Monday, April 6, 2015

Doubting the Resurrection

(This is the text preached at Orrington Center Church on Easter Morning, April 5th, 2015.)

If there is one thing life teaches us, it is that no one returns from the grave. Someone you love dies, and you have a funeral. Then you travel to the cemetery to bury the body in a grave. That’s the end of it; you never see that person again. The body lies six feet under and decomposes, and it never lives again. That is what life teaches us.

Ah, but does life tell the truth? That is the question. The answer is: Emphatically, NO! Not if you look inside the pages of Scripture because the Bible clearly claims there is life after death. It even offers the resurrection of Jesus as proof positive. You see, the Bible tells us a couple of things, three actually, that I want to share this morning.

First, in John 5:28-29, we read:
28 Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice 29 and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.
The Bible clearly tells us the grave is not the end. Everyone will be resurrected someday. Some will live forever in heaven and some will live forever in hell. Hebrews 9:27 is quite clear and quite final: “It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” Judgment comes after our physical death.

Death is universal, but so is life after death, or should I say a conscious existence since hell is considered a living death. Everyone will have to stand before God and give an account. There is a judgment day someday for all. The grave is not the end, but a transition to eternity.

But how really, do we know that’s true? Well, the Bible says something else. The second thing I want to point out is this: The Bible tells us that one person has been resurrected already, and that person is Jesus Christ. We celebrate that event every year at this time.

When the women went to the tomb to finish the burial process that Sunday morning following Jesus’ crucifixion, they found the tomb empty, and an angel made an announcement. Here’s how Matthew describes it in Matthew 28:1-7:
Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. 3 His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. 4 And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. 5 But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. 7 And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.”
Jesus is one person who rose from the dead to live again, but He will not be the last.

That brings us to the third thing I want to point out from the Scriptures. 1st Corinthians 15:20-22 assures us:
20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.
Because Christ rose from the dead, we shall too. That’s like a guarantee - His resurrection guarantees we will too. His resurrection is described as the firstfruits of ours. That’s like being a fore runner. Just as the first ripening grain heads lead to the full harvest that follows, likewise, the resurrection of Jesus leads to ours. Our resurrection will someday follow.

Obviously, then, what life teaches us and what the Bible teaches us are in conflict. So who do you believe? Do you believe your eyes, or do you believe the Bible? Unfortunately, most people believe their eyes. What we see seems so real, it’s right there in front of us, but what the Bible says – why, we are told we have to accept that by faith. How do we do that when it seems like everything is stacked against faith? After all, don’t the learned people of the world all claim the Bible is just a bunch of myths, that it’s like those fairy tales we used to tell our kids, entertaining for the kids, for sure, but not something anyone over twelve takes seriously?

If that’s what you think, you are not alone. Even the disciples struggled with belief, and it took a lot to convince them. Following the resurrection, for instance, even with the rumors of Jesus walking around talking with people, and even after seeing Him in person, some of the disciples still struggled with doubt at first.

In Matthew 28:16-17, we can see their doubts expressed:
16 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted.
Yes! Some doubted at first. There He is – right there in front of them - but now they won’t believe their eyes, at least not yet. The possibility of the resurrection was too much for them to take in. But they became convinced – convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt - convinced to the point that they were each ready and willing to lay down their lives. If necessary, they would die for their Lord. And all but John eventually did lay down their lives – each dying horrible deaths as martyrs. And John was tortured and exiled to a barren isle in the Mediterranean. They all suffered greatly for their faith, but their faith was a great faith – a faith in the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ – a faith built on solid evidence.

Each of them were transformed from frightened rabbits hiding in their holes to courageous ambassadors for Christ boldly proclaiming the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ as fact and demanding that people everywhere repent of their sins and receive Christ in faith.
John R.W. Stott wrote: “Perhaps the transformation of the disciples of Jesus is the greatest evidence of all for the resurrection.” That makes a lot of sense. Who would die for a hoax? Who would undergo torture and violent death for a manufactured story? And the disciples were the ones that were telling it, and telling it everywhere they went as first person witnesses.

