RESURRECTION SUNDAY

The resurrection of Jesus is the focal point of the Christian faith. Many in the course of history have tried to disprove the fact of Jesus being raised from the dead. If the resurrection did not happen as told, then our faith is useless and we are fools.

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This is Easter Sunday, the day we celebrate the arrival of the rabbit who lays eggs.

While that may be somewhat funny, or even sacrilegeous to some, we need to realize that even as Christmas has its imaginative fables and characters, so also does Easter.

There is nothing wrong with those, but let us not forget the real reason those stories came to be.

Easter Sunday is the day Christians celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the focal point of the Christian faith, as Paul writes in our Scripture Lesson today.

And if our hope in Christ is only for this life,
we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.
1Co 15:19

Paul was handling arguments against the resurrection, as there were some who doubted its veracity then—just as there are now those who doubt.

He pointed to the fact of people giving their lives for the resurrection when he made this statement.

Obviously, if there is nothing beyond this life, then our hope and belief is ridiculous.

Many have tried to prove that the Christian claims have no basis.

In the 1700’s there were two young intellectuals who were both lawyers and both rejected the claims of Christ.

One day in a conversation they concluded that Christianity stood on two foundations: the resurrection of Jesus and the conversion of the apostle Paul.

Should these two stories be disproved, the rest of Christianity would fall with them.

One agreed to write a book disproving Jesus’ resurrection and the other agreed to write a book disproving that Paul was converted by hearing a voice from heaven.

No problem, they thought. But when they got together to share their progress reports, they each had to confess that the evidence was winning them over to the other side.

In fact, when it was all over, there were two books: Lord Lyttleton’s The Conversion of St. Paul and Gilbert West’s book, The Resurrection of Jesus Christ, arguing that the resurrection is a fact of history.

This is also what happened to Josh McDowell who wrote “Evidence That Demands a Verdict.” He set out to disprove Christianity, but instead became convinced of its reality. His book still ranks in the top 25 all time for Christian books.

Our faith is built upon the fact of the resurrection of Jesus which we celebrate today.

As Paul said, if it were only in this life that we had hope, we would be the greatest of fools.

However, because the resurrection is a fact of history, our faith because of it has powerful effects.

The resurrection does impact this life and also our life beyond this physical plane.

The resurrection declares that Christ’s sacrifice was accepted

(Jesus), who was delivered up for our trespasses
and raised for our justification.
Rom 4:25

Notice how His death and resurrection are linked together. Both were necessary.

His death was caused by us, but His resurrection affects us and is the basis for our justification.

Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men,
so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.
Rom 5:18

We have spoken before about the fact that His one act of righteousness has the same effect as Adam’s one sin

The effect of Adam’s sin extended to the entire human race.

The effect of Jesus’ one act of righteousness also extends to the entire human race.

The effect of Adam’s sin was not something potential, depending on our choice. We did not choose to be in Adam and to suffer his results.

The effect of Jesus’ one act of righteousness is also not something only potentially waiting for man’s choice.

Right now, though, we want to focus on the word “justification.” What is justification?
JUSTIFICATION
the act of God declaring men free from guilt and acceptable to him

Because of Jesus, God has declared us free from the guilt of our sin and made us acceptable in His sight.

If there were no resurrection, being born again would not be possible.

Being born again is a result of the resurrection.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
1Pe 1:3

The resurrection makes the new birth possible. Death cannot give life. The cross secured atonement, but it takes a living Savior to apply salvation.

Our new birth is dependent upon the resurrection of Jesus.

Our being made free from the guilt of our sin is dependent upon the resurrection of Jesus.

Our being able to stand freely before the Father is dependent on the resurrection of Jesus.

Otherwise,

…if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 1Co 15:17

Yes, the resurrection of Jesus from the tomb is a marvelous thing.

It was scary for those who first encountered it.

However, as the word of this miracle spread throughout the land and down through the ages, His resurrection has become the cornerstone of our faith.

And as we mark this event today, it is a cause for great joy among all God’s people.

And that is why we call it a celebration.

Today we celebrate the fact of a risen savior, Jesus Christ our Lord.

DEAD AND ALIVE

How wide, how deep, how high, how far does the love of God reach for His creation? Many have tried to plumb the depths of His love and have come up with answers that seem to keep many people out of God’s reach. How can a finite being such as a human possibly know the full expanse of the infinite? Maybe God is not the ogre many have portrayed Him to be.

GOD

IS

LOVE

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Today’s readings from the Psalms (Ps. 32:1-2), the epistles (2 Cor. 5:16-21) and the gospels (Lk. 15:11-32) all blend together to form a beautiful tapestry.

The psalm said that the one whose sin is forgiven is blessed. The scripture lesson said the one whose sin is forgiven is a new creature. The gospel reading said we didn’t even get a chance to ask for forgiveness.

Because there is so much in each of these readings, all I can do at this time is to give you a brief overview of the expansive love and mercy of God for us.

His love and mercy shown in these passages is so grand, so expansive, so far-reaching that I could not come up with a decent title for this message.

So, it is simply DEAD AND ALIVE; but it is all about God’s love.

I have spent time on this concept in weeks past, but it is something that continues to show up in the passages suggested in the Lectionary.

Maybe that’s because that is what the Bible is all about—God’s love for His creation.

Let’s begin with the first reading from Psalm 32.

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
Psa 32:1-2

Notice the three words used for sin in this passage—transgression, sin and iniquity.

While we usually just associate them as synonyms for sin, they each have a slightly different meaning.

