. If your experience in any way mirrors mine, experience has taught us that most claims to change a life fall woefully short. So much so that anyone who claims to have something that can change our life their claims tend to fall on deaf ears or we adopt that attitude of in one ear and out the other.
To be honest there are very few things that you hear that truly have the potential to change the way you live. But the message of Easter is one of those potentially life changing messages. I say potentially because you have to embrace the message in order for it to impact your life.
My prayer for you today is that you would not let the message go in one ear and out the other. My prayer for you today is that you would by faith embrace the message of Easter which is the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In order that the way you approach life would change but also the way you approach death would change as well.
Let me begin by giving you my thesis as I begin. My aim this morning is to demonstrate that for all those who embrace the message of the resurrection their life will change. Conversely all those who discount the impact of the resurrection their lives will not change.
Let’s read I Corinthians 15:1-20
"Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact 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 worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. " (1 Corinthians 15:1-20NASB95)
Let’s begin this morning by asking a simple but needful question. How important is the resurrection to each one of us? Or to ask it another way is to simply ask why should I care about the resurrection? Two reasons: First of all you are going to die. People die in this world by the thousands each and every day; and some day you will die and some day I will die. The main reason we fear death is because many people don’t know what happens to them after they die. If the resurrection is true, then it should impact both the way I live and the way I die.
The second reason the resurrection is important is the good news or what the Bible calls the resurrection. You cannot separate the resurrection from the gospel. In case you are wondering what the gospel is, let me define it for you. The gospel is what God can do for you through Jesus Christ. The gospel is not what you can do for God. It’s all about what God does. You cannot separate the resurrection from the gospel. If the resurrection isn’t true, then the gospel isn’t true. If the gospel isn’t true then all of us have a big problem.
Paul writes in I Cor. 15:3-4
"For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, " (1 Corinthians 15:3-4NASB95)
Let’s think through what Paul is saying. Paul considers the gospel which is what God has done for us through Christ to be the most important thing. He says that the gospel is what I delivered to you of greatest importance. Another translation says “of greatest importance”. The gospel is the most important message that you will ever hear. And a important part of this important message is the resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is just as important as the death of Jesus Christ. A denial of the resurrection is a denial of the Scriptures. Notice what Paul says, Christ died according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, which shows that Jesus really did die on the cross, and that he rose again or in other words he came back to life on the third day according to the Scriptures. The Scriptures the Bible declared that Christ would die and that he would be raised again to life, and to deny that there is no resurrection is to deny the truthfulness of the Scriptures.
But there were those in the church at Corinth who were denying the resurrection. Paul wrote in 1 Cor. 15:12
"Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? "
(1 Corinthians 15:12NASB95)
Paul’s implied question is how can you now begin to deny what you said that you have already believed? The resurrection was a part of the gospel message that was preached to you, and that was the message that you believed how can you now claim to not believe it? What does Paul do? He proceeds to point out the implication or the consequences if there was not a resurrection. Let me assure you that Paul did believe in the resurrection. He believes it so strongly that he calls it a fact in verse 20. "But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.” (1 Corinthians 15:20NASB95)
What are the implications or the consequences if there is no resurrection?
1. If there is no resurrection then Christ has not been resurrected. In other words Jesus is dead. And if Jesus is dead that presents us with a number of other problems which I will summarize in just a moment.
2. If there is no resurrection all the preaching of the gospel is worthless and their faith was worthless. If there was no resurrection then what were they believing in? The total message of the gospel has to be believed.
3. If there is no resurrection then we are guilty of claiming that God has done something that He in reality hasn’t done. Paul says if there isn’t a resurrection then he has in been a false witness against God. Paul and others had been preaching for years that God had raised Christ from the dead, if that wasn’t true they were guilty of mis-representing God.
4. If there is no resurrection, then Christ hasn’t been brought back to life, your faith is worthless, and you are still an unforgiven sinner. They were right back where they started from.
5. If there is no resurrection then all those died believing in Christ haven’t gone to heaven, they are not experiencing the eternal joy of being in God’s presence they have instead perished. Things are beginning to get serious now. The word used here is a strong word. Paul says if there is no resurrection then all those who have died believing in Christ have perished which means more than they have just died, it means that they are experiencing the eternal judgment of God.
6. If there is no resurrection then we (referring to those who do believe in the resurrection) are to be pitied. Paul says if there is no resurrection if believing in Christ only applies to this life then we are pitiful people. Literally the word means “pathetic”. If there is no resurrection then we are miserable people!
