April 7, 2019

Lent Five, Sunday April 7, 2019 — 1 Corinthians 15:50-58 — Comfort and Power in the Resurrection

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Passage: 1 Corinthians 15:50-58
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Sermon for Lent Five – Sunday April 7, 2019

Calvary/Marquette ● Soli Deo Gloria

Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus, the Christ. Amen.

1 Corinthians 15:50–58 (NKJV)

 

50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

55     “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

In the Name of Jesus, the Christ,

   Who lives and rules our glorious king,

      Dear Fellow Redeemed in His Precious Blood –

 

Death has a way of ruining every life.  It sucks the energy out of the living, it seems to suck the joy out of life. We are cruising down the road of life, enjoying the ride when suddenly, sometimes unexpectedly, death happens.  It may happen to family members or friends.  It may happen to people who played an important role in our lives or people we hardly knew.  The result is the same, we are sobered and find ourselves thinking about our own departure, our own mortality.

Death is that enemy that everyone must face.  We have to come to grips with it whether young or old.  We may not want to, but we have to put our ‘big people clothes on’ and look it in the face. There is no better day to do so than the day we call Easter Sunday, the celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus.  There is no better day to visit a cemetery and think on loved ones who have died trusting in Jesus.

In the Resurrection of Jesus…death has met its match.  We are yet two weeks from Easter Sunday and in meandering our way through the Bible, we find ourselves in the Resurrection Chapter of 1st Corinthians.  All of the comfort, joy and power to be found in this chapter comes from the Resurrection of Jesus.

But we get to open the Easter Basket early this year. We will find comfort and power in the Resurrection.  For here we are assured that we will be raised from death and properly ‘outfitted’ for Heaven.  These words also embolden us and prepare us for labor in His Kingdom.

We begin with prayer:

Almighty God, the consolation of the sorrowful and the strength of the weak, hear the prayers of those who cry out to you in sickness or sorrow, in trouble or distress. Grant relief to those suffering pain, comfort those who mourn and grant that those burdened by illness and disease recover.  Look with compassion on the homeless, the destitute, those whose inner hurts we cannot see, and all who have none to care for them. Soothe and heal all those who are broken in body or spirit, and bring us all to the perfect peace and rest of heaven, for the sake of Jesus, your Son and our Savior. Amen.

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It’s important to be properly outfitted for the circumstances of your environment. 

 

ü  Cold -- If you plan on experiencing the beauty of Alaska in January, you will need to pack something other than shorts and t-shirts.  The extreme cold of Alaska requires warm clothing. If you don’t bring it, you may die. Our bodies can’t cope with extreme cold.

ü  Heat – If you plan on traveling to north Africa and wandering about the sands of the Sahara Desert, you will have to pack differently than Alaska. If you don’t make some changes to your suitcase, you could die. Our bodies can’t cope with extreme heat.

ü  Space – On the other hand, if you have the wherewithal to visit the International Space Station you will need different clothing altogether.  In the vacuum and extreme cold of space you will need a spacesuit and oxygen.  If you don’t have it, you will probably die, because these bodies aren’t able to handle the extremes of space.

These bodies of flesh and blood aren’t prepared for eternal life.  This simple fact becomes more and more evident the older get, because our bodies break down and fail.  Our minds and memories fail.  We find it more and more difficult to do the things we used to do.

Why?  Did God give us faulty models?  While some would blame God, we Christians understand that the fault doesn’t originate with God.  We can, through the Scriptures, trace the problem back to the culprits.  They were given perfect bodies…but sinned against God and brought death upon themselves and the rest of us. The LORD God lays the whole mess at the feet of the first Adam (Romans 5:12):

12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, …thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.

We need an upgrade!  There is Good News.  The Resurrection of Jesus guarantees us that a body upgrade is coming!  These temporary mortal bodies will be exchanged for immortal bodies. The bodies of those who believe in Jesus will be changed, upgraded and ‘outfitted’ for eternal life.

 

50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption.

 

We understand that ‘flesh and blood’ refers to the human body as it exists in this life. These bodies are here described as ‘corruptible’ (meaning decaying) and ‘mortal’ (meaning dying).  Our bodies might be compared to beaten egg whites or leftovers in the fridge…they have a definite shelf-life!  These bodies are perishable and cannot last forever.

We need a huge upgrade for these bodies to be fit for heaven.  The LORD – through the Apostle Paul - tells us when this upgrade will take place.

 

51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

 

Now before you get out your calendar to mark down the date of this ‘outfitting’…I have to tell you that the exact day and hour is a mystery, one that only God Himself knows. Jesus said it as plainly as possible (Matthew 24:36, Mark 13:32):

 

“But of that day and hour no one knows,

not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.”