Now, maybe if they were lunatics, it might be plausible they died for a lie, but they weren’t – far from it. As Paul Little asks,
“Are these men, who helped transform the moral structure of society, consummate liars or deluded madmen? These alternatives are harder to accept than the fact of the resurrection, and there is no shred of evidence to support them.”
Of course not. Obviously they were neither liars nor lunatics, but they were fully convinced, and they eloquently preached it, wrote about it, and died for their faith in Christ’s resurrection. They were neither liars nor lunatics. The disciple were the ones who gave us the highest ethical teaching the world has ever known through their writings. Even their enemies gave testimony to their moral character – they lived the life they preached. How could they conspire to all write about, and preach about a lie then die for the lie they manufactured? It makes no possible sense.

No friends, something transformed these disciples from a defeated group of men cowering in fear in their hideouts into a group of people who fearlessly proclaimed the message of the resurrection to the world and who would allow no amount of persecution to shut them up. What could possibly cause this transformation? The answer is, they were transformed by the Resurrection, by the fact that the grave is not the end, that we will live forever somewhere, and the where is determined by the decisions we make in this life. We can follow Jesus to eternal life in heaven or reject Him to our eternal death in hell.

No fabrication foisted upon the world could ever account for the kind of transformation we see in the disciples. But if the Resurrection is true, that would account for it. That could transform them, and us. So, if you have doubts that the resurrection really happened, we can understand – it’s really common. But that shouldn’t be the end of the story because really, there is overwhelming evidence that the resurrection of Christ did in fact happen.

In Acts 1:1-3, Luke gave us this assurance:
The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, 2 until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, 3 to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by (Listen) many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.
“Many infallible proofs” is a legal term indicating the strongest type of legal evidence, the kind that can stand up in any court of law. May I say, the kind you can bet your life on. And these “infallible proofs” need to convince you, if you are one of those who need convincing, that the resurrection is fact, that the evidence demands that conclusion, that the Biblical account of Jesus rising from the dead is absolutely true. So, let the Scriptures and common sense convince you today. Don’t stay a “Doubting Thomas,” but believe, and let that belief fortify your life.

Josh McDowell, in his wonderful book, Evidence That Demands a Verdict, writes this:
“After more than 700 hours of study, and thoroughly investigating its foundation, I have come to the conclusion that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the ‘most wicked, vicious, heartless hoaxes ever foisted upon the minds of men,’ or it is the most fantastic fact of history.”
His point is this: if the resurrection isn’t real, it is one of the most incredibly impressive hoax. But it being a hoax is harder to believe than to believe that it is real and that it is indeed “The most fantastic fact of history.” The simple fact is, the resurrection is exactly what the disciples claimed it was from the very first.

On the day of Pentecost, as the church was given birth, Peter stood up and preached the very first sermon. Peter’s sermon on Pentecost centered on the resurrection. Rather than avoid a shaky speculation, he boldly proclaimed an unshakeable fact. Acts 2:22-24 records a part of his sermon:
22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know—23 Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; 24 whom God raised up (Raised up from the grave. Raised up out of death), having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.
How could death hold Him? Death was the penalty for sin, but He never sinned, so God raised Him from the dead. The Old Testament promised He would not see corruption. Acts 2:25-27 records the prophecy as it quotes from Psalm 16:8-11:
25 For David says concerning Him:
‘I foresaw the LORD always before my face, for He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken.
26 Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was
glad; moreover my flesh also will rest in hope.
27 For You will not leave my soul in Hades, nor will
You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.
“Corruption” means the decomposition of the grave. No other religious group has ever made that claim before that their founder was alive. None of the early accounts of Buddha’s death made any mention of a resurrection. Buddhism doesn’t even offer resurrection. In fact, the account stated that when Buddha died, it was “with the utter passing away in which nothing whatever remains behind.” Mohammed died at the age of 61 on June 8, 632 A.D. His tomb is still in Medina, in Saudi Arabia, and thousands of Muslims make pilgrimages there every year. But Christ’s tomb is empty.

