|The Victory Of A Conquering God (1) (The Resurrection Devotionally Experienced)|
|No Tomb In Christianity!||117||Fulfilled Aspirations Beyond The Scope Of Time||126|
|Christianity Begins Where Religion Ends!||118||An Ugly Worm Can Become A Beautiful Butterfly!||127|
|"Hope Is A Thing With Feathers!"||119||The Resurrection Vindicated God's Righteousness||128|
|The Resurrection Gives History Its Meaning||120||The Resurrection Demonstrated God's Power||129|
|Resurrection Of The Body||121||The Resurrection Sealed Satan's Doom!||130|
|"Come On Up, Edna!"||122||"Why Was I So Afraid Of This Thing Called Death?"||131|
|The Resurrection Hope||123||"I Was Talking With Him This Morning!"||132|
|"How Long Shall The Wicked Triumph?"||124||Discussion Questions||133|
|Resurrection – Last Word In Human Affairs!||125||Discussion Questions (Continued)||134|
Romans 1:16,17; 1 Corinthians 15:1-8
No Tomb In Christianity!
Searching to find God–that is what we have been doing during the last several weeks. We look upwardly toward the heavens and we see the handiwork of God. We look inwardly at our conscience and we see the moral laws of God at work, convicting, convincing, and revealing the ways of God. We look backwards in history and we see God providentially revealing Himself in historical events and in the greatest historical event which was the coming of God to earth (Incarnation). We look outwardly at the Church and we see God transforming human lives. In every direction we look, we see God!
We have been on our knees, gazing at the heart of God! Looking at the heart of God, we see a cross! The cross has always been on the heart of God, but that cross was revealed to man on Mount Calvary where Jesus died!
If God's love was best demonstrated on the cross, then God's power was best demonstrated by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead! The death and resurrection of Jesus are two parts of one whole. The cross without the resurrection would be great heroism at its best and great tragedy at its worst!
In our search to find God, it is important to look carefully at the Christian belief in the resurrection.
What is the foundation of Christianity? The simple and obvious answer is Christ. "For other foundations can no man lay that that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." (1 Corinthians 3:11) The foundation of Christianity is not an ethical creed or the memory of a religious reformer. Rather, the foundation of Christianity is a living Saviour–a 'Saviour' because Jesus' death was redemptive, and 'living' because Jesus arose from the dead.
One time in India a Christian preacher was preaching and a Mohammedan said to the Christian preacher, "We have a proof in our religion that you haven't got in yours. We can go to Mecca and find the tomb of Mohammed, but when you go to Palestine you can't be sure that you've got the tomb of Jesus."
"Yes," said the Christian preacher, "you're right. We have no tomb in Christianity because we have no corpse." (20 Centuries of Great Preaching; Vol. 9; pg. 322)
"God, I tremble when I think of the terror of the cross, but I thank you that that terror turns to triumph on Easter morning. Dark Friday turns to Good Friday because of that bright Sunday morning! II
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will glory in the glory of Christianity–a blood-stained cross and an empty tomb!
Christianity Begins Where Religion Ends!
Among the religions of the world, Christianity is unique because Christianity alone rests upon the foundation of the resurrection. In fact, as one great Christian once said, "Christianity begins where religion ends… with the resurrection." (Dr. W. A. Criswell)
Christianity is based on a miracle. One day during the French revolution, a man remarked to Talleyrand, who was Bishop of Autun: "The Christian religion–what is it? It would be easy to start a religion like that."
"0h, yes," replied Talleyrand. "One would only have to get crucified and rise again the third day." (Shoe-Leather Faith; No. 137; Merv Rosell)
It is important to understand that the entire superstructure of Christianity–faith, hope, justice, immortality, transformation–rests upon the foundation of the resurrection. We must in turn look at each one of these concepts which compose the superstructure of Christianity and realize that if the foundation of the resurrection is removed, the entire superstructure will crumble!
Christianity believes that the bodily resurrection of Christ is the foundation of faith. Wrote Paul to the Corinthians: "If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished." (1 Corinthians 15:13-18)
If Christ did not rise from the dead, then death had the 'final word,' and death proved to be stronger than life. To put faith in Christ would be to put faith in one who was defeated by death and thus one who had no power over death. If Christ did not overcome death, then He has no power to give man victory over death, regardless of how much faith man puts in Christ. Faith in Christ is only meaningful if Christ conquered death. Belief in the resurrection is the very foundation of faith.
"God, I see now that the value of my faith depends upon the object of my faith. The object of my faith is the resurrected Lord! Through faith in Christ, death becomes my slave! Death serves me because death gives me a grand entry into my heavenly home with Christ!"
AFFIRt4ATION FOR THE DAY: I shall place my faith in the one person who is totally trustworthy–Jesus, the resurrected Christ!
Hebrews 6:16-20; Hebrews 12:28-29
"Hope Is A Thing With Feathers!"
