Faithlife Sermons

The Relevance of the Resurrection

The Real Jesus  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Today is resurrection Sunday. The day when Christian’s believe that Christ rose from the dead and it’s on that topic that I want to preach to you this morning. My sermon isn’t aimed at the reality of the resurrection but it’s relevance. It is my assumption that those who are listening are not atheist but those who believe in the historical figure of Jesus. Furthermore, I am speaking to those who believe that this historical Jesus did everything attested too in Scripture.
Those who believe to this extent have no issue in the reality of the resurrection but may not altogether see or understand its relevance. My experience has taught me that more people question the resurrection's relevance more than its reality. Many have asked; does it really matter?
First Century believers lived relevant lives because of the relevance of the resurrection. Peter’s first sermon in Acts 2 centered on Jesus and the resurrection. Paul, when preaching to the philosophers on Mars Hill in Athens, preached to them the resurrection. They ridiculed his content calling him a spermologos which means “a guttersnipe”.
1 Corinthians 15:3–5 ESV
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
The resurrection of Jesus is the very heart and core of the Christian Good News.

We should first define "the Resurrection"

What do I mean when I use the word “resurrection”? When President Makarios of Cyprus died in 1977 his followers chanted Markarios lives! He hadn’t risen from the dead but his influence was still living. In Latin America, students often sing a song that Che Guevara called “Che Lives”. In 1899 D. L. Moody said, "Some day you'll read in the papers that Moody is dead. Don't you believe a word of it. At that moment I shall be more alive than I am today." Moody was not talking about having been resurrected. He simply meant he would survive death. So the Resurrection is not just the survival of Jesus.
The resurrection of Jesus is not just his resuscitation. It doesn't mean that, having died, he was brought back again to this life, only to die again. C. S. Lewis expressed his great sympathy for Lazarus, who was resuscitated by Jesus, brought back to this life. C. S. Lewis said it was very hard on Lazarus, because he had to do his dying all over again. But Jesus didn't. We are talking not about his survival, nor about his resuscitation, but about his resurrection. God performed a dramatic act by which he arrested the process of decay, decomposition, and corruption. He rescued Jesus out of the realm of death and that never had happened before and has never yet happened since.
Now that we're clear on what we're talking about, I come back to my question: Is it relevant? Does the resurrection of Jesus make any difference? Let me suggest to you at least three reasons for it’s relevant.

Reason #1 - the resurrection of Jesus assures us of God's forgiveness.

Forgiveness is one of God's best gifts. Karl Menninger, the famed psychiatrist, once said that if he could convince the patients in psychiatric hospitals that their sins were forgiven, 75 percent of them could walk out the next day!
The truth is that all of us have some skeleton or two in a dark closet at home — something we've done or said or thought, of which, in our best moments, we are deeply and sadly ashamed. Our conscience nags us, torments us, condemns us.
Mark Twain, who once said, "Man is the only animal that blushes, and the only animal that needs to." We are ashamed, are we not, of things we've done in the past. Nobody is free who is unforgiven.
Instead of being able to look God in the face or to look one another in the face, we want to run away and hide when our conscience troubles us. Listen closely to me this morning; the good news of Christianity begins with the assurance there is forgiveness with God.
Several times during his public ministry, Jesus said to somebody, "Your sins are forgiven." And in the upper room on his last night on earth, he referred to the Communion cup as his "blood which was shed for many for the forgiveness of sins."
He linked our forgiveness with his death. He taught that he was going to die, burying our sin and guilt and condemnation in his own innocent person in order that we might be forgiven.
How can we know whether he achieved by his death what he said he was going to achieve? How can we know whether God accepted his death as what we call "a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice for the sins of the whole world"?
We know that Christ achieved his forgiveness because he was raised from the dead. Paul is very clear about this. He says,
1 Corinthians 15:17–20 ESV
And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
By raising Christ, God assured us that he approved of what Jesus had done on the cross and that he did not die in vain. On the contrary, his death is the ground on which God is able to forgive all our sins and give us a new life. The Resurrection validates the death of Jesus Christ. The resurrection of Jesus assures us of God's forgiveness today.

