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Sermon 2019-04-21 Geoff Follas

EVIDENCE FOR THE RESURRECTION – 1 Corinthians 15:1-11

I spoke recently about how many of us have differing views on what I call non-essential, minor points of doctrine and that is fine. I don’t believe that everyone in this room agrees 100% on every little point of doctrine. Some of you believe that Jesus will come back before the tribulation and some believe it will after the tribulation. Some of you believe that we believers go straight to heaven when we die others believe that we sleep until Jesus comes back etc. these minor beliefs may differ from believer to believer and that’s okay. We should never ever allow these minor views to divide us.

John Wesley used to say often used, “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty and in all things charity.”

But there are certain beliefs that we believers must hold to because they explicitly and clearly laid down in scripture and they are essential to our faith and non-negotiable.

There is only one way to God and that is through Jesus Christ. Other religions are not alternative paths to God.

Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the visible image of God, and is the Creator of everything seen and unseen. Jesus is both fully God and fully human. Jesus lived a sinless life and gave that life so that we could be forgiven and reconciled to God.

Every human being has sinned and must come to Jesus to be cleansed of their sin or they will be eternally separated from God. Jesus died for our sin, rose from the dead, ascended to the throne of God and will return again to judge mankind. We are saved by God’s Grace through trusting in Jesus Christ. Our own good efforts cannot earn us salvation.

All who belong to Christ have the Holy Spirit as a witness and a helper. The true church is made up of all those who acknowledge Jesus as their Lord and Saviour and seek to follow His teaching and be led by His Spirit.

The most central belief of the Christian faith is that Jesus died for our sins and rose again. Any group that claims to be Christian and does not believe this is not Christian.

This morning we will look at the passage under 3 headings.

The Good news v1-2

The Content of the Good News v3-4

The Evidence for the Good News v5-11

 

THE GOOD NEWS V1-2

Christians often say that this church or that church is evangelical. What does that mean? The word evangelical comes from the Greek word “Gospel which literally means Good news.”

An evangelical church is one that believes, teaches and holds fast to the Good News about Jesus as presented in the NT.

Stop for a moment and think about that. The Christian message is essentially Good News. In fact, t is the best news ever to hit mankind.

Madison Hobley was sentenced to death for setting fire to a building in 1987 that took the lives of 7 people. He remained in Pontiac prison just South of Chicago living under the shadow of death, awaiting execution. In January 2003 Madison’s lawyer burst into his cell crying out excitedly, “Good News, Good news. The governor has decided to grant you a pardon. You are free to go home.” They say that it was the first time in living memory that a State governor granted a direct pardon to a condemned man. Imagine how Madison felt that day. Living under the sentence of death and suddenly he is pardoned and set free.

Every one of us has broken God’s laws and has been sentenced to death and hell. We are all living on death row, under the shadow of death and condemnation, but one day we heard the Good News that God has decided to grant us a pardon. Jesus has served our sentence and we are free now from the penalty and power of our wrongdoing and can join God’s eternal family. That is Good news!

None of the world’s religions can be called good news. When you look into them deeply you discover that they are all based on human effort trying to deal with their sins and make themselves good enough for God and heaven. Buddha’s last recorded words to his followers were “Behold, O monks, this is my last advice to you. Everything in this world is changeable it won’t last. Work hard to gain your own salvation.” But no human being, no matter how much they pray, meditate, keep the rules, observe the rituals they can ever remove their sins and make themselves acceptable to God. So it is all futile, wasted religious effort. It’s all bad news.

The Christian message is Good News because in Christ, God has done what we could never do. He has removed our sins and made us acceptable to be united with Him forever.

Paul says, “I preached this Good news to you and you received it and you still stand firm in it. And you are being saved by this Good news if you continue to hold onto what I told you.”

In these two verses Paul speaks about the past, the present and the future. In the past you received the Good News, you are presently standing firm upon that Good news and in the future you need to keep holding on to that Good news. And if you do, that Good news will go on saving you.

A lot of Christians have the idea that when they committed their lives to Christ, they were saved, but the New Testament says, “We were saved, we are presently being saved and we will be saved in the future.” It is an on-going process.