Christianity believes that the bodily resurrection of Christ is the foundation of hope.
Emily Dickinson once wrote, "Hope is a thing with feathers." By this she meant that hope is both beautiful and fragile!
Hope is beautiful. It is the dash of flavor in the stuff of everyday life. Without hope a person soon becomes depressed and even physically ill. A man grows hopeless when he thinks that his actions make no difference in the outcome of his little life.
Hope is beautiful because it drives men to great exploits. But hope is also very fragile. Hope must be grounded in nothing less than a living God if hope is to survive in a world of despair. Even Christian believers are not immune to the threats of despair!
When one looks at the outward world, he is tempted to throwaway all hope! Modern-day conditions challenge one's hope. The acceleration of pornographic literature in the name of art, the liberalization of abortion laws, the secularization of American higher education, the growing disillusionment with the American political process and judicial system, the inflationary spending habits of Americans which is precipitated by exploitative advertising, and the increasing waves of political terrorism– all of these have combined to attack the very foundations of western civilization!
The 'Golden Calf' of science, before which many Americans have naively worshipped for decades, has failed to give soul security and lasting peace. Men's hearts fail them for fear of what is coming upon the world! World- wide starvation is increasingly becoming a fearful possibility. It is reported that serious devout occultism is stronger than ever before.
From some angles the picture is very dark. Is there any basis for hope? Wrote the Psalmist, "Blessed is he whose help's the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, the maker of heaven and earth." (Psalms 146:5-6 a NIV) Wrote Jeremiah, "But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit." (Jeremiah 17:7-8 NIV)
"God, I so often become shaky when circumstances around me become shaky. My little world within me becomes cloudy when the big world around me is filled with despairing clouds! Help me to rejoice in hope even when circumstances seem hopeless!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: There are no hopeless situations, only people who have grown hopeless about them!
1 Peter 1:3-12
The Resurrection Gives History Its Meaning
The resurrection of Jesus is the foundation for all hope. Wrote the apostle Peter, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you." (1 Peter 1:3-4)
By rising from the dead, Christ showed that there is hope beyond the grave–in the future. Christ's resurrection was prerequisite to Christ's eternal reign. Evil will be destroyed and righteousness will triumph. The future belongs to those who believe in and appropriate the power of Christ's resurrection.
If Christ had not risen from the dead, then life and history would have no goal, meaning, or destiny. But the resurrection is proof that nothing– not even death–can destroy history's goal which is the ultimate triumph and reign of righteousness and peace by Christ. The death warrant for evil has been signed by the resurrection.
Remove the resurrection hope and all that is left is present despair and futility and future doom. It is the resurrection that gives history its meaning! Said H. G. Wells, famous historian, shortly before he died: A frightful queerness has come into life. Hitherto events have been held together by a certain logical consistency as the heavenly bodies have been held together by the golden cord of gravitation. Now it is as if that cord has vanished and everything is driven anyhow, anywhere, at a steadily increasing velocity. The writer is convinced that there is no way out or around, or through the impasse. It is the end."
Death, for the Christian, is not the end, but the beginning. The sunset of life introduces the dawn of eternity–eternity with Christ! The winter of death is passed and the resurrection of eternal spring for the sons of men has been ushered in by our all-powerful Lord. The future is bright for the believer of Christ. Said Jesus, "Because I live, you shall live also." Said Bishop Elmer Parsons: "The resurrected Christ will come again to write the final words of history and conclude the plan of God."
Facing the future without God is facing a very dark future. The resurrection of Jesus is the only foundation for a hopeful and bright future.
"Dear God, without the resurrection I am like a lost orphan whistling in the dark trying to ward off my fright. With the resurrection I am like a son stepping into the ever-brightening dawn of my heavenly homeland!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The blazing light of the resurrection dispels my darkness and makes my future bright and hopeful!
1 Corinthians 15:35-58
Resurrection Of The Body
The resurrection is the basis for our hope of having a new body. The Bible teaches that, although the earthly body will decay and return to dust, the spirit of the person never dies. The personality of man will survive eternally. The Bible also teaches that the believer in Christ will receive a new body which is not subject to pain or death. Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live." (John 11:25)
Belief in the bodily resurrection of Jesus gives the foundation of hope in the subsequent resurrection of the body of true believers. "The resurrection of Jesus was bodily, and it is not to be confused with the widely- held doctrine of immortality of the soul. It is fashionable today in some scholarly circles to disassociate the resurrection from anything involving the body of Jesus. This is a misuse of terms, for the concept of resurrection implies body. In fact, it is redundant to say 'bodily resurrection.' That is like saying 'widow woman.' When one says 'resurrection,' he has already implied 'body.' The concept of an immortal soul, separate from the body, is a pagan idea, traceable back to pagan religions, centuries before Jesus. This is one fallacy refuted in John's Gospel." (Quote from Dr. Frank Stagg; Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary at Louisville, Kentucky.)
