Easter Encouragement

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Easter Encouragement


Ryan Ferguson


April 1, 2018


1 Corinthians, 1 Corinthians 15


Down through the millennia since Jesus died and came back from the dead, God’s people have done what is called a paschal greeting which began in the Jewish culture of saying he is risen, and then the other people reply he is risen indeed. So, he is risen. Good news is rarely remembered. You ever thought about that? We often remember bad news more than we remember good news.

I spent some time reviewing the top headlines in newspapers in the past hundred years or so, and the vast majority of the top 20 are all bad news. All the way back to 1906 with the San Francisco earthquake, to the Titanic, to Pearl Harbor, to Vietnam, to John Lennon dying, to the assassination of John F. Kennedy, to Martin Luther King being shot, to Princess Diana dying, to the events of 9/11.

The vast majority of headlines that humanity will remember forever are all bad news. Of those 20 that multiple resources all agree are the top 20, only three are bright spots. The end of World War II, the landing on the moon, and the election of an African-American president. Which are all great events but it’s still striking. Why don’t we remember good news? I think the Apostle Paul feels the same way when he wrote a letter to a little church in a town called Corinth and it’s called 1 Corinthians. He writes that church to encourage them to remember the truth he had preached to them and to allow those memories of what had been preached to have them live in a consistent way with what they had heard. Based upon everything Paul writes up until about chapter 15 which is where we’re going to be today it seems like the Corinthians had drifted away from the good news that Paul had told them and preached to them. What should have been a headline to be remembered had become forgettable to them.

So, in chapter 15 Paul provides this church and us with five encouragements to come back and remember the headline of the Good News. So, encouragement number one is this, remind each other of the gospel. We’re going to make our way through all of 1 Corinthians 15 hopefully in about less than 30 minutes. So, I’m going to kind of describe the key verse that goes with each of these encouragements. The key verse is 1Corinthians 15:1 and 2 where Paul says, now I would remind you brothers of the gospel I preached to you which you received, in which you stand and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you unless you believed in vain. Paul provides this encouragement by example. He actually reminds them, remember the good news, guys.

He shows us that the gospel is not a song that we sing once, but it’s on continual play in our ears. We always need to be hearing this good news. And for Paul it doesn’t seem like a reminder about the good news has to be lengthy.

In fact, his reminder is very, very short. The good news according to Paul is this, Christ died for our sins. Christ was buried. Christ roses from the dead. Christ appeared. Even with such a quick summary though, there’s a lot of depth to what Paul wrote. Christ died for our sins. Well that means we’re sinners and the good news tells us that Jesus died for our sins, our sins. The very thing that keeps us separated from God is what Jesus died for. Christ was buried. That means Jesus really died.

It wasn’t fake news as we hear about today. He was put in a real tomb with a large rock covering the door. And Christ rose again. Jesus supernaturally conquered death through the power of God and did not remain in the tomb. In fact, if you read the Gospels, Jesus rose so effectively that he even left behind the grave clothes they buried him in. Then Paul tells us that Christ appeared. Paul gives a list of people who actually saw Jesus after he conquered the grave. Paul provides witnesses and testimony to the Corinthians to calm any doubts about the validity of the resurrection. A very wild and supernatural event is real and documented.

Now this good news that we’re supposed to remind each other of is something that we receive. The gospel is something that is taken into our lives. The gospel is also something that we stand in. The gospel is the basis for all of our life. We stand in it and this gospel is an ongoing process. We are declared righteous before God, we’re reunited with God, and then we are continually being changed by this gospel and being conformed to the image of Jesus. God is actually making a man like me into the very image of his Son. So, this is a powerful, powerful reality of the gospel that we need to remind each other of.

Encouragement number 2, proclaim the resurrection. The key verse is in 1 Corinthians 15:20-22, and it begins with this great transition. But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead, for as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. Paul  just points to the power of this resurrection. According to this headline of the good news that we’re supposed to remember, we are in a sense the walking dead. We’re dead people. We’re born that way.

