I worship an ex-corpse

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:12-19, ESV)

 imagesRoughly 2,000 years ago during the time of the Jewish Passover, our Lord Jesus was a corpse.  And if he remained in the grave like all other corpses do,  and if his body over the centuries decomposed like all bodies eventually decompose, and if His flesh began to decay as all flesh eventually decays, and if He is still dead like everyone else who has died, then you and I are wasting our time this morning and we would have been better off sleeping in.  If Jesus is not alive right now then we might as well go home this very minute and watch television, or finish up that project around the house, or go back to bed.

The apostle Paul tells us in the Scripture we just read that if Jesus Christ is not risen from the dead than our faith is useless and you and I are pathetic.  He says we are of all people most to be pitied.  Why is that?

Paul says the reason why is because if Jesus is still dead, your biggest problem and my biggest problem is not dealt with and things will only get worse from here on out for us.

imagesThe Bible tells us that our biggest problem is sin.  Long ago, God created the heavens and the earth.  He created a good and perfect paradise and he placed our ancestors, Adam and Eve in that paradise.  He loved them and provided for them and they had everything they needed.  Adam and Eve were in perfect harmony with each other and with God.  There was no pain, no suffering, no sorrow, no sickness, no death.

And then things went really bad.  God and man’s ancient enemy, that old serpent, the devil, enticed Adam and Eve to join him in a revolt against the loving king of the universe, and when Adam sinned, everything changed.

images God had lovingly warned Adam that should he choose to break fellowship with God, death would come.  And that’s exactly what happened.  There was immediately death in relationships as Adam and God became estranged from one another and as Adam and Eve began to fight and contend against one another.

There was death in the physical body.  God had made Adam from the dust and God proclaimed that the effects of sin would reverse life itself and Adam would grow old and weak and in death his decaying body would go back into the dust.

But worst of all there was spiritual death which includes a relational separation from God and slavery to sin.  This spiritual death is climaxed after death in a place called Hell, which is the opposite of Eden.  Where pain and suffering and sorrow and torment go on and on and on and on without restoration, without relief….

imagesAnd because we are all descendents of Adam and because Adam was our representative, we too are under the curse of death.  We too, have been slaves of sin, unable to be good on our own and following in Adam’s treasonous and rebellious footsteps.  We too, have experienced the breach in human relationships that sin causes.  We too, live in the valley of the shadow of death and our time is short, and we too, live under threat of condemnation by God to an eternal Hell that each and every one of us deserve because we, like Adam, are guilty.

Adam and Eve were banished from paradise, but not without a word of hope.  God promised Eve that an offspring would come from her to do battle against the serpent and this offspring would deliver mankind from the dominion of the devil.  God said though the devil will bruise the heel of this offspring, the offspring would crush the head of the serpent.

There is a desire in the heart of God to do justice and judge sin.  There is a desire in the heart of God to show mercy and save men.  And the line of God’s justice and the line of God’s mercy intersect in the person of Jesus Christ.

You and I are crushed under the weight of an enormous sin debt.  That debt cannot be swept under the rug.  If you and I are not going to pay the debt ourselves in Hell, then someone else has to pay it for us.

Jesus, hanging on the cross experienced all the dimensions of death that come through sin.  He experienced that relational death between men.  Not only had he already been betrayed by one of His disciples, not only had many who had shown enthusiasm for him just days earlier demanded his crucifixion, but even on the cross Jesus is enduring scorn and mocking from others.

imagesHe also experienced physical death.  Jesus really did die.  He didn’t just fall unconscious and people thought He was dead, and the coolness of the tomb woke him up.  The Romans weren’t idiots.  They knew how to kill people.  If on Saturday you would have went into the tomb and hooked Jesus up to an EKG you would have gotten a flat line.

imagesBut still worse than physical death, Jesus also experienced the full force of spiritual death.  He experienced God’s terrible wrath.  When He cried out from the cross “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?”  Jesus Christ was experiencing the anguish and torment that comes with God’s abandonment.  It wasn’t that Jesus descended into Hell as much as Hell descended on Him on the cross.  The sins of the world were placed on Jesus and punished in Him.  That’s the justice of God, but it’s also the mercy of God.

