Quest for Life Pt 2
Pastor Terry Inman
I love stories about atheists or agnostics who set out on a quest to refute the reality of the resurrection and in the process discover faith in Christ.
Lee Strobel is now a teaching pastor at Willow Creek Community a mega church in the upscale suburbs of Chicago. He was a tough investigative reporter for the Chicago Tribune. He describes himself as a "former spiritual skeptic".
His two-year quest interviewing leading Christian apologists led him to faith. He tells his story and shares his research in the book “The Case for Christ”. He has also written a sequel, “The Case for the Resurrection”
Strobel says, “It didn’t take long for me to conclude that the truth or falsity of all world religions—and the ultimate meaning of life itself—come down to just one key issue, did Jesus or did he not, return from the dead? The answer to that one fundamental question would settle everything.”
Belief determines behavior. We live out our real values. Belief or non-belief in Jesus’ death and resurrection affects everything else in our life.
The moral relativism of our secularized culture has a belief system, a philosophy at its core. It contends that no one’s beliefs or values are absolute. Truth is a moving target. No one can claim they are right and someone else is wrong therefore we must tolerate everyone’s values.
Last week we began this three-week series, “Quest for Life”, with Paul’s testimony of the Resurrection. In his opening argument in the Corinthian Letter he presents credible evidence from the scriptures, eye-witness accounts and his own experience with the Resurrected Lord.
Today we will see the consequences of belief or non-belief and how this affects our behavior. Paul makes it very clear that failure to believe that the dead are raised leads to fruitless faith and a hopeless life.
Let’s read todays text in 1 Corinthians 15.13-28 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.
And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised.
For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. 1Cor. 15:12-19 (NIV)
So let’s stop there for now. We will look at least six consequences of disbelief in the resurrection. Then we will move on to Paul’s discussion of the positive effects of belief in the resurrection.
First if there’s no such thing as resurrection than Jesus wasn’t raised ether. (v.12-13) Apparently some in Corinth were refuting Paul’s preaching about resurrection. He makes it clear that if resurrection does not happen then it didn’t happen for Christ ether. That put’s every other assumption about Christ, his identity, and his purpose in total jeopardy.
My Father-in-Law, Pastor Roy Blakeley used to say, he’s ether a liar, a lunatic or he’s the resurrected Lord.
C.S. LEWIS a professor at Oxford and Cambridge until his death in the early 60’s is best known by this generation for his fictional classics, “The Chronicles of Narnia.” In his book Mere Christianity Lewis says, “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He’d either be insane or else he’d be the “devil of hell”. You must make your choice. Let’s not come up with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us, He did not intend to.”
Jesus made a bold declaration to his grieving friend Martha who had just lost her brother, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” Matt. 11:25-26 (NIV) Then he backed up his words by raising Lazarus from the dead.
A few years ago Mary and I were in Cyprus speaking at a historic conference for Pastors from mid-eastern closed countries. While we were there we visited Lasarus’ second tomb. After being raised from the dead he later served as the Bishop of Cyprus. Tell him there is no resurrection.
Everything else about our faith rises or falls on the reliably of the resurrection. Paul also says, If Christ wasn’t raised, preaching the gospel is useless, and our faith is fruitless.
The gospel is powerless without the resurrection. “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: Rom. 1:16 (NIV)
According to Paul, if the resurrection is a hoax He’s guilty of perjury. He has given false testimony about Jesus and His resurrection, and he has misrepresented the facts about God.
The affirmation that God is the source of all resurrection is basic to our faith. I mentioned this last week. “If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raisedhim from the dead, you will be saved.” Rom. 10:9 (NIV)
Paul continues with three more disparaging results of disbelief. “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. I Cor. 15:17-19 (NIV)
Without the resurrection of Christ, we are still sinful. We have not received forgiveness. We are condemned. Our departed friends and family are only dust, and our religion is a pointless and pitiful exercise in futility.
In fact he says, we are hopeless and people should really feel sorry for us. Those that call themselves Christians and yet deny the power of the resurrection maybe good humanitarians but they are completely lost.
Now the good news—When we choose to believe in the resurrection there are incredible results in this life and the next. Faith without the resurrection maybe fruitless but trust in the resurrected Christ is fruitful!
Jesus resurrection guarantees ours. Let’s pick this up in verse 20.
But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 1Cor. 15:20-22 (NIV)
“Firstfruits” is a term used frequently in the bible. It was very common in the agricultural mid-east. God’s people were to wave the first sheaves of their harvest as a thanksgiving offering to the Lord.
I just read again in my devotions, Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine. Prov. 3:9 (NIV)
The first pickings are great because if means there’s more to come!
Everything bears fruit after its kind. With Adam in our roots we die, in Christ we produce new life. Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.” Col. 3:1 (NIV)
Now Paul takes the resurrection to another level. For now we have been raised with Christ in spirit, we have been given a new birth. Peter calls it a living hope. “In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hopethrough the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. 1 Pet. 1:3
In addition Christ’s resurrection also assures us of a future bodily resurrection when Jesus returns. Paul says, “Each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.
Each in his own turn can also be translated “each in his own group”. Paul lays out our resurrection sequence in his letter to the Thessalonians.
We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.
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.
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. Therefore encourage each other with these words. 1 Thess. 4:14-18 (NIV)
Now I don’t have the time to go into a full discussion on the timing of all the events connected with the Second Coming, the thousand-year reign, the final judgment and the re-creation of a new heaven and a new earth.
Here in 1 Corinthians Paul’s simply concludes that the resurrection will finally result in Christ’s total victory over every enemy including death.
Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 1 Cor.15: 24-26 (NIV)
The point of Christ’s administrative reign on earth is to hand his father the Kingdom he has subdued through is victorious death and resurrection.
Death will actually be put to death! “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no moredeath or mourning or cryingor pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Rev. 21:4 5 (NIV)
Now here’s our concluding thought from Paul for this week.
He “has put everything under his feet.” Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all. 1 Cor.15.27-28 (NIV)
The point is simply this. Because Jesus defeated our enemy on the cross, because he paid the price for all our sins, and then rose from the dead, he has been given all authority and sovereignty.
He executes this power on behalf of God the Father who is the supreme creator, sustainer and ruler of the universe. In the mean time we pray thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven!
Next week Paul will give us a prevue of what kind of resurrected existence we will have in God’s final kingdom but what is critical now is that we express our believe in the Resurrected Lord Jesus Christ and receive new our life. So I want to conclude with the same verse I mentioned last week.
“If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raisedhim from the dead, you will be saved.” Rom. 10:9 (NIV)