Wrote E. Stanley Jones only a few days before he died at the age of 89: "Sometimes I find myself musing in this way: Dear old body, for the past nine decades we've walked the dusty roads together, we've flown across continents, and you've been uncomplaining even when I've put impossible loads upon you. Thank you for your faithful service, and now you say you'll be faithful till death us do part. When that parting comes, I'll look back at you and salute you and thank you, and I'll say to you, 'When I get my immortal body, I hope there will be a lot of you there incorporated.' Thank you again, for everything." (The Divine Yes; pg. 149)
In his unique way, Jones continues, "I have often said that when the people stand around and say, 'Well, Brother Stanley is gone,' I want to be able to wink at them, and if I have enough strength I would like to laugh and say, 'Jesus is Lord.' Because this will not be death. It will be fuller life. I say this as a half joke, but I believe it will turn out to be reality. Because any person who is in Jesus is deathless, for he is under the principle and power of resurrection." (Ibid; pg. 150)
"God, I have deep-seated urges–the urge for permanence, the urge for transcendence, the urge for personal identity. I believe the resurrected Lord can fulfill these God-created urges!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Because of the resurrection of Jesus, I have the capacity to live forever with my Lord, and be personally known and identifiable to all!
"Come On Up, Edna!"
Because of the resurrection of Jesus, we have hope of seeing our loved ones who have died in the Lord. Paul wrote to encourage those who were bereaved of loved ones: "Now we don't want you, my brothers to be in any doubt about those who have 'fallen asleep' in death, or to grieve over them like men who have no hope. After all, if we believe that Jesus died and rose again from death, then we can believe that God will just as surely bring with Jesus all who are 'asleep' in him. Here we have a definite message from the Lord. It is that those who are still living when he comes will not in any way precede those who have previously fallen asleep. One word of command, one shout from the archangel, one blast from the trumpet of God and the Lord himself will come down from Heaven! Those who have died in Christ will be the first to rise, and then we who are still living on the earth will be swept up with them into the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And after that we shall be with him for ever. So by all means use this message to encourage one another. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)
This scripture gives great comfort during times of great sorrow. One person in my childhood who greatly influenced me to be a Christian was my great aunt (my grandmother's sister). She was a cripple all of her life, but she lived to be an old person. Only hours after she was born, she was stricken with polio and therefore she never knew what it was to walk without leg braces. She never married and was dependent upon other family members, including my grandmother, to care for her. She was one of the kindest Christians I ever knew. She gave me my first Bible in which she wrote, "My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him." (Psalms 62:5) My 'Aunt Mary' was no stranger to pain and disappointment, as she hobbled along in life. But she was always sweet in her spirit and faithful to her Lord. My grandmother, who was caring for her at the time, wept when 'Aunt Mary' died. The sorrow she felt in her loneliness was great, and comfort in her loss was hard to find. One night God gave my grandmother a vision of 'Aunt Mary.' 'Aunt Mary' was dressed in garments of pure white, her face radiant with the countenance of heavenly strength and health. My grandmother knew that 'Aunt Mary' was with Jesus. Suspended in mid-air, looking upwards toward heaven, 'Aunt Mary' seemed to be saying to my grandmother, 'Come on up, Edna.'
"The pain of separation from loved ones is more than I can bear! Will I see and know them again? Yes! Because of the resurrection, I shall be with thee, O Christ, and with them! Glory!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The resurrection is my upward call from God to a new life and to a new body!
1 Corinthians 15:35-49; 2 Corinthians 5:1-5
The Resurrection Hope
What about our loved ones who have already died? Where are they right now? Is there any evidence that they are with Christ?
A few years ago, my wife's mother had a most wonderful experience. The following is the account of that experience: "I find it difficult to share publicly a precious experience that God gave to me quite a few years ago. I had lost my father, and my mother lived alone for a few years. Her health was not good and she finally consented to surgery. We had brought her home from the hospital and I was staying with her.
"One night I had checked many times to see if she was resting. I had gone to sleep, but suddenly was wide awake. I got out of bed thinking I had heard mother. I went to the door and I saw my father standing, looking in on mother. I said, 'Don't waken her dad, she has been so sick.' He turned his head and looked at me. He said so quietly, 'I'm not going to waken her. I just wanted to see that she is alright. I want to go back. I He turned and without seeming to walk, he was across the living room and through the windows. I watched him cross the yard and, although it was very dark, I saw him as he crossed the small pasture.
"I was not frightened, but was filled with a beautiful peace. I don't mourn for my dad, though I still miss his gentleness and concern. I am sure that at the resurrection we will have bodies we will recognize."