How do I know? One simple way is this: If you wanted to check if Buddha had been resurrected, just go to his grave to see if he is still there. “Yup, still there!” And you can do the same with Mohammad. His tomb is still occupied. But Jesus’ tomb is empty.

Did you notice in the Gospel accounts that no one jumped up and said, “Oh, you guys claim a resurrection. Let’s just go have a look in the tomb.” No one did. Why not? They all know Jesus was gone. It was common knowledge across Jerusalem. As Fairbairn states, “The silence of the Jews speaks louder than the voice of the Christians.”

This was the time to destroy the rumors of the resurrection, and they would have if they could have. How simple – just produce the body; but they didn’t. They came up with some cockamamie story about the body being stolen that nobody believed even then. But they never explained how a frightened, rag-tag band of disciple could overpower the Roman guard at the tomb, or why the guard wasn’t executed for their dereliction of duty. Remember? The authorities knew Jesus had promised to rise from the grave so they placed a large contingent of Roman troops at the tomb to assure that it didn’t happen.

Nor did they ever mount any door to door search to find the body. They just bribed the guards to lie. Just looking at their actions is plenty of evidence that Jesus rose from the grave just as the Bible says because producing the body would have caused Christianity to be still-born. But they could never refute the empty grave.

Even more important, there were numerous sightings of the resurrected Jesus for a period of forty days. Paul makes a list of them in 1st Corinthians 15:3-8:
3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. 7 After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. 8 Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.
These people who had seen Jesus alive with their own eyes, they were still around. They could’ve been called in mass to give testimony. The accounts were well known, the people well known, and the eye-witness testimony was irrefutable.

This is why, when Peter preached about the resurrection on the Day of Pentecost and accused them of having called for His crucifixion in Acts 2, they were cut to the heart. Acts 2:37 says, “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’”

And Peter told them exactly what they must do. Acts 2:38 – “Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.”

These people experienced genuine repentance brought on by their obvious guilt. They knew all about the crucifixion. Many of them had been part of the throng calling for Christ’s death. And they knew the grave was empty – they’d heard all the accounts. Now Peter had explained the significance. It was all by God’s eternal plan. Christ was the sacrificial lamb offered to atone for the sins of man. The death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord was all God’s eternal plan, necessary to purchase our salvation.

As 1st Peter 1:18-19 says:
18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold . . . 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.
As we draw to a close, what can we conclude? Let me tell you what one man concluded. He is Simon Greenleaf, the Royal Professor of Law at Harvard University. One of his most famous works is entitled, A Treatise on the Law of Evidence. It is still considered the greatest single authority on legal evidence in the entire literature of legal procedure. Here is what he wrote of the accounts of the resurrection as proposed by the disciples:
“Propagating this new faith, even in the most inoffensive and peaceful manner, they could expect nothing but contempt, opposition, revilings, bitter persecution, stripes, imprisonments, torments, and cruel deaths. Yet this faith they zealously did propagate; and all these miseries they endured undismayed, nay, rejoicing. As one after another was put to a miserable death, the survivors only prosecuted their work with increased vigor and resolution. The annals of military warfare afford scarcely an example of the like heroic constancy, patience, and unblenching courage. They had every possible motive to review carefully the grounds of their faith, and the evidence of the great facts and truths which they asserted; and these motives were pressed upon their attention with the most melancholy and terrific frequency. It was therefore impossible that they could have persisted in affirming the truths they have narrated, had not Jesus actually risen from the dead.”
Did you catch his conclusion? “It was therefore impossible that they could have persisted in affirming the truths they have narrated, had not Jesus actually risen from the dead.”

