Quest for Life Pt 1

Pastor Terry Inman

3-31-13

 

A quest is a mission or a search. We seem to be on a perpetual exploration of life. We hope to improve its quality and its quantity. We want to live better and we want to live longer. Our search for the fountain of youth keeps driving up the cost of Obama care.

We are not so fond of growing old and we don’t especially like to think about dying. The thought of my decomposition isn’t something that gets me up in the morning. I want to live long and strong and my health plan actually wants me to thrive! 

Built into human consciousness is a quest for immortality.  The bible says God has set eternityin the hearts of men. Eccl. 3:11 (NIV) In the Message Bible, Jesus said, “A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.”  John 10:10 Message 

The most significant benefit of Resurrection of Jesus Christ is salvation. “If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Rom. 10:9. We are rescued from a futile present life and spared a hellish future life.  

The Apostle Paul a lawyer, who wrote much of the New Testament, started his career as a religious extremist. He was bent on eradicating the emerging Jesus movement. After a startling encounter with the risen Lord Jesus Christ he devoted the rest of his life to a new quest; a mission to introduce the life-giving Lord Jesus Christ to the rest of His known world. 

One of his New Testament letters was written to the followers of Christ living in the in ancient Grecian metropolis of Corinth. In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul devotes an entire chapter to a discussion of Resurrection Life. 

Today let’s look at his opening brief in the first eleven verses. 

Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.  

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.  

After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. 

For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve 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 to me was not without effect. 

No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed. 1Cor. 15:1-11 (NIV) 

There are three things this revolutionized lawyer offers in his opening arguments that testify to the validity of the resurrection. First he cites the scriptures. Next, like any good attorney, he presents eyewitnesses. Finally he offers his own personal experience as proof of the resurrection. 

There is an abundance of material in the scriptures testifying to the validity of the resurrection. Paul says, it’s at the core of the gospel. 

I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 1 Cor. 15.1-2 (NIV) 

Apparently there were some folks in Corinth that were refuting the resurrection and maybe some believers were beginning to doubt their beliefs. We need to be reminded of what we believe and why we believe it. 

These new followers of Christ had received and believed the good news of the gospel. They had “taken a stand” for what they believed. If you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything. 

Two things here give us assurance of our salvation: “taking a stand”, and “holding firmly to the word”. I quoted this earlier: “If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Rom. 10:9 (NIV) 

Paul sites the highest authority possible for his testimony. The scriptures. He says they are the first priority. “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures…”  1Cor. 15:3-4 (NIV) 

Now at that time they did not have the New Testament scriptures as we do. Paul is referencing to the Old Testament prophetic passages predicting the Messiah’s death, burial and resurrection. He does not explicitly site them here. He assumes his readers were familiar with them. 

Let me share a couple. Isaiah says, He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. Is. 53:5 (NIV) 

The book of Job is about adversity and the test of a great leader’s integrity. Job lost his family, his wealth and his health. Even his wife and friends accused and abandoned him. Yet he kept the integrity of his faith. He said, “though he slay me, yet will I hope in him.” Job 13:15 (NIV). In the middle of his darkest days he predicts the resurrection. 

I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God.”  Job 19: 25, 26 (NIV) 

Hosea prophesying to the God’s exiled people says, “Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces, but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence.  Hosea 6:1, 2 (NIV)  

The closing verses of the Old Testament paint a vivid snapshot of the healing effects of Christ’s resurrection. 

For you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall. Mal. 4:2 (NIV) 

These are just a few of the ancient scriptures that pre-date Christ’s resurrection by hundreds of years. The best quest for real life is in the scriptures!  Paul also sites eyewitnesses in this opening brief… 

He appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 1 Cor. 15:5-7 (NIV)  

I was reading the gospel accounts of these post-resurrection appearances. No harm intended, but Paul doesn’t mention that Mary was the first to visit the empty tomb. She was overcome; she thought someone had stolen the body. When Jesus first appeared to her she thought he was the gardener. 

John who was there with Peter doesn’t miss any detail he says, the tomb was empty except for the scattered burial clothes and a head covering that was separate and neatly folded. Thieves wouldn’t have bothered with housekeeping. After outrunning Peter to the tomb, the bible says John believed immediately. 

For some of the others it took a little more time and convincing. Most of us are like Thomas. He didn’t take someone else’s word for it. He declared Jesus to be the Resurrected Lord after seeing the scars in his body. 

All total Paul says there were over 500 eyewitnesses in the few days following his resurrection. That’s too many to be having hallucinations. 

Paul’s final testimony in this brief introduction to the Resurrection is from his own personal experience.  “…last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve 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 to me was not without effect.” 1Cor. 15:7.9-10 (NIV) 

Paul like you and I did not meet up with the Resurrected Lord Jesus until after Christ ascended into Heaven. Earlier He was aware of Jesus and the threat he posed to conventional religion. He was even a consenting accomplice to the stoning of Steven, the church’s first martyr. 

His encounter with the Resurrected Lord Jesus Christ was supernatural. He was totally changed by it. He was spiritually resurrected. He became a totally new person. He was chief prosecutor for the Temple authorities. 

On his way to Damascus to arrest followers of “The Way” he was suddenly stopped in his tracks by explosive light. While he was still helplessly face down in the dirt, Jesus spoke to him.  “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied.  “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.   Acts 9:1-10 (NIV) 

There he met a reluctant but brave man named “Ananias” who healed his temporary blindness and gave him his new marching orders. The power of the resurrection changed a prosecutor to a preacher of good news! 

Paul writing to Rome said, “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. Romans 8:11 (NIV) 

We have the scriptures, we have eyewitness, and we have the transformative personal experience of millions of followers of Jesus Christ around the world that shout out, He is Risen!  

So make your decision today to believe in His resurrection and receive your own resurrection. Next week we will see in this same chapter that we are given both a fulfilling spiritual life now and a forever life in the future. Paul even tells us what our resurrected bodies will be like. I hope you will return for the next two installments.

Now please let me lead you in Paul’s affirmation of faith in the Resurrected Lord Jesus Christ. If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Rom. 10:9 (NIV) 

Let’s pray… Jesus I chose to acknowledge you as the Lord of my life. I turn the control of my life over to you. I put my trust in you because you died for me. I gratefully receive your gift of forgiveness.  I believe you were raised to give me new life through your Spirit in me. Lead me in a new quest to discover your purpose for my life. Amen!