"'If a man keep my saying he shall never see death' (John 8:51); 'Whosoever liveth and believeth on me shall never die' (John 11:26). It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the meaning that Christ intended to convey was that death was a completely negligible experience to the man who had al ready begun to live life of the eternal quality… Once it dawns upon us that God (incredible as it may well sound) has actually identified Himself with man, that He has taken the initiative in effecting the necessary reconciliation of man with Himself, and has shown the way by which little human personalities can begin to embark on that immense adventure of living of which God is the center, death–the discarding of a temporary machine adapted only for a temporary stage–may begin to seem negligible." (The Newborn Christian; J. B. Phillips; pg. 212-213)
Wrote Paul, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." (Philippians 1:21 NIV) "For we know that when this tent we live in now is taken down–when we die and leave these bodies–we will have wonderful new bodies in heaven, homes that will be ours forevermore, made for us by God himself, and not by human hands." (2 Corinthians 5:1 Living Bible)
"O Christ, because you live, I too shall live forever. Sometimes my earthly body makes me groan and sigh, reminding me that this present body is but a temporary dwelling place for my eternal spirit which shall someday take its flight to You. Earth's pains shall give way to heaven's pleasures, and death shall be swallowed up by everlasting life! Glory!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Death for me shall be a joyful departure, not a tragic disaster, for I have a grip on the timeless life of God!
2 Corinthians 5:6-10
"How Long Shall The Wicked Triumph?"
We have noted thus far that the resurrection of Jesus is the foundation for faith and hope. Christianity also believes that the resurrection of Christ is the foundation of justice.
Oftentimes in this present life, wrong goes unpunished and right goes unrewarded. In this life it sometimes seems that the balance is tipped in favor of the wrong. One is tempted to ask with the Psalmist, "How long shall the wicked triumph?" (Psalms 94:3) When Jesus was crucified, it seemed that evil was triumphant and justice was mocked, but God's resurrection of Jesus vindicated God's righteousness and justice. Christians believe that the resurrection is proof that ultimately righteousness will be rewarded and evil will be punished. Christ is the first fruits of those who will rise from the dead. The righteous, like Christ, will be raised to the resurrection of life and then the righteous of all ages will be vindicated, and impartial justice will be rendered.
In this life it sometimes seems that the balance is tipped in favor of the wrong, but in eternity each man will receive his just due. Lenin wrote: "Every religious idea, every idea of God, even flirting with the idea of God, is unutterable vileness of the most dangerous kind, contagion of the most abominable kind. Millions of sins, filthy deeds, acts of violence and physical contagion are far less dangerous than the subtle, spiritual idea of a God." Lenin's disregard for God and religion has perpetuated brutality and unrestrained evil in the Communist system. It is said that if Joseph Stalin, a leader of the Communist Revolution, had done nothing else all his life but to write the names of his innocent victims, his life would not have been long enough to finish the job! Hitler killed six million Jews, but Communism has killed thirty million Russians and millions of Chinese and others, including many Jews!
The resurrection of Jesus guarantees a future resurrection of all men– the righteous to a resurrection of life, and the wicked to a resurrection of damnation! "God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed." (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10 NIV)
"Thou great accountant of the universe, I know you will someday "balance the books.' Unrestrained evil will be punished, and unrewarded good will be rewarded. I commit the cause of justice into the hands of a just God!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Because this is a moral universe, I will act justly and righteously!
Resurrection – Last Word In Human Affairs!
The resurrection of Jesus answers some of our most troublesome questions regarding the seeming triumph of evil and injustice. In his book, the last one he wrote during his long life, E. Stanley Jones dealt effectively with the problem of injustice.
"First, how far can force go in a world of this kind? As long as people believe that the last word in human affairs goes to force, force can go a long way. It can do that today and tomorrow, but the third day, no! For goodness arises from the dead and goodness is the last word. The guards were like dead men, and Jesus was alive. Force can go a long way, but it can only go two days. The third day God raised him from the dead. He himself is the answer, and illustrates that answer in his own body.
"Second, how far can lies go? Lies can put the purest and gentlest and most truthful person on the cross today and tomorrow, but the third day, no! The universe is not built for the success of a lie… Life cannot stand upon the insecurity of a lie. A lie has nothing behind it except itself. The universe makes a lie break itself upon the universe. The universe is not broken for it is established on God's truth. So how far can lies go! A long way. They twisted his words and made them into lies. He was crucified on lies. So lies can go the first day and the second day, but the third day, no! How many lies did it take to try to break the truth of the Gospel? They gave some persons money in those days to say that the disciples had stolen the body of Jesus. Jesus raised the question on the cross and answered it in the resurrection. How much money do you think it will take to stop the Christian Gospel now?
