This is week #3 of our series called Remix. In this series, we are getting back to basics. The central belief of our faith is Jesus’ death and resurrection. Everything else, and I mean EVERYTHING else, hangs on this truth: Jesus died and Jesus rose again.
We’re in 1 Corinthians 15 for this series. In this chapter, the Apostle Paul makes what is possibly the strongest case in the Bible for Jesus’ resurrection. He bluntly says that if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then we’re all fools because our faith is a myth. It’s just fantasy.
But if Jesus did rise from the dead, then it confirms everything we believe about Him. And it changes every single detail of our lives. The resurrection really does remix everything in our lives. The resurrection changes absolutely everything.
Today, we’re going to talk about one of the most significant changes the resurrection brings to our lives. The resurrection remixes our relationships. It changes our relationships. It restores our relationships.
I’ll tell you right up front that this is going to be hard. For some of us, this is going to be REALLY hard. But if you will listen to God speak this hard truth to you, I promise there is life on the other side.
Let me pray over us this morning.
The central verse for this series is 1 Corinthians 15:17, 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)
If Christ was not raised to life, you have not been set free. You have not been forgiven. You are still imprisoned by guilt and shame and regret and sin.
But if Jesus did rise from the dead, the reset button has been pressed like we talked about last week. If Jesus is alive, you are forgiven. You are free. Through the death and the resurrection of Jesus, your relationship with God has been restored.
Look at what Paul said in verses 9-10 of 1 Corinthians 15. He wrote, “For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.” (1 Corinthians 15:9-10a, NIV)
The apostles were the people that God chose to launch his church and to write down his Word. Paul is counted as one of the apostles, but he didn’t have a very “apostlelike” beginning because he had persecuted the church.
In Acts 22, Paul himself admitted, “I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, as the high priest and all the Council can themselves testify. I even obtained letters from them to their associates in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished.” (Acts 22:4-5, NIV)
Paul’s mission was to arrest as many Christians as possible. Anyone who followed the “Way,” which was a reference for Christianity, was fair game. A lot of times Paul didn’t stop at imprisoning them. He actually preferred them dead. Paul was a serial killer.
Doesn’t quite sound like the makings of a man who would become the greatest missionary in history and who would write most of the books in the New Testament. Common sense would tell us that Paul would be the least likely person in the world for God to use in His work.
But this is the restoring power of the resurrection. The resurrection restores our relationship with God.
One of the privileges of my job is that I get to learn a lot of people’s life stories. And I know that we have a lot of people that have personally experienced the restoring power of Jesus’ resurrection. A lot of you are walking, talking proof that the restorative power of the resurrection still works.
In our church family today, we have recovering alcoholics. People with a criminal record. Former drug addicts. We have people who have committed sexual sin, people who have overcome hatred and animosity, people who have struggled through depression, people who have overcome the dysfunctionality of their families, people who once aggressively denied the very existence of God.
It’s likely that you don’t know who these specific people are, but I’m telling you that they’re here. They’re here because of the restoring power of the resurrection.
Look at what Paul said in the book of Romans. “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. [In other words, God didn’t wait for us to become good enough. He died for us, not when we were at our best. He died for us when we were at our worst.]
Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! [aka, his resurrection]
Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Romans 5:6-11, NIV)
The death and resurrection of Jesus reconciles us to God. It restores our relationship with God. We can never been good enough on our own. We can never make our check good with God on our own. But through the death and resurrection of Christ, we can be restored to God. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done. It doesn’t matter how far you’ve fallen. It doesn’t matter how much of a mess you’re in. The death and resurrection of Jesus is your reset and it can fully, completely, absolutely restore your relationship with God.
Go back to what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15. He wrote, “For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.” (1 Corinthians 15:9-10a, NIV)
Paul recognized the filth of his past. He knew he was the least of the apostles. In fact, he didn’t even deserve to be called an apostle. But the grace of God was the game changer.
Look at that last line. “His grace to me was not without effect.” Grace always works. Always. It never fails. Ever. With this caveat…we have to allow it to work. We have to surrender ourselves fully to God and allow His grace to change us. But when we do, our relationship with God is restored. But then it goes even further than that.