Because if the sinner’s punishment has already been poured out on Jesus, if the debt has already been paid, then the sinner who receives by faith Jesus’ payment as his own owes God nothing anymore.  He doesn’t have to go to Hell because he’s already been to Hell in Christ, and the sinner doesn’t have to be perfectly good to be a part of the family of God because on the cross a glorious exchange takes place. Jesus takes the sinner’s sin, and in salvation the sinner receives the perfect righteousness of Jesus.

That’s great news, but if Jesus hasn’t been raised from the dead, then it’s all a sham.  And Good Friday was useless.

Because if today the body of Jesus is a rotted corpse somewhere in Palestine, it means that Jesus’ sacrifice was not acceptable to God.  It means that despite all the good things Jesus may have said and despite all the good things that Jesus may have done that at the end of the day Jesus Himself was not an innocent man and is under the dominion and power of death like any other sinner.

This is why the resurrection of Jesus matters.  And this is why we need a real resurrection.  Some people will say that Jesus didn’t really rise from the dead,  “but that’s ok”, they say, because really the resurrection is all about Jesus living on in our hearts and in that way He continues to live.  But if that’s all the resurrection is, then you and I are still hopelessly in bondage to death, and sin, and Hell is on the horizon for every one of us.  If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

But thank God that is not the case.

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death…. (1 Corinthians 15:20-26, ESV)

The Bible is clear that there are only two groups of people in this world.  You either belong to one group with Adam as your representative or you belong to the other group with Jesus Christ as your representative.

If Adam is your representative, everything he had you inherit.  It’s an inheritance of slavery to sin, an inheritance of separation from God, an inheritance of death.

If Jesus is your representative, everything He has you inherit.  It’s an inheritance of freedom from sin, an inheritance that includes union with God who becomes your Father,  it’s an inheritance that includes ruling the Universe with Christ in the Next Age,  it’s an inheritance of abundant life now and in the age to come.  It’s an inheritance that includes a triumphant resurrection.

Jesus Christ came to not simply pay the price for sins but to reverse the effects of Adam’s initial rebellion.  Jesus, in redeeming sinners not only rescues them from a future Hell but begins to transform the sinner right now so that they become less and less like Adam, and more and more like Christ.

If you are trusting in Christ you will more and more over time grow to follow in His footsteps in this life.  But, should Jesus delay His return, you will also follow Him in death and resurrection.  And as Jesus walked bodily out of the tomb to newness of life so all who are united to Jesus one day will come forth from their graves renewed and perfected.

Jesus resurrection is a dimagesown-payment, a sign of things to come.  He brings life and renewal not just for all who trust in Him, but to the Cosmos itself.  The whole universe is under the sway and dominion of death and decay, but when He returns He will restore all things to its perfected state.  The paradise lost in the book of Genesis gives way to paradise regained in Revelation.  A people estranged and separated from God and one another become united and reconciled to God and to each other. There will be no more pain, no more crying, no more suffering, no more sin, and no more death.  All who trust in Jesus have this glorious inheritance in their future.

imagesAnd the reason we can be certain of these things to come, is because of the certainty of what has already taken place.  Roughly 2000 years ago on a Friday, Jesus was murdered and laid in a tomb.  And roughly 2000 years ago on a Sunday, a heart starting beating again. Blood starting circulating through veins again. A finger twitched, a breath of air was deeply inhaled, closed eyes were opened, and a Man who was both a Middle Eastern Carpenter from Nazereth and a Divine King from Heaven walked out of a tomb with power and vigor.   You and I worship not a fantasy, and not a skeleton buried somewhere in the Middle East.  You and I worship an ex-corpse.  Jesus Christ, the promised offspring of Eve has come, and through His death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead He has crushed the head of the serpent, proving His sacrifice was acceptable to God, proving He is the Son of God, and giving us a preview of coming attractions.   And all who put their trust in this Man will be saved.   Contrary to one popular book, if your trust in Jesus, your best life isn’t now.  Thanks to the resurrection, all who receive Him today begin a new life now and look forward with eager anticipation for an even better life to come.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Demer

Jesus, forsaken by God for us.

Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:45-46, ESV)

images On the cross, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, perfectly righteous and perfectly obedient to God the Father experienced the unthinkable.  He was forsaken by God.  On the cross God the Father turned His face away from God the Son and Jesus experienced for the first time relational separation from His Father.  God treated Jesus as if Jesus was not His Son.

