Easter 2020 “Our Assurance of Glory”
Last week I mentioned Charles Lindbergh’s historic trans-Atlantic flight to Paris in 1927. Not long after he landed, Lindbergh visited nearby Belgium, where he was met by a group of dignitaries. The highly regarded Burgomaster Max welcomed Lindbergh, who proclaimed: “‘In this City Hall, where I have had the honor to receive so many great and illustrious men, ‘I am proud to salute a real hero … your victory is the victory of humanity. In your glory there is glory for all men.’” (A. Scott Berg, Lindbergh, p. 146)
Lindbergh’s flight was indeed a “victory … and glory for all men” — but nothing touches the ultimate victory and glory that was won for all mankind by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. His resurrection is the seal of the victory of the Gospel, as we see in I Corinthians 15:1-4:
“Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures …”.
I. The Sin That Contaminated Us
Paul begins His “gospel in a nutshell” here by saying “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our SINS according to the scriptures.” What makes the gospel necessary for us, is our SIN. Sin is the basic problem that has contaminated the whole world, and every one of our individual lives.
— Romans 5:12 says “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men.” Talk about the ultimate infection: sin has spread to ALL men, the Bible says!
— Romans 8:22 goes on to say “For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now”. The effects of our sin have manifested themselves, not only in our individual, personal lives, but also in the whole creation. There are SO many effects of our sin on the world, that are evident to anyone who is really looking.
There was an evangelism professor at one of our Baptist seminaries a few years ago who had a great approach to sharing the gospel. He would start off a conversation with someone by saying something like, “Isn’t it a beautiful world, isn’t it?” He said nobody ever disagreed with him. There is SO much that is beautiful about the creation around us – everyone agrees with that, and it gives you a good point of connection. And most people believe that there must have been some kind of an amazing, creative Being behind it all. But then he said he would follow that up and say, “But something has gone wrong with it, hasn’t it?” And again, he said, hardly anybody ever disagreed with that statement. It is so obvious that 1) the world IS an amazing creation, but 2) it is also very obvious that something has gone wrong with it, that has messed it up.
Well, that “something” that has gone wrong with the world, the Bible says, is sin. The Bible tells us in the beginning, God made us to walk with Him, and obey Him. But starting in the Garden of Eden, man chose to disobey God. We didn’t want to do what He told us to do; we wanted to do our OWN thing; to be our OWN “god.” That is what sin is. And from the very beginning, our sin separated us from God, and brought death and destruction into the world.
After Adam & Eve sinned, they were cast out of the Garden of Eden. The “Paradise” God had made for them was lost. And Genesis 3:17 says the ground was cursed because of Adam’s sin. And in the very next chapter, Adam & Eve’s son Cain murdered his brother Abel. And Adam & Eve began to see the cost of their sin: in the loss of Paradise, in the curse of the ground, in the destroyed relationships. This is what sin has done to this world. Sin is the cause of every ill effect we see in this world.
I have seen a lot of speculation regarding the origin of the COVID-19 virus. Some say it began in the “wet market” in China, through eating bats or other creatures. Others believe it was made in a lab, by the Chinese, or even by the Americans. I don’t know which of these, if any, is true. But I know this: the ULTIMATE cause of the COVID-19 virus is to be found in one little word: S.I.N. Sin has brought all the death and sickness and destruction that there is, into this world. (Now let me make it clear: that does NOT mean that every single person who ever gets sick, is sick as a consequence of their own personal sin. Jesus made it clear in the case of the blind man in John 9, that that is not true. Jesus said that man was not blind because of his, or his parents’ sin, directly. So our own personal sin is NOT the direct cause of each sickness we get. But what this does mean is that the general sin of all mankind has brought brought a curse into our world, and that curse that came from sin is the ultimate cause of all the death and destruction we see in our world.
And sin is the ultimate problem of YOUR own life today too. Think about it: what is the biggest problem you face today?
