“But Now Christ IS Risen!” (I Corinthians sermon, Easter 2021)

Frank Morison was a gifted English lawyer who set out to write a book he planned on calling Disproving the Resurrection of Jesus. He was convinced that he would be able to do what his title proclaimed. However, when he had completed all of his research, he wrote a completely different book than he had first intended. He now gave it the title: Who Moved The Stone? which has become a classic, demonstrating that the rules of evidence do not disprove, but rather confirm the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. In it, Morison wrote these opening words:

’This study is, in some ways, so unusual and provocative that (I) think it desirable to state here very briefly how the book came to take its present form.  (He wrote) “it is essentially a confession, the inner story of a man who originally set out to write one kind of book and found himself compelled by the sheer force of circumstance to write quite another.  (He wrote) “Somehow the perspective shifted — not suddenly, as in a flash of insight or inspiration, but slowly, almost imperceptibly, by the very stubbornness of the facts themselves.’”  (Richard E. Simmons III, Reflections of the Existence of God, pp. 233-234)

Morison is not the first man who went to the Bible to disprove it, who ended up being converted by it! And what he discovered is what Christians all over the world are celebrating today: “Christ is risen indeed!”

In I Corinthians 15, the Apostle Paul is addressing a false teaching that had sprung up in the church: that there is no resurrection from the dead. (It’s not that surprising, in a way, because there was a whole group of the Jews, the Sadducees, who didn’t believe in the resurrection — so somehow this liberal teaching had made its way over to Corinth too.) 

So to combat this false teaching, Paul begins I Corinthians 15 by sharing the basic gospel in :1-4, “that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised from the dead according to the scriptures.” He says, people, this is the basic gospel we believe: that Jesus died for our sins and rose again. How can you deny thi most basic tenet of our faith, that He rose from the dead? 

And then Paul kind of goes on a “rant,” if you would, in verses 14 and following, about how things would be if Christ were not risen from the dead:

— He says if Christ wasn’t raised, all our preaching is in vain (because what they were preaching was that Christ was crucified and risen)

— He says if Christ wasn’t raised YOUR FAITH is in vain – because what are you believing in, if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead?

— He says in :17 if Jesus wasn’t raised, “you are still in your sins” — If He didn’t rise from the dead, you are still lost! 

— He says in :18 if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then “those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished” — everybody you know who died, as a Christian — is GONE.They are LOST to you forever!  

And he goes on and on. Paul is saying to the Corinthians, this is NOT some “little side issue.” This is a BIG DEAL. This is the heart of the gospel. If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then there are HUGE implications that you need to be aware of! 

But then he says this (and this will be our focus on this morning); in :20 he says, “But now Christ IS risen from the dead …”. So here’s the thing. All those bad things are true if Christ hasn’t been resurrected. But the thing is, HE HAS!  “He IS risen from the dead!” 

SO NOW WHAT? THAT is what I want us to think about this morning. SINCE CHRIST HAS been raised from the dead — let’s turn all that bad stuff around — since Christ HAS been raised from the dead, what are the implications to us of THAT?  Just as Paul made a list of all the bad things that would happen if Christ were NOT risen, so we can make a list of all the GOOD things and all the good ways we should respond this Easter Sunday, “Because Christ IS risen”!  Since He IS risen, what does that mean for us?

I.  It means faith in Christ is the most important thing in your life. 

Paul had said in :14, if Christ didn’t rise from the dead, your faith is in vain. It’s worthless — why even be a Christian, IF Jesus hasn’t been raised. But if you turn that around; if Jesus HAS been raised — then there is nothing more important in all the world than this!  

C.S. Lewis wrote:  “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”

That’s a great statement — and it’s very true. Hey, if Jesus isn’t alive from the dead — then don’t mess with any of this. Don’t come here on Easter Sunday. It’s not worth it. Go “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you die.” Go waste your life on whatever you want to. Go get drunk and get high every night. Do whatever. It doesn’t matter. 

But if this IS true — and Jesus really rose from the dead — then you need to pay attention to every word this man said. He is GOD who came down to earth to teach us how to live — to give us the “owner’s manual,” if you will, right from the Creator Himself. He made us; He owns us; and He bought us back. And He is the most important thing in this whole world.