So, what does the evidence force us to conclude? Jesus actually rose from the dead. And if Jesus did, what did Scripture also promise? That He was the firstfruit guaranteeing that we too will be resurrected.

This is what the true church has always believed and always affirmed. The earliest creed adopted by the church was the Apostle’s Creed. I want to read it to you:
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; the third day He arose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit; the Holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. Amen.
This is what the church has always believed. Is it what you believe? According to Romans 10:9-10:
9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
If so, if Jesus really rose from the dead, can you trust Him with your life? The answer should be, YES!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Quit Your Complaining!

Philippians 2:14
Do all things without complaining and disputing.
Ah, the minor themes that keep appearing in the book of Philippians. Last time it was the theme of our Christian walk. Today, it is the theme of our unity. It was a problem in the church at Philippi. It’s a problem at our church in Orrington. For that matter, it is a problem in every church in every city because it’s a universal problem with people. People just can’t seem to get along. We all want our own way, and we’ll fight to get it. If we can’t, we’ll grumble and complain to everyone we see. We’ll spread our ill-humor everywhere we go. We’ll make every meeting a battle.

Not even Christians can seem to get along. Yes, even us. We are way too much like the world around us. We’re all too filled with self-centeredness and selfishness, caring only about our feelings and our desires. We want what we want when we want it - no matter what. And that’s just plain wrong. Unfortunately, it is also human nature, meaning our inbred, sin nature - a nature we need to learn to overcome.

Paul first touched on the topic in Philippians 1:15 where he reported that, “Some indeed even preach Christ from envy and strife.” Really? They even preach Christ from wrong motives? Apparently! Then, he laid out their motives in verse16, “The former preach Christ from selfish ambition.” They were selfishly trying to push themselves to the front of the line, to the top billing, to the most prestigious venues and time slots where they could receive the adulation from the masses they crave.

But Paul challenged that attitude. He urged them in Philippians 1:27,
“Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”
Conduct worthy of the Gospel is conduct that maintains unity working together to proclaim the Gospel.

But then in chapter 2, he tells us how to have that unity.
Philippians 2:2-4,
“Fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”
Unity is critical to the life of a church, and it’s easy if we all have the mind of Christ - if we look out for each other, not just ourselves.

But, what destroys unity? “Complaining and disputing” do, grumbling and divisiveness do. So what does Paul tell us? “Quit it! Quit the complaining and disputing! Stop your grumbling and arguing!”

That’s what he says in Philippians 2:14, “Do all things without complaining and disputing.”

“Complaining,” or grumbling, as it’s put in the NAS, is discontented muttering. It’s that under your breath stuff that kids try to pull as they walk away from you after you’ve reprimanded them. “Grumble, grumble, mutiny, mutiny.” They mutter their complaints just loud enough that you know they’re saying something, but not loud enough for you to hear what is said. But you know they are angry and complaining. Or it’s the whining they do that is so irritating and gets on your nerves. Just the pitch is enough to set your nerves on edge. It’s just using a different tactic to express their displeasure.

Isn’t it amazing that adults do that too? Yes, even “Christian” adults within a church. But Paul tells us, “Don’t do that!” And where does this grumbling take place most? Anywhere that an ear will listen, but usually behind the back of the one it’s directed at.

Let me give you a couple of examples. Back before we were in the ministry, we attended a church in an eastern city. A middle aged lady had always put on the mother-daughter banquet, but she said she was too tired that year. The pastor asked us, my wife and I, to host the banquet, and we agreed. Then the grumbling started. “How could we hurt dear _____ so? She’s always done the Mother-daughter banquet. She’s heartbroken that she isn’t doing it.” So, even though this lady had said she didn’t want to do it in the first place, that’s not the story she told everyone else. So we backed off and let her take over as head of the banquet committee even though she never lifted a finger to help. But she got all the accolades for a great banquet. Her grumbling worked.

