A Sermon on ResuReduction
My text for today is from 1 Cor 15:14
“…if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.”
Text Illustration: HE'S NO LONGER IN THE GRAVE.
In 1887, twenty two years after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, his coffin was dug up and opened because there were constant rumors that his body was not in the grave. So they dug it up and the body was there. The rumors continued, so 14 years later they had to dig it up again!
Both times witnesses were present who testified that Lincoln was still in the grave.
Three days after the death of Jesus Christ, similar rumors began to spread throughout the land of Israel. Only this time there were no witnesses who could say that they had seen His body.
In fact, to the contrary, many witnesses claimed to have seen him out of His grave and even talked with Him after the resurrection. (So they saw His body but it was alive!)
As great a man as Lincoln was, there were witnesses to prove he was still in the grave. If one of…. the leaders in our government were to cry out today to Lincoln or NZ Prime Ministers, Keith Holyoake, Michael Joseph Savage or Robert Muldoon for help, there would be no response. If a scientist were to cry out to Einstein for help today there would only be empty silence. If someone were to call out to any other name religious or philosophical leader Mohammed or Buddha or Gandhi today there would be no help.
But if you and I call out to Jesus Christ there is instant power available to us... power to change lives ...why? Because He lives! (1)
What difference does Jesus’ resurrection make? Does it really matter?
If Jesus did not arise from the dead, the Christian faith is meaningless.
It’s all in vain. An interesting social experiment maybe, but all meaningless words.
Live in any society, live among any people and you will soon discover what makes them tick. They are directed, guided by social, political and religious influences.
So what is the motor that drives us?
Our way of life was based on Christian spirituality, philosophy and morality until fairly recently.
We now live in a ‘post cross’ society. A Post-Christian belief system has taken over. What has it taken over? It has taken over the thinking of most people in NZ!
While we were discussing post modernism, during the 1980’s-90’s, I think it was, post-modernists were teaching our own Christian children (or at least children from Christian homes) how to think without reference to God, Truth, Justice, Beauty or absolute standards of any kind.
When we were debating, wrestling with Church Union in the 1970’s, and 80’s they were teaching humanism from the pulpits, the university lecture theatres and all over the newspapers, TV and Radio. Meanwhile the Charismatic Movement and Pentecostal Churches were being established.
The history of how we came to be where we are, and the story of the cross in NZ was relegated to antiquity.
What education was doing was telling our kids: “You don’t need to know this stuff because it’s out of fashion; it’s not true and we are now creating our own futures by ourselves.”
Yes it became ‘A Brave New World’, which Aldous Huxley predicted in 1932.
The religious leaders of the day in NZ, such as Principal Lloyd Geering of the Presbyterian Church, was not alone in the 1960s. Oh No! Prof. John A.T. Robinson in the UK was all out telling theological students, pastors, preachers and leaders of the land and all its’ inhabitants: “God is dead!”
The message was not ‘Don’t believe in God’ but ‘The traditional God does not exist!’ Thousands of ministers have grown up with this as their thinking! And we wonder why the church stopped growing?
The old heresies, human based thinking had come to full fruition.*2.*
It was thought progressive to preach ‘God is dead.’ We could (and I am sure some did) ask, ‘But when did God die exactly? Was there a funeral? Where is His body?’
“Recently, Billy Graham responded to someone who shouted out ‘God is dead! God is dead!’ Dr. Graham with tenderness replied, ‘That's strange because I just talked to Him in prayer a few minutes ago.’” *3*
Well, as Dr. Phil always asks, “How is that working for you?”
How is this new teaching working for NZ?
Has the belief that resurrection cannot happen and, what follows from it, that humans are the ‘measure of all things’ worked to our advantage?
Has it worked for you?
Are you more hopeful because the cross and resurrection is no longer taught at school or at Uni?
That is, it’s no longer the treasured message in our society; the message we once owned and loved is it? We once had moral standards that derived from the Christian gospel.
Now, the churches of Otago and Dunedin are dying. Have been for a long time. Only last week Presbyterians closed a church at Stirling, South Otago, which was built on the late 1970s.
Yes, we have been closing churches in Dunedin for some time: Anderson’s Bay closed shortly after Rev Alan Kerr moved to retirement.
The old Caversham Parish now Coastal Unity has shrunk. Presbyterian churches in Southland have been depleted big time!
Only last week we read of the Catholics in Dunedin closing three churches and the Baptists closed a number of churches in recent years, so now Baptists are encouraged to meet in one big church at Concord.
What else happened?
Little babies are killed by their own families far more often than we want to know about. However, not all of the perpetrators are brought to court. Certainly not all are punished or even offered any real hope. From the NZ HERALD March 20th, last Sunday:
“Police are investigating the death of a two-year-old boy who they say suffered non-accidental injuries.
The toddler died just before Christmas at the Manurewa home where he lived with his family. Counties Manukau District Commander Superintendent John Tims said the boy's family were cooperating with police and the investigation was progressing. He would not be drawn on the specifics saying the investigation team did not want to release any further details at this stage. It comes as police in south Auckland launch a new unit to tackle New Zealand's horrifying record of child abuse.” *4*
This news comes to us 10 years after the death of the Kahui twins in NZ. It shows that the police, the judiciary and the government are out of their depths and do not know how to begin to tackle this horror.
Their way is not working!
Why does 'infant death by parent' happen? Because we have devalued human life. We have managed to kill an average sized or medium sized town every year in NZ via abortion.