— The biggest problem you have today is not the COVID-19 virus.
— The biggest problem you have is not that may lose your job.
— Your biggest problem is not that your 401(k) has lost it’s value.
— Your biggest problem is not that you may be stuck inside for another month.
— Your biggest problem is not your husband or wife or that kid who won’t listen, or your mean boss or that lazy employee or the contractor who won’t do what they said they would for you …
The biggest problem you have in your life today is YOUR. OWN. PERSONAL. SIN.
St. Augustine wrote: “The devil is not to be blamed for everything: there are times when a man is his own devil.” (Brown, Augustine, p. 241) And that’s the first step towards God that a person has to take: admit your sin. You’ll never get anywhere with God until you do that. Some of you will take the most important step of your life today, if you would just right now bow your head and say, “God, I know have sinned against You.” That one step can be the step that starts to change everything for you. But you have to admit the sin that has contaminated your life, and estranged you from God.
II. The Sacrifice That Saved Us
Then Paul gets to the very heart of the gospel message here in I Corinthians 15, when he says, “that Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures.” Jesus death on the cross was God’s PLAN to bring us back from the contamination of the world and the separation from God that our sin caused. He planned and predicted it in the Old Testament scriptures.
I said last week that the coronavirus did not take God by surprise. It took a lot of US by surprise, didn’t it? We were off in Mexico on a mission trip when all this started; it was amazing trying to keep up with it from there, and we had to scramble to keep up. I had another whole series of messages planned that I had planned to do in Philippians leading up to Easter. We had events on the church calendar. Now all of the sudden, ALL of those events were off. We’ve been scrambling on the fly … writing new messages, setting up new Zoom classes, trying to keep up with our congregation … NONE of us had planned this. It caught us all by surprise. But not God. He knew this virus would be coming from all eternity past, and He already had plans to use it. And He HAS used it; we’ll talk about that another time; there are SO many good things that have come from this. But the point is: it didn’t take God by surprise. He already had plans on how He was going to use all of this.
And we need to understand that it is the same with our sin. The sin that came into our world did not catch God by surprise. He knew about it, and He already had a plan in place, from all eternity, for Jesus to die on the cross, and pay for our sins, and reconcile us with Him:
— Peter, in his sermon in Acts 2 on the Day of Pentecost, told the people that Jesus was “delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross … and put Him to death, but God raised Him up again …”. Peter said, this was not an “accident,” that God somehow scrambled and made something good come out of; he says it was the “predetermined plan and purpose of God.” The cross was God’s plan from the beginning, to redeem the world through the death of Jesus on the cross.
— Revelation 13:8 speaks of “The Lamb that was slain from the foundation of the world.” Before the world ever came into being, the plan of God, of the sacrificial Lamb, dying on the cross to pay for our sins, was already in place. As an old song says:
“Before the earth was formed, and stars were hung in space; before the breath of life was given to man, God looked through time and saw a hopeless human race — and there devised a great Redemption Plan.”
God had already planned in advance how our salvation would to come, through the death of Jesus on the cross.
To prepare us for that, He pictured it for us, way in advance in what Paul calls here “the scriptures” of the Old Testament: in the Exodus and in the Passover; the unleavened bread; the blood of the Lamb spread on the doorpost. These were all pictures, hundreds of years beforehand, of the sacrifice that would bring about our salvation: which was the body and the blood of Jesus that was given for us.
See, C.S. Lewis said, this is the great mistake many people make about Jesus: Jesus was not just a good, moral man, or a great human teacher. He WAS all that, but He was also so much MORE: He was the sacrifice that would pay for our sins with His death on the cross. That is by far the single most important thing He did. Jesus Himself said in Matthew 20:28 that He had come “to give (His) life a ransom for many.”
In every crisis, some rise up and become heroes. In 9/11 it was our police and fire fighters. In this coronavirus crisis, it is medical staff who are showing their courage, as they stand there on the front lines, risking their lives and health, to save others.
