BE A WINNER
I Corinthians 15:50-58
S: Death and resurrection
C: Victory over death
Pr: WE ARE TO ACT LIKE WINNERS.
Because of the resurrection, we are…
I. TRANSFORMED (50-53).
II. UNBEATABLE (54-57)
PA: How is the change to be observed?
• We are to be deeply rooted in the truth.
• We are to be fully engaged in God’s work.
RMBC 15 May 05 AM
Have you ever noticed that some changes are welcomed?
ILL Change: Wonderful, Marvelous [revised]
A rich man went to his pastor and said, "I want you and your wife to take a three-month trip to the Holy Land at my expense. When you come back, I’ll have a surprise for you". The pastor accepted the offer, and he and his wife went off to the Middle East.
Three months later they returned home and were met by the wealthy parishioner, who told them that while they were gone, he had had a new church built. "It’s the finest building money can buy, pastor," said the man. "No expense was spared." And he was right. It was a magnificent building both outside and in.
But there was one striking difference. There was only one pew, and it was at the very back. "A church with only one pew?" asked the pastor.
"You just wait until Sunday," the rich man said.
When the time came for the Sunday service, the early arrivals entered the church, filed onto the one pew and sat down. When the pew was full, a switch clicked silently, a circuit closed, the gears meshed, a belt moved and, automatically, the rear pew began to move forward. When it reached the front of the church, it came to a stop. At the same time, another empty pew came up from below at the back and more people sat down. And so it continued, pews filling and moving forwards until finally the church was full, from front to back.
"This is wonderful!" said the pastor, "This is truly marvelous!"
The service began, and the pastor started to preach his sermon. He launched into his text and, when 12 o’clock came, he was still going strong, with no end in sight. Suddenly a bell rang, and a trap door in the floor behind the pulpit dropped open.
"This is wonderful!" said the congregation, "This is truly marvelous!"
Over the past weeks, we have been studying the changes that are going to come to us as believers in the Lord Jesus.
These are changes that will most certainly be welcome, like a sermon ending on time.
This is our last study of I Corinthians 15.
We have been looking at this chapter off and on since Resurrection Sunday.
In these studies…
1. We have been studying the essential nature of the resurrection.
Paul wants us to know that there is a reality after we leave this earthly life.
It is an essential teaching, for the resurrection of believers is of critical importance to our faith.
For though our body dies, we never die.
If we lose this teaching, we are in danger of losing everything.
2. We have examined the evidence of the resurrection (1-11).
First, Paul tells us the facts.
Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.
He was buried.
And He was raised on the third day.
Then there are the witnesses.
First there was Peter, then the twelve.
Then Jesus appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom were still alive when Paul wrote this letter.
After that, He appeared to James, His earthly brother.
Finally, Jesus appeared to Paul, and as he put it, as to one untimely born.
Following this evidence…
3. We have considered the consequences of denying bodily resurrection (12-19).
If we do not believe in the bodily resurrection, then Christ is not risen.
If Christ is not risen, then the good news we proclaim is not good, but rather, it is meaningless.
It is also means that our faith is worthless, and all those that confess to believe in Jesus are liars.
Not only that, we are still stuck in our sins, and we are a people to be pitied.
Following the consequences…
4. We studied God’s design in regard to the resurrection (20-28).
It is during this section we saw that God had a plan of a Redeemer.
He was determined to make sure we would not remain lost.
He had a design to restore us to the status we lost at the garden.
After examining the design…
5. We explored the motivation we receive because of the resurrection (29-34).
Here we discovered that the resurrection makes us take salvation seriously.
Matters about Jesus, sin, confession, grace, and baptism are of utmost importance.
6. We rejoiced in the new beginning we receive when we leave this earthly life (35-49).
We have been made into a new creation.
We have a new self with a new life, because God is preparing us for eternity.
Now we come to today’s text, and we find that…
I. Because of the resurrection, we are TRANSFORMED (50-53).
(50) I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. (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 imperishable, and we shall be changed. (53) For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.
1. We offer nothing of enduring value.
In living on this earth, we have discovered that we have been given a fantastic earthly body.
And it works rather well all things considering, but it does not have any heavenly value whatsoever.
It does not inherit the kingdom of God.
Not only that, nothing that wins the approval and applause of men has any value in the sight of God.
Oscars, Nobel prizes, MVP awards, and academic degrees do not inherit the kingdom of God.