"Third, how far can evil go in a world of this kind? Does the moral universe bend to evil? The answer is No! Today, tomorrow, but the third day, no! The third day, evil breaks itself upon the facts of life. The word EVIL in English is the word LIVE spelled backward. In other words, the universe is not built to accept evil. Only truth has the moral universe behind it. There is nothing behind evil except evil. Today and tomorrow evil may be strong, but the third day evil breaks itself upon the nature of reality. For the Christian Gospel and reality are one–in fullest accord. The sum total of real character becomes a question mark today, tomorrow, but the third day it becomes an exclamation point. Jesus is alive! He is risen!" (The Divine Yes; pg. 105-107)
"God, there is no power on earth or in hell that can thwart your purposes! 'Though wrong seems oft so strong, God is Ruler yet!'
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The power that raised Jesus from the dead is the same power available to overcome evil now!
1 Corinthians 2:9; Hebrews 11:10, Hebrews 11:13-16
Fulfilled Aspirations Beyond The Scope Of Time
The resurrection of Jesus is the foundation for all of life. The foundation for faith, hope, and justice. Also, as we will see today, the foundation for fulfilled aspirations.
There is within the breast of every man a longing for immortality. Man is born with a thirst for infinity. Man is overbuilt for this world, and his aspirations call for a fulfillment that is beyond the scope of time.
The very existence of aspirations is a clue that man is not merely a product of nature, but that he is a spiritual creature whose true greatness is found in a supernatural. Says Harold Sloan, "In nature, then, man aspires, but he merely aspires and dies. The universe provides no fulfillment for his outreachings. Two courses only are open to him. He can surrender to disillusionment, despair, and cynicism, or he can turn from the natural to the supernatural, discovering the answer to his need in forces which transcend nature… Shall man, then, whose faculties lift him so high above the beast, deny the actuality of everything those higher faculties need for fulfillment, and shut himself up to the universe of the beasts?… Man's aspirations belong to his inner world; and it is this inner world which he knows most immediately, and therefore best." (He Is Risen; pg. 22, 27)
If man's aspirations are so real to him and these aspirations cannot possibly be fulfilled within the short span of a lifetime, then the very presence of the growing aspirations points to a fulfillment beyond the confines of time, a fulfillment that reaches into eternity. But if aspirations are to be fulfilled in eternity, there must be a life hereafter. But there can be no life hereafter if Christ did not rise from the dead. Therefore, Christ's resurrection is necessary as the foundation for the fulfillment of man's deepest aspirations.
Man spends his entire lifetime, striving to grow, working to create, laboring to accumulate wisdom and knowledge. And then man dies! A thousand unfulfilled dreams! Does death end it all? Is there no future opportunity for man's deepest longings to be fulfilled? Without the resurrection of Jesus, there is no resurrection for man, and without a resurrection for man, there is no opportunity for life's deepest aspirations to find fulfillment! The satisfaction of man's deepest aspirations in the supernatural, immortal realm is only made possible because of Christ's resurrection.
"Loving Creator, thank you for life's clues to spiritual reality. The lungs are made for air, the stomach for food, the eyes for beauty, the ears for music. Are not the deepest aspirations of my spirit created by God to be fulfilled by God in eternity?"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Because Christ lives, my aspirations will not die!
Romans 1:16; Ephesians 1:15-23
An Ugly Worm Can Become A Beautiful Butterfly!
It is the fundamental belief of Christians that, without the resurrection, one's faith in Christ is an illusion, one's hope is useless, life's injustices are permanent, man's deepest aspirations remain unfulfilled, and man's transformation is impossible. It is this last point that we must look at today.
Christianity believes that the resurrection is the foundation of personal transformation. Christians point to the many New Testament passages which state that the power that raised Christ from the dead is the same power that is available to transform lives and to change society. Wherever resurrection power has touched individuals or society, things have drastically changed!
Do you ever long to be different, to be self-controlled, serene, loving, contributive, winsome, faithful, confident? Do you ever wish that you could start life allover again? Do you ever wish that your secret past would no longer haunt you? Have you ever wished that your guilt could be resolved and that your future could be bright with hope and cheer?
The Bible says that your past guilt can be removed and that you can be totally forgiven. Under the power of the resurrected Christ, your human nature can change! Everything can become new! An ugly worm can become a beautiful butterfly, and a dried up root can bloom into a sweet-smelling flower. A bad man can become a good man! "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV)
The great writer, Alexander Pope, muttered: "O Lord, make me a better man," and his spiritually enlightened page replied: "It would be easier to make you a new man." Perhaps you, like Pope, have longed for sweet peace. Then no longer simply try to patch up your life, but let the great and powerful Lord–the resurrected Christ–come into your inner life to remake you, to convert you, to transform you within. Remember, reformation is a human attempt at change; transformation is a God-wrought change. The power that raised Christ from the dead is the same power that is available to transform your life! You don't have to remain the kind of person that you are. Your conscious and subconscious mind alike can be converted. You can start anew!
One girl who accepted Jesus as her Saviour was so changed that someone told her that she appeared to have 'swallowed sunshine.'