Reason #2 - The Resurrection assures us of God's power

The resurrection of Jesus assures us of God's power. I don't know about you, my friends, but I need more than forgiveness for the past. I need power in the present.
I want to ask the question: Is God really able to change human nature? Is it possible for selfish people to be made unselfish? Is it possible for immoral people to be given self-control? Is it possible for cruel people to be made kind, and sour people to be sweetened? Wouldn't it be marvelous if that were possible?
I want to tell you today on this Resurrection Day that it is possible. God has power to change human nature and to change human beings. He has power to transform you and me into the image of Jesus Christ, to make us like Christ.
Paul, in one of his letters, prays that
Ephesians 1:18–20 ESV
having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,
In other words, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the supreme evidence of the power of God in history. That same resurrection power, which God displayed in Jesus Christ when he raised him from the dead, is available to us today.
He can raise us from the death of sin to the life of righteousness. He can raise us from the death of alienation into a life of close, personal communion and fellowship with God.
I'm afraid we are always in danger of trivializing the Christian good news but also always in danger of minimizing what God by his resurrection power is able to do in ordinary human beings like you and me.
We sometimes talk of becoming a Christian as if it were really no more than turning over a new leaf or maybe becoming a little religious or making a few superficial changes to our usual pattern of life. But when you scratch the surface, we are the same old pagans underneath; no real change has taken place.
Friend, I want to assure you that becoming and being a Christian, according to the New Testament, is something far more radical than that, and radical is the right word, because it means going to the very roots of our human being and human personality.
Becoming a Christian is nothing less than a resurrection from spiritual death and the beginning of an entirely new life in the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In a word, the same God of supernatural power who raised Jesus from physical death can raise us from spiritual death and make us alive and alert to spiritual things.
We can know that God can raise us from that death because he raised Christ. He can change us, because he changed Christ.

Reason #3 - The Resurrection assures us of God's ultimate triumph

My assertions concerning the relevance of Christ’s resurrection have been brief but bold. Consider again the magnitude of what I have laid before you.
The resurrection of Jesus assures us of God's forgiveness and of God's power. If that were not enough I now put forth my final assertion concerning its relevance, it assures us of God's ultimate triumph at the end of history.
One of the great differences between the different religions and ideologies of the world concerns their version of the future.
Is there any future? Is there any hope in the future? There are some people who offer no hope at all.
Bertrand Russell once said, "When I die, I believe that I shall rot, and that that is the end."
Then he went on, "All the labors of the ages—the inspiration, the noonday brightness of human genius—are destined to extinction. The whole temple of man's achievement must inevitably be buried in the debris of a universe in ruins."
In other words, there is nothing in the future to look forward to.
Film maker Woody Allen is terrified of death.
He once wrote or said: "The fundamental thing behind all motivation and all activity is the constant struggle against annihilation and against death. Death is absolutely stupefying in its terror, and it renders anyone's accomplishment meaningless"?
So there are many people who have no hope for the future. While others think history is a circle with everything being repeated continuously in an endless cycle of reincarnations.
I want to tell you that Christians, on the other hand, are confident that Jesus Christ is going to come back at the end of history, not in humility and weakness, as in his first coming, but in stupendous power and utter and sheer magnificence.
The second coming of Jesus Christ is altogether beyond our wildest dreams and imagination when he comes in power and glory. And when he comes, he will bring history to an end. He will raise the dead, and he will regenerate the universe, and he will make everything new.
That's the Christian hope: that the whole creation is going to be liberated into the freedom of the children of God.
The groans of nature, Paul writes, at the moment resemble the birth pangs or birth pains of a new order; a new world is going to be born. There's going to be a new heaven and a new earth in which righteousness dwells, and on that day we shall be new people with new bodies in a new world.
Joni Eareckson broke her neck in a diving accident in Chesapeake Bay. In one of her many book she wrote: "I have hope in the future. The Bible speaks about bodies being glorified."
She goes on to say, "I know the meaning of that now. It's the time after my death here when I, the quadriplegic, will be on my feet dancing." We're going to have a new body with undreamed-of powers.
But you say, "Isn't that wishful thinking? Isn't that Christians' just whistling in the dark in order to keep their spirits up?
Is there any evidence for this fantastic assertion that the universe is going to be reborn and resurrected along with us?"
Yes, there is evidence. The evidence is the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
It is the guarantee of the resurrection of our bodies and the regeneration of the universe, because, you see, if I may put it like this, the resurrection of Jesus was the beginning of the new creation of God.
In the resurrection of Jesus, the first bit of the old material order was redeemed and transfigured, and his resurrection is the pledge that the rest of the material of creation is going to be transfigured one day.
So, I conclude, the resurrection of Jesus relevant for you and me. It assures us of God's forgiveness through Jesus Christ, if we put our trust in him.
It assures us of his resurrection power that we can call upon in our lives. And it assures us of God's ultimate triumph in the end, when we shall have new bodies in a new world.
We ought to be able to echo a word of the apostle Peter in his first letter, when he said, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has caused us to be born again into a new hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead."
And I hope, if you don't yet share it, that you will come to share this glorious hope with me and with all other Christians throughout the world.
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