Another time, at a church in Michigan, at another banquet, one of the ladies was setting the table and putting the plain white napkins on. She was told that special napkins had been purchased, and could she please use those. She did, without saying a word. But about a week later, someone told us she was really angry. How did our informant know? Because she’d heard it from Sally, who heard it from Sandy, who heard it from . . . back about six different links in the gossip chain. That’s grumbling and complaining in all the wrong places. It’s so common. That’s why Paul says don’t do it. It destroys the unity of the church.

“Disputing” is out loud, ill-natured, direct arguing. It is directly challenging an authority’s decision, and doing so in a way that stirs up the suspicion, distrust, and doubt of others. It is designed to not only challenge the decision, but challenge the authority of the one who made the decision. “What right do they have?” they ask. “They can’t get away with a decision like that. They didn’t consult me.” They don’t realize that God has established Biblical authority within a church, and we all can’t get our own way.

In truth, none of us should get our own way. We should all be lining up behind God’s way, behind God’s will. Rather than “complaining and disputing,” here’s what we should do:
1st Thessalonians 5:12-13 tell us:
12 And we urge you, brethren, to recognize (or appreciate in the NAS) those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves.
We should appreciate those who are over us, not grumble and complain against them. Again, this destroys the unity of a church.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Tapping In to the Power of God

Philippians 2:12-13
12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
Paul encourages you to “work out your own salvation.” Last time, we said that we can’t work for our salvation – salvation is offered as free gift of grace that must be received by faith. Rather, you are to work on our salvation – meaning to start living your life like a saved person should. Unfortunately, few who claim the name of Christ really do. Can you imagine how they will feel someday when they have to stand before Christ and give an account?

1st John 2:28 says, “And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.” There will be a lot of Christians standing red-faced embarrassed before Christ in judgment because they wasted their lives in the wrong pursuits, because they chased hard after sin instead of hard after God. Can you imagine the look of disappointment and hurt on Christ’s face as He examines their lives? And they claimed to be His, to be His servants, His disciples, but they lived more like they belonged to the devil. Don’t let that be you. Rather, wouldn’t you want to stand before Christ and hear Him say, “Well done, My good and faithful servant.”

1st Corinthians 3:10-15 records that scene. The scene is the judgment seat of Christ in heaven. Only believers are there, the one’s saved by faith in Christ. They will be there to have their lives examined intimately to determine their reward. All the lost will await judgment at the Great White Throne where they will be consigned to eternal hell because of their sin, the sin they refused to bring under the cleansing blood of Christ. And that’s an entirely different scene. This one is just for believers. The Judgment Seat of Christ for believers – for saved people - and it is described in 1st Corinthians 3:10-15:
10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. 11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
A lot of Christians will watch as the things they’ve labored for all their lives are burned in the fire of judgment because they were found to be worthless to eternity. This is the importance of working out our salvation.

Too many Christians ignore what Jesus said in Matthew 6:19-21:
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
A lot of Christians will have some pretty skimpy bank accounts in heaven having had to leave our earthly ones behind. So we better be working on sending our treasures on ahead.

2nd Corinthians 5:9-10, a related passage, says:
9 Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

You want all the reward you can get, don’t you? Than you’d better work out your own salvation.

But, it’s not just for heavenly reward we do this. It makes a big difference in this life on earth too. We will live a more joyous, fuller, and more beautiful life on earth, a life that is truly worthy of a Christian, If we put the effort into this.

Chuck Swindall tells us one way to look at this:
“When a musician has a fine composition placed before her, that music is not the musician’s masterpiece; it is the composer’s gift to the musician. But it then becomes the task of the musician to work it out, to give it sound and expression and beauty as she appliers her skills to the composition. When she does, the composition reaches its completed purpose and thrills the hearts of her listeners.”
Chuck is basically saying that God has given us the gift of life, and he has laid out the plan for that life, but it is up to us to live that life, to give it feet, to make it beautiful like Christ’s. God wants our lives to become a beautiful masterpiece. Remember?