The New Testament also teaches that our faith in Jesus is not something we exercise at one point in our lives, genuine faith in Jesus is an on-going thing.

Paul is saying here that we by faith received the Good News about Jesus, we presently believe the Good news and if we continue to believe the Good News we will be saved.

A lot of Christians think that because they made a commitment to Christ many years ago that they are saved and are going to heaven. It doesn’t matter what they do now or how they live, they think that because they exercised faith in Jesus at some point in their life they are guaranteed eternal life. And some of them even quote the phrase, “Once saved always saved” which is not clearly spelt out in the New Testament.

One of the key marks of genuine faith in Christ is that it continues to believe in Christ and seeks to obey Him. John 8:31 “If you continue in my word, you are really my disciples.”

In John’s Gospel, whenever he uses the phrase ‘Believe in Jesus’ the Greek word believe is in the present continuous tense. John 3:16.

What about people who committed their lives to Christ and believed in Him but have walked away and no longer follow Jesus? Was that genuine faith?  According to the New Testament the answer is no.

Remember the parable of the sower? Jesus told of people who believed and received the Good news with joy but later turned away because of persecution or the desire for pleasure and wealth.

Their faith was short-lived and not genuine, but those with genuine faith Jesus says in Luke 8:15 “hear the word, hold onto it and persevere until they produce good fruit.”

 

THE CONTENT OF THE GOOD NEWS v3-4

At the very heart of the Good News are 3 historical events. Not the birth of Jesus, not His earthly life, or even His ministry but His death, burial and resurrection.

There are some people who simply stress the good life Jesus lived, others feel the importance should be laid on the high moral teaching He gave.

What happened in those last 3 days of Jesus life is more important and more vital to us than anything else. Two of those events are common to everyone….died and was buried. But the Good news is that Jesus body did not remain dead.

Buddha died and his physical remains are in the temple at Kushingar in North India.

Mohammed died in 632 A.D. at the age of 65. And his remains are in a tomb in Medina which is visited by millions of Muslims every year.

The body of Lenin the founder of Communism is preserved and lies in a glass coffin in Moscow. Etched in marble underneath are the words “Lenin, the Saviour of the world.” A dead Saviour in a glass coffin.

Jesus died, was buried and was raised to life.

Our saviour is not dead….He is alive and that is good news, great news. Jesus died for our sins and was raised to life again according to the scriptures. The death and resurrection of Jesus were predicted by King David in Psalm 16 and 22 and almost 1000 years before, and by Isaiah in chapter 52 and 53 almost 800 years before Jesus came.

 

THE EVIDENCE FOR THE GOOD NEWS v5-11

What really encourages me about the Good news is that every historical event, person and place mentioned in the NT can be verified by archaeology and historical records.

The good news about Jesus is not a myth, it is not the invention of some Guru who wanted to create a new religion. It is based on actual historical events that have been verified by historians, eye-witnesses and archaeologists.

When you think about it, there is no historical record or archaeological evidence for anything that happened in the Book of Mormon. The book of Mormon claims that in 1505 there was a huge battle fought on Cumorah hill in NY State in which 230,000 men were killed using steel weapons and armour. Which is quite interesting because steel was not produced until the 19th century.

Archaeologists have gone over that hill with a fine tooth comb and there is absolutely no evidence that a battle was ever fought there. In fact no one but Joseph Smith saw the gold plates containing the Book of Mormon.  

The same is true of Mohammed. No one but Mohammed saw the angel Gabriel appear to him in cave outside of Mecca and gave him the Koran.

Neither Joseph Smith nor Mohammed had witnesses or evidence to support their claims.

But when Jesus rose from the dead, the evidence was so convincing and the witnesses so many that no rational person can ignore it. In this list alone Paul speaks of more than 500 witnesses. [Modern day court]

Among those who witnessed the risen Jesus, Paul mentions three individuals, Peter, James and himself. Now this is very interesting because Peter had let Jesus down badly. He boldly declared that even if the other 12 denied Jesus he would never, but he did and he did it 3 times. And when he realised what he had done he was so ashamed of himself. He probably felt Jesus had written him off, that he would never trust him again.