But when Jesus rose from the grave, he changed all that. If we are in this good news, if we are standing in the good news, then we are fully alive together with Jesus forever.

Paul describes the power of the resurrection by pointing out all the negatives that will happen if the resurrection isn’t true. So, it’s almost like he’s arguing backwards. If this resurrection thing didn’t happen, here’s the truth. And Paul says about himself. Paul’s preaching is vain. If he didn’t rise from the dead, why preach? Our faith is vain. Why believe anything? Our faith is futile. It makes no sense. We’re still completely sinful, and we are to be pitied more than anyone else in the world, which I think is a really powerful phrase. Not many people appreciate being pitied.

It doesn’t make you feel good. And here Paul says, hey if this resurrection isn’t true, then all of you Jesus follower people are to be pitied more than anybody in the world. Why? Because we believe in a reality way beyond this world, and we make choices based on the world to come not the world today. So, if that world is all fake, and you’ve got all the rest of the world living just for today, it makes more sense for them to live for today. But the resurrection as Paul says, in fact Jesus was raised from the dead. So, it does matter.

There’s no way to over stress the importance of the resurrection of Jesus. The resurrection is way more important than just a reason to have a really cool service once every spring. It’s way more important than making sure everybody wears pastel and gets a great family photo on Instagram at some point today. The resurrection has way more power than that. It has implications that affect our everyday life. And we have to proclaim the reality of it.

As Michael Green observes, it is the death and resurrection of Jesus, the empty cross which lies at the heart of the apostolic Christianity, and it’s God’s good news for the world. So, I just want to insert an invitation to all of us today. What I’ve received by studying through 1 Corinthians today is a desire to have the resurrection be more part of my life this year. Because if it’s true, it changes everything. Everything. So, I hope you will join me and be encouraged by proclaiming the resurrection.

Paul transitions here as he begins encouragement number 3, and it seems like he’s going to answer someone’s question. And this is – I’m most excited about this part of what God writes. Someone asks, what will our bodies be like after we’re resurrected? And Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 seems to answer that question, and he gives a great answer. He says in a sense, anticipate the transformation. Anticipate the transformation. The key verse is 1 Corinthians 15:42. So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable. What is raised is imperishable. So right before verse 42, I’m just going to be honest with you, is a really confusing set of verses. So, what I’m going to try to do is really quickly set those up in a structure that maybe will let us walk through them a little bit easier. Paul in a way gives us this great big compound “if-then” statement. If this, then this. And he gives us three ifs and one then. So, Paul answers this question about what will our bodies be like after they’re resurrected by giving us three ifs. We’re going to go through those real fast. The first one, if life comes from death, and that’s in verses 36 and 37, Paul argues that the natural flow of life comes from death. And specifically, he uses a natural illustration of how plants and trees grow. A seed has to die in order to produce life. That’s the way the natural world works, so death does not have to be an end. Second if. And if God created such a diversity of life in verses 38 and 39, God has given this earth so many different types of amazing life – birds, animals, fish and a host of other creatures just a wild diversity. And the final if, and if God created both the glory of the heavens and the glory of the earth.

So, all he means there is, you can right now in this broken, sinful world jump into your car this afternoon, drive up to the Blue Ridge Parkway, get to a couple of the overlooks and see so far your mouth will drop. If God created that,

that’s earth, and then if last August many of us could sit in our driveways with really dorky glasses on and look up at an eclipse and just be humbled and awed by this unbelievable thing that happens in the sky. If those two things are true, then how much power does God have?

So, let’s repeat these statements in order, the ifs, and then we’re going to nail the then for a little bit. If life comes from death, if that’s a pattern, and if God can create all types of beings, and if God created the beauty of both the spheres in heaven and the mountains on earth, then the resurrection of the dead, our bodies after we die, works exactly the same way. God has the power to miraculously transform our dead bodies to diverse and glorious resurrected bodies.

