We’re kicking off a brand new series for the New Year. And I can’t think of any better way to get this year rolling than by getting back to basics. Far too often, people in the church major in the minors and minor in the majors. They allow themselves to get caught up in all this little stuff and in the end, the miss the point of it all.
That’s why we’re starting 2013 with a back to basics series. It’s called Remix and it’s based entirely in 1 Corinthians 15.
The book of 1 Corinthians is actually a letter that the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in the city of Corinth. The church in Corinth was about as messed up a church as you could ever find. That’s kind of amazing considering that the book of 1 Corinthians was written around 55 AD. The church was in its infancy. It was barely 20 years old, and things had already gotten all messed up.
Some people demand a perfect church. They want a church where their feelings never get hurt. Where they never get frustrated. Where things are always sweet and nice and, well, perfect. They want perfect leaders who make perfect decisions. They want to sit next to perfect people. They want to hear perfect preaching. And the minute something doesn’t go perfectly, they’re done.
The church at Corinth was only a few years old, and things were already a mess. That’s because as long as the church is made up of imperfect people, it’s going to be imperfect.
The book of 1 Corinthians is a letter that Paul wrote to the Corinthian church where he addressed problem after problem after problem. And one of the problems was that false teaching had started creeping into the church. Specifically, false teaching about Jesus’ resurrection. That’s why Paul hits it so hard in chapter 15.
Some people refer to 1 Corinthians 15 as “The Resurrection Chapter.” It’s a long chapter that gives some of the most detailed teaching in the Bible about the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
The center of it all is verse 17, which says, “Unless Christ was raised to life, your faith is useless, and you are still living in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:17, CEV)
The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the center point of history. If Jesus rose from the dead, it affirms everything we know from the Bible. It confirms God’s power and His love for us. It seals our salvation.
If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then everything about the Christian faith is a sham. It’s useless superstition that ranks right up there with the Mayan prediction that the world would end last month. If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then that’s where things stand.
This is what I mean when I say that too many Christians major in the minors and minor in the majors. It all comes down to the resurrection. It really is that important.
Jesus’ physical, bodily resurrection was more than a magic trick. It’s more than an interesting historical detail. The power and significance of the resurrection permeates our lives and is the hinge point of our faith.
But a lot of Christians I’ve met don’t believe it. They do not believe that Jesus rose from the dead. They absolutely deny that He is alive.
Now, don’t misunderstand. They believe the theology of the resurrection. If you were to ask them, “Did Jesus rise from the dead?” they would say, “Absolutely!”
But then, you watch how they live their lives. And they can claim to believe in the resurrection all they want, but their lives tell a different story. They don’t live like their God is powerful and present and alive. They live like He is powerless and distant and dead.
This series is all about changing that. The doctrine of the resurrection is the center point of our faith. And we’re going to do some serious doctrinal teaching in this series. But doctrine isn’t just about changing our minds. It leads to the changing of our lives.
If the resurrection is true…if your God is alive…then you’re going to live differently. It is going to remix your entire life. Let me pray for us as we kick off this new series in this New Year.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ reveals that God can be trusted.
Everybody says the word “reveal.” Say it one more time. “Reveal.”
The resurrection is revelation. It is God revealing who He is. What He does. And just how far He will go for you and me. And when you understand that, it changes your perspective on absolutely everything.
We’re going to kick off this series in the beginning and the end of 1 Corinthians 15. Our key verses this morning really serve as bookends for this chapter, so they are really a great place for us to begin.
Paul says, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4, NIV)
Paul says that he passed this on to the Corinthian believers “as of first importance.” The Apostle Paul wrote most of the books in the New Testament, and his writings cover a ton of different themes and subjects. But in these verses, Paul lets us know that not all of his teachings were equal. The doctrine of Jesus’ death and resurrection leads the pack. Nothing else tops this. Nothing else is as important as this.
And because of that, Paul doesn’t just tell us about the resurrection. He backs it up with evidence.
Almost no one denies the death of Jesus. The fact that Jesus died on a cross is almost universally accepted by historians today. But the resurrection is different. There are a ton of people who accept the truth of the crucifixion but completely deny the resurrection.
If the crucifixion is true but the resurrection is not, then the story of Jesus isn’t a story worth telling. Thousands upon thousands of people in antiquity were crucified.
