I Believe in the Resurrection!

I BELIEVE IN THE RESURRECTION

THE APOSTLES CREED

  • I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth;
  • I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, Born of the Virgin Mary, Suffered under Pontius Pilate, Was crucified, died, and was buried; He descended to the dead.  On the third day He rose again; He ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of the Father, and will come again to judge the living and the dead.
  • I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic [universal] church, the Communion of Saints, the Forgiveness of Sins, the Resurrection of the Body, and the Life Everlasting.

Today is Easter – and it is also April Fool’s Day – so I wanted to ask if you like practical jokes?  I’m one of those serious and kind of boring people – so I know that my sense of humor is pretty limited.  Penny’s family on the other hand loves practical jokes.  Penny keeps working on me to develop a better sense of humor.  And I keep working on her to develop an awareness of the times you need to be serious.

There are lots of things that are fun to joke around with.  But then there are some things that are very serious – that we don’t want to joke around with.  The biggest thing that we don’t want to joke around with is the Resurrection.  We want to have complete confidence that Jesus really did Rise from the dead – and to know that because He lives we know that we will live also!  It really is a matter of life and death.  In this case – eternal death or eternal life.

We have been studying the Apostles Creed – our faith map or faith GPS to help guide us on our journey from Death to Life.  This morning – we focus on our final destination – the end of the line Eternity.  This Easter Sunday – God wants to help you to consider very carefully Where are you going to spend eternity?  You see, there is one thing that every person on this planet shares in common – we are all going to come to that final destination.

On this Easter Sunday, as you think about how important is the Resurrection – consider the fact that the Bible says there are only two choices for where you will spend eternity.  The Bible is very clear that you will either spend eternity in the beauty of Heaven or the horrors of Hell.  God doesn’t want anyone to go to hell – that’s why Jesus died on the Cross – to pay the penalty for sin, conquer death, and open the doors of Heaven.  God does want everyone to know how bad hell really is.  These days most people never talk about hell or treat it as a joke.  The Bible makes it clear that hell is no joke.  Hell is the place of punishment and eternal fires.  God wants everyone to know how bad hell is – so that He can do everything possible to help anyone from ending up there.

On Easter – and every day – God does all He can to help people choose to follow Jesus so they will make it to the right destination of Heaven.  We’ll talk more about Heaven in a few minutes.  The most important thing to know about Heaven – is that it is the place where everything is perfect – No more suffering.  No more sickness.  No more tears – because there is no more death.

As I said at the beginning – I am fairly serious – and I want to put that seriousness to work this morning to help you consider very carefully where you will spend eternity.  Heaven or Hell?  Jesus died and rose again to help you choose heaven.

God wants to help you to reach the right destination by first answering the big question:  Why should I believe in the resurrection? 

WHY  Should I Believe in the Resurrection?

Why should I believe in the Resurrection?  You might find this a little bit hard to believe – but believing in the Resurrection is actually a lot easier for you and me today than it was on the very first Easter Sunday.  On the first Easter Sunday – not a single one of the Apostles was singing the Hallelujah Chorus.  They had all given up.

As far as they could tell – all of their hopes and dreams from the last three years they had invested in following Jesus were completely shattered.  Gone.  Nothing left.  A total and complete loss.

The women who followed Jesus were just as defeated – but at least they were still willing to go to Jesus’ grave.  But the only reason they went to the grave was to show their respect and anoint Jesus’ body, so it wouldn’t smell too bad.

Not a single one of Jesus’ followers trusted the message that He had tried over and over to explain to them – and to make sure they knew it really was going to happen.

The first Easter started as the darkest and most depressing day imaginable for all of Jesus’ followers – until they got to His grave and got the biggest shock of their lives. 

Luke 24:1-7 (NLT)    Very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, taking spices to anoint Jesus’ body.  They found that the stone had been rolled away from the tomb and Jesus’ body was gone…  They were terrified!  …The angels asked them, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive?  Jesus isn’t here!  He is risen from the dead!  Don’t you remember that He told you… He must be crucified, and that He would rise again on the third day?”

Believing that a dead body really could be brought back to life again was not easy.  The women couldn’t believe it.  The apostles couldn’t believe it.  The skepticism regarding the reality of the Resurrection was well summarized by Thomas – the doubter.  Thomas spoke for all of us when he said, “Unless I see the nail marks in Jesus’ hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” 

We all need good reasons for believing.  Jesus gave Thomas the reasons that he needed to stop doubting and believe.  The good news we celebrate this morning is that God gives all of us the evidence, the good reasons we need to overcome our doubts – and to believe.

The women were shocked and amazed – when they saw the stone to Jesus’ grave was rolled away.  The men were a little harder to convince – but their lives were changed when the saw the empty tomb.  Even Thomas stopped doubting when he talked to the Risen Jesus and put his hand in Jesus’ side and felt His wounds – and knew that he wasn’t hallucinating.  It really happened.  Jesus really did conquer death!

On this Easter Sunday – God wants to help you to wrestle with all of your doubts.  God wants to help you, like Thomas, to examine the evidence and know that it is safe for you to overcome your doubts and to believe that Jesus died and rose again for YOU. 

1 Corinthians 15:3-6 (NLT)    I passed on to you what was most important…  Christ died for our sins.  Jesus was buried, and He was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures taught.  He was seen by Peter and then by all Twelve of the apostles.  After that, Jesus was seen by more than 500 believers at the same time.  Most of them are still alive today.