Some of you may have read the story this week in The Facts (our local Brazoria County newspaper), about Kimberly Lozez, a young nurse at the Matagorda Regional Medical Center, just west of us here, in Bay City. In the interview in the paper, Kimberly said she didn’t want to give all the details, but she said she had been following all the protocols to protect herself as she ministered to a COVID-19 patient, but what she called “an unforeseen circumstance” arose, in which she “prioritized patient safety over her own” and was exposed to the patient without personal protective equipment. She said it wasn’t anyone’s fault, and she doesn’t want to give details. But through this episode, she was exposed to COVID-19, and soon was tested and found positive. She began to have migraine headaches; she said her body felt like it had been beaten. She’s been isolated upstairs in her home from her family. She watches her three kids play outside and waves to them from the window. Her husband leaves her food in a tray outside her door. These have been some dreadful results for her and her family. But she said, “I have no regrets … I love what I do” in caring for people as a nurse. And she’s willing to make that sacrifice to care for someone else, at the risk of her own health.
That’s an amazing testimony from young Kimberly; she asks for prayers for herself, and especially for her family, that they would not get the virus. But every time you hear of a heroic sacrifice like that, of a person who is willing to lay down their life for others, it ought to remind us of the sacrifice that Jesus made for us. We brought our own ills upon us by our sin, but Jesus voluntarily took the penalty for our sins, in His body on the cross:
— Romans 5:8 says “For while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
— I Peter 2:24 says “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross.”
— I John 1 says “The blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”
— In the Last Supper Jesus said, “This is My body, which is broken for you … This cup is the New Covenant in My blood …”.
The Bible repeatedly makes it so clear: the body and the blood of Jesus, sacrificed on the cross, paid for our sins. HIS sacrifice, saves us — everyone who would repent of our sins and put their trust in Him. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, was the price of our salvation.
That sacrifice Jesus made is what we celebrate today, as we share in the Lord’s Supper. There is nothing “magical” about these elements. That’s why it doesn’t matter if you got one of our pre-packaged elements we took out to our people this week, or if you use a cracker or tortilla and juice from your own home. It is not what you use that matters; it is what it SYMBOLIZES. The juice and the cracker PICTURE the body and the blood of Jesus: the bread is a picture of His body, bearing our sins as it was nailed to the the cross for us. The juice is a picture of His blood, that was poured out to pay for our sins. These elements don’t save us; eating these elements don’t save you. They are a PICTURE, a reminder of what Jesus did that saves us. That’s why Jesus said “Do this in REMEMBRANCE of Me.” Taking this Lord’s Supper helps us remember what the price for our salvation was: the body and the blood of Jesus on the cross.
So as we take these elements together in a few minutes, it will be a visible reminder to us, of “the death that saves us.”
III. The Resurrection That Assures Us Of Glory
But the Christian gospel is not only that Jesus died on the cross for us. It goes on to say, “And He rose on the third day according to the scriptures.”
This is important. Although Jesus paid for our sins IN FULL with His death on the cross (He said “It is finished”; a Greek business term that means “paid in full”) He PROVED that what He had done was really true, by rising from the dead on the 3rd day. It is just as Romans 1:4 says, He was … “declared the Son of God with power, by the resurrection from the dead.” The resurrection showed that Jesus really was the Son of God, and that He has eternal life, and that He is able to give to us.
It’s like, if someone came up with a cure for the virus. How would you know? Well, one obvious way you’d know, was if the patient you gave the cure to, lived, right? The life is the proof! In the same way, how do we know that Jesus really had the power to forgive us, and give us eternal life? Because “HE LIVED”! He demonstrated that He had eternal life to give us, by rising from the dead Himself. He “was declared the Son of God with power, by by the resurrection from the dead.”