But on the resurrection morning Jesus first concern was for Peter. The angels said to the women at the tomb, “Go tell His disciples and Peter that He will meet them in Galilee.”

We have all let the Lord down, we have all failed Jesus at some point and felt bad about it, but listen, Jesus is more concerned to forgive and restore us than he is to condemn us. And when Jesus rose from the dead He couldn’t wait to come alongside Peter and reassure him of His love and forgiveness.

Jimmy Bakker started out as a Pastor sincerely wanting to serve and honour the Lord but as his ministry grew he wandered off the path and got involved in adultery, fraud and theft. He was publicly exposed, arrested and sentenced to 45 years in prison. He lost everything, including his wife and in his prison cell, a broken repentant man, he cried out to God for mercy. Jimmy publicly confessed his sins and apologised to all those he had wronged. Although many Christians wrote him off, the Lord didn’t give up on him.  After his release from prison Jimmy spoke to a group of people on the subject, “Can God still use someone who has failed?”

A dear 80 year old lady came up to Jimmy afterwards with tears pouring down her face. She said to Jimmy, “When I was very young I got pregnant and had the baby aborted. I have never told anyone but I felt so ashamed and condemned that I believed God had given up on me and there was no hope for me. But after hearing you speak I feel there may be hope for me yet. Jimmy put his arms around her and cried with her and told her, “God loves you and He wants to forgive and restore you.” That’s the grace of God.

When I have failed God or let Him down, I tend to beat myself up and I just assume God would do the same, but I’m wrong, I’m so wrong. As soon as He sees our sorry heart He wants to take us in His arms, forgive and restore us. Aren’t we like that with our own children?

Jesus first concern on the resurrection morning was to forgive and restore a broken, discouraged disciple.

The other individual mentioned is James. This James would have been Jesus brother. During Jesus ministry, James did not believe He was the Messiah; in fact he thought Jesus was mad. And yet the risen Jesus appeared to James who later became the leader of the church in Jerusalem. This in itself is further evidence for the resurrection. There is no other logical explanation for the change in James.

And the other individual Paul mentions is himself. There is no other reasonable explanation for the dramatic change in Paul except that He must have seen the risen Jesus.

Think about it. Why would Paul who was violently opposed to the Christians suddenly join them and become their greatest champion?

He can’t have done it for money – he lost everything when he became a Christian.

It can’t have done it for an easier life – 2 Corinthians 11:23ff. Since I became a Christian I have been put in prison many times, beaten, flogged, stoned, shipwrecked, nearly drowned, attacked by robbers, gone without sleep, starved, frozen.

He can’t have done it to be popular – the moment he identified with Jesus he became hated by the Jews and those who opposed the Christian faith.

There is no logical human reason for the dramatic change in Paul’s life – it had to be a supernatural thing.

Kenneth Latourette, was professor of Christian history at Yale University said, “It was the conviction that Jesus had risen from the dead that lifted his followers out of the despair of seeing Him die and which led them to continue the movement He had begun. If they had not witnessed the risen Jesus and talked with Him, Jesus would simply be a minor figure of history.

Thomas Arnold was professor of Modern History at Oxford University said that I have examined the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus many times not to persuade others, but to satisfy myself and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence.  

You and I can confidently place our faith, our trust, our security, and our future hope in Jesus Christ, because He is not a bunch of decaying bones lying in a tomb somewhere in Palestine. He has defeated death and the grave and He lives to bring us God’s forgiveness, mercy, grace, power, love and eternal life.

Since I came to Hamilton 12 years ago over 30 people have died in the church. And it wasn’t my preaching!

When I conducted their funerals, I felt such joy and excitement for them because they were believers and for a believer death is not the worst thing that can happen to them. It’s the best. Because they have fought the good fight, kept the faith and finished the race and gone to receive their reward which is life with Christ forever which is far, far better than anything we can know in this life. Hallelujah!

Song: Yours is the glory, risen conquering Son!