Wednesday, October 07, 2015

In Christ...Asleep and Resurrected

At the heart of Christianity is the resurrection of Jesus. If Jesus was not raised from the dead, then his disciples, either intentionally or unwittingly, pulled off the greatest hoax in history. But if Jesus was resurrected then that is the single greatest event of history. If Jesus conquered death, then we all have hope!

            The apostle Paul had an interesting history concerning the resurrection. When he was a young man he was confronted with the rumors of Jesus’ resurrection and he decided that it could not be true. He held that belief militantly, even to the point of persecuting people who believed the resurrection was true. Then Paul had an encounter with the risen Jesus. THAT will change your mind about the truth of the resurrection like nothing else can. Paul was called by Jesus to be his witness to the Gentiles.

            As Paul traveled throughout the Gentile world, nothing that he taught was more difficult to believe than the resurrection claim of Jesus. In fact, in Athens Paul was laughed to scorn because of his belief in the resurrection. The people of Athens, like all people, were completely convinced of the permanence of death! To hear someone make a claim that a dead person had come back to life, never to die again was more than they could accept.

            In the city of Corinth, where Paul went after leaving Athens, he found a willing audience for his message of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. But several years later, some of those people stopped believing in the resurrection. In writing the letter we call 1 Corinthians, Paul asked them “How can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” They could say that because it is not easy to believe. But there are serious consequences if the resurrection is not true! If there is no resurrection then Christ is not raised, your faith is futile, you remain in your sins, those who have died in Christ are simply lost, and we deserve pity because we have built our lives upon a lie.

            If, however, the resurrection of Jesus is based upon truth then there are some good results that flow from that truth. Jesus becomes the catalyst for resurrection for all his people. Those who have died trusting Jesus are merely “asleep in Christ,” not lost forever to us. If Jesus is the resurrected Lord then at his ascension he was truly given the name that is above all names and he is reigning – working on bringing to fulfillment the kingdom of God. When he finally defeats his enemies – dominion, authority, power and finally death itself – he will present the kingdom to his Father. At that point all who trust him will be raised to be with him forever.

            Our greatest enemy is death, but the hope of the gospel is that Jesus has conquered death and brought live and immortality to light! There was a time when Paul could not believe in the resurrection of Jesus. But after meeting Jesus Paul could not wait to share in Jesus’ resurrection! “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, and so,  somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:10-11)

            “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “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 15:54-57)

- Kenny Payne

In Christ...Boast

            People love to boast. We like to talk smack. We enjoy promoting ourselves. We seem to think that we can lift ourselves up best by tearing other people down. We boast to let others know that we must be taken seriously. We boast as a way to express our trust in ourselves. And that leads to all sorts of problems, for trusting in yourself is not how God plans for you to make it through life!

Here is what God told Jeremiah to tell his people Israel: This is what the Lord says: “Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 9:23-24) This warning was (and IS) necessary because people seem to have an insatiable desire to trust in themselves and what they can accomplish!

This desire to trust in self was certainly active in the life of Paul on the day he met Jesus. He was “advancing beyond others his age in Judaism.” He was on a mission to arrest and punish Christians, whom he believed were guilty of blasphemy. When Jesus appeared to Paul he “fell to the ground” both literally and metaphorically. On that day Paul started learning what it means to boast in Jesus and not in himself!

In writing to the Christians in his beloved Philippi Paul said: “We boast in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.” Yet Paul could remember when he placed great confidence in the flesh and he knew why! He continued: If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.”(Philippians 3:4-6) Paul had an amazing pedigree! He also had some great accomplishments! He was willing to stack his profile up against anyone who was willing to challenge him. If the game was trusting in self, then Paul was well prepared to play.

But Paul also knew that the game of trusting in self is a fool’s game. Jesus taught him that and he learned the lesson well. He continues: But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ  and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. (Philippians 3:7-9) Paul wanted to make his life a success and he clearly understood that the only way to do that was to trust in Christ! Paul’s trust was amazing…

·         I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. (Galatians 2:20) 

·         From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus. (Galatians 6:17)

·         Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. (Colossians 1:24)

What do you boast in? Anything but Jesus will turn out to be an empty boast!

- Kenny Payne