The bad thing is, there’s a lot who are trying to act like Jesus is “moderately important — and we need to quit “playing around” with it.

I’ll admit I was kind of cheering for Tom Brady to win another Super Bowl — kinda cheering for the “old man” since I’m getting up there myself! But I also have to admit I was really dismayed, when I saw the videos come out, of Tom and team mates, drunk and celebrating on their boats in Florida — and saw the video of Tom Brady in a drunken stupor, THROWING the Vince Lombardi trophy that represents the NFL Championship, from one boat to a teammate in another boat. Some people were saying, Well, he threw it and Gronk caught it; that was neat! But I’m sorry, to me that was just disrespectful. That trophy represents something: hard work, a world championship — years of tradition in their sport — and here they were just “tossing it around” like it was nothing. 

But you know what’s worse is that: is that a lot of us are doing the same thing with the Lord & God of the Universe. He made us; bought us; died on the cross for us; He rose again to be the living Savior & Lord — and so many of us aren’t really committed to Him; we’re just kinda “playing around with it;” — we go to church when we want; we obey Him if we feel like it/don’t if we don’t.  We’re doing the one thing Lewis said we CAN’T do: and try to make Him “moderately important.”

If Jesus really rose from the dead; you need to stop “playing around” with Christianity. You need to stop treating church and God like it was some kind of cheap toy you can toss around lightly. You need to need to be “all in/” Since now Christ is risen: He should be the most important thing in your life. 

II. It means we need to walk with this Living Christ daily

Since Jesus rose from the dead, He is alive. He is our Living Savior. That means we have the privilege of worshiping Him, and talking to Him, every day. 

See, this is what God made us for originally: to know and love and worship Him. (Remember the old catechism question from a couple of weeks ago: “What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”) God make us to ENJOY HIM.

Sadly, when we sinned, our sin separated us from God, so that we could no longer walk with Him any longer. He is a HOLY GOD, and our sins keep us separated from Him. 

But Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins, and rose again to be our Living Savior, so that we can come BACK to God, and have fellowship with Him again, and worship Him, and talk to Him. That is what being a Christian is all about: we can come back to God!

So if Jesus is alive, and we have accepted Him as our Savior, the door is open for us to come back to Him, and spend time with Him. 

Jesus Himself said in Revelation 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and dine with him, and he with Me.”  Jesus Christ Himself says, I am inviting you to come in and spend time with Me! The way we do that is that He speaks to us in His word, and we speak back to Him in prayer. That is what our morning “quiet time” or “devotion time” is all about. We get to have “breakfast with Jesus” every day! How could we miss that?! 

In Luke 24, after Jesus had risen from the dead, He disguised Himself and talked to a couple of his disciples on the road. He talked to them about  what was going on in the world just then, and about the scriptures that spoke of Him, and He broke bread and gave it to them, just as they had seen Him do before — and just then the Bible says “their eyes were opened” and they recognized Him, and He vanished from their sight. And the two men said to each other: “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us …?”

What an amazing experience that must have been for those two men on the road to Emmaus. But the thing is, in a very real way, you & I can experience that same thing every single day. “If Christ is risen” — then we can meet with Him every day, and you can know the joy of worshiping Him every day, and every day, YOUR heart can “burn within you” as He speaks His word to YOU, just as He did to those disciples that day! 

I’m reading a biography of Lyndon Johnson, and it is talking right now about how LBJ had some real conflicts with his dad when he was growing up. But his younger brother, Sam Houston, just ADORED their dad. Little Sam Houston would get up earlier than all the other kids, just so he could spend an hour every morning, alone with his dad. He’d watch him shave, and listen to his stories. He did NOT want to miss that time.

That is exactly how we ought to be with the Lord. Jesus died and rose again to give us fellowship with Him. Why would we miss that? Since He is risen, we need to spend time with Him every day in His word and prayer. 

III. “Since now Christ IS risen”:  means we need to SHARE this news!

Matthew 28 tells how when Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to the tomb, at first they were met by an angel who told them that Jesus was not there, but was risen — And the angel’s command to them was: “Now go quickly, and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead!” He told them to go and tell. The Bible says “they departed quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to report it to the disciples.” They ran to share the good news: “He is risen!” And this is what all those first disciples did: they shared that news in “Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts fo the earth”: “He is risen!”