That’s the conclusion of verse 32. So, it is in the same way, likewise God can bring life from death in diversity and glorious beauty. That beauty, the way we’re going to be transformed in the future, is once again into the exact image of Jesus himself. And Paul,

Paul really pushes this point. He gives us a whole bunch of comparisons between our bodies pre transformation and post transformation. And I think it’s really important to know as we go through this, this isn’t a good to bad argument – a bad too good. Paul isn’t arguing that our bodies right now in this earth and flesh are bad things. That’s not what he’s saying. He argues the exact opposite in chapter 7. Flesh is good. God created it. But it’s more of a lesser to greater. If we can be amazed at the Blue Ridge Parkway today, then what is the future in heaven going to be like when we’re with Jesus and we’re transformed? It’s a comparison to prove a point.

It’s a comparison to create wonder, to get us to not look at just today but to look forward to a new reality. So, I’ve placed this comparison in a chart for us to just kind of really quickly walk through, trying to draw our minds and hearts actually away from today and towards the future. So, this is what Paul says pre transformation. Our bodies are earthly. Which just means they’re from this realm. But post transformation, they’re heavenly. They’re from God’s realm. We’re going to have a new address. I’m not going to live in TR anymore. I’m going to live in a way better place. The next one is perishable and imperishable. Perishable, we understand that word. Go to Publix. Every loaf of bread has a date at which it is no longer supposed to be consumed. It is a perishable thing. It has a shelf life. When we get to heaven, we are imperishable. There are no shelf lives anymore. The third is dishonor and glory. And dishonor here is actually kind of the idea of shame. But don’t freak out like, oh yes that’s right, I’m terrible, I’m a horrible person. No that’s not what he’s saying. What he means by dishonor is, think of the Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve sinned and broke God’s commandment, they were ashamed. They took on shame. And from then on, we’ve borne that kind of same thing. But in the future, it’s glory. That’s a God word. Our bodies go from shame to Godlike.

Weakness. Our bodies are weak. They break down. From the time we start living, they’re breaking down. They’re going to be raised in power. They’re natural, then they’re going to be spiritual. They’re a living being. They’ll be a life giving spirit. They are from the earth and dust, they’re going to be from heaven.

They’re made in the image of the man of dust who has Adam. They’re made in the image of the man of heaven, Jesus. So, we journey from being like Adam to being like Jesus in the transformation because of the resurrection. We’re dead. And then we’re imperishable. We’re mortal, but immortality is coming. This is heaven that Paul’s talking about. I think when I grew up my version of heaven was very underwhelming and unsatisfying.

And I’m not sure that the church I grew up in actually taught it that way. This is what it is. But what I absorbed in the way I grew up is that heaven was all qualitative. It was all just quality, meaning it was ethereal and spiritual, and because of God we didn’t need any lights, and our tears are dried up and there’s no sin, and we are with God, and all of those things are true but they’re very, very quality. There’s nothing substantive about them there’s nothing to experience or be in. But if the transformation in 1Corinthians 15 is true,

our real bodies just like when Jesus came out of the grave, he was completely transformed. If that happens to us, which is Paul’s argument then this future heaven is all of those qualities, but actually being physically with Jesus. In a new, completely new way. Even the best body on earth is still dying and decaying.

But that’s a temporary condition for those who receive and stand in the gospel. The resurrection matters today because our physical bodies will be transformed into something amazing. And there’s a lot of mystery here.

The Bible is quiet on specific details. My kids and I were talking through this passage at home, and it’s like, well you know we have in our family we have a girl who is my niece who died when she was 5, and we were wondering if she’s transformed because she did believe in Jesus, then what is she like? What’s God going to do with her?

