Friday, 10 January 2014

Preaching God's Word: 1 Corinthians

1 Corinthians 15:1-11

There is hope. This is a message which is very relevant in today's world. We hear of death and destruction. We ask the question, "Is there hope?" This question impresses itself upon us as we take seriously the events of our day. "Is there hope?" As we consider this question, we may find that we have more questions than answers. It is so important that we ask our questions in the right way. Many people ask questions, but they never expect an answer. We must ask the right Person, the Person who has the Answer. We must bring our questions to God.
Many people do not bring their questions to God, because they do not believe that there is a God. They think that it is clever to disregard God. God's Word tells us that it is foolish to say that there is no God: "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God.'" (Psalm 14:1). Many people believe that there is no hope, because they believe that there is no God. There are others who claim to believe in God, but it is perfectly clear that their "belief" in God doesn't make the slightest bit of difference to the way they live their lives.
What are we to make of all this? What are we to do with the questions which arise in our hearts and minds? Are we to follow the way of those who have made up their minds already, those who say that there is no answer, because they say, "There is no God"? Are we to join the ranks of those who pay lip-service to God, yet persist in pushing Him out to the edge of their lives where He becomes completely irrelevant? Should we not, rather, look to the Lord Jesus Christ? Jesus has given a great promise to all who are asking questions: "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you" (Luke 11:9). In fact, we may go further than this. Jesus does not only give the answer. Jesus is the Answer. Christ is the Answer for the world today.
Critics of the Christian Faith will immediately say, "How can Christ be the answer for the world today? He lived such a long time ago. He must be out of date now." This kind of talk may sound impressive, but it leaves out one thing: The Resurrection of Jesus Christ. If there is any one fact of history, which convinces us that there is a God, it is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. If there is any one fact of history, which convinces us that there is hope, it is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. People speak about the great events of world history, but there is no greater event than this - the mighty resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Why do we say, "There is hope"? - We say that there is hope because Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Death could not hold our Saviour. He broke the power of death. This is the great declaration of the Christian Gospel. Is there hope? Yes. Jesus Christ is our Hope.
Have you ever picked up a book and looked at the last page to see how the story ends? I'm sure most of us have done this at some time. Curiousity gets the better of us. When we read the story told by the Gospels, seeing Jesus being persecuted by His enemies, isn't it great that we're able to look ahead to the end of the Story and see Jesus Christ, risen from the dead?
When we hear of wars and rumours of wars, when we hear of nations rising up against nations, isn't it great to be able to have this assurance that Jesus is Lord, the assurance that there will come a Day when every knee will bow before Jesus Christ and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord? The resurrection of Jesus Christ assures us that the victory belongs to Christ. The resurrection assures us that all who belong to Christ, will, through faith in Him, share in His victory.
With such a resurrection faith, we can truly say, "There is hope." This hope is not just a matter of being naturally optimistic - the eternal optimist. Real hope is hope in Christ, the risen Lord, the living Saviour, who is "the same yesterday and today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8). Christian hope is not a matter of saying, "I hope so, but I don't really think so." Through Christ, we have a Hope , which is firm and secure, because it is based, not on our constantly changing emotions, but on Christ, whose love never changes.
There is hope, because there is a Saviour - Jesus Christ, our risen and living Lord. Through faith in Jesus Christ, we have a resurrection faith, a faith which enables us to look at life with new eyes - the eyes of hope. We look back to the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and what do we see? - Hope. We look forward to the coming resurrection, and we are able to sing, with great joy, "When the saved of earth shall gather over on the other side, and the roll is called up yonder, I'll be there. On that bright and cloudless morning when the dead in Christ shall rise, and the glory of His resurrection share, when His chosen ones shall gather to their home beyond the skies, and the roll is called up yonder, I'll be there."
Here and now, we live in the power of His resurrection, not defeated by circumstances but victorious through Christ. With a Saviour such as Jesus Christ, surely we can say nothing other than this, "There is hope."