"An alcoholic came to a place of prayer and said, 'O Jesus, if you are going to save me, why don't you do it?' Then he opened his eyes and claimed, 'Boys, he has done it.'" (The Divine Yes; E. S. Jones; pg. 92)
"O Thou Christ, who defied the power of death and left the tomb empty, let that same power that accomplished the humanly impossible be exercised in my life to change me into a new person."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I choose, not to become a better person, but a new person, through the transforming power of the resurrected Christ!
The Resurrection Vindicated God's Righteousness
During the last several days, we have looked at the foundation of Christianity–the resurrection of Jesus. We have seen that the resurrection is the foundation upon which the entire superstructure of Christianity is built. The resurrection is the foundation for faith, hope, justice, fulfilled aspirations, and transformation of human nature. Because of its central place in Christianity, we must continue to look at the resurrection, seeking to further understand its meaning and significance.
If Jesus would not have been raised from the dead, certain conclusions would have to be drawn: (1) Jesus was a mere man, even though a great man; (2) Death is more powerful than life; (3) God is not just and loving.
"Long ago some one read the story of the death of Jesus to King Clovis, who was a barbarian, not a Christian; and suddenly, as the story went on, his hand reached for his sword, and drew it, and 'Oh,' he cried, 'if only I had been there with my Franks! Weld have charged up the slopes of Calvary, and smashed those Romans, and saved Him!' But if God, watching Calvary, did nothing–left it at that, and knew this was the end of Christ for ever? Then we are back where Huxley was. 'I cannot see,' he said, lone shadow or tittle of evidence that God is love.'" (The Gates of New Life; Stewart; pg. 163)
For God to have allowed Jesus to remain in the tomb, would have been a sign that Jesus was not God, that Jesus was not righteous, that death was stronger than life, that evil was stronger than righteousness!
During Jesus' lifetime, God declared Jesus as righteous, but such a claim would be invalidated if Jesus would have remained sealed in a tomb. The resurrection of Jesus is an absolute necessity if God's claim to Jesus' righteousness is to be validated. God had to raise His Son to life to show that the sinless Son of God could not be overcome by the sinful sons of the devil! If the evil plots of men are to be revealed for what they are, and if the righteousness of Jesus is to be vindicated, then Jesus must rise from the dead! Evil must be cut down, if not on the first day or on the second day, then always on the third day!
Also, the resurrection proves God's trustworthiness. For generations, God promised to establish His Messianic kingdom. The death and resurrection were the fulfillments of that promise. God is never slack in fulfilling His promises (2 Peter 3:9).
"God, you so loved your world that you gave your Son to die for the sake of sinners. God, you so loved your Son that you raised Him from death for the sake of justice! Such love and such justice!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The resurrection is the badge of Christ's authority to establish his long-predicted Messianic kingdom in the hearts and lives of people–people like me!
The Resurrection Demonstrated God's Power
"The clash you see at Calvary was not only between Jesus and His enemies: it was between God and the devil–the two great world powers grappling there, locked in wrestler's grip. And if the cross finished things, then down in the underworld that night there must have run a savage cry, 'We win! We win! God is blotted out.' Power? says Paul. If Christ be not raised, don't tell me God is power." (The Gates of New Life; Stewart; pg. 163)
"The triumph of the resurrection was conclusive evidence of the vast spiritual power exerted through Christ against those enemies of man which had never previously been defeated–sin and death… God, by spiritual power, raised his Son from the dead. The physical force which moved the stone from the tomb and reduced the tough Roman soldiers to terror was only a trifle, a mere straw in the wind which in its holy blast destroyed the power of sin and death. Can you hear the ring of holy joy behind these exultant words of Paul: 'And then, having drawn the sting of all the powers ranged against us, he exposed them, shattered, empty and defeated, in his final glorious triumphant act.'" (Good News; J. B. Phillips; pg. 200-201 )
What Satan thought was his greatest triumph became in reality his greatest tragedy! Satan claimed victory when he saw Jesus hang His head in death on the cross. Satan was crushed three days later when he looked into an empty tomb and knew that Jesus was to ascend to the right hand of His Father's kingly throne! The demons' cries of triumph on Calvary's Friday suddenly turned into cries of terror on Easter morning! Christ disarmed the power of Satan!
"Death cannot keep his prey, Jesus, my Saviour! He tore the bars away, Jesus, my Lord!
Up from the grave he arose, With a mighty triumph o'er his foes; He arose a victor from the dark domain, And He lives forever with his saints to reign; He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!
The greatest weapon of Satan has always been death. When Christ arose from the dead, Jesus captured Satan's chief weapon!
"'Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?' The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Corinthians 15:55-56 NIV)
"Mighty God, I see that I do not fight for a victory; I fight from a victory! The victory over Satan has already been won–on Easter morning! Help me to claim that historic victory as my personal victory!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: When I place my faith in Jesus, I am placing my faith in one who has conquered my greatest enemy–Death!
The Resurrection Sealed Satan's Doom!