So because Jesus rose from the dead, those of us who follow Him know that death is not the ultimate end for us — rather it is the doorway to glory.
A couple of years ago, Muslim terrorists in Africa captured a Christian man, held a gun to his head, and told him to deny Christ, or else. He wouldn’t do it. In fact, witnesses said the man’s last words were, “When you pull that trigger, I will go straight to glory!”
And you know, that is the way it should be with us as Christians as we face this coronavirus. We should not be afraid of this virus. You see people going around with these masks on. So many people are wearing them out of fear. They are SO afraid that they might catch a germ, that might make them sick, that might cause them to die. So they wouldn’t think about leaving the house without a mask, because they are afraid of “what might happen.”
Let me tell you: that is NOT how we should be as God’s people. Now, let me be clear: I am NOT saying that we should not wear masks, or take precautions. I believe that we should follow whatever precautions are recommended and proper. But the difference is, when we as Christians wear these masks, we are going do it for the right reasons:
— We’re going to wear a mask because our government asks us to wear one, and we want to be obedient citizens like Romans 13 instructs us to be.
— We will want to wear a mask to reassure others around us that we are concerned for their benefit. It’s not all about us; we want to comfort THEM.
— We will wear a mask to keep our germs off of other people; because we don’t want to be the means of hurting others. As Christians, we want to BLESS others; not hurt them.
All of these are good reasons for Christians wearing masks in this crisis, and if it’s the right thing to do, then we should do it. BUT LET’S MAKE IT CLEAR: CHRISTIANS SHOULD NOT BE WEARING MASKS BECAUSE WE ARE AFRAID.
— As followers of Jesus Christ, we are not afraid of a germ.
— We are not afraid of a virus.
— We are not afraid of sickness.
— We are not afraid of death.
As followers of the Risen Lord Jesus Christ, we can look at death in the face, and say, “If you pull that trigger, we are going straight to glory!”
We can look right at that coronavirus (with an uncovered face!) and say: “If you kill me, I will go straight to glory!”
COVID-19 is not the greatest threat we face as Christians; COVID-19 at its WORST is for us just “a doorway to glory’!
But we need to remember today WHY we can say that; WHY that is true for us. We have that confidence because of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, which is what we celebrate today. Because He conquered death, we know that those of us who are His will conquer death as well.
The question is: is this true for YOU? If it isn’t, it CAN be today.
It’s as easy as “A-B-C”:
— Admit that your life has been contaminated by your sin against God.
— Believe that Jesus died on the cross to pay for your sins.
— And Commit your life to Him as the Lord & Savior of your life, and follow Him from this day forward.
If you’ve never done that, why don’t you do it, right now? Let’s bow our heads together …
— In a just a moment, we are going to share in the Lord’s Supper together, but before we do, we need to prepare our hearts in this time:
— First of all, as I just mentioned, if you’re never done it, just bow your head right now and give your life to the Lord: Say, “God I know I’ve sinned … but I believe that Jesus died on the cross to pay for my sins … and I commit my life to live for YOU from this day forward.” And if you’re doing that right now, tell someone: tell someone in your house, send us a note on Facebook or email; tell a Christian you know who will be glad to hear it. Then as soon as we meet together again in church, get baptized, and show you really mean it by truly following Christ from now on.
— But if you are already a Christian, you need to prepare your heart in this time. I Corinthians 11 says we are not to take the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner. You take this time to confess sins in your life to the Lord: thoughts, words, deeds, things left undone, broken relationships …
We’ll share the Lord’s Supper in just a minute, but take this time to prepare your heart, while Kyle leads us in this song of invitation …
We have the great privilege this morning, of uniting together as a church family, and the Family of God all over the world, to obey the words of Jesus by observing this Commandment that He gave us. The Apostle Paul describes this in I Corinthians 11:23 and following:
“For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.”
— BREAD: “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is My body, which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me …’”
— JUICE: “In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’”
Let’s sing together as we close: