We’re kicking off the fourth message in our series called Remix. And God has just blown things up in this series. I know that’s true because He has changed me in this series. He has brought the sledgehammer down on me in this series. He has also healed what is broken in me in this series. And I’m praying He’s been doing the same thing in you.
Today, we’re not letting off the accelerator at all. If anything, we’re stomping down on the gas pedal even more. And we’re going full throttle because we have a message of freedom to receive today. God is going to show up with a message of hope and freedom today. So let’s pray that we’re able to receive it.
In 1 Corinthians 15:17, the Apostle Paul wrote, “Unless Christ was raised to life, your faith is useless, and you are still living in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:17, CEV)
This series is based in 1 Corinthians 15, and this is the central verse of it all. If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then nothing else matters. We’re not saved. We’re all lost. We can’t be healed. We have no hope. If the resurrection isn’t true, then the whole thing falls apart.
But if Jesus did rise from the dead, then hope and freedom are available. And it’s not just an abstract concept. It’s concrete reality. Jesus’ resurrection wasn’t a dream. It happened. It wasn’t abstract. It was concrete. And a real, tangible, concrete resurrection brings real, tangible, concrete freedom.
So the question then becomes, why do we continue to live as prisoners? Why do we resign ourselves to being captives when the resurrection is supposed to set us free?
Today, that changes. Today is the day of our release. The resurrection is our release. It releases us from crippling doubt and fear. The resurrection is the key that unlocks our shackles and sets us free.
I remember a time when I was young when I was just crippled by fear. I had seen this movie, and it has to be the scariest movie of all time. It freaked me out. The movie had this alien in it, and it was the scariest thing I had ever seen. And it didn’t end when the movie ended. I had recurring nightmares about this movie for weeks. This movie introduced a crippling fear into my life.
Anybody else react that way when you saw ET? I’m serious. This movie freaked me out. I was five years old at the time, and to a five-year-old, that thing is really scary. And it crippled me with fear.
I had the same recurring nightmare for weeks after this movie. In my dream, I was always in my house. Everything was dark. And I would look down the hallway, and all I could see was that freaky glowing finger coming after me.
And if you think I’m kidding, this happened when I was 5. I am now 35, and I remember the dream like it was yesterday. It crippled me with fear.
It was a long time before I could eat Reeses Pieces again. And in fact, I still don’t like them. Probably because they are connected to a huge fear that I had. And I’ll be honest, this alien scared me to death as a kid. I still think it’s freaky. I saw that movie one time when I was 5, and I’ve never seen it again. And I never will see it again. All because of the crippling fear that it brought into my young life.
And I choose that word on purpose. Fear can be absolutely crippling. My fear of ET kept me from sleeping. It made me never want to eat a certain candy again. It had a totally irrational, but unmistakable impact on my life. It crippled me. And a lot of us are limping through life because of the crippling power of fear. And doubt. And discouragement. And disappointment. But the resurrection is the key that secures our release.
Let’s go back to 1 Corinthians 15. We’ve been camping out in this chapter for this series. In this chapter, Paul makes a rock solid case for Jesus’ resurrection for the dead. He opens the chapter by telling us about some of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances.
“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,
and that he appeared to Cephas [which is another name for 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 15:3-8, NIV)
Paul said that the death and resurrection of Jesus was of first importance. Nothing else is as important as this. If Jesus didn’t die and then rise again, then nothing else matters.
And it’s so important that he backs it up with evidence. He lists a lot of people that Jesus appeared to after His resurrection. These post-resurrection appearances proved that it wasn’t a hoax. It wasn’t a fantasy. It’s real. It really happened. Jesus really did rise from the dead.
But these post-resurrection appearances aren’t just evidence that the resurrection is true. They are also evidence of what the resurrection does. When you look at what happened to the people who encountered the resurrected Christ, it shows you what the resurrection really does for us. It’s not just theology to be studied. It is a transforming truth that changes everyone it touches.
Paul mentioned that, after the resurrection, Jesus appeared to Peter and the rest of the disciples. The book of John gives us the actual account of what happened.
In John 20, John wrote, “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.” (John 20:19-20, NIV)
The disciples had gone into hiding. Their whole world had fallen apart. They had followed Jesus for the last three years. All of their hope and faith was in Him. But then, when they saw Him crucified, their hope died along with Him.