That being said, there is something worth knowing – a mystery.
Until this point in time, it had been hidden and unknown, but now it was revealed.
Human sense could not discover it.
No scientific investigation could ever reveal it.
It was this…
2. We might be of a generation that will be instantly changed.
ILL Change: Nursery
Often one will see this sign in the church nursery:
“Not all of us will sleep but we will all be changed.”
One generation of believers, perhaps our generation, will be changed from life to eternal life without death.
This generation is never going to die.
They will be given their resurrection body in an instant, changed utterly in a moment.
The words used in the text were the best the Greeks had to offer in terms of speed and the smallest amount of time.
The idea of the twinkling of an eye was instantaneous and rapid.
Paul would also describe this moment in I Thessalonians 4:16-18…
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.
This is more fully describing the end of the church age when believers are removed from the earth, changed immediately, and accompany our Lord and Savior to heaven.
But in the meantime…
3. We must be realistic about our humanity.
You see, what we have is not good enough!
Like it or not, our bodies are deteriorating.
They are perishable.
Our bodies sag and smell.
Our hair grays and falls out (or both).
We are degenerating.
We try to act younger than we are and make fools of ourselves.
We use every new potion and product that promises to make us look younger.
Some will even go to the extreme and endure surgery, just to improve their looks.
But, again, like it or not, our lives will end.
We are mortal.
Unless we are realistic about this, the consequences in our culture may be devastating.
ILL Mortality: Zeisler
Steve Zeisler, a pastor at Peninsula Bible Church says:
“Further, knowing that we are mortal leads to wickedness of all kinds. We hear much these days about fetal research. Cells are being taken from aborted fetuses to be used in medical research. The research is discovering that fetal cell transplants can medically benefit the already born who suffer from various life-limiting diseases. Surely the day is coming when some will advocate that human lives be sacrificed in utero-babies harvested deliberately to prolong the lives of those whose resistance to their own mortality has no limits. If we have surrogate mothers offering their services today, certainly there are some who will be willing to have abortions for money. Our fear of death will drive us to deny life to others in order to hold on to our own.
The only answer to the fact of our mortality is not grasping this life, but union with Christ in his resurrection. ‘This mortal will have put on immortality.’”
We do not need to live in such fear, for…
II. Because of the resurrection we are UNBEATABLE (54-57).
(54) When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory."
(55) "O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?"
(56) The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. (57) But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Frankly, let us admit that death is our worst enemy, even for those of us with faith in Jesus.
For as John MacArthur puts it:
“Even for Christians it violates our dominion of God’s creation, it breaks love relationships, it disrupts families, and causes great grief in the loss of those dear to us.”
But here is the truth!
1. Death has met its match.
This is something that is so great, it deserves more than proclamation.
It should be sung!
So the apostle sings the final death of death.
Death is the big loser.
When you are a Christian, what looks like a victory for death is an absolute defeat, for our bodies live again in absolute victory.
But let us not deny this…
2. Death is a real threat to seal us in our sin.
Have you ever noticed that there so many of us that get so nervous by the stinging of bees?
It really hurts.
For some, it can even be deadly.
So like a deadly sting from a bee, Paul reminds that the harm that is caused in death finds its source in sin.
Where sin is unfortunately alive and well, it is here that death can deal a fatal blow.
3. The law has no bend to it.
God’s law reveals God’s standards, and when they are broken they reveal man’s sin.
In fact, the law is written on man’s hearts.
He does not need the written law or the Ten Commandments.
It has been written on the heart of every person, and our conscience bears witness.
As a result, we all fail to defeat the power of sin.
4. Because of Jesus, we are not doomed.
That which we could never do for ourselves God has done through Jesus.
On our behalf, Jesus lived a sinless life, fulfilling the requirements of the law.
He removed our sin by paying the penalty of it.
He satisfied God with a perfect sacrifice.
And then Jesus conquered death by being raised from the dead.
Now, as a result, we are not doomed, and we do not fear death.
ILL Death: Daddy’s Empty Chair
A man’s daughter had asked the local minister to come and pray with her father. When the minister arrived, he found the man lying in bed with his head propped up on two pillows.
An empty chair sat beside his bed.
The minister assumed that the old fellow had been informed of his visit. "I guess you were expecting me, he said.
“No, who are you?" said the father.