War took place in heaven! The most beautiful and powerful angel of heaven, who was himself a created being, became drunken with pride and decided to replace God on His throne! The origin of sin is found in this treasonous act when God's chief angel sought to exalt himself above his created position.
Satan was cast out of heaven, only to cause problems on earth. Satan instigated man's fall into sin. Satan became known as the 'prince of this world' for he usurped God's rightful place of authority.
Considering the power of Satan and the sway of evil, can we truthfully say that Jesus is Lord of history? Considering Satan's cruel power, and considering Jesus' humble earthly life, how can one say that Jesus is the conquering king and Satan is the defeated foe?
The resurrection is the basis for such a positive declaration! By His death and resurrection, Jesus has destroyed him who holds the power of death–that is, the devil–and Jesus frees those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15).
What an irony! Through Jesus' death, death for mankind is destroyed! What Satan thought was his greatest victory, became instead his greatest defeat!
Why did Jesus' death destroy death? Because Jesus' death was followed by His resurrection! The death and resurrection of Jesus are two parts of one whole. The death of Jesus must always be interpreted in light of the resurrection of Jesus. The greatest tragedy of history–the death of Jesus–turned out to be the greatest triumph of history because of the resurrection!
The resurrection is what makes Jesus the conquering king and Satan the defeated foe! "Christians, though living in a world still under the prince of darkness, give daily testimony that the prince of darkness has already been judged and the lordship of Jesus is already affirmed. We await the coronation." (Belonging; Adventures in Church Membership; Donald Bastian; pg. 45)
The prince of this world, Satan, has been judged. Satan's head has been crushed (Genesis 3:15). His sentence of death has been pronounced. The broken seal on Jesus' tomb becomes Satan's seal of death! God has already appointed his day of execution: "And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever." (Revelations 20:10) While he awaits his final day of execution, Satan is taking out his bitterness upon mankind. However, Satan's total destruction is certain! Jesus guaranteed final victory for His Church when He arose victoriously from the dead. Said the victorious Christ: "I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it!" (Matthew 16:18)
"Victorious Christ, the judgment of the enemy guarantees the execution of the enemy! The crushing of the serpent's head guarantees the total destruction of the serpent! Satan shall no longer be 'on the loose.' Glory!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The bitterness of the battle against evil can be endured when I am assured of the victorious outcome of the battle!
Philippians 1:19-26; Philippians 3:12-14
"Why Was I So Afraid Of This Thing Called Death?"
Is there any hope for life after death? Without Jesus' resurrection there would be no hope for the future, after physical death. Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live." (John 11:25) Belief in the resurrection of Jesus gives the foundation of hope in the subsequent resurrection of the body of true believers.
To help you anticipate your future resurrection life, think of life's stages. "The unborn child is up under his mother's heart, well taken care of, well fed, and happy. He likes it there. Suppose then, that someone could come to the baby and tell him, 'You're going to be born. You're not going to stay here.' And he would learn that by being born, he would leave this warm secure place. That would not be being born to him, that would be dying for him. Dying is an end. And the baby would say, 'I don't want to be born. I don't want to die. I like it here. I'm warm. I feel love all around me. I'm happy and content. Just leave me alone. I don't want to leave this nice place.'
"But there comes a day when he is born. Or, looking at it from his angle, when he dies out of that place, and is born into our world.
"What happens to him? He feels soft, tender, loving hands gently holding him. He looks up into a wondrous face, that is full of love, and it is shining down at him. Then as he grows, he has the glorious experiences of childhood, and young manhood, and the future is before him. He feels strong and it is good to be alive. He marries and raises children. He becomes middle aged. He is creative and happy, and life is good. The world is good. And the years begin to add up. His hair becomes white, and his form a bit feeble. He knows he has to die, to leave all this and go into another place. But he protests: 'I don't want to die. I like it here. I love to feel the warmth of the sun on my face, the softness of the rain, the sting of snow. I love to see great mountains, shouldering out the sky. I love to watch the ocean washing upon soft shores of sand. I love to be with my family, and my friends. Life is good; I don't want to leave here.'
"But one day he does die, to this world.
"Do you mean to tell me that all of a sudden God changes? Isn't it reasonable to believe that the first thing he will feel is the touch of great loving hands; that he will look up into a face that is infinitely loving? He will look around him, and his breath will be taken away by the beauties that he sees. All tears will be wiped from his eyes. And he will say, 'Why was I so afraid of this thing called death, when as I now see, it is life!'
"And the Christian will live forever!" (quoted by Robert Andrews on the 'Light and Life Hour'; April 22, 1973)
"God, if on earth I see your smiling face in the beautiful sunset, and feel your love in the cool breeze of the early morning, what will your presence be like in heaven!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." (Philippians 1:21 NIV)
1 Corinthians 15:16-22
"I Was Talking With Him This Morning!"
