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Sunday, March 9, 2008

Resurrection Day!

March 23rd is Easter this year! This is that glorious day in the church year in which we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! This is a joyous celebration for so many different reasons! There is no story, there is no philosophy, there is no religious felling, there is no promotion at work that pours out more hope or more excitement than the resurrection of Jesus from the dead! And it is not just because a guy died one day and rose three days later (though that is remarkable in itself), but on top of that, it is what happens as a result of that resurrection that is so marvelous.

When humanity fell into sin because Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden tree in the garden, the entire planet suffered the consequences. Death was introduced, not just to humans, but to all that was made! In Romans 8:20-21 the apostle Paul says this, "For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage and decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God!" In other words, the world suffers death and decay because of the invasion of sin brought about by humanity. All that God has made suffers as a result of sin and, as Paul goes on to say, "has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time" (Romans 8:22) waiting to be renewed and remade into a creation that no longer faces death but has an abundance of life.

So the creation suffers frustration as it awaits redemption. And, as a part of that creation, we too suffer frustration as we await redemption. Paul goes on, "Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies." (Romans 8:23) You and I, along with this entire planet, suffer because of our sins. And not just spiritually, but physically as well. We face death, pain, illnesses, poverty, rejection, loneliness, etc. because of sin (note, these things are not sins, they are among the results of sin, but not sins in themselves!). With the creation, we inherently know that something is not right, and we await for redemption.

And then Jesus walks out of the grave! Jesus who suffered the worst of the effects of sin on the cross and died poor, rejected, and lonely, walks out of the grave! He walks out of the grave having conquered death. Death tried to hold down Jesus just like it does to the rest of us, but Jesus conquered it and came back to life. And, since Jesus is more powerful than death, he comes back to life to give life to you and me! When we face death and think it cannot be avoided we look to the risen Christ and see that death no longer can defeat us! We have resurrection, not death, as our end (and beginning!). And this is not true just for a few Christians who believe in Jesus, but the whole of creation will receive the benefits of this resurrection. All that is created and is groaning as in pains of childbirth will cease its groaning and begin laughing in the new life it receives! And you and I with the creation! Why? Because Jesus walked out of the grave. Deathless, joyous eternity is ours because of Christ. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:42-44, "So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body." Because Jesus walked out of the grave, the whole creation will be redeemed! Glory be to Jesus!

Pastor Bob

Speaking of Jesus: The Warm Embrace

Last month in "Speaking of Jesus" we discussed how evangelism is the delivering of good news. You are simply telling people what Jesus has done for them. And that is what evangelism is. Period. However, that is not all we are called to do as Christians when it comes to our relationships. The more and more I think about evangelism (which is derived the Greek word meaning "good news") the more and more I become disenchanted with the way the church has typically done evangelism. Too often we operate with an "I'm right / they're wrong" mentality. Evangelism ceases to be an endeavor to introduce the life saving / changing Gospel of Jesus and an argument over who is right and who is wrong. And, to be honest, this is not an argument we really want to enter into, so we ourselves run from evangelism.

Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, wonders if the way we talk about evangelism and mission isn't part of the problem. In his book The Radical Reformission he says we need to leave behind this language of "outreach." That word sounds too much like we are keeping people at an arm's length away from us. We can throw Jesus at them and walk away. Driscoll says we should start seeing our mission in this world as one that doesn't so much "reach out" to it, but one that embraces it. Instead of standing on a soap box and telling the world how to fix itself, we as the church should embrace the world and love our neighbors.

For me, this is a total shift in thinking. And I love it! We are not out to conquer the world and prove ourselves right. This "us who are right vs. they who are wrong" attitude does damage to our attempts at sharing the gospel. Our attitude should be one of sinners loving each other through life's highs and lows and sinners delivering the good news that Jesus has redeemed the highs, the lows, and you, and even me!

Not to go off on too much of a tangent here, but this is one reason why it is so critical for us to have confession on Sunday morning. Obviously, it is important because we need to receive forgiveness from Christ for our own sins. But in a secondary way, it reminds us that we are poor miserable sinners. We are only here by grace. We only know about Jesus and have a relationship with Jesus because God is gracious to us and forgives us. It is not because we are somehow better than non-Christians. Honestly, I see the lives of some non-Christians and am struck by how they really are "better" than I am! But we are all sinners. We all need forgiveness. We all need Jesus. So let's embrace the culture with this redeeming news!

Book Recommendations
Mark Driscoll, The Radical Reformission. Zondervan Publishing House, 2004.
Mark Driscoll, Confessions of a Reformission Rev. Zondervan Publishing House, 2006.

Pastor Bob

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