Today – on this Easter Sunday – God wants to help you to grow in the assurance – there are more than enough good reasons to believe in the Resurrection.  God wants to give you complete confidence that you will be raised up from death.  God also wants to give you confidence that you really do want to go to heaven – and that you definitely do not want to go to hell.

Do I  REALLY  Want to Go to Heaven?

It doesn’t do you a whole lot of good to know that Jesus can raise you up from death and take you to heaven – if you aren’t sure that you want to go to heaven.  We’ve all heard the joke – I’d rather go to hell after I die – because that’s where all my friends will be and all of the parties are.  God wants you to know that Hell is not a party.  Hell is the worst torture chamber imaginable.  Heaven is a party – it is the greatest celebration imaginable – and it lasts for all eternity.

Sometimes we get scary pictures of heaven.  I’m going to sit on a cloud playing a harp for eternity.  Musicians might love it.  I would probably only last about 10 minutes before going completely insane.

The Bible uses a lot of pictures to help us see the big picture of what heaven is like.  One picture is of a Wedding feast.  Have you ever been to a Wedding Feast?  For Penny and me – some of the happiest times of our lives – were going to the wedding feasts for two of our sons.

Another picture of Heaven is that it is a place where streets are paved with gold.  Think about the most beautiful castle or city that you have ever visited.  I think about walking through Buckingham Palace or walking through the Vatican in Rome.  As elegant and glamorous as those places are – they didn’t have streets that were paved with gold.  God reminds us that the greatest beauty you have seen in this world – won’t even hold a candle to the beauty of heaven.

I think that the most powerful picture of heaven – is seeing that it is a place where there is no more sickness, no more suffering, where every tear is wiped away because death is no more.   

God wants to help you open your mind to how much greater heaven is – than anything we have experienced in this world – by giving you a great picture comes from 1 Corinthians 15.  God wants to help you see that heaven is as much greater than our life in this world – as a plant is compared to a seed.

1 Corinthians 15:35-38 (MSG)    Some skeptic is sure to ask, “Show me how the resurrection works.  …We have a parallel experience to the resurrection in gardening.  You plant a “dead” seed; soon there is a flourishing plant.  …The dead body that we bury in the ground and the resurrection body that comes from it will be even more dramatically different!

Picture in your mind the difference between a tomato seed and a tomato plant.  Amazing.  Your very best day on earth – doesn’t even compare to your worst day in heaven.  No more sickness.  No more suffering.  No more death.  Perfect relationships.

Best of all – you don’t have to wait until after you die to experience the power of the resurrection. 

How Does My Life Change —  RIGHT  NOW

Jesus said that He came to offer us 2 great gifts – Abundant Life in this world and Eternal Life in heaven.  Jesus’ gift of Abundant life begins the moment you first believe in Him and choose to follow Him.

John 10:10    Jesus said, The devil’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy.  I came so all people can have an abundant life in this world and eternal life in heaven.  A bigger and better life than they ever dreamed possible.

When we trust in Jesus – we know that God loves us.  When we trust in Jesus – we are able to grow in loving others.  Faith in Jesus helps us to overcome evil and choose to grow in holiness.  Best of all – trusting in Jesus shows you that your life in this world is not a waste of time.

How important is it to you – to know that your life is not a waste of time?  The Nazis were some of the most evil and destructive people the world has ever seen.  They did a lot of experimenting on how to make their enemies suffer as much as possible.  They experimented with torture and executions.  What they discovered was the most effective way to make their enemies suffer – was to give them work that was meaningless.  They would force them to dig a hole one day and then to fill it up the next day.  When they made people feel that the work they were doing was completely meaningless – it was their most effective tool for destroying people’s lives.

On this Easter Sunday – God wants to make sure that because of Jesus’ Resurrection – you can have total confidence that your life is not a waste of time. 

1 Corinthians 15:58 (TLB/NLT)    My dear brothers and sisters, since future victory is sure, be strong and steady.  Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever wasted or useless as it would be if there were no resurrection.   

God wants to give you the confidence and joy of knowing that you are building your eternity right now.  Everything you do for Jesus – being holy, being loving, helping others – it is not wasted or useless.  Everything you do for Jesus – helps you to experience the power and joy of heaven that is breaking in to your life to help you see the future you are headed to.

Easter is the greatest day of celebration – in all of history.  God wants to do all He can to make sure that no one gets left out of being a part of Jesus’ victory!

God Doesn’t Anyone to Be  LEFT  OUT  of Jesus’ Victory! 

To celebrate Jesus’ Sacrifice and Resurrection – we are going to celebrate Communion.  We want to help you to be able to give thanks that Jesus loves you so much that He was willing to go to the Cross to die for you.

John 3:16 (MSG)    This is how much God loves the whole world: God gave His only begotten Son.  And this is why: So that no one need be destroyed; by believing in Jesus, anyone can have a whole and everlasting life.

When you come to the table this morning – God wants to make sure that you never forget what Jesus did for you – and the victory that Jesus won for you.

1 Peter 2:24    Jesus carried our sins to the Cross – so that we could be set free from sin and death – and live for what is right.

Easter changed the history of the world – and our eternal destiny.  The world was changed forever when the women went to the tomb and found that Jesus was not there.  He was risen from the dead.

Because Jesus is alive, Risen from the dead – you can live an abundant life right now and you can have complete confidence – that because He lives – you shall live also!

 

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