Series: Easter 2019
Message – Suffering & Resurrecting with Jesus
Suffering & Resurrecting with Jesus
Easter Sunday is largely focused upon the resurrection of Christ…and rightly so, since Paul said in 1 Cor. 15 that if Christ is not risen then our faith if futile and we are still in our sins. So resurrecting with Jesus IS a foundational doctrine of Christian faith. Without the hope of resurrecting with Him, our faith is worthless.
Let’s turn and read that passage
1Cor. 15:16-26, HCSB “(16) For if the dead are not raised, Christ has not been raised. (17) And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. (18) Therefore those who have fallen asleep in Christ have also perished. (19) If we have placed our hope in Christ for this life only, we should be pitied more than anyone. (20) But now Christ has 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 also comes through a man. (22) For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. (23) But each in his own order: Christ, the firstfruits; afterward, at His coming, the people of Christ. (24) Then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to God the Father, when He abolishes all rule and all authority and power. (25) For He must reign until He puts all His enemies under His feet. (26) The last enemy to be abolished is death.”
But what about us is being resurrected? Is it only our bodies at the end, when Christ returns? Or is there more to it? Paul, in this passage we just read placed a direct connection between being raised and being freed from sins.
As is referenced in the verses we just read, all fell in Adam and so all IN CHRIST will be made alive again. But what is meant by death and life in this context?
I mean, what really died at the fall of man? Well, Adam surely did die a natural death which was made possible because of his rebellion, but physical death did not follow for many years. It wasn’t even the real death – physical death was just a result of a much more serious death.
No, the first thing to die was Adam’s spirit.
Death in that context is to exist in a state of spiritual separation from God.
Which makes perfect sense. Consider the story.
Eve is tempted to consider the words of God given her by Adam in a new context. God had told them not to eat of the fruit of a particular tree. That this tree was a real tree which also represented a spiritual reality is COMPLETELY consistent with EVERYTHING else in scripture. People today attempt to hyper-symbolize the entire story and as allegorical which refocuses the attention from where scripture solidly places it and onto metaphorical things. No, Eve was tempted to reconsider God’s words inside a the suggested context of a God Who was holding out on them, outright lying to them and thereby attempting to hold them back from being all they could be. What was the lie the serpent told her, “You will not surely die for God knows that in the day that you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God knowing both good and evil.” Of course we know that his suggestion contained partial truths, but it was all wrapped up in a package of “protect yourself from God’s deception by taking matters into your own hand and physically test whether or not God’s words are trustworthy. You see, the temptation was away from intimacy and towards control by reliance upon the flesh. Of course, Adam was the one in charge and so all mankind did not fall in Eve they fell in Adam. Eve was deceived – Adam’s sin was worse in that it was with eyes wide open. He chose intimacy with his wife in sin rather than intimacy with God. It was a spiritual treason which resulted in spiritual separation – death! Ever since then mankind has been hopelessly void inside. We lack inner health and connectedness which always leaves us grasping – looking for some sort of security in this world as if it had any to offer. Like David lamented, “My soul clings to the dust – make me alive again by Your Word.”
After the fall, God still communicated with Adam and relate to him on some level it was largely intellectual and superficial. Where there had once been a joint life and experience with God, there was now a gaping hole – a void in his heart filled with separation – an inner sanctum where only God was to reside, but where He could no longer exist…and so it remains in every human heart – a God shaped vacuum which only God can fill.
Salvation then is a to be saved from an existence of separation from God and to an eternal union with Him.
Since separation was instigated by a reliance upon the flesh for information, satisfaction and safety – it is through a departure from allegiance to the flesh that we again enjoy union with God.
2 Cor. 5:17-21 tells us that we have been made new. That the principle part of us as humans – our spirits – are miraculously made alive again once we unite with God through reliance upon Christ Jesus. When we bow the knee to Jesus as the new Lord of our lives we are made alive together with Him and enter into His kingdom.