 

However, the Apostle isn’t speaking here of the mystery of the day and hour of Jesus’ Return.  He’s reminding us that the whole matter of our being ‘outfitted’ is something that none of us could ever know…if God did not reveal it.  In fact, this still is a mystery to many in our world, even some who call themselves Christians.  The matter of our ‘transformation’ isn’t a mystery to us because God has revealed this to us by His Spirit in His Word.

What do we know? 

 

ü  Sleeping and Awake – We know that when the day chosen by God arrives, some believers will be ‘asleep’ (having passed into death); while others will be ‘awake’ (still in flesh and blood). Whether dead (buried whole or cremated) or still living, every believer in Jesus Christ will be changed.  These decaying bodies will be resurrected and changed or simply changed into immortal bodies.

 

ü  Instant -- We know that the change, the upgrade will take place in an instant.  It won’t be a long process, but will take place in a moment, in the blink of an eye.

ü  The Last Day, the Last Trumpet – We know that this will take place on the Last Day at the sound of the Last Trumpet.  On that day all the dead will be raised to life; but only those who believe in Jesus will be changed, upgraded for eternal life.

54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

When this takes place God’s Promise – found in Isaiah 25:8 – to swallow up death will be fulfilled.

 

Death won’t just be made powerless from that day forward it will be swallowed up in victory.  Christian cemeteries now filled up and running out of space will be emptied out.  Every seeming victory over God’s people will be completely and irreversibly undone. Our bodies will be restored to life and then transformed into bodies incorruptible (unable to decay) and immortal (unable to die).

Death has broken the mightiest kings and emperors.  Death has broken every home and taken a toll on every human family.  It has filled this world with futile tears and helpless groans.  Death’s nearly undefeated reign (undefeated except in Enoch, Elijah and Christ) will be swallowed up forever.

YES!  Hallelujah!  This will be reality because Jesus rose from the dead the third day. He lives.  This glorious truth is what made the Apostle Paul mock death saying:

 

55“O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?”

 

Where is your sting death? It is forever removed.

Where is your victory, grave, place of the dead?  It is reversed, undone.

How is this possible?  How can this be?

 

56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Death has a sting, poisonous and deadly.  Its sting is sin.  We are born in sin and commit sin and become sin’s victim.

 

The Power of Sin is the Law.  It pronounces the death sentence on all those who sin.  “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain!”  “Honor your father and your mother!”  “You shall not steal!” When the law is broken, the consequence, the sentence is death.  Sin is the weapon; it is death’s fatal sting.

Thanks be to God…who gives to us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  He doesn’t ask us to be deserving.  He doesn’t ask us to pay for it. He doesn’t ask us to earn it.  He gives it to us through our Lord Jesus Christ.  He unites us to Jesus by faith and we receive forgiveness of sins and the promise of eternal life.

This is a reality because Jesus arose and was declared victor over sin and death. We live each day as those who have been given the victory, who have been presented with the treasures of the war won by Christ. Our hope springs from His Resurrection.

He lives…and so our lives here are to be different. The message of the Resurrection of Jesus enables us to labor in His Kingdom.

 

58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

 

This message isn’t only a song of joy for a future day and time…it’s our confidence and power now.  It’s because Jesus lives that we have every reason to be steadfast, to stand firm.  We have the truth. There is no reason to change a thing that we believe in an effort to satisfy the world around us.

We are not to follow the crowd, but to stand firm on Christ and His Word Alone.  Jesus has risen from death, keeping His Promise to us and confirming that everything in Scripture is true.  We are to stand fast on the teachings of Jesus, and if we do then we won’t be carried away by every new and strange teaching, but be enabled to test those teachings and dismiss them.

However, standing fast…doesn’t mean standing still.  We are called upon and equipped to be ‘always abounding in the work of the Lord.’ We are not to be satisfied that we and those closest to us know the joy and power of Jesus’ Resurrection. We are to be always looking for an opportunity, to tell the reason for the hope that is in us.  As we do so, let’s take care that the way we live doesn’t undermine our witness and message.

“Sure Pastor, I know.  We are supposed to tell people about what we believe.”  “But no one cares today.  People make fun of me.  It seems so useless and empty sometimes.”

Don’t be discouraged!  Draw your incentive to speak from this promise of the LORD, ‘knowing that your labor, your hard toil in the Lord is not in vain, is not empty.  Toil and sweat invested in the work of the LORD will bring a return.  The LORD doesn’t promise that we will get to see the fruit of that labor, but He does promise that His Word will profit; He does promise that His Word will be effective.  He does promise that blessings will come when His Word is spoken and planted.

It is written (Isaiah 55:10-11):

“For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, But water the earth, And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower And bread to the eater, So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

 

There is comfort and power in the Resurrection.  We will be properly outfitted for heaven.  We are now properly prepared for labor in His Kingdom.

Amen!