The minister told him his name and then remarked, "I saw the empty chair and I figured you knew I was going to show up,"
"Oh yeah, the chair," said the bedridden man.
"Would you mind closing the door?"
Puzzled, the minister shut the door.
"I have never told anyone this, not even my daughter," said the man.
"But all of my life I have never known how to pray. At church I used to hear the pastor talk about prayer, but it went right over my head. I abandoned any attempt at prayer," the old man continued, "until one day four years ago, my best friend said to me, "Johnny, prayer is just a simple matter of having a conversation with Jesus. Here is what I suggest. Sit down in a chair; place an empty chair in front of you, and in faith see Jesus on the chair. It’s not spooky because he promised, ’I will be with you always.’ Then just speak to him in the same way you’re doing with me right now."
"So, I tried it and I’ve liked it so much that I do it a couple of hours every day. I’m careful though. If my daughter saw me talking to an empty chair, she’d either have a nervous breakdown or send me off to the funny farm."
The minister was deeply moved by the story and encouraged the old man to continue on the journey. Then he prayed with him, anointed him with oil, and returned to the church.
Two nights later the daughter called to tell the minister that her daddy had died that afternoon.
"Did he die in peace?" he asked.
"Yes, when I left the house about two o’clock, he called me over to his bedside, told me he loved me and kissed me on the cheek. When I got back from the store an hour later, I found him dead. But there was something strange about his death. Apparently, just before Daddy died, he leaned over and rested his head on the chair beside the bed. What do you make of that?"
The minister wiped a tear from his eye and said, "I wish we could all go like that."
Here is the serious truth…
Death is either the door to life eternal, or a terrible judgment.
If we die in our sins, we are sinners forever.
But if our faith is in Jesus, the power of sin is broken, and the pain, fear and dread that accompanies death is taken away.
If you are a believer today, I want to encourage you with this…
1. WE ARE TO ACT LIKE WINNERS.
ILL Victory: Marathon
Several hundred years before the birth of Jesus, a crucial battle occurred between the Greeks and the Persians upon the plains of Marathon. The battle raged for hours. In many respects it was a fight to the finish. Finally the numerically inferior Greeks, the underdogs, managed a tremendous tactical win, but there was a problem. Soon the Senate, many miles away in Athens, was to vote and would most certainly ratify a treaty of appeasement. In desperation they sent a runner in full battle gear to go the twenty-seven miles to tell of the news. By the time the young boy got to Athens he had run a Marathon. It is said he was totally spent, that he literally ran himself to death. In his exhaustion he was able to utter only one word to the Athenians: "Victory."
(Next few lines from Andrew Chan)
It was not so long ago, that we came to church with the sound of “He is risen” resonating in our ears.
We have been to the empty tomb.
We have heard the glad news of resurrection.
And now it is time to send a message back to the world.
What should that message be?
May I suggest that it could be a single word: Victory!
Unfortunately, that single truth is not so self-evident to many people today.
For we fall short of victorious living.
We must learn anew to live out the reality of the resurrection, and here is how Paul recommends we do it…
(58) Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
2. We are to be deeply rooted in the truth.
Paul tells us that we are to be steadfast.
It is the idea of being seated, settled, and firmly situated.
Then he tells us to be immovable, which means the same thing, but more intense.
We are to be totally immobile, motionless – firmly rooted in what we believe.
You see, Christians are to know who they are, what they are about, why they are here, and where they are going.
3. We are to be fully engaged in God’s work.
The thought Paul has here is of exceeding the requirements.
We are not to be satisfied or content with doing the minimum.
There is no plateau that we reach and then stop.
That is not Christianity.
That is not true faith.
We are to work uncompromisingly as the Lord gifts us and leads us.
We are to use our money, time, energy, talents, gifts, bodies, minds, and spirits – fully engaged in the kingdom.
4. Our service has eternal value.
Nothing done for God ever goes to waste!
So, it is time to act like the winners we are, for we have victory in Jesus!
BENEDICTION: [Counselors are ]
Now to him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.
Blomberg, Craig, The NIV Application Commentary
MacArthur, John, I Corinthians
“Imperishable, Immortal, Victorious” Steve Zeisler
“The Victory of the Mystery” Ray Stedman
“Dying to Live Again” James May
“New Bodies, New Hope, New Resolve” Bradley Boydston
“What Happens When We Die” Andrew Chan