This is Resurrection Sunday. The day that God raised Jesus from death, from the grave, and set the captives, you and me, free. Through Jesus’ resurrection we are free from the shackles of sin, free from the slavery of self, free to walk in the newness of life, to overcome strife, to partake in abundant, even eternal life!
We’ve been studying Romans for many months now and during our study of Romans 14 we came across a disagreement that was going on in Rome. Some folks regarded some days as more important than others and some folk believed that all days were the same. Well, I would have to fall into the first category because I believe that in the history of “days” there is no day like Resurrection Sunday. I think I’m in good company because the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth and underscored the importance of Jesus’ resurrection.
1 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. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. 6 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. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. 9 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. 10 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. 11 Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed. 12 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? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 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. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. (1 Corinthians 15:1-19 NIV)
Throughout the ages critics have attacked it, skeptics have offered their snide remarks, and even some supposed followers of Jesus have doubted it, but the resurrection of Jesus remains the cornerstone of our faith. In the Scripture that we’ve read from 1 Corinthians 15 we see that Paul believed that Jesus’ death and resurrection were of “first importance.” Read along with me beginning in 1 Corinthians 15:3.
3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. (1 Corinthians 15:3-5 NIV)
I can’t stress to you how important it is for you and me to “get” it. We need to understand that apart from Jesus’ death and resurrection we are still nothing more than sinners, enslaved and shackled to the sin that emanates from the very core of our being. Sin is the pandemic problem of the human race. With all of the problems that plague us, both here in the U.S. and around the world, there is no problem that is so overwhelming, so paralyzing, so threatening as sin. Let me explain to you what I mean.
In the Hebrew Bible, what we call the Old Testament, the most common Hebrew word for “sin” is “חַטָּאָה”(chatta’ah). The root word occurs about 580 times in the Old Testament. 580 times! That’s not a random occurrence—that a persistent problem. The basic meaning of the word is to “miss the mark.”
In the New Testament the word most often used to refer to “sin” is the Greek word, “ἁμαρτία” (hamartia). The noun form of the word occurs 174 times in the New Testament, the adjective is found in 47 places, and the verb form occurs another 44 times. For those of you who are counting, that is over 250 occurrences of this one Greek word. If that were not enough to convince you of the pervasiveness of sin, Dr. John Walvoord, who served as the President of Dallas Theological Seminary for many years, wrote an excellent series of articles many years ago called, “Thirty-three Words For Sin in the New Testament.” Dr. Walvoord says that the 33 words are derived from 10 root words and consider sin from every angle. Some of the meanings of the Greek words include, “failing to listen to God, breaking God’s moral law, utter corruption, and rebelling against God.” God takes our sin very seriously and the Bible testifies to this truth.
The baseline meaning of “sin” in the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament is the same; it means “to miss the mark.” You may wonder, “To miss what mark?” If you have ever seen marksmen in a competition then you know that they have their sights set on the bull’s eye. Any shot that hits outside of the bull’s eye misses the mark. In life, God’s will for our lives is the bull’s eye. When we live outside of His will for our lives then we miss the mark. Our missing of the mark of God’s will for our lives is called sin. This is the common ailment of all people. Paul wrote, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God… (Romans 3:23 NIV) In 1 John 1:8 we read, 8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:8 NIV)
Sin is not the problem of the poor or the rich, the educated or uneducated, or the sophisticated or unsophisticated. Sin is our problem. Sin is not the problem of any one ethnic group. It is our problem. Sin is not the fault of our surroundings or environment or those who trip us up or deceive us. Sin is our problem. James wrote,
13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. (James 1:13-15 NIV)
Sin is the product of our own “evil desire.” I’m sure you noticed…sin leads to death. James is not simply referring to physical death. Sin kills relationships. Sin kills possibilities for living life as God intended. Sin kills our hope for life. Sin, left unchecked, begins it’s slow but sure methodical destruction of all that it touches.
In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus was teaching the crowd when He let them know that it was not what goes into a person that makes them unclean–Things like pork and shellfish, foods that aren’t “kosher” for example. Jesus said it is what comes out of us that makes us “unclean” or sinful. In Mark 7:20-23, Jesus said,
20 He went on: “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ 21 For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’” (Mark 7:20-23 NIV)
What do we do with the pervasive plague that comes from our own hearts? Well, the modern scientific mind thinks, “Well, let’s just fix this problem. Let’s head to the lab, put it under a microscope, dissect it, and determine how to remedy the problem.” Science has been able to land a man on the moon, gather pictures from galaxies millions of light years away, map the human genome, and much more, but science will never find a cure for sin. There is only one and His name is Jesus. Paul wrote,
25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. (Romans 4:25 NIV)
The possibility of our fixing the problem of sin is more overwhelming than you or me attempting to jump over the Grand Canyon or swim to the bottom of the Atlantic with nothing more than a mask and fins. What is impossible for you and me has been accomplished by God through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus.
Before Jesus was ever born God had already purposed to deliver those who would trust in His Son. In the first chapter of Matthew we find an angel of the Lord appearing to Joseph in a dream and telling him the good news about the baby to be born to Mary. Turn to Matthew 1:21-23 with me and let’s read together.
21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”–which means, “God with us.” (Matthew 1:21-23 NIV)
“…He will save his people from their sins.” Oh will He ever! It was not simply the birth of Jesus that was foretold, but His death, even the form of His death, was as well. In Isaiah 53:4-5 we read.