The resurrection restores our relationship with God. It also restores our relationship with others.
As you can imagine, Paul wasn’t immediately embraced by the church. Christians everywhere knew about his persecution of the church. They knew he was a murderer. The relationship between Paul and the church was broken, to put it mildly.
But the resurrection can restore even the most broken relationship.
In Acts 9, we learn about how Paul came to Christ. At this point, his name was still Saul. He would come to be known as Paul later in his life.
Check this out. Acts 9, starting in the first verse. “Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.
As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus.
For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”
“Yes, Lord,” he answered.
The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”
“Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”
But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul [Stop right there for a second. Ananias knew who this was. This was the one who had imprisoned, even murdered, believers. It’s very impossible that Paul was responsible for the death of some of Ananias’ friends or even family. And yet when he walked in, he called him, “Brother Saul.” That’s the restoring power of the resurrection], the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again.
He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength. Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus.” (Acts 9:1-19, NIV)
Saul, who we know as Paul, encountered the resurrected Christ. He was never the same. He prayed. He was baptized. His relationship to God was restored.
But we also can’t miss what happened in his relationship with others. Ananias called him, “Brother Saul.” He placed his hands on Saul and his sight was restored. And then at the end of this passage, we see that Saul stayed with the believers in Damascus for several days. He was hanging out with the very same people he had intended to arrest just three days earlier.
This is what the resurrection does. It restores our relationships…even the most broken ones.
If God has the power to resurrect the broken body of His Son, He has the power to resurrect the most broken relationship in your life.
Paul and Ananias would have never made this connection if it wasn’t for the resurrection. Paul wouldn’t be hanging out with all these believers if it wasn’t for the resurrection. But he encountered the resurrected Christ, and that was the game changer. It was the game changer in his relationship with God. It was the game changer in his relationship with others.
And that’s what the resurrection is for us, too.
This was a pretty rough week in our house, especially for our son, Ryan. Ryan got strep throat, so we got an antibiotic. Not a big deal. But then he started throwing up as a result of the strep throat. He was getting dehydrated. He couldn’t keep his antibiotic down. And if he couldn’t keep the medicine down, he was never going to get well.
Finally, our doctor told us to come in so Ryan could get a couple of antibiotic shots. It was the only way to get the medicine in him so he could get well. And if you’ve ever seen these antibiotic shots, you know that they’re serious. They’re big. The medicine is extremely think. In short, it just flat out hurts.
But I told Ryan that this was the best thing for him. I told him, “I’m not going to lie to you. This is going to hurt. But after the pain, you’ll start feeling better very soon.”
And that’s exactly what happened. Ryan took these two big, painful shots better than a lot of adults would have. And you know who you are, don’t you? All you needle phobia people. My eight-year-old put you away this week.
And afterward, the shots took effect quickly and he healed. But he had to endure the pain in order to get to the healing.
For some of us, the next few minutes are going to be painful. I’m going to be incredibly direct, and it’s going to hurt. A lot of people aren’t going to like it. There may even be a few that decide to get mad at me because of it. But if you take it in…even though it’s painful…I promise there is healing on the other side.
Here we go.
Some of you came here thinking that you would meet Jesus today, but you’re never going to find Him.
Listen to what Luke wrote in his gospel after the resurrection of Christ. “On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.
While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!” (Luke 24:1-6a, NIV)
The women thought they would find Jesus in the tomb, but He wasn’t there. That’s why the angel said, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!”
They were looking for Jesus in a place where He was never going to be found. And a lot of us do the same thing. We look for Jesus in places where He is never going to be found.
Jesus is never going to be found in bitterness. Or in anger. Or in resentment. Or in a grudge. Or in unforgiveness. Those things bring death. They are tombs…and Jesus is alive. He isn’t found in tombs. But so many of us keep right on looking, thinking that we’ll find Him. We go right on looking for the living among the dead. And the whole time, the angels words are echoing, “He’s not here. You’re looking for the living among the dead. He’s not here. You will never find Him here.”
Some of you came to church today, expecting to encounter Jesus. You came to meet Him here. But you came with bitterness and resentment and anger toward someone else in your heart. Maybe that person is even in this room. Maybe it’s someone in your own church that you’re holding a grudge against. Someone toward whom you feel anger and bitterness. Maybe even hatred.
You came here to meet Jesus, but you’re not going to find Him. In fact, as long as this stuff in your heart remains unresolved, you will never find Him.
Maybe that person is in your church. Maybe that person is in your family. Maybe that person lives in your neighborhood. Maybe that person works in your office. Whoever it is, if you’re living with animosity and resentment and bitterness in your heart, you simply aren’t going to find Jesus because you are looking in places where He will never be found.
In fact, here’s how important this is. Jesus doesn’t even want you to try to worship Him until you’ve surrendered this stuff to Him.
Look at what Jesus said in Matthew 5. “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24, NIV)
If you come to worship Jesus and then are reminded about a broken relationship, Jesus wants you to go make things right. Because if you come to worship Him with bitterness and resentment in your heart, you won’t find Him.
And look at how proactive this is. Jesus said, “You have to go. You have to make the move. Go and do whatever you can to restore the relationship. But don’t come and try to find me in worship with all this stuff in your heart, because I simply won’t be found there.”
Some of us have been looking for Jesus for years. We even believe we’ve found Him, but it’s all a lie. We try to convince other people.
Maybe we’ve even convinced ourselves because we do all the right things. We come to church. We do good things. Heck, we even post Scripture on Facebook. That’s definitely proof of how spiritual we are.
But if there is bitterness and unforgiveness in your heart, you haven’t found Jesus. It’s all smoke and mirrors, because you haven’t found Him at all.
In Matthew 6, Jesus Himself said, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15, NIV)
Sometimes as a pastor, I need to take a Scripture, break it down, and explain it. And then sometimes I just need to let the Scripture speak for itself. This one speaks for itself. I don’t need to add or explain anything.
Jesus said, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15, NIV)
There are a lot of us that ought to be wrecked by this. You’ve been harboring unforgiveness for a long time. And you’ve become convinced that it’s okay. That your anger is justified. That your bitterness is somehow righteous and good. That your unforgiveness is perfectly acceptable to God.
That’s not what Jesus said. And if you and Jesus are saying two different things, you are the one that’s wrong. And you are the one that had better repent. You are the one that needs to be changed. You need to stop looking for Jesus in places where He will never be found.
When you read these words from Jesus, do you notice the absolute lack of qualifiers and exceptions? There have been a lot of times when I wished that Jesus had included some conditions in this command.
I wish he would have said, “Forgive someone as long as they didn’t hurt you too badly.” “Forgive, unless your bitterness and anger are justified.” “Forgive if it feels right.”
But he didn’t say any of that. He simply said, “Forgive. And if you don’t forgive them, don’t expect God to forgive you.”
For a lot of us, this is the most difficult command that Jesus ever gave. But that doesn’t change the fact that He did give it.
So what do you do with this? There are several ways you can respond. Here are a couple of common responses. Denial and dismissal.
You can deny the truth that you’re hearing. You can deny that there is a problem. You can deny the anger and bitterness that is consuming you.
You can also just dismiss me. You can completely ignore everything you’ve heard. You can dismiss the Word that God is speaking to you. You can dismiss it because you really don’t like me, and since I’m the one that said it, you’re going to ignore it. You can dismiss it because, in your heart, you believe your bitterness is justified. Or you can dismiss it simply because you’d rather follow your will than God’s will.
And some people here today will do just that. Some of you are going to leave exactly the way you came in. Your heart is so hard. Your resentment and bitterness run so deep that this message just isn’t going to penetrate.
Or, you can surrender. You can stop looking for Jesus in the tomb of anger and unforgiveness, and instead you can find the risen Christ in the life of grace and forgiveness and freedom.
In Acts 3, the Apostle Peter was preaching to a crowd and he said, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus.” (Acts 3:19-20, NIV)
When you repent, when you turn to God, when you completely surrender, He wipes out your sins. And then He refreshes your life. He restores you. And He sends the One you’ve been looking for all along…Jesus.
Jesus will never be found in pride and rebellion. He is found in humility and repentance.
Now, you’ve heard the Word of God. You’ve been confronted with the truth. Now, the ball is in your court. What are you going to do with it?
We are going to offer a time of repentance. The resurrection restores your relationship with God, and this is your time to repent. To surrender. To allow Him to refresh and restore you.
But the resurrection is also the power that restores our relationship with others. There are a ton of us here today that aren’t going to be finished with this when the service ends. There is someone you need to seek out. You need to call them. You need to go to them. You need to actually get up and allow the power of the resurrection to restore a broken relationship.
I know that some of you are still not convinced. You don’t believe this applies to you. This message wasn’t for you. And for some of us, we believe that because of who we have surrounded ourselves with.
If you surround yourself with bitter, negative, critical people, then you will become a bitter, negative, critical person.
If you don’t believe me, look at what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15. The resurrection chapter. The chapter that we’re camping out in for this entire series.
In the middle of his discussion about the resurrection, he said in verse 33, “Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God—I say this to your shame.” (1 Corinthians 15:33-34, NIV)
You may be surrounded with voices spewing bitterness and anger and unforgiveness. And in the middle of that chorus, it can be easy to miss the still, small voice of God saying, “Forgive. Let Me restore you. Let the resurrection heal what’s broken in you. Let Me restore this relationship. Let Me set you free from the tomb of resentment and bitterness and unforgiveness.”
Today, you will decide who to listen to. As your pastor, I’ve presented it as clearly as I can. But now it resides with you. I’m praying that you surrender to the crucified and risen Christ. That you will allow Him to restore you. That you will allow Him to restore your relationships. That you will allow Him to set you free.
But it all begins on your knees. In Philippians 2, Paul said, “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11, NIV)
It starts on your knees. It’s starts with completely surrendering to Jesus as Lord. It starts by saying, “Jesus, I want what you want. I want to obey you. I want to follow your will, not my will.” It starts on your knees.
But here’s what happens next. Look at the very next verses. We fall to our knees. We fully surrender to Jesus as Lord. And here’s what happens next.
“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” (Philippians 2:12-13, NIV)
When you fall to your knees and completely surrender to Jesus, God works in you to live out His will for you life. You can’t do this on your own. But when you fully submit to Jesus, you’re not on your own anymore.
You can’t do the stuff we’ve talked about today on your own. If God isn’t empowering you to do this, you’ll never be able to do it. But the resurrection is the power that you need. And you have access to that power when you start on your knees.
So here’s what we’re going to do. Everyone close your eyes. I promise that nothing weird is going to happen. Just close your eyes.
A lot of us have a relationship in our lives that has been broken. The resurrection gives you the power to overcome the bitterness, the anger, the resentment, the unforgiveness that you’ve been carrying around in your heart. But you have to start on your knees.
And right now is your chance to take a knee. With everyone’s eyes closed, you have an opportunity to kneel before God and pray for Him to empower you to do what you need to do. Pray for the power to forgive. Pray for the power to deal with your bitterness. Pray for the power to restore the relationship, if the other person will allow it. But before you get on your feet and go do this, you have to start on your knees.
We’re going to take a minute to kneel right now. We don’t do this often, but we’re doing it today. If you need to repent before God…if you need God to empower you to follow His will…get on your knees and pray for Him to do that right now.
CONGREGATION TIME OF PRAYER
Everyone can open your eyes and return to your seat.
It’s time that we stop looking for Jesus where He will never be found.
In Jeremiah 29, the Lord said, “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord…” (Jeremiah 29:12-14a, NIV)
God is not found in anger or selfishness or bitterness or unforgiveness or rebellion. He is found in repentance. He is found in surrender. He is found when we surrender our will, what we want, and we fully yield to His will, what He wants. He is found when we give up the fight and completely submit to Him.
We know where He is. Now let’s find Him.