And the Bible’s quiet on that. The Bible’s quiet on age and all of that. You know what the Bible isn’t quiet on? The fact that you will be physically transformed into the image of Jesus Christ forever and ever and ever, and it will be awesome. We have enough in 1 Corinthians to eagerly anticipate the transformation of our physical bodies.

So, so far Paul has encouraged us to remind each other of the gospel, to proclaim the resurrection, and to anticipate the transformation. He then gives us another encouragement about how we live today. Paul tells us we’re not losers. Encouragement number 4, embrace the victory. Key verse is 1 Corinthians 15:57. But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

God hands us victory because of Jesus. We are victorious. We win. We aren’t the losers. We don’t come up short. We’re not lacking. We didn’t lose the game. We didn’t fail at the end. Our strength didn’t waver, and we give up. We’re victorious in Christ. The resurrection is the celebration after winning the big game. It’s the girl saying yes to the marriage proposal. It’s the A in math class. It’s the victory in the great military battle. If there’s any other metaphor that you can figure out in your brain that works better for someone to win, be victorious, be the conqueror, then you use that metaphor because that will point you to the fact that Jesus won! And then God looks at us and says here! Here! I’m giving you the victory that Jesus won, here. But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through Jesus Christ. We have victory over a couple of different things. We have victory over the power of sin, which is the law. Which is funny. The law is the gasoline

in the lawnmower of sin. It’s the energizing force of sin. It’s the power of it. It informs it. It tells us what sin is. Jesus died having kept the entire law blamelessly. And then he arose. That’s part of the victory. He hands that over. In Jesus we’ve all fulfilled the law. Because we’re in Christ we have defeated the law. We have victory over the sting of death which is sin. The cross was the decisive cosmic crushing of sin.

Sin. The sting of death is sin. When Jesus defeated sin, it’s like he pulled the stinger right out of death, and it has no more power. And therefore, we have victory over death itself. If you stand in the gospel of Jesus right now, then for us you know what death is? Death is weak, wimpy and powerless. It’s got nothing on us.

It doesn’t rule us, it doesn’t own us. Death is nothing but a doorway to a richer experience with Jesus himself. In Jesus death is dead to us. And as Paul often does, he takes these big theological concepts and brings them down right into the real world of life with his last encouragement. And he says this, live your life.

If the gospel is true and we stand in it, if the resurrection is true and we proclaim it, and if we anticipate that someday this body of mine is going to be changed, and I have victory in Jesus, then I live my life. 1 Corinthians 15:58, Therefore my beloved brothers and sisters be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Paul tells his readers and us to do three things as we live our lives based on the gospel and the resurrection. Paul says to stand firm, steadfast and immovable. Stand firm. You know what that means? If he’s giving us the command, then the tendency for us is to drift. To drift away from our beliefs. So, brothers and sisters here, be steadfast, immovable. I have someone that God just brought to mind who drifted. And I hate it. And Paul’s saying, this gospel that you stand in, these beliefs you have about me, the resurrection, don’t move away from them. You hold them, because we have an enemy, right? And we live in an antagonistic world. And we ourselves are broken creatures.

But Paul is telling us when it comes to the gospel, when it comes to the resurrection, when it comes to what you believe, don’t move a muscle. Stand firm. Always abound is the next thing he tells us to do. And those of us who like to-do lists and check boxes are getting so excited right now. Finally, it’s something not to think about and believe but to do. And I want to give all of us doers one encouragement. Work not for God’s favor but because of God’s favor.

Big difference. Oh, I’m going to always abound now there’s nobody who’s going to abound like me. It’s on. God is going to love me so much. Look at all I’ve done. No. No. Look at how much he loves me. Let’s change this world. Let’s love people.

Work not for God’s favor because of God’s favor. If we believe the gospel, and the resurrection is true, then we can be energized to be about God’s work. And the work of the Lord here is not a secret or a specialty that you’ve got to figure out. You don’t have to be on staff at a church. You don’t have to have training from a school. The work of the Lord is standing in the gospel and living out of it.