4 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. 5 But 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. (Isaiah 53:4-5 NIV)
“He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him…” Before Jesus was ever born God had planned to redeem you and me, to provide a way of reconciliation for each of us, through His Son.
In Psalm 22, about 1,000 years before Jesus was ever born, King David wrote these powerful words.
14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me. 15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death. 16 Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. (Psalm 22:14-16 NIV)
David wasn’t writing about himself, but he was writing about the King of all kings, our King. David ended his Psalm with these words.
29 All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him– those who cannot keep themselves alive. 30 Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. 31 They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn– for he has done it. (Psalm 22:29-31 NIV)
3,000 years after David wrote these famous words, how many “future generations” have been told about the Lord? Those who weren’t born in the days of King David are being told of the King of Glory and the salvation that He has won for those who will trust in Him. What a day to celebrate!
As I mentioned to you earlier, there are some who doubt the resurrection. It’s not logical. It’s the stuff of fairy tales and legends. These folks leave no room for the Sovereignty of God, the power of God, or the miraculous ways of our God. Because of this they put the resurrection of Jesus in the same category as other biblical stories like Noah’s Ark and Jonah and the whale. They can continue their skepticism, but I’ve come to worship today, I’ve come to praise God today, I’ve come to celebrate the resurrection of my Lord and God. He’s alive and I’m forgiven!
These folks have always been around. They are alive and well today, but they were also alive and well in Paul’s day. Paul’s answer to them is found in 1 Corinthians 15:17-19. Read along with me.
17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. (1 Corinthians 15:17-19 NIV)
If the resurrection is merely a metaphor for the new life that we can have in Christ or if it is the stuff of legends like King Arthur and his court then we are still shackled to our sin and without hope in this world. If the resurrection didn’t literally take place then we should dismiss and go for a long walk, but if it did, literally, then everything has changed. Not only are we free from the shackles of sin, not only are we guaranteed that this life is not all there is, but we can experience the transformation that only comes through the resurrection of our Lord. Let me show you what I’m talking about.
In 1 Corinthians 15, as Paul is talking about the death and resurrection of Jesus, he writes about those that Jesus appeared to after His resurrection. In verse 8 he says that Jesus even appeared to him. Then in verse 9, Paul writes,
9 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. 10 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. (1 Corinthians 15:9-10 NIV)
Paul’s life was changed. What was accomplished on the cross and through the glorious resurrection of Jesus redefined Paul’s life. All that once mattered to him lost its value and the proclamation of the Gospel became the passion of his life, the heartbeat of his soul. Paul wrote to the folks in Philippi and said,
10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:10-11 NIV)
Throughout history you can find folks who have experienced transformation through the realization of what Jesus has done for them through His death and resurrection. Most experienced emptiness, weariness, and a sense of being adrift on the seas of life before they came to know Jesus. I mentioned to you that sin is a commonality shared by humanity. I also believe that a sense of alienation, loneliness, and a sense that there has to be more is shared by all of humanity as well. Blaise Pascal, the famous French philosopher, mathematician, and physicist once said, “There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.” No truer statement has been made. Yet, because of our natural inclination to rebel against God we search for something, anything, to fill that emptiness deep in our souls. Jesse Fisher, a beat poet, wrote these words that describe the condition of the human heart.
What is the cure to an infectious disease? What if the symptoms outnumber the leaves on the trees, the sand of the seas? A man that can’t stand is down on his knees. He’s been hurting so hard he can’t even breathe, you see, we cough and we sneeze, we gasp and we wheeze, searching for something that will help us relieve: The pain when we eat, the pain in our speech, our world becomes dark as nothing tastes sweet. So we lie and we cheat, we fight for our keep, acting like wolves we devour the weak. But we’re shepherdless sheep, too nervous to sleep, we act like we’re perfect when we silently weep. Our sinuses bleed with envy and greed–selfish consumption as we consistently feed. We consistently ache, we consistently take pills with names that are fake. Just let me escape! Just let me put all of my faith in things that forsake. If I just lost some weight. If I just were in shape. If I just had a house with a boat on the lake. Cheap thrills move through our body like cold chills. We’ll pay with our credit card these bills. We’re dressed in our best just to look like success but we need to be healed. Our nation is sick with the sin that will lead us to death and we need to be healed. We need a resurrection injection…He was nailed to the cross just to heal our infection. He was beaten and bruised just to heal our deception. He broke the back of depression. He knocked the teeth out of death, gave his last breath, rose up from the grave and said, “You’re no longer slaves, you’ve been freed from your chains, your heartache and pain, just call out my name.” His name is Jesus. (Jesse Fisher)
Apart from a living, passionate relationship with Jesus we know that there is something that is not right. We are not right. Yet, instead of turning to the One who came to heal us and fill our emptiness with His presence we turn to everything under the sun. We try to escape. We try to find the next thrill. We try, try, try but our efforts are in vain. There is no lasting satisfaction available to us outside of the One who said,
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10 NIV)
I believe that you are here this morning because God reserved a spot for you. He knows your heart, the emptiness you feel, the loneliness you endure in a world of 7 billion people, the guilt you bear, the inadequacy you carry around with you like an overnight bag, and He wants to trade you all of these things for a life-changing, life-altering, transformational relationship with Himself.
The behavior modification folks will tell you that you simply need a plan to change your reality. I’ve come to tell you that you need a Savior to change your reality. Won’t you invite Him into your heart this Easter morning and watch Him resurrect your life and transform your reality into something you can’t right now even begin to imagine?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
April 7, 2010