This kingdom is a spiritual kingdom, as Paul & Jesus attested to. Jesus told Nicodemus “I assure you: Unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. (6) Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit. (7) Do not be amazed that I told you that you must be born again.” [John 3:5-7]
It is our attachments to the things of this world and the fleeting, superficial securities they promise that block the heart against a new birth.
…Paul says something similar to Christ’s words in 1Cor. 15:50, “Brothers, I tell you this: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, and corruption cannot inherit incorruption.”
So when we speak of resurrection we mean two things. For Christ, resurrection was of the body. For us, resurrection is of the whole man spirit, soul & body. And since when we fell we did so by bowing the knee, so to speak, or shifting our allegiance to the flesh, it is by putting to death the authority of the flesh through trust in Christ that we walk in newness of life with Him. Jesus said it this way, using the death of a seed as His example “(24) I assure you: Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains by itself. But if it dies, it produces a large crop. (25) The one who loves his life will lose it, and the one who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (26) If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me. Where I am, there My servant also will be. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.” – John 12:24-26 HCSB
This process of dying that we may have life is where we pick up in Romans 6.
As you are turning there I will quote to you from a recording which the Christian artist Michael Card has of his own grandfather who was an old Carolina preacher. He said, “Verily. Verily I say unto thee, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone. But if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. I hold a grain of wheat in my hand. It is small and hard and narrow and self-contained; and yet at its heart, there sleeps the mystery of life. And that is a parable.”
Rom. 5:20-21, Weymouth “(20) Now Law was brought in later on, so that transgression might increase. But where sin increased, grace has overflowed; (21) in order that as sin has exercised kingly sway in inflicting death, so grace, too, may exercise kingly sway in bestowing a righteousness which results in Life eternal through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Rom. 6:1-23, HCSB “(1) What should we say then? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may multiply? (2) Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it? (3) Or are you unaware that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? (4) Therefore we were buried with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in a new way of life. (5) For if we have been joined with Him in the likeness of His death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of His resurrection. (6) For we know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that sin’s dominion over the body may be abolished, so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin, (7) since a person who has died is freed from sin’s claims.”
You see the scriptures place a direct connection between sin and separation from God (death).
This often reminds me of a particular sect of Buddism named Nichiren Daishonin. It shows up in the music of an 80’s Pop artist named Howard Jones, and one particular song often comes to mind when I am contemplating these truths. It is called Hunger for the Flesh from his 1985 album Dream into Action. The lyrics are these…
Hunger for the Flesh by Howard Jones
Spare a thought for the souls
Who cannot leave this earth
The attachments bind so tightly, not a chance
Not a chance of a new birth
The river gently beckons
But the answer is no
Gripping their illusions
They cannot let them go
Hunger for the flesh
Leads them to a weaker heart
Mortals who imprisoned themselves
Let them have a new start
Wishing to hold onto life and all its games
Singing their lament song
Holding back the change
They came here for to dance
To learn and not to cling
Holding onto life
As if it were the important thing
Hunger for the flesh
Hunger for security
Caught up in the mesh
Caught up for eternity
Hunger for the flesh
Leads them to a weaker heart
Mortals who imprison themselves
Let them have a new start
Let them have a new start
United together – Planted together – similar in experience
“(8) Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him, (9) because we know that Christ, having been raised from the dead, no longer dies. Death no longer rules over Him. (10) For in that He died, He died to sin once for all; but in that He lives, He lives to God. (11) So, you too consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (12) Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, so that you obey its desires. (13) And do not offer any parts of it to sin as weapons for unrighteousness. But as those who are alive from the dead, offer yourselves to God, and all the parts of yourselves to God as weapons for righteousness. (14) For sin will not rule over you, because you are not under law but under grace. (15) What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Absolutely not! (16) Do you not know that if you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of that one you obey–either of sin leading to death or of obedience leading to righteousness? (17) But thank God that, although you used to be slaves of sin, you obeyed from the heart that pattern of teaching you were entrusted to, (18) and having been liberated from sin, you became enslaved to righteousness. (19) I am using a human analogy because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you offered the parts of yourselves as slaves to moral impurity, and to greater and greater lawlessness, so now offer them as slaves to righteousness, which results in sanctification. (20) For when you were slaves of sin, you were free from allegiance to righteousness. (21) And what fruit was produced then from the things you are now ashamed of? For the end of those things is death. (22) But now, since you have been liberated from sin and become enslaved to God, you have your fruit, which results in sanctification–and the end is eternal life! (23) For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The new birth, as you have been taught is NOT simply about avoiding hell and gaining heaven. The new birth is about changing kingdoms, changing allegiances and Lords. It is about becoming a new creation IN HIM.