God treated Jesus like you deserve to be treated and I deserve to be treated.  Scripture is clear that we have all broken God’s law and is clear that the wages of our sin is death and is clear that this death that we deserve is climaxed in Hell.  And Hell is ultimately a forever separation, a forever rejection, a forever abandonment by God.  In Hell Godimages will relate to people not as Father but as wrathful judge and God’s wrath is so awful that in one Scripture it’s described as a burning, fiery lake.  Other times it is described in terms of outer darkness. This is powerful and terrible imagery that Scripture uses to describe the torment and the intensity and the solitude of Hell.  You deserve it.  I deserve it.  But Jesus didn’t deserve it.  But that’s exactly what He received on the cross.

Somehow Jesus received the full force of God’s wrath in just a moment in time on the cross.  But in crying out, “My God, why have you forsaken me?”  Jesus is not simply expressing the intense feeling of separation from His Father.  Jesus is also quoting the Bible.  Psalm 22 to be exact.  He’s got this specific Psalm on his mind which is not simply a Psalm expressing anguish.  It’s a Psalm that anticipates vindication by God.

imagesPsalm 22 anticipates the mocking that Jesus received, it anticipates him being surrounded by deadly enemies, it even anticipates wicked men casting lots, gambling for Jesus’ clothes.  But it also anticipates God’s deliverance.

After his expression of anguish, the Psalmist confidently declares that God will deliver him from the horn of the wild oxen, that God has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted.  He looks forward to a time when God will be praised in the congregation of the righteous in the aftermath of his rescue, and Psalm 22:24 says that God has not hidden His face from him.

The Psalm that begins by lamenting being forsaken by God, ends with an anticipation of God’s mighty deliverance and it’s this Psalm that’s on Jesus’ mind as he hanimagesgs on the cross.  He is in anguish, He is in torment, He is abandoned, but He knows it is only temporary, and He ultimately trusts that God will restore Him because He is innocent. Jesus may have been mocked, and cursed, and beaten, and accused but God will vindicate Jesus and declare Him totally innocent when He raises Jesus from the dead three days later!

And it turns out that though Jesus was smitten and afflicted by God, the prophet Isaiah tells us why:

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:4-6, ESV)

imagesBecause we deserved death we needed a substitute to die in our place, and none of the lambs sacrificed in the Old Testament could ultimately deal with our sin and make us right with God.  We needed Jesus, the perfect, spotless Lamb of God.  His death and His blood can make us righteous.

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.  2 Cor 5:21

God killed His Son for sinners like you.  Jesus laid down His life rebels like you.  Therefore if you put your trust in Him right now Jesus’ payment for sins will count for you.  You will be cleared and pardoned of your transgression, and you will be righteous in the eyes of God, delivered from the eternal wrath to come, and guaranteed eternal life with God now and forevermore in heaven.  That’s why Good Friday is good.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Demer

Jesus made it all: All to Him I owe

imagesThis blog’s title is not a typo.  Some may have thought I meant to quote the hymn that says “Jesus paid it all, All to Him I owe; Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.”  I love that song.  And I do believe that because Jesus paid my sin debt with His life, I owe Him my own.  But I would argue that the reason we owe Jesus our very lives extends further back than the cross.  That reason being that Jesus Christ made us in the first place.

When many people think about our Creator, they don’t think of Jesus.  They tend to think of some sort of nebulous, fuzzy, incomprehensible, generic deity.  A Christian may do a little better and rightfully run to, what I deemed in an earlier post, the most important verse in the whole Bible, Genesis 1:1.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1 ESV)

That’s good start.  But the Scriptures actually tell us more than the raw fact that God created everything.  It gives us more information about who that God really is.  The apostle John says,

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.      He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. (John 1:1-3 ESV)

imagesShortly thereafter, John identifies this Word as Jesus Christ. It is interesting that John is not content to merely  say that the Word was “with God.”  I suppose if he did, there could be some confusion about who Jesus really is.  Some might say Jesus is a super-being, but a created being nevertheless who then in turn made all things.  If John had stopped at the phrase “the Word was with God” we could come to the conclusion that in the beginning you had “God” and “someone else.”  But John doesn’t stop there.  John goes on to say something totally outrageous.  “…and the Word was God.”  John is telling us two things.  1) There were multiple persons there at the “beginning.”  2) These persons should be equally considered “God.”