We Christians are supposed to be salt and light, but the salt has lost its taste and the light has grown dim.
What else is going on? Women are abused in their own houses every day, which only gets worse! Now we have older women are being murdered in their homes!
Too many young people and older people also are on drugs without any restriction. The law and the enforcers of the law let it happen. The so-called synthetic cannabis almost ruined our next-door neighbour’s lives! P or methamphetamine has taken off in and throughout all levels of society…
Children know how to swear like adults. They know how to manipulate them too! Children attack teachers in the classroom.
Some teachers abuse the trust of their students.
Now we have a company called "Wicked Campers" with camper-vans running around besmirching all the women of NZ and saying racist things and degrading things about people.
But wait, why all this negative stuff, Ray? It’s Easter Day! Be more positive! Ok I will.
We would not be here if there were no Easter Sundays!
Reason 1: At the beginning of the church, 2000 years ago, there would have been no followers of Jesus Christ if His death and resurrection never happened. There would be no church, no salvation, no genuine hope, no faith and no life through Christ if He had not been raised from the dead.
Reason 2: Without such a solid beginning, the Christian Church could never have grown and lasted until today! The church would not have survived 2000 years of slander, opposition, trials, persecution, martyrdoms and revivals.
It would have died out long ago.
All the authorities had to do is produce the body of Jesus the Messiah and the whole of the Christian movement and teaching would have been destroyed! Shut down and silenced!
So instead, opponents spread falsehoods just as they have all down history. Colossians and Ephesians in particular were written to answer the critics in their day and are just as applicable today.
Over 2000 years have passed and I can report that the Tomb remains empty! Contrary to the prophecy of Ronald Gregor Smith, who stated:
“So far as historicity is concerned… it is necessary to explain:
We may freely say that the bones of Jesus lie somewhere in Palestine.” *5*
Contrary to that, today around 2.18 BILLION believers around the globe will rise out of their beds and say:
“Christ is Risen, He is Risen Indeed!”
Why did Mr Gregor Smith bother with Christianity? Because he wanted to change it forever, and for some people he did change the Christian faith. E.g. Prof. Geering and his students among them! Marcus Borg was a more recent writer in the same vein and the catholic guys, Dominic Crossan. Hans Kung and a few others. Rudolf Bultmann was an older one.
Reason 3: No one today would be celebrating Easter (so we would not be here) if Jesus Christ did not die for our sins and be raised from the grave to put us right with God! (Rom 4:22-25)
Someone who did that and changed your life forever is worthy of the Easter Day celebration!
You do not gather to worship unless there is Someone here to worship!
You do not thank someone who does not exist!
I would not be here if it were not for the grace of God at Easter.
Easter Day 1973 is the day I became a Christian. 43 years ago! Wow! Thank God!
Acts 10: 39 tells us what the effect of Christ resurrection was: “And we are witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they killed by hanging on a tree. Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly, not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead. To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins."
Who said that? The Apostle Peter…
Mario Murillo’s tells the story of a minister on Easter Sunday:
Unlike certain people who want to be President of the USA, who will be remembered for asking WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE? the resurrection of Jesus Christ can make a huge difference in your life, no matter who you are.
Visiting a Church in the 1970’s, American evangelist Mario Murillo told the story of a group of Christians he belonged to as they visited a traditional church on Easter Sunday. They were all praying hard as they entered the cold church and sat down, and continued to pray as the service proceeded.
It came time for the sermon, so the minister got up to preach and said sternly:
“Jesus, Christ, is Alive!” He said it again: “Jesus, Christ, is Alive!”
Then his tone changed: “Jesus Christ is Alive!”
Then, “Jesus Christ IS alive!”
“Jesus Christ is ALIVE!”
Then he began walking and finally he was running up and down the church crying: “He’s Alive! He’s Alive! He’s Alive!”
And so Mario Murillo and his friends’ prayers were answered!
That is the result of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ!
What the Bible teaches is that the glory & blessing He wants to share with us, does come from Him when we submit our will to His Greater Will and give Him the glory.
Alleluia! Jesus Christ is Alive!
*1* http://www.sermoncentral.com/illustrations/sermon-illustration-sermon-central-staff-stories-easterresurrection-jesuslives-79797.asp (From a sermon by David Henderson, "Overcoming Death," 5/25/2011)
*2*: The main proponents of this theology included the Christian theologians Gabriel Vahanian, Paul Van Buren, William Hamilton, John A.T. Robinson, Thomas J. J. Altizer, John D. Caputo, and the rabbi Richard L. Rubenstein. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_is_dead#Death_of_God_theological_movement)
Add: Marcus Borg and the catholic guy Dominic Crossan Hans Kung and a few others. Rudolf Bultmann. http://www.challies.com/articles/the-false-teachers-marcus-borg
*3* Eric S. Ritz, www.Sermons.com) http://www.deaconsil.com/content/page/2855.html
Additional notes about Lincoln:
… From another source: “Lincoln's body (was) moved 17 times on the way to its final resting place, but ten feet of cement and steel ensures that it will take a lot of time and effort to move (or view) the body again.” [http://io9.gizmodo.com/5898746/the-adventures-of-abraham-lincolns-corpse]
… In some societies in New Zealand, crosses are being removed from buildings as offensive! How about that! The Absolutely Positively Wellington logo has been thought to look to much like a Christian cross so calls are for it to be changed