In 519 B.C., Persian King Darius crucified 3,000 Babylonians. In A.D. 66, the Romans crucified 3,600 Jews, which sparked an immense uprising in Palestine. By the time order was restored, the executioners had literally run out of wood to make crosses.
Jesus death was excruciating. It was pure agony. But it was not unique. If the story of Jesus ended on the cross, then His Name would barely be a blip on the radar screen of history.
But the story doesn’t end with the cross. Three days after his death, Jesus got up and walked out of that borrowed tomb and the entire course of history was forever changed.
That’s why Paul doesn’t just tell us that Jesus rose from the dead. He gives evidence to back it up.
Paul knew the resurrection would be questioned and discounted and dismissed, so he includes historical evidence to back up the claim. And he did it because everything rests on the resurrection. If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then you should go grab the kids, pack it up, go home, and never come back. If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then I’m a fool standing up here preaching and you’re a fool for sitting there listening.
Rising from the dead is an audacious, miraculous claim, but history backs it up. In these verses, Paul said that Jesus died for our sins according to the Scriptures. Then three days later, He rose again according to the Scriptures.
This was all prophesied centuries before Jesus was even born. In Isaiah 53, the prophet Isaiah wrote, “Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. [This is a prophecy about how Jesus would not even answer the charges against Him.]
By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished. [this is a prophecy about the cross]
He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, [this is a prophecy about Jesus’ burial in the tomb of a rich man named Joseph of Arimathea] though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.
[Now, listen to this transition from death and burial to resurrection.] Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.” (Isaiah 53:4-11, NIV)
This had been God’s plan all along. The book of Isaiah was written 700 years before Jesus was born, and it is amazingly specific about Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. The evidence is absolutely incredible.
But the Apostle Paul doesn’t stop there. After he says that Jesus died and rose again according to the Scriptures, he goes on to say that after the resurrection, Jesus “appeared to Cephas [which is another name for the Apostle Peter], and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.” (1 Corinthians 15:5-8, NIV)
Think of the evidence that Paul lists. Jesus was crucified publicly. Everyone knew where He was buried. And then, three days later, He started appearing to people. Sometimes to individuals. Sometimes to small groups. And then to a group of over 500.
When is the last time that a group of 500 people agreed on anything? If you don’t believe me, think about this. There are 535 voting members in the United States Congress. How are we doing there? Fiscal cliff, anybody?
It’s next to impossible to get a group of 500 people to agree on anything. And yet Paul reminds us that after this experience, over 500 people walked away saying the same thing. “Jesus is alive!”
Jesus walked with these people. He ate with them. He was seen and heard and touched.
And all this adds up to this essential truth…the resurrection reveals that God can be trusted.
God said He would do it, and then He did it. He said that His Son would die to pay the price for our sin and then He would be raised to life again to give us a new life. And then He did it.
God isn’t in the business of making empty promises. He can be trusted completely, even when the promise is audacious. Even when it will take a miracle.
Seriously, if God promised that Jesus would defeat death…and then He did it…what possible reason do we have to not trust Him completely? If He can be trusted to overcome death, what is going on in your life where you can’t trust Him to come through?
Here’s the way Paul said it in 1 Corinthians 15, starting in verse 12. “But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.
More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.
Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Corinthians 15:12-20, NIV)
If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then God didn’t come through on His promise. And if God didn’t come through on His promise, then why trust Him with anything? Why trust anything I say as your pastor? Why trust anything the Bible says at all? If Jesus is dead, then Christianity is dead and people should pity us for our ignorance and stupidity. We are worshipping a God who cannot be trusted.
Dr. Tim Keller said, “If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all he said; if he didn’t rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what he said? The issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like his teaching but whether or not he rose from the dead.”
If Jesus is dead, it can all be dismissed. But if Jesus is alive, all of that is turned upside down. God did deliver on His promise. His Word is true. He can be trusted.
That’s why Paul emphatically says, “Christ has INDEED been raised from the dead.” God said He would do it, and He did it. And if He could be trusted to overcome death, then you can trust Him in every single corner of your life.
This is where the remix begins for us. It begins with the truth that God can be trusted. It begins by believing that if God could be trusted to defeat death, then He can be trusted in anything.
Think of how radically that could shift things in your life, if you really bought into it all the way. Think of the impact that could have on the chronic worry and stress in your life. What is worry anyway? Lack of trust. At its core, that’s what it is. When I worry, it’s because I really don’t trust God to come through. If I did, what in the world would I worry about?