1 Corinthians 15:12-19

1 Corinthians 15, the great "resurrection" chapter, challenges us to think big thoughts - big thoughts about God, big thoughts about Jesus Christ, big thoughts about ourselves. The word, "resurrection", is not a word which figures much in the thoughts of many people in our day. There are many people who profess to have faith in God, but their "God" is not the living God. Their "God" is not the God who raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Their "God" is not the God who is able to transform human life by His mighty power. There are plenty of people who feel an attraction for Jesus Christ - the good man, Jesus Christ - the moral teacher, Jesus Christ - the great example, but they know nothing of Christ's saving power. What are we to say to those for whom Jesus is no more than a figure from ancient history? If we take seriously the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, we have a glorious message to proclaim, a message of hope, a joyful message, Good News.
  • God is not a "God" who keeps His distance. God is the God who comes near to us in Jesus Christ.
  • God is not a "God" who keeps His silence. God is the God who speaks to us through Jesus Christ.
Once we have looked in faith to Jesus Christ, we can no longer see God simply as the "God" who is "away up there" in heaven. He is the living God, our God, the God of our salvation. Once we have really looked at Jesus Christ, we can no longer think of Him as merely a dim and dusty figure from the far distant past. Jesus, the risen Lord, is standing among us now. He is working within us. He is changing the way we see ourselves, the way we look at our lives - "Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace."
Without faith in Jesus Christ, the things of this world loom very large on our horizon. Without Jesus Christ, we have nothing to look forward to: no heavenly glory - only the things which pass away. Such a life is life without hope, and life without hope is misery: "if in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable" (1 Corinthians 15:19). A "Christ", who does not give us hope for the world to come, is a "Christ" who makes us miserable. We look for more than such a "Christ" is able to give to us. This, however, is not the Christ of the New Testament. He is the risen Christ, the living Saviour, who gives eternal life to all who put their trust in Him. What is this "eternal life", Christ's gift to the believer?
  • First, it is a life which is based on Christ's resurrection.
  • Second, it is a life which results in our glorious resurrection.
When the worldly man thinks of Christ's resurrection, he says, "Impossible! Dead men don't come back again!"
When the New Testament speaks of Christ's resurrection, the word, "impossible", is heard again. This time, however, it is a very different "impossibility." No longer are we speaking of the impossibility of Jesus Christ rising from the dead. here, we are speaking of the impossibility of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, remaining dead. This is the impossibility of which the New Testament speaks. It was impossible that Jesus Christ, our Saviour, could have remained in the tomb/ When men of unbelief hold their hands up in horror and say, "Impossible!", we must remember who Jesus Christ is - the Son of God, our Saviour, and we must rejoice in the fact of His resurrection: "God raised Him up ... because it was not possible for Him to be held by it" (Acts 2:24).
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the basis for our hope of eternal life. Without Christ's return to life, there is no eternal life for us. With Christ's resurrection, there is hope - the joyful hope of eternal glory.
The glory which Christ brings into our lives is a glory which transforms our lives here and now, a glory which grows in us as we go on with the Lord, and a glory which will be seen in all its fullness at our glorious resurrection.
When the New Testament speaks of heavenly glory, it does not mean to play down the glorious privilege of living for Christ here and now. the Apostle Paul puts it this way: "For me, to live is Christ, to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21).
To die is gain - that will be heavenly glory.
To live is Christ - this is our glorious privilege.
"When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word, what a glory He sheds on our way!"
This glory grows as we go on with the Lord. Here is a great description of growing in Christ: "we all ... beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed from one degree of glory to another" (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Our ever-deepening experience of the glory of the Lord will reach its fullness in the world to come. We rejoice that Christ lives in us now. Our joy will be deeper and fuller when we are with Him in heavenly glory (Colossians 1:27): "we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God" (Romans 5:2).
This hope will become a glorious reality. Then, we will have fullness of joy.

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