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might as we learn in Ecclesiastes.  Live out of what you believe. Live the way God wants you to. If you love God, love those around you. This whole idea of always abounding in the work of the Lord, Jesus summed up, love God love neighbor. It’s not rocket science. Paul’s final instruction is that we should perpetually know.

So, he tells us to work, always abound in the work of the Lord everybody. If you believe these things, stand firm, always abound, knowing. Keep knowing. Keep on knowing that in the Lord he’s right back to that one of those phrases he loves so much in Jesus, in the Lord.

We’re reminded once again of what we stand in, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. Know that your toil is not vanity. For those of you who have been around North Hills for the past two or three months, does that phrase sound familiar? Know that your toil is not vanity. We’ve been talking a lot about that from the book of Ecclesiastes. It’s a theme that we’ve been kind of exploring over and over. Well guess what? The resurrection is an answer to all of the questions in the book of Ecclesiastes. How do we know that what we’re doing matters?

Why do we even live this life? What’s the point of doing this? All these questions that the writer of Ecclesiastes brings up and questions the world. Well because of the resurrection,

I stand in what I believe, I will always abound in the work of the Lord, and as I do that I will know that what I do matters and has value. It’s not meaningless. How do we take joy in our labor? What changes the way we eat and drink as it says and Ecclesiastes? How do we do good to other people? We remember the resurrection, and we’re reminded that nothing that we do is of little value. Nothing is unhappy business.

None of the labor in the Lord is meaningless. The resurrection of Jesus literally changes all of that. How you labor today and tomorrow, what you do no matter what sphere of life you’re in, if you’re one of those people standing in the gospel then what you do matters.

It’s not meaningless to love the unloving. It’s not meaningless to care for aging parents. It’s not meaningless to parent children well. It’s not meaningless to do homework. If you stand in the gospel and you’re in school, you do homework differently than people who don’t. It’s not meaningless to sing. We just sang a lot of songs. You guys are good singers. Do you know why those songs matter? Because Jesus is alive. If he wasn’t, then we’re weirdos.

If we just step back and think about what we’re doing all of us holding the same note on the same word for the same amount of beats. If there isn’t something behind that, what are we doing?

But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. Therefore, what you do has meaning. We can play a drum, we can play a shaker, we can parent, we can change a diaper, we can do dishes, we can prepare taxes, we can be a teacher, we can prepare to be a preacher, we can be a preacher, we can work in video, we can work in construction, we can be an accountant, graphic designer.

It all changes. We can rake leaves. We can mow a lawn. And I know that because I mowed my lawn yesterday, because Jesus is alive, it’s not meaningless work. John Mark Comer in his book God Has a Name, which if you need a book to read, read God Has a Name, beautifully connects Ecclesiastes and the resurrection. He writes this, our hope isn’t that nothing bad will ever happen to us or that everything that does happen to us is the will of God. Our hope is that no matter what happens to us, Jesus is back from the dead and anything is possible. If the resurrection is true, then literally anything can happen. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the lens through which I interpret everything. He continues. Yes, sometimes things go horribly wrong. I love John Mark Comer because he’s honest. I love Ecclesiastes because it’s honest. I love the Bible because it’s honest. It paints a real portrait. The resurrection is not for you a perpetually full piggy bank.

The resurrection isn’t a layer of insulation against anything bad. It is not what you use to twist God into giving you a comfortable life. Rather as Comer writes, the resurrection is a megaphone turned up to 11 screaming God is bigger than evil and stronger than death. The empty tomb dwarfs every tragedy we ever face with his promise to make all things beautiful in their time.

Brothers and sisters, know your labor is not in vain. Be encouraged. Remind each other of the gospel. Proclaim the reality of the resurrection. Anticipate the transformation. Embrace the victory. Stand firm. Don’t move away. Don’t waffle. Don’t waver. Abound in the work of the Lord, knowing your labor matters.


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