We will do no more than dip our toe into the marvelous doctrine of the Trinity.  We may go deeper in a future post.  Suffice to say for our present discussion, John sees Jesus as both “Creator” and “God.”  John, under the inspiration of the Spirit, is expounding upon and shedding further light on Genesis 1:1.

This is not the only Scripture that speaks of Jesus as Creator-God.  Marvel at the following verses as you let them sink in:

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:16-17 ESV)

Hebrews 1:2 also speaks of Jesus’ role in creating the world and the following verse says,

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. (Hebrews 1:3 ESV)

Ponder that fimagesor a moment.  Jesus not only created everything but He continues to sustain and hold together the entire cosmos through the power of His word.  Every atom, every molecule, every planet, and every star would fall apart and cease to exist without His all powerful word.  Jesus made it all.  Jesus made you.

So what?

If Jesus has made you that means you ultimately do not belong to yourself.  You belong to Him.  If He made us, then when we rebel against Jesus and challenge His authority and question His word or pick and choose which of His teachings we like and which we will discard it is not just odd.  It’s twisted and perverse.  Isaiah says it’s like clay rebelling and talking back to the potter.

You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, “He did not make me”; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, “He has no understanding”? (Isaiah 29:16 ESV)

imagesWoe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ or ‘Your work has no handles’? Thus says the LORD,…. will you command me concerning my children and the work of my hands? I made the earth and created man on it; it was my hands that stretched out the heavens, and I commanded all their host. (Isaiah 45:9-12 ESV)

When man responds to God in this manner it is a stench and an offense to God.  When Jesus Christ tells us that He is the only way to heaven, when He demands our allegience above and beyond even our own families, when He says that we must honor Him as we honor God, when He says “Follow me”, and we stiff-arm Him and choose to go our own way it’s as bizarre as a clay pot pushing back against the potter.  In Isaiah, God’s dismay comes from the fact that “I made the earth and created man on it.”  He reminds us that “…it was my hands that stretched out the heavens, and I commanded all their host.”  The natural response for man would be to respond in gratitude towards the One who made Him and humble himself to the purposes of his maker.

But nonimagese of us have responded rightly to God.  All of us are little arrogant claymation figures shaking our little clay fists at the Potter who gave us being in the first place.  And the crazy thing about it is that the Potter is not some sort of wicked tyrant.  He is a Creator who once said this of a rebellious people,

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jer 29:11)

God is a good God who wants to shower blessings upon His people.  But our arrogance and insurrection against a good and holy King has earned us the death penalty which is fully experienced in Hell.  Yet God, the benevolent potter, is still bent on blessing.  This is why the apostle John tells us that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” (John 1:14)

Jesus Christ, who is none another than God.  None other than the One who, “In the beginning” created the heavens and the earth, does the unthinkable.  He becoimagesmes one of us.  He becomes human.  Jesus becomes human so He can pay humanity’s sin debt. On the cross He suffers death and Hell for us so that all who trust in Him don’t have to pay that debt themselves forever in Hell.  But it’s important to see that the fact that “Jesus paid it all” becomes all the more sweet when you recognize that “Jesus made it all.”  The very Creator whom we have mocked, rebelled against, and ignored, came down personally as a man to suffer and die for the ones who so offended Him in the first place.  If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.

Often when we think of what God did in salvation we tend to think only in terms of God the Father being offended and angry at our sin.  And we see Jesus almost like a neutral third party or someone who doesn’t share the same intense hatred for our sin as the Father.  We see Jesus as the warm, loving, nice guy who needs to calm His dad down and bring two warring parties to the table.

Now, certainly Jesus is to be regarded as the Mediator between God and man.  His work brings about the reconciliation between two estranged parties.  But when we forget that Jesus is God Himself, with all the same attributes and all the same character as His Father, we lose something important.  Remember, God the Father and God the Son are so in lock-step with one another that when his disciples asked Jesus to show them the Father, Jesus says, “I already did.  If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father”  This is huge.  Because it means that Jesus does what His Father does, He loves what His Father loves, He says what His Father says, and He hates what His Father hates.  And what Jesus hates big time is our sin.  And Jesus agrees with His Father that sinners should be put to death. But thanks be to God that though the Father and Son share in their intense hatred for sin, they also share in their intense love for people.

imagesFor God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 ESV)

So the next time you sing that old hymn, remember who you are really singing about.  Remember that the same One who paid it all, made it all.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Demer