We’ve covered this a number of times. God has a plan for our lives. God’s plan involves becoming like Christ – it involves our Christian maturity. He wants us to become like His Son Jesus. That’s going to take a lot of work, so God expects us to work hard. He expects us to give it our maximum effort. He expects us to give it our all.

And after all, we have Jesus as our example, don’t we? We know what target we are shooting at. We’ve just studied that. We were told to have the mind of Christ, and we were told what that mind was like. It was willing to be humbled even to the point of death on the cross. So that’s it? Just be like Jesus? Just think like Him?

Yeah, right! That target is just a little too high. Jesus Himself said in Matthew 5:48, “Be ye therefore perfect even as you father in heaven is perfect.” And Jesus was - Jesus was perfect. But how can we ever be? We can’t even get close. Mark Twain said it well, “Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.” Sure, it is easy to say follow Christ’s example, but how? We aren’t able to do that in and of ourselves, no way! But there is an answer.

Think of it this way: Have you ever tried to teach a little kid to bat? You tell them how to stand, and how to hold the bat and swing, and how to keep their eye on the ball. But it just doesn’t seem to work - not until you come up behind that child and reach around them and put your hands over theirs and help them swing. That’s what a good parent does, what a good coach does. That’s also what we need from Jesus.

And amazingly, that’s exactly what Jesus does for us. He superintends His power over us. But even more so, because Jesus doesn’t just come up behind us to help us learn how to swing, He actually comes into us to live within us so that he can live through us. Jesus loves us enough not to leave us alone to live our lives.

As Warren Wiersbe says:
“Perhaps the thing most annoying about a good example is its inability to accomplish the same achievements in our lives. Admiration for a great person can inspire us, but it cannot enable us. Unless the person can enter into our lives and share his skills, we cannot attain to his heights of accomplishment. It takes more than an example on the outside; it takes power on the inside.”
Yes! Yes! Yes! That’s it! We don’t have to do this alone. We have the indwelling power of Christ’s Spirit living within us. As we looked at before, Paul stated in Galatians 2:20, “Christ lives in me.” He doesn’t just set the pattern before us and say, “Good luck to you, have at it.” He indwells us to give us the power to live this Christian life. That is what makes it possible.

Do you see that there is a partnership here? We have a part to play and God has a part to play. We work out our salvation, and God works in us on our salvation. Our part is to gut it out, grit our teeth and get to work. But God is also at work in us, and He is the one who supplies the power.

To understand this: For the longest time as an adult, I didn’t own a power screw driver. When doing a project, I would have to screw all those screws in by hand, and that was a real pain in the . . . hand. It was tough work, especially on a big project. My hand would cramp up, and some screws would strip and wouldn’t go in. But then, my wife bought me a power screw driver. The power was provided by a battery.

That’s a real poor example, and it doesn’t do justice to what God does. But He provides the power to our lives when we try to work out our salvation. He’s like the battery, but so much better.

When it says in Philippians 2:13, “For it is God who works in you,” the word for “work” is the Greek word energeo. We get our English word, energy, from it. God provides the energy for us. When He asks us to obey, He gives us the power to obey. When he asks us to serve, He gives us the power to serve. The power is the very power of God, and that’s exactly what we need.

2nd Peter 1:3 says, “As His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue.” His power is all it takes. It gives us the victory in achieving godliness. It gives us the power to live for Christ.

But, remember? I said this was a partnership? Philippians 2:12-13 says, “Work out your own salvation . . . for it is God who works in you.” You work and God works, and together, you can make beautiful things of your life.

Paul repeatedly stressed that partnership. In Romans 7:18, he admitted the impossibility of accomplishing anything on his own. The verse says: “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.” It certainly isn’t within any of us. It is all by the grace of God.

In 1st Corinthians 15:10. Paul wrote, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” He is what he is totally by God. But that only made him work all the harder. But it wasn’t him, it was God at work in him.