Paul has been stacking up brick after brick as he builds his case for the resurrection. So let’s summarize what Paul is saying. “If there is no resurrection then Christ hasn’t been raised. If there is no resurrection then Christ is dead. If Christ is dead, then He is not the Savior. If He is not the Savior then there is no salvation. If there is no salvation there is no forgiveness of sins. If there is no forgiveness of sins then you are still under the judgment of God.” That is the ultimate conclusion of rejecting the resurrection. The good news of the gospel ceases to be good news if the resurrection is not true.
But what if it is true? What if the resurrection is true? Does that mean that I should simply set back and wait to die before the resurrection has any meaning for me? Of should the resurrection impact my life each and every day of my life as a Christian? And if it should impact my life how should it impact my life? Is the resurrection of future benefit only or does it have present benefits as well? My argument this morning is based upon what Paul teaches and that is a resounding YES! The resurrection should have and could have an immediate impact on my life right now. Paul shows us the impact that the resurrection could be having in my life in several verses in chapter 15.
First of all verse 10
"But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. " (1 Corinthians 15:10NASB95)
Then in verse 58
"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord."
(1 Corinthians 15:58NASB95)
What is Paul saying here? Belief in the resurrection impacts how I live my life. The resurrection is not to be a motivation for safe, secure, middle of the road living. The message of the resurrection is a call to live a radically different life. The message of the resurrection is a challenge to risk our lives to invest our lives rather than simply spending our lives. The message of the resurrection is a radical call that says “go ahead and take the risk” “go ahead and make your life count for something”. The message of the resurrection is to break out of the mold of complacency and comfort and to live a life that matters.
I believe that inside each of us, there are times in our lives when we aspire to something more to something better. There are times that we want our lives to count. We see others who have lived a life of service for God who have made a real difference in the lives of others and in those highest and best moments we aspire to that. That’s what belief in the resurrection does for us.
Paul demonstrates this truth for us by relating some of the experiences he had in his life. He uses these things as illustrations of the impacting power of the resurrection. He is not bragging. For instance in verse 30 he says that he was in “danger every hour”; in verse 31 he says “I die daily”; In verse 32 he says he fought with wild beasts at Ephesus. Without getting into the specifics of what Paul means here, at this point it’s enough to say that Paul live a life on the edge. Paul did what others only dreamed of doing. Paul did what so many would even begin to think of doing. Did Paul do these things because he was just so much different than the rest of us? Did he do these things because he was simply a more noble person than you are? No to think those things would be to make a mistake and miss Paul’s point. Paul’s point is that it was his belief in the resurrection that motivated him to do the risky thing, to live life on the edge. The motivating power of belief in the resurrection allowed Paul to endure suffering and hardship that are hard for us to imagine. In addition to the things that we have already mentioned Paul wrote in another place.
"in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. " (2 Corinthians 11:23-27NASB95)
Earlier in this same chapter Paul asks them a question "Why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do! " (2 Corinthians 11:11NASB95)
Paul lived a radical life of risk taking, sacrificial love! Where does this kind of a life come from? It comes from a tremendous confidence in the resurrection. Where would you get the confidence to risk your life, to live a life that is radically different from the majority? The very same place! It is your confidence in the resurrection that will allow you to live a life wherein you take the risk, to love the unlovely. To sacrifice present comfort for future reward, to delay gratification, to endure inconvenience and disappointment; to invest your life in those who can’t repay you. To live this kind of life apart from a firm confidence in the resolution would be to be as Paul says is to live a life in which we should be pitied.
What would this kind of life look like for you and I? The Lord Jesus Himself gave us a picture of the life of one whose life is impacted by the reality of the resurrection. Jesus said in Luke 14
"“But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” " (Luke 14:13-14NASB95)
Did you see it? Jesus says live your life; invest your life in the lives of those who can’t repay you, who have nothing to offer you. But know this you will be repaid. When Jesus when will I be repaid? At the resurrection of the righteous!
What we have been talking about this morning is both a challenge and an invitation. It’s a challenge to those who are here this morning who have been drawn to Christ and your life has been radically changed by Christ as a result of your faith in Him. It’s a challenge to you to live a life that John Piper describes as sacrificial love versus selfish indulgence. Christ is calling you to take the risk, to live an extreme life. To live a radical life to love the unlovely, to serve those who can’t serve you, to help those who can’t help themselves.
It’s an invitation to those of you who have not come to Christ. To those of you who have not made a radically life changing commitment to Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ died and rose again so that you too could live the kind of life that we have been talking about. If you will come to Christ on his terms he will save you, save you from sin, saved from judgment, saved from a life of self-serving indulgence.