There was an English house maid who lived New York City years ago, who just adored the actor Cary Grant. Another actor who knew Cary Grant told him about it, so he let this woman come visit him one day at a movie set. They said this lady left that place and started telling everybody about it: “I just saw Cary Grant!”  They said she sent postcards to everyone she knew, that she had seen Cary Grant. They said “she never got over it;” that every bus boy and every elevator operator in New York City got told that she had seen Cary Grant!

Folks, “If Christ is risen” as Paul said, we ought to be telling people about it:

— we need to invite them to church where they can hear it

— we need to bring them to Bible studies where they can learn it

— we need to tell them personally in conversations

— we need to go on mission trips around the world to share it

“But now Christ IS risen” — means we need to get the message out, every way we can. I believe that is one of the primary reasons why God has put our church in this great new spot here on the highway — it’s not just so that we can have a “convenient place to worship;” He’s put us here so we can share the message:  For now Christ IS risen!

IV. If now Christ IS risen, It means there is no sacrifice too great, that we can make for Him.

Those first Christians saw Jesus alive, and they sacrificed whatever they had to for His cause:

— Peter and Andrew and James and John left their boats — their livelihood; their jobs — as well as their families — to follow Jesus.

— Acts 2:45 says the disciples in the early church began selling their possessions and were sharing them with each other, as anyone had need.

— The Apostle Paul was one of the “rising stars” in Judaism; but he gave it all up to follow Jesus. He said I counted all my former accomplishments as “dung” for the privilege of knowing this Risen Jesus Christ!

— The deacon Stephen stood before an angry mob, and as he was telling them about Jesus they began to stone him, and he said “I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” He saw Jesus alive, and he was willing to lay down his life for it!

Folks, if Jesus is really risen, it means there is no sacrifice too great for us to make for Him:

— there’s no inconvenience too great (if we have to park at ACS and walk over, that’s nothing if Jesus is alive!)

— if we have to give 10% of our money, that’s NOTHING if Jesus is alive. If like the Rich Young Ruler He asks us for ALL of our money — that’s not too great a sacrifice either, if Jesus is alive.


You know, we had a lot of people make some sacrifices last week to make our BBQ outreach happen: we had people give hours and hours of time; we had people make pans and pans of food, at their own expense; we had people give generously — I heard we had one person pay $2000 to cover the cost of ALL the briskets! — we had another man stay up literally all night watching the meat for the next day. We had people set up and take down, and we still had people out late Saturday night making visits taking those meals out to people they had been praying for, and to our homebound.  There were a lot of sacrifices in our church last week.

But if Jesus is alive, NONE of that was “too much,” was it? There is no “sacrifice” we can make: of time, of money, of effort, of career, of friends, of family, of reputation — even of death — if we know that one soon the sky is going to split open, and Jesus is going to return in power and glory, and everything we have ever “sacrificed” for Him will all going to be repaid 1000-fold in His kingdom — we can’t do too much; we can’t give too much; we can’t sacrifice too much — “if now Christ is risen”!

V. “If Now Christ Is Risen: it means we really can have eternal life

One of the things the Apostle Paul said in I Corinthians 15 was that because Jesus is risen, that for those who have followed Him, “this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.”   Right now, we inhabit bodies which WILL one day die. But because Jesus has risen to eternal life, when we die, we go right to be with Him in heaven — II Corinthians says “to be absent from this body is to be present with the Lord.” And THEN one day, when He returns, our bodies will be raised: this mortal will put on immortality — we will live forever in immortal bodies!  

This isn’t a “fairy story;” this is real. This is what is really going to happen, because Christ is risen. We really do have eternal life when we commit our lives to Him. And that makes all the difference in the world!

It makes all the difference for the family of Cecil Maness this week, a sweet church member who passed away last Friday at the age of 95, after serving the Lord and building churches for so many years. His family will miss him — but at the service last Tuesday they did not grieve like those who have no hope. Because “now Christ is risen”, Cecil has eternal life with Jesus right now!