But, listen, if you don’t work, God doesn’t work. If you don’t turn the screw driver on, power won’t flow from the battery. Nothing will happen. But if you turn that screwdriver on, you can accomplish a whole lot.

God has given you the task. He expects you to step out in faith, and then He supplies the power to accomplish it. And what power that is. Ephesians 3:20-21 says:
20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
If you make the attempt, a good faith attempt, you will be overwhelmed by what God accomplishes in you. But unless you try, you’ll never know. Unless you give it your all and get to work, you’ll never become the Christian God wants you to become. It all begins with you.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Every Knee Shall Bow and Every Tongue Confess

Philippians 2:9-11
9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Who are these people worshipping Jesus? It sounds universal. It’s not happening now, nor has it ever happened since the curse, so it has to be at some time in the future; perhaps during the Millennial Kingdom, but at least at the Great White Throne Judgment.

So those in heaven have to be the good angels and all those who have died in Christ and have already gone to heaven because of their faith. Those on earth would be all who are alive at that time. But those under the earth? Who are they? People say that those under the earth are the devil and his demonic hordes. Yes! That would be true. But, those under the earth has to also include those who died apart from Christ. They are the lost who were judged for their sin and consigned to hell.

Harry Ironside writes:
“The lost will never be reconciled. Heaven and earth will eventually be filled with happy beings who have been redeemed to God by the precious blood of Christ . . . . But under the earth will be those who have their part in the outer darkness, the lake of fire. They flaunted Christ’s authority on earth. They will have to own it in hell! They refused to heed the call of grace and be reconciled to God in the day when they might have been saved.”
So the lost sinners are consigned to hell. But, even in hell, they must recognize the Lordship of Christ. Every knee and every tongue means every knee and every tongue without exception. The entire universe will declare that Jesus is Lord. That has been God’s purpose from the beginning. God wanted to exalt His only begotten Son.

But now here is the real thriller. Look at what Jesus promises in Revelation 3:11-12:
11 Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. 12 He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.
Wow! Jesus shares with us His glory. He shares with us His name. He’s going to write on each of us His own name. When Jesus redeemed us, it wasn’t just to spare us from the penalty of our sin. It wasn’t just to keep us out of hell. It was to share with us His exaltation! That is the payoff of the Christian life. We will be exalted with Jesus.

But never forget: Jesus is our Lord too. Acknowledging that is part of our salvation. We are the willing who bow at the name of Jesus and confess that He is Lord.

Romans 10:9-10 declares:
9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
W.H. Griffith Thomas, a cofounder of Dallas Theological Seminary, wrote:
“Indeed the Lordship of Christ over the lives of His people was the very purpose for which He died and rose again. We have to acknowledge Christ as our Lord. Sin is rebellion, and it is only as we surrender to Him as Lord that we receive our pardon from Him as our Savior.”
That is God’s truth! Jesus Christ is Lord so we must obey Him. We must live lives that are surrendered to Him - to His will, to His Word. But it is so worth it. If you are a believer, you will have the glorious privilege of spending eternity in praise and worship of our Lord.

Johnson Oadman Jr., wrote a hymn, and the chorus begins this way:

“Holy, holy is what the angels sing,
And I expect to help them make the courts of heaven ring;
But when I sing redemption’s story, they will fold their wings,
For angels never felt the joys that our salvation brings.”
We have a special reason to praise Jesus. He saved us from destruction. He saved us from our sin.

But, be careful about calling Jesus your Lord, if He isn’t.
Matthew 7:21-23 shows Jesus’ response to those who don’t:
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
He’s not your Lord unless you obey Him.

But, do you see the flow of this passage? Jesus humbled Himself by coming from heaven to earth only to be exalted by His Father in heaven, and restored to even greater glory - all because He came to redeem us.