Think of the impact this has on your money. A lot of us refuse to do money God’s way because we don’t trust Him to come through. How can I actually tithe? I know the Bible talks about giving 10%, but seriously…I can’t even get by on 100%. And the whole time we fail to realize that God can do more with 90% than we can do with 100%. But because we don’t trust Him to come through, we aren’t generous. We don’t tithe because we don’t trust.
And by the way, if money is the issue in your life…and if you say it’s not the issue, you’re probably lying…we’re offering our Financial Peace University small group again this spring. Sign ups start next week. You need to get in that group and learn to trust God with your money. And if you do, I promise that you’ll see how much He blesses you when you trust Him.
When you think about it, it’s crazy how much we DON’T trust God. We trust God with our salvation but not with our spending. We trust God to rescue us for all eternity but we don’t trust Him in our own family. We trust His grace to be our sin payment but we don’t trust Him in our employment. We trust that God has our eternity in His hands but then we get rattled by something we see on the news.
You could go on and on and on. But when you boil it down, this is the question. If God can be trusted to conquer death, what can He NOT be trusted with?
If the church would really get this, we wouldn’t even believe what would happen. This is turn the world upside-down type stuff here.
When you read how the church began in the book of Acts, you read about people who understood this truth. They lived with reckless abandon. They weren’t conservative and calculated. They lived pedal to the metal. They did crazy things. They took audacious risks. All because they knew that if their God could be trusted to beat death, He could be trusted to come through in anything.
But then, somewhere along the way, things changed. Somewhere along the line, people started shifting into maintenance mode. The church went from radical to reserved. The church went from ministry to maintenance.
Somewhere along the way, Christ-followers stopped being pioneers and became play-it-safers. And I think there is a direct correlation between this mindset and what we believe about the resurrection.
If the resurrection is a Bible story to be read at Easter, if it is a religious tradition to be upheld, then playing it safe makes total sense. Conservative and calculated would be the way to go.
But if this is actually the truth, then it is inexcusable for a church to be unwilling to lay it all on the line. It is unthinkable for a Christian to live with a lack of trust and faith.
It doesn’t mean that it’s always going to go our way. It doesn’t mean that at all. It means that things are always going to go God’s way. We live for His ultimate glory. We want to bring as many people as we can to Him. We want them to meet a God who would rather die for them than live without them. And we want them to meet a God who is more powerful than death. A God that can be trusted completely.
In Matthew 18, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3, NIV)
A big part of becoming like a child is learning to trust. During Christmas break, Nicki and I took our boys sledding with some of my family. I heard a rumor that there was a picture of me sledding on the screen last week. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I will get to the bottom of it.
We were sledding on a farm behind my parents’ house. The hill we were sledding on ends pretty abruptly into a bunch of trees and a small creek. So if you don’t stop at the bottom of the hill, you’re going to be in for a world of hurt.
But when our two boys were sledding down the hill, they didn’t worry about the trees. They didn’t worry about the creek. They didn’t worry about it because there were always adults at the bottom of the hill, ready to stop them. All our boys did was focus on the ride. They careened down that hill with reckless abandon, because they trusted us to catch them.
That’s what this year is all about in our church. We’re on the hill. We’re picking up speed. And things are going to get wild.
The moves that we’re making this year are audacious. Some people would say these moves defy logic. Some people even use words like “crazy” to describe where we’re going.
But I can tell you this…every move our church makes is done for one reason, and only one reason. We want more people to meet our God. His Name is Jesus. He is the one that whipped death itself. And through His resurrection back to life, He changes everything in our lives. We’re focused on the ride, because we know we can trust God to catch us.
Here’s the way Paul said it at the end of 1 Corinthians 15. “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.
Therefore [In other words, pay attention. Because the resurrection is true, here’s what it means for us], my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. [What have you allowed to move you? Where have you stopped trusting God? Where have you allowed worry and fear and anxiety to rule your life? Where are you disobeying God because you don’t trust Him to come through?]
Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. [Give yourselves FULLY to the word of the Lord. In other words, pedal to the metal. All out. Nothing held back. Not calculated or reserved. We serve, we give, we preach, we pray, and we don’t give up, because if our God can defeat death, we can trust Him in anything.]” (1 Corinthians 15:54b-58, NIV)
That is what a person who really believes in the resurrection looks like. That is what a church who really believes in the resurrection looks like.
It really is a total remix. It changes everything.