As we close we are going to take communion.
Steven is going to pass the bread and the juice around and as you take them in your hands remember what I’ve taught you about them.
You know communion both the sacrament of and the word “communion” itself speaks of shared resources, shared experience and shared life.
As we partake of these things which only outwardly symbolize the body and blood of our Lord Jesus, we are NOT partaking of Him, but we are proclaiming that we already HAVE partaken of Him and that we are attesting publicly our union with Him in both death and in life! In dying with Him and in resurrecting to new life in Him. Paul told us that once we have come to Christ we are inwardly compelled by Love and see things this way, “if One died for all, then all died. (15) And He died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the One who died for them and was raised.” 2Cor. 5:14-15
And it is here where Jesus shakes off all those whose love for Him is merely superficial and not committed. In fact, it was in referencing this act of entering into His death, burial and resurrection through the sacraments which represent His body and blood that Jesus in one moment lost the greatest number of His followers. They loved this lower life more than His higher life. They were, in the words of Howard Jones, “Mortals who imprison themselves – clinging on to life as if it were the important thing.” In John 6 Jesus told His followers, John 6:45-66 HCSB “(45) It is written in the Prophets: And they will all be taught by God. Everyone who has listened to and learned from the Father comes to Me– (46) not that anyone has seen the Father except the One who is from God. He has seen the Father. (47) “I assure you: Anyone who believes has eternal life. (48) I am the bread of life. (49) Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. (50) This is the bread that comes down from heaven so that anyone may eat of it and not die. (51) I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever. The bread that I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” (52) At that, the Jews argued among themselves, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” (53) So Jesus said to them, “I assure you: Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life in yourselves. (54) Anyone who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day, (55) because My flesh is real food and My blood is real drink. (56) The one who eats My flesh and drinks My blood lives in Me, and I in him. (57) Just as the living Father sent Me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on Me will live because of Me. (58) This is the bread that came down from heaven; it is not like the manna your fathers ate–and they died. The one who eats this bread will live forever.” (59) He said these things while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. (60) Therefore, when many of His disciples heard this, they said, “This teaching is hard! Who can accept it?” …(66) From that moment many of His disciples turned back and no longer accompanied Him.”
So, take the bread in your hands and see yourself in Him – and dying with Him. As you break it you are proclaiming His death IN YOUR DYING until He returns. This act – like baptism – represents the death not OF your flesh itself, but of it’s ruling power over you. You are no longer subject to it’s cravings and desires. As you take it in, you proclaim your death in Christ.
So now take the cup which represents the New Covenant cut and ratified in and by His blood and see your life in it. As Leviticus says, “The life of the flesh is in the blood and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your SOULS” In the same way that the bread represented the death of the lordship of the flesh and your reliance upon it, the cup in representing His blood also represents your New Life in Him. A spirit and soul made alive in Him. So as you drink it in you are proclaiming a joint experience in His resurrection and His life.
I hope this message will bless you richly…not because I taught it, but because it reveals Christ. He alone is our blessing and if in any way – whether big or small, 100% accurate or even just partially so – I have revealed our great God and Savior to you in a relationally knowable way, then this was time well spent on both our parts.
We at Living Grace Fellowship encourage you to place your trust in Jesus Christ, deliberately choosing Him and bowing the knee to Him as your Master and Lord, so as to come to realize Him as your Savior.
You have a special place in God’s family & kingdom. The fact that you exist… that you are His creation, says you were in His heart, you are His delight!
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