Provision has been made for your forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life! What is the basis for that provision? Jesus' death for your sins and His demonstration of power over sin, death, and hell as shown in the powerful resurrection! "If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins." (1 Corinthians 15:17 NIV) You need forgiveness, but without Jesus' resurrection, there is no forgiveness of sin! "If the cross was the end, Christ's brave pathetic attempt to be a Saviour failed. Because the sins of men that slew Him had the last word." (The Gates of New Life; James Stewart; pg. 165)
But forgiveness is provided because of the empty tomb!
You cannot live abundantly without forgiveness! "There is a dreadful passage in Carlyle where he imagines a man trying to run away from his own shadow; and ever and again he turns round, and it is still there, that black thing, dogging him; on and on, flinging himself wildly away from it– and round again, and it is still there; and he is panting now, and dead-beat: 'God, God, I can't get away from it!' That is sin–if there is no forgiveness." (Ibid; 155)
Because Christ died and arose from the dead, He has power on earth to forgive sins! Hallelujah!
The Christ who arose from the dead is the Christ who seeks to indwell the heart of every man. The incredible power that raised Christ from the dead is the same incredible power that is available to convert, cleanse, comfort, and challenge modern-day man. "I pray that you will begin to understand how incredibly great his power is to help those who believe him. It is that same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him the in the place of honor at God's right hand in heaven." (Ephesians 1:19-20)
The phrase 'in Christ' is used frequently in the New Testament. As birds are 'in' the air constantly, and as fish are 'in' the water because that is their natural habitat, so Christians are to be 'in' Christ constantly–drawing constantly upon His presence and power. The resurrection makes possible the living presence of Christ. "Two young men were discussing the account of the resurrection of Jesus. They agreed that such a thing was impossible. Seeing an old Christian gentleman approaching, one of them accosted him with, 'Tell us, why are you so sure that Jesus rose from the dead?' Said the old gentleman, 'Well, for one thing, I was talking with Him this morning.'" (Shoe-Leather Faith; No. 133; Merv Rosell)
"God, to me the most beautiful word in all human languages is 'forgiveness,' but all talk of forgiveness is an illusion without the resurrection of your Son. Because He vanquished death, my sin is vanquished! Glory!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I am a great sinner in need of a great Saviour– Jesus!
Discussion Questions On 'The Victory Of A Conquering God' (Part I)
If the foundation of Christianity is not an ethical creed or the memory of a religious reformer, what is the foundation of Christianity?
Describe what is meant by the statement: "The entire superstructure of Christianity rests upon the foundation of the resurrection."
Why is the bodily resurrection of Jesus the foundation of faith? (Note 1 Corinthians 15:13-18.)
In a world of despair and disillusionment, what is the Christian's basis for hope? (Note 1 Peter 1:3-4.)
Describe what is meant by the statement: "The future belongs to those who believe in and appropriate the power of Christ's resurrection."
Why can it be said that the bodily resurrection of Jesus gives history its meaning?
Describe what is meant by the statement: "The resurrection of Jesus is the basis for our hope of having a new body." What scriptural support can you cite as evidence that there will be a future bodily resurrection for believers?
Can you share any personal experience (i.e., your vision or the vision of one of your friends) which gives further support for your belief in a future glorious life with Christ?
What attitude should a sincere Christian have regarding physical death?
Why is the resurrection of Jesus the foundation for all justice?
In what ways does the resurrection of Jesus answer some of our most troublesome questions regarding the seeming triumph of evil and injustice?
Why is Christ's resurrection necessary as the foundation for the fulfillment of man's deepest aspirations?
What is the basis for personal human transformation?
What is the difference between a person becoming a new person and a person becoming a better person? (Define the difference between transformation and reformation.)
Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: "For God to have allowed Jesus to remain in the tomb, would have been a sign that Jesus was not God, that Jesus was not righteous, that death was stronger than life, that evil was stronger than righteousness!"
Discussion Questions On 'The Victory Of A Conquering God' (Part I) – Cont.
Concerning your own personal confrontation with evil and injustice, describe what comfort you can receive from the following statement: "Evil must be cut down, if not on the first day or on the second day, then always on the third day!"
Describe what is meant by the following statement: "The resurrection of Jesus is the badge of Christ's authority to establish His long- predicted Messianic kingdom in the hearts and lives of people."
Describe what is meant by the following statement: "What Satan thought was his greatest triumph became in reality his greatest tragedy!"
Do you, as a believer, fight FOR a victory or do you fight FROM a victory? Explain your answer.
Considering Satan's cruel power, and considering Jesus' humble earthly life, how can one say that Jesus is the conquering king and Satan is the defeated foe?
Describe what is meant by the statement: "Jesus' death destroyed death!" (Note Hebrews 2:14-15.)
Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: "The incredible power that raised Christ from the dead is the same incredible power that is available to convert, cleanse, comfort, and challenge modern- day man." (Have you personally appropriated that power in your life? Are you coming to know Christ personally?)