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#37 Choose Life

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CHOOSE LIFE

(A Series on I Corinthians)

Westgate Chapel 3/21/99 a.m.      I Corinthians 15:44b-58

PROPOSITION:  In the grand scheme of things there are only two choices that everyone faces with enormous ramifications...life or death.

I. introduction

-     LEFT to ourselves, we will come up with a theology that will justify the way we want to live.

-     IN the Old Testament days of the Judges it is said of God’s people that “everyone did as he saw fit.” (Judges 21:25)

*     That was the theology of the day.

*     It allowed people to acknowledge their spiritual heritage, to have some semblance of spirituality,  but also to live to please themselves.

*     You, see the human heart is deceitful and wicked, and left to itself will sink to the lowest common denominator...which is where our society is headed fast.

      “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”

*     So, the repeated cry of the prophets in the Old Testament to the people of God was,

      “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live(20) and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.”

-     IN Paul’s day, for some in the church at Corinth, it was called Gnosticism.

-     THE names, faces and circumstances had changed from the days of the Judges to Paul’s day, but the problem of the human heart had stayed the same....only this time they had a theology with a name that justified their actions.

*     This theology, called Gnosticism, separated the material world, including the body, from the spiritual.

*     It provided some exhilarating spiritual highs, and special revelation reserved for the spiritual elite.

*     And, since the material world was nothing, including the body, you could live any way you chose with your body....as long as you had some spiritual experience.

*     The Gnostics denied the resurrection. Their theology said that the resurrection in the New Testament was just spiritual, not literal...and that was a good thing for them, since they lived pretty wild lives.

*     When you were dead, you were dead, and there was no consequence to face, or reward to look forward to for the choices you made on earth, which completely ignored Romans 6:23, which says,

      “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

-     THERE was a group of believers in Corinth who had been caught up in this philosophy.

-     IT is easy to do.

-     WE are all looking for ways to justify our actions, to rationalize to ourselves and others the choices we have made.

-     SO, in the last few verses of I Corinthians 15 (page 1140), Paul narrows the choices for the Corinthians and us in three critical areas.

-     AND the ramifications for the choice you make in these three areas are eternal.

ii. SOULISH OR SPIRITUAL?

-     THE first choice is in verses 44b-49, and it is the most basic....natural or spiritual.

-     YOU have a choice to live your life as a natural person, or a spiritual person.

-     WHAT will it be?

-     VERSE 44b,

      “If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.”

-     THE word that Paul uses here for “natural” is psuchikon, which means a body animated by the soul of man.

*     It is this present life in all of its aspects....not necessarily evil, but of the natural realm.

*     Your desires and dreams.

*     Your ambitions and goals.

*     Your pleasures.

-     BUT this natural body is not designed for eternity. For that you will need a spiritual body.....which will be a real as your natural body.

-     JESUS’ glorified body, after the resurrection, was proof of that.

-     VERSE 45,

      “So it is written: ‘The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam (Jesus), a life-giving spirit. (46) The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual.

-     WE get our natural, living body from Adam. That came first for us.

-     WE receive our spiritual life from Jesus. Jesus told a Pharisee named Nicodemus, that it was called being born again.

      “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” (John 3:3)

-     IN verse 6 of that same chapter Jesus said,

      “Flesh gives birth to flesh (that comes first), but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.(that comes second)”

-     BACK to I Corinthians 15:47,

      “The first man was of the dust of the earth(Adam), the second man from heaven(Jesus).”

-     THIS verse speaks of origin.

-     WE act and live out of our family of origin.

-     THE choice is ours.

-     VERSE 48,

      “As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven.

-     THIS verse speaks of nature.

-     WE act and live out of our nature.

-     THE choice is ours.

-     VERSE 49,

      “And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.” (I Corinthians 15:44b-49)

-     THIS verse speaks of the image that we carry, and the Greek tense conveys the meaning of continually, habitually.....the image that corresponds to the original.

-     THE choice is ours for our family of origin, our nature and the image that we carry.

-     NATURAL or SPIRITUAL?

-     WHICH will it be?

iii. PERishable or imperishable?

-     NOW, the reason that the choice, natural or spiritual, is to critical is found in the next verse.

-     BECAUSE the choice that you make in this life between natural or spiritual will extend to the place you will spend eternity.

-     VERSE 50,

      “I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.”

-     IN other words, you cannot live your life as a natural man, resist the call of God to be born again, and have the stuff necessary to inherit the kingdom of God.

-     IT is that simple.

-     BACK to Jesus’ own words in John 3:3,

      “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” (John 3:3)

-     LET’S move on in verse 51,

      “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep(when Christ comes back there will be believers alive at His appearing), but we will all be changed--(52) in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.

-     THIS is not going to be a long, drawn out affair.

      For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.”

-     WE will have to be changed....because the natural man is not ready for God’s presence.

-     IN I Thessalonians 4:16-17 Paul tells us about the day this will happen,

      “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. (17) After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.”

-     BACK to I Corinthians 15:53,

      “For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. (54) When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ (55) ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ (56) The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.(57) But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” ( I Corinthians 15:50-57)

-     THE choice is natural person or spiritual person?

-     THE choice is eternity in the kingdom of God, or eternity in a burning hell.

-     REVELATION 20:11-15 says,

      “Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. (12) And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. (13) The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. (14) Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. (15) If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”

-     I KNOW it is graphic. I know it is an unpopular subject.

-     BUT the choice is yours.

-     NATURAL -  SPIRITUAL.

-     HELL - KINGDOM OF GOD

iv. vanity or eternity?

-     THERE is one more choice in the last verse of I Corinthians 15, and it has to do with yours and my priorities in this life.

-     VERSE 58,

      “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” ( I Corinthians 15:58)

-     HERE is the choice....vanity - eternity.

-     HOW much of what you are giving yourself to right now is going to pass away...vanity?

-     HOW much of what your family is giving its time and energy to is going to pass away....vanity?

-     THE choice is yours. Vanity or eternity.

-     EVEN if you make it to heaven through faith in Jesus Christ, your sins forgiven, there will still be an accounting that you and I give for our time, our priorities, our investments here on earth.

-     II CORINTHIANS 5:10 says,

      “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”

-     THIS is not the Great White throne of Revelation 20, where the judgment is concerning those whose names are in the Book of Life.

-     THIS is not a judgment concerning salvation.

-     THIS is the believer’s judgment concerning how we lived, what we did with the talents, gifts, resources and opportunities that God has given us to glorify Him.

-     I CORINTHIANS 3:12-14 says of that day,

      “If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, (13) his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. (14) If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.”

-     ONLY one life, it’ll soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.

-     YOUR labor for the Lord will not be in vain.

-     VANITY - ETERNITY.

-     THE choice is yours.

v. conclusion

-     THESE are serious choices.

*     NATURAL - SPIRITUAL.

*     HELL - KINGDOM OF GOD.

*     VANITY - ETERNITY.

-     SOBERING thoughts.

-     FEAR has never been a successful motivator in the things of the kingdom, but I would be derelict in my duty as a pastor if I didn’t warn you of the serious consequences associated with your choices.

-     IT is God’s kindness that leads you to repentance.

-     BUT you need to know that this is not a game.

-     AND you can’t pick and choose your brand of spirituality.

-     IT is either in this book or it is a lie.

-     THE choice is yours.

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