This week I read about a liberal German theologian from the 1900’s by the name of Rudolph Bultmann. Andreas Kostenberer wrote in his book The Heresy of Orthodoxy that “In keeping with his anti-supernatural, historical-critical methodology, Bultmann believed historical events such as the resurrection were inferior in importance to one’s existential faith in Jesus.”

Basically what Bultmann was saying was, it doesn’t really matter if Jesus really rose from the dead, just a long as you think He did, and it makes you feel better, that’s ok. Folks, I’m here to tell you that Bultmann was wrong!  

Has he not read I Corinthians 15? If Christ is not risen, we are still in our sins; if Christ is nor risen then those who died in Christ have perished; if Christ is not risen there is nothing about all this to just “make us feel good” — it is all absolutely in vain!  It makes all the difference “if Christ IS risen”! 

— when we buried Cecil Maness this week, and laid him in that grave; it mattered to Lanell and to his kids and to all who knew him, if there was really a Jesus who rose from the grave, who gave their husband and father eternal life. It’s not what we “feel” about it; it’s either real or it’s not.

— Cheryl & I have a good friend in North Carolina right now whose child is in intensive care; he fell from a swing at a birthday party and his brain is bleeding. they do not know whether he will live or die. His mom, Sunshine Meister, has written the most touching posts on Facebook about how they have committed their little Nahum to Jesus, who will either heal him here on this earth, or give him eternal healing in heaven. I guaranteed you, it makes a difference to Nahum Meister’s family if Christ really rose from the dead!

— It’s NOT just what I think about it; 

— it’s not just how I “feel” about it;

— It’s DID this really happened or not? DID JESUS RISE FROM THE DEAD OR DID HE NOT?  God’s word tells us here, this is NOT just some mere “academic question;” It makes ALL the difference!! And the Bible says: “BUT NOW CHRIST IS RISEN” — and that makes all the difference!  

CONCLUSION:

Last year Karen Rohr loaned me one of the best books I’ve ever read, called “Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus,” by a former strict Muslim named Nabeel Qureshi. In the book Nabeel tells how after attending a debate at Regent University between a Muslim and a Christian, he admitted to his friends Gary, Mike & David that the Resurrection seemed to be the best explanation of the historical facts about Jesus. 

So his friend David said: ‘So, Nabeel, are you a Christian yet?’

Nabeel said, ’In your dreams!’ And he punched his friend David on the shoulder. He said, ‘We still haven’t looked at whether Jesus claimed to be God, which is a bigger issue to me. Plus, when it comes time to investigate Islam, you’ll see how strong (our) arguments can be.” He said, “As far as arguments go, the only thing Christianity has over Islam is the resurrection.’”

Gary looked at Mike as if he couldn’t believe what he had just heard. ‘The only thing we’ve got is the resurrection? Buddy, that’s all we need!’”

(Nabeel Qureshi, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, pp. 167-168)

Gary was exactly right. And Nabeel Qureshi would soon discover that for himself too:  If Christ really IS risen from the dead — “that’s all we need”! — Everything else falls in line; 

— Everything else takes shape; 

— Everything else in the world gets put into right perspective …

If this one thing is true — and the Bible says this one thing IS true: “For now Christ IS risen!”

INVITATION:

What difference has it made in your life, that Christ is risen?

— maybe you’d say you really ARE a Christian, but you haven’t been acting like it. You’ve been “toying around” with it like Tom Brady did with that trophy. But God’s telling you today, you need to get serious about it.

— maybe there’s an area of your life you’ve been disobeying Him, and He’s telling you to get it right today.

— maybe you’ve said you’re a follower of Jesus, but you haven’t followed through and gotten baptized like these folks did today

— maybe there’s somebody you need to TELL about Jesus 

— maybe you need to invest your life in a church home where you can be active and serve the Risen Jesus on a consistent basis

— OR maybe you’d say, I’ve never really committed my life to this Risen Jesus Christ, and I need to do that today …

About Shawn Thomas

My blog, shawnethomas.com, provides brief devotions from own personal daily Bible reading, as well as some of my sermons, book reviews, and family life experiences.
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