They were asking, “How could this happen? We thought He was the one. We believed in Him. We trusted Him. And now He’s gone.”
Jesus had been crucified. The disciples thought they might be next. They were overcome with fear and disappointment and doubt. And their only answer was to hide behind a locked door.
But that locked door was no match for the risen Christ. Jesus walked right in. And to prove it was Him, He showed them where the nails had pierced His hands and where a spear had pierced His side. He really was alive again. And that changed everything.
Fast-forward to the book of Acts. Peter had just healed a man who was lame. Now, check out what happened in Acts 4.
“The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead.
They seized Peter and John and, because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand.
The next day the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law met in Jerusalem.
Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others of the high priest’s family. They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?”
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.
Jesus is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together.
“What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign, and we cannot deny it. But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn them to speak no longer to anyone in this name.”
Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened.” (Acts 4:1-21, NIV)
These were the same guys that had been hiding behind a locked door. These were the same guys who had lost all hope. Whose faith had been shattered. Who were overcome by disappoint. Who were crippled by fear.
Now, Peter and John are out in the open. They are healing people in Jesus’ Name. They are preaching about Jesus. And when the Jewish leaders arrest them and tell them to stop, they say, “Not a chance. We’ve got to obey God, not you. You simply can’t stop us.”
Look again at verse 13. “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13, NIV)
The Jewish leaders were astonished at the courage of Peter and John. They looked at these guys and they knew that they weren’t anything special. They were unschooled, ordinary guys. But these regular guys were going toe-to-toe with the most powerful leaders in their culture. The very same guys who had been cowering in fear were now taking a bold stand that the leaders couldn’t explain. The only explanation was that these guys had been with Jesus.
But let’s get even more specific. These men had been with the resurrected Jesus.
Their boldness didn’t come from being with Jesus during His life. It didn’t even come from His death on the cross. These guys had walked with Jesus when He was alive. Then they saw Him die on the cross. Where did that land them? In a room with the doors bolted shut. Crippled by fear and doubt.
But then they met the risen Christ, and they were completely transformed. Instead of hiding behind locked doors, they were out in the open, boldly preaching in the Name of Jesus. They were arrested by the very men that they had been hiding from. But instead of cowering in fear, they stood their ground. They kept right on preaching. They kept right on chasing after God’s will for their lives.
The difference maker was the resurrection. The resurrection turned their despair into joy. It turned their fear into courage. It took them from a locked room to the public square.
The resurrection released them from the doubt and fear that held them captive. And the resurrection still does that today.
There are a lot of doubts sitting in this room right now. I doubt my forgiveness. I doubt God’s goodness. I doubt that I can ever have joy in my life. I doubt that I can ever do anything significant or worthwhile in my life.
There are a lot of fears in this room. I’m afraid of what the doctor is going to tell me. I’m afraid that my marriage isn’t going to make it. I’m afraid that I’ll never overcome this addiction. I’m afraid that I’ll never move past the garbage that is happening in my life.
The disciples were held captive by doubt and fear. They were hiding behind a locked door. But the key that opened that door and set them free was the resurrection. And that key still works today.
In Revelation 1, John received a vision of Jesus. He wrote, “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” (Revelation 1:17-18, NIV)
John fell down as though he was dead. He was paralyzed by fear. But Jesus told him, “Do not be afraid.” And look at the reason Jesus gave. “Do not be afraid, because I am the Living One. I was dead. Now I’m alive forever and ever. And because of my resurrection, I hold the keys of death and Hades.”
If you hold the keys to something, then you control it. I have keys to my house, because it’s my house. I have keys to my car, because it’s my car. I have keys to my office, because it’s my office. I control these things. They are mine. The keys signify my ownership, my control over these things.
Jesus holds the keys of death because He conquered death. And Jesus’ message to John is, “If I conquered death, then you have no reason to fear. If I can conquer the greatest, most unconquerable force in this world, why should you be afraid? I love you. I am with you. And if I can defeat death, then there is nothing in your life that I can’t handle.”
The resurrection of Jesus is the key to release you from your greatest fear, your darkest doubt, your greatest disappointment, and your worst discouragement.
Now, I want to be sure that we’re hearing this correctly. The resurrection releases you from fear. But it doesn’t necessarily remove what you’re afraid of.
Go back to Peter and John. They started out hiding behind a locked door because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Then they met the risen Christ, which launched them to preach and teach publicly about Him. And that got them arrested…by the very men they had been so afraid of.
God placed them right in the middle of what they had feared the most. But because they had encountered the resurrected Christ, they realized that God was infinitely more powerful than what they had feared. God didn’t remove the object of their fear. He put them right in the middle of it, but He put them right in the middle of it with a new paradigm, a new perspective. He put them right in the middle of what they feared, but He put them there armed with the knowledge that their God is greater.
A lot of the time, we ask God for the wrong thing. We pray for Him to remove the object of our fear. We pray for Him to take away our disappointment and our doubt. And then when He doesn’t answer the way we want, we spiral even further down because now we believe that either God doesn’t hear me or God doesn’t care about me.
Maybe God is actually answering your prayer in the way you need it the most. Maybe the worst thing God could do for you would be to take you out of the situation that scares you. Maybe the worst thing God could do for you would be to remove whatever has disappointed or discouraged you. Maybe God isn’t changing your situation because what He really wants to change is you.
Maybe God has placed you right in the middle of what you fear the most. And maybe He’s done it because He wants to teach you. He wants to grow you. He wants to change you. He wants you to understand the true power of the resurrection of Jesus. He wants you to know that your God is greater.
If Jesus is bigger than death…if He is more powerful than the grave…then He is bigger and more powerful than whatever you’re afraid of.
Listen to what Paul wrote in Ephesians 1. He told the believers in Ephesus, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you,
the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead…” (Ephesians 1:17-20, NIV)
Paul’s prayer was that these believers would know God more. That God would open their eyes and show them the hope that He had given them. The inheritance that awaits them in eternity.
And then check out this last part. Paul wanted them, and us, to understand the incomparably great power of God that is available to all who believe. It is the exact same power that raised Jesus from the dead.
The exact same power that God used to raise Jesus from the grave is available in your life. Maybe God hasn’t changed your situation because He wants to change you. He wants you to understand that He empowers you with resurrection power. And that resurrection power trumps any doubt or discouragement or disappointment or fear that you will ever face.
That resurrection power is greater than cancer. It is greater than divorce. It is greater than addiction.
It is greater than the abuse you experienced as a child. It is greater than anyone who has hurt you.
It is greater than the disappointment you are facing today. It is greater than your hurt and anger and pain. It is greater than your feelings that your life was never supposed to turn out this way.
Maybe you need to change the prayer you’re praying. Instead of praying, “God, change my situation,” you need to start praying, “God, change me. God, open my eyes. Remind me how you conquered the grave. And show me how that same exact power is alive and at work within me.”
Listen to the words of Psalm 46. “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” (Psalm 46:1-3, NIV)
Maybe you’re in a season where the earth is giving way. It seems like the very ground under your feet is uncertain. Everything is falling down around you. And you feel like you’re about to drown.
Look at what the Psalmist said. “God is our refuge. He is our strength. He is an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear. The ground we are walking is uncertain. Things are falling apart. It seems like we’re drowning. But we choose to not fear.”
Sometimes that’s all you can do. You simply choose faith over fear. You choose. Even when it doesn’t make sense. Even when you don’t feel it. You choose to believe what you know is true. You choose to believe that if Jesus would endure the hell of the cross for you…and then conquer the grave for you…then He is greater than whatever hell is breaking loose in your life. The power of death, the very power of hell, was defeated in His death and resurrection. And as His people, we choose to hold onto that. We choose to remember that.
Our band is going to come back to the stage. But don’t get ready to go yet. I know sometimes when you see the band, you start packing things up. You start wishing that we would just wrap things up so you can get a table at Bob Evans. Hang on. We’re not done yet. In fact, this is going to be the most important time we’ve had all morning.
Our band is going to play a song. We’ll have the lyrics on the screen, but we’re not asking you to sing. Just take it in. It’s a song about how we react in times of trouble, in times when the shadows make it hard to see. In those times, we choose to not fear. We choose to remember the truth that God has spoken to us. We choose to remember that He is with us, and He is greater than whatever we’re facing.
One more time from Psalm 46. “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” (Psalm 46:1-3, NIV)
We choose not to fear. We choose to remember. We choose to remember a God that would rather die for us than live without us. We choose to remember a God who broke the chains of death. And we choose to remember a God who promised that He would never, ever leave us.
We choose to remember Jesus.