SIN = missing the mark  

INIQUITY = bending the line  

TRANSGRESSION = stepping over the line

What we see here is that in any way you want to define sin, it is covered in this passage.

AND, it is covered by the Lord in the grace and mercy of His forgiveness.

David is saying here that the one for whom this is true is blessed and happy.

I always preached this verse as something you must do to gain this blessing; but I don’t see it that way any longer.

David later wrote

If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?
Psa 130:3

That is a rhetorical question which has an obvious answer—NO ONE COULD STAND.

NO ONE COULD STAND.

Let’s consider the gospel reading

And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.
Luk 15:20-22

You know the basic story of how the boy took his inheritance before he was supposed to and then squandered it all on easy and fast living.

When he realized what he had done and what it was costing him, he began to feel sorry for himself.

He decided to try his luck back home to see if maybe he could do better.

He had a speech all planned out that he thought sure would cause his dad to feel sorry for him.

But, before he could get the first words out of his mouth, the father was already hugging and kissing him. He had seen the boy from a long way off.

That can only mean one thing—the father was continually expecting the boy’s return.

Then, when the kid tried to offer his speech, the father cut him off and said, “Let’s have a party to celebrate his coming home!”

QUESTION—

Where’s the reproof?

Where is the
‘I told you so?’

Where is the
“I hope you learned your lesson?”

Where is the
“Well, we will just have to wait and see how sorry you really are.”?

It is not there, is it?

It is not there because this is not the parable of the prodigal son. It is the parable of the loving father. It is more about the goodness of God than it is about the wickedness of man.

The parable of the Loving Father

The father was not looking for anything other than the return of the one who had wandered off.

That was enough repentance for him.

He wasn’t looking for any apologies. He didn’t need any expression of sorrow. He wasn’t looking for any tears.

He was only looking for his son.

The only thing God is looking for from anyone is for them to awaken to whose they are and return to where they belong.

That is the only repentance that is required of anyone.

He will take care of everything else that is needed after we get home.

We can see that plainly as we consider the passage from the scripture lesson.

in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 2Co 5:19

God is not counting our trespasses against us. He is not counting anyone’s trespasses against them.

That is not what we have believed for decades, is it? We have been taught to believe that we needed to be sorry for our sins in order for God to accept us.

The word ‘reconciling’ is the word we use for balancing the books. We need to make sure that all our debits and credits are applied for our balance to be correct.

In this case, the books are balanced by the blood of Jesus. There is no sin too great or too many for His blood to cover.

If there is or was one for whom His blood was not efficient, then it was ineffective for all.

But that is not what we learn from the scriptures.

For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.
1Co 15:22

This is a verse which is often preached in evangelistic meetings where the goal is to get people saved, to have them accept Jesus.

The preacher hammers home the idea that because of Adam’s sin, we all sinned. And because we all sinned we will all die a spiritual death.

The only remedy for that spiritual death is to accept Jesus. And if you don’t, then you will die a spiritual death, which means you will go to hell.

Therefore, you need to make sure that you get yourself into Christ.

Sounds perfectly logical, doesn’t it?

If we do not pay attention to what Paul is saying here, we will go along with that line of thinking.

So, let’s look a little more closely.

How many die in Adam? ALL.

How many are in Adam? ALL.

How did they get there? By being born. It was not a choice made by their free will.

But, when it comes to the “all in Christ” of the verse, we change it to making a choice.

If you don’t make the right choice, then you can’t be in Christ.

Can you see the lack of logic in such a conclusion?

If we only had this verse, and the teachings about how you must accept Jesus—which, by the way, is not found anywhere in scripture—then it would seem to be a correct understanding.

However, we are not left with only this one verse which may appear somewhat ambiguous if left by itself.

Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.
Rom 5:18

This is about as plain as it gets.

One person, Adam, committed one sin, and that one sin led to condemnation for the entire human race.

One person, Jesus, did His one act of righteousness, which led to justification and life for the entire human race.

That word ‘justification’ is the idea of justice being completed. The demands of justice have been met in Christ.

Let’s continue. It gets better.

For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.
Rom. 5:19

This is another verse like the one in Corinthians we just looked at, where people exercise their mental gymnastics in order to make it say something to fit their paradigm of choosing Jesus.

They focus on the ‘many being made righteous’ to prove that it is not everyone.

QUESTION—why is the second many in the verse different from the first many?

THE MANY were made sinners by one man’s disobedience.

Who are we talking about? Adam.

How many were made sinners because of his disobedience? ALL.

Therefore, is it at all logical to assume that the second “many”—which is the same word—is any different from the first?

Can we with a straight face say that the second many is not as inclusive as the first?

I’m sure we can as far as ability goes, but it defies and denies any sense of rationality.

So.

What have we said?

We have shown that any and all who have their sins covered or forgiven are blessed.

We have seen that the Father is only concerned with our coming to our senses and realizing that we already belong to Him.

We have also seen that He does not keep a record of wrongs. He does not count anyone’s sins, trespasses, or iniquities against them.

This truth about God’s love should completely eliminate any fear someone may have about sinning in such a way as to doom them to hell.

There are far too many Christians who are continually afraid that their sins might outweigh their good deeds and they will wind up in hell.

That is not the Father’s love, because perfect love casts out fear.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
1Jo 4:18

Brothers and sisters, the reality is that you are loved with a perfect love which has no conditions for your acceptance.

You are loved with a love that has no boundaries.

There is nothing you can do to defeat this love.

His love will find you regardless of where you may choose to wander.

Maybe it is time we all just simply learned to bask in the reality of that love.