In his book, Miracles, C.S. Lewis wrote:
“In the Christian story, God descended to re-ascend. He comes down; down from the heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity . . . But He goes down to come up again and bring the whole ruined world up with Him. One has the picture of a strong man stooping lower and lower to get himself underneath some great complicated burden. He must stoop in order to lift, he must almost disappear under the load before he incredibly straightens his back and marches off with the whole mass swaying on his shoulders.”
Isn’t that what Jesus did? He came to earth to rescue us so that He could take us to heaven with Him. There we will join the throng of heavenly host exalting God’s Son as Lord. But, you will only be a part of that joyous throng if you now, on earth, receive Him in faith and confess Him as Your Lord.

Have you? Will you be part of that heavenly throng? Or will you be those who are forced to bow in hell with no chance to rectify your eternal decision. Trust Jesus now! Receive Him today as your Lord and Savior!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Payoff of Humility

Philippians 2:9-11
Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Christ humbled Himself, even to the point of death. But why? Because He looked beyond the pain and humiliation of the cross to see the exaltation on the other side. Because of His willingness to humble Himself, God exalted Him.

How did the Father exalt His Son? The first step was the resurrection. When mankind had its final say by burying His body, God took over, and raised Him from the dead. Our bodies will also be raised and glorified someday.

Following the resurrection, Christ ascended into heaven where He is seated at the right hand of God the Father where He holds all the power of deity in His hands. He told His disciples in Matthew 28:18 - “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”

William Hendrickson writes:
“As King, having by His death, resurrection, and ascension achieved and displayed His triumph over His enemies, He now holds in His hands the reins of the universe, and rules all things in the interest of His church.”
Part of that authority is the right to judge. Jesus said in John 5:22-23 –
22 For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, 23 that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.
The one who saved us is the one who judges us

A great summary passage would be Ephesians 1:19-23,
19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power 20 which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. 22 And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
Do you see? What God did was restore to Jesus everything that he emptied Himself of to come to earth, In John 17:5, in Jesus’ prayer to His Father, He prayed: “And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” Everything He’d given up to come to earth was returned to Him, plus even more exaltation is given Him because of all that Jesus accomplished on the cross.

In Revelations 5:11-13, the scene is in heaven during the Tribulation time, and the throngs of heaven are worshipping the Son – Jesus Christ:
11 Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!” 13 And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: “Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!”
His exaltation in heaven, because of the cross, exceeds His exaltation before He came. Not that there is any difference in His God-hood except that now He has redeemed a throng of people who are now His. Now the redeemed can join in His exaltation.

But specifically, back to our passage: mankind giving Him a name of scorn and ridicule, God gave Him a name that was highly exalted. Philippians 2:9 reads, “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name.”

What name? I guess we aren’t specifically told, but we can figure this out. Jesus was given the name Immanuel in the Old Testament. Isaiah 7:14 reveals, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” Immanuel means God with us, and refers to the incarnation.

Then when the angel came to Joseph in Matthew 2:20-23, we read:
20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”
Jesus means savior. Because Jesus was Immanuel, God with us, He could be Jesus, our savior. And as the next verse says (Supplying immediate context) we read:
Philippians 2:10-11 - “That at the name of Jesus [that’s the name] every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess [Confess what?] that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
His name is Jesus, and He is Lord. All creation will bow before Jesus and confess that He is lord. The whole universe will worship Jesus, some willingly and some by compulsion. But worship they will. Lord is a title of majesty, honor, authority, and sovereignty. This Jesus, who was born of a virgin and laid in a manger; who was rejected by men, and crucified - this Jesus is Lord; He is king of Kings, and Lord of Lords; He is master of all He created, and He demands to be obeyed as Master.

God had promised that this would happen. He promised it all the way back in Isaiah 45:23, “I have sworn by Myself; The word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness, And shall not return, That to Me every knee shall bow, Every tongue shall take an oath.”

Jesus will one day be acknowledged as the Lord of the Universe by everyone. He humbled Himself to become a man and die on the cross so that He could be exalted by His Father God to supreme position in the universe – King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Do you bow before your sovereign?