Sunday, March 23, 2008

“He Is Risen! – from What?”

Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed. For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. John 20:8-9 NKJ

He is risen! He is risen indeed!
Yes, Jesus is risen . . .
. . . but from what?
He is risen from the grave.
He is risen from the temptations of the devil.
He is risen from the battle with sin.
He is risen from the taunts and torture of evil men.
He is risen from the unthankfulness, denial and betrayal of relatives and friends.
That is, He is risen from the dead! Alleluia!
He is risen, indeed, and it is Easter. Millions flock to church to celebrate – not as many as on Christmas, but if every Sunday were Easter Sunday . . .
And why is that? Why are churches full on Christmas and Easter, but not so much the other Sundays of the year?
Everybody has their own answer to that. They are called excuses. "I can’t come to church because ___________ ." Pick your best one. But dear people of God, when we say can’t, what we really mean is won’t. That is, it is not that we can’t it means we have something we deem better, more important, or at least more urgent.
Now that might explain why people don’t go to church most Sundays of the year, but it doesn’t really explain why they do go to church on Christmas and Easter. So what is it about Christmas and Easter that brings out the masses? Well, nostalgia and tradition certainly play a part. It’s just what you do. It is what Christmas and Easter are about.
But there is something more to it. I would submit to you that it is our desire and quest for glory. Christmas and Easter are for of glory. They make us feel good. They pump us up. And I suppose that is good. But that kind of high is not sustainable.
So we look for it in other places. Sunday TV is a good place to illustrate this search for glory. Perhaps the easiest way to find this glory is witnessing it. Sports provide a great way to participate in someone else’s glory. The trouble with this is, all we see is the glory, not what went into it. We see Tiger Woods win virtually every time. Yet how did he get to the point where lifting trophies has become so common place? – hard work and practice, and probably a bit of suffering and putting aside other, more fun and glorious things.
Scientific studies show that:
There are certainly minimal requirements to become an expert in a field. Generally you’’ll need to meet any minimal physical requirements, but beyond that, research is showing that how much time you spend practicing a skill far outweighs any amount of inborn talent, if there is such a thing, in showing whether you will learn a skill. In fact, we’’re talking about 10,000 hours of practice being needed to become a world-class expert in your chosen field. K. Anders Ericsson calls this the ten year rule [that’s three hours of practice a day for 10 years]. It takes about ten years of lengthy practice to become an expert in a field.
This isn’’t any sort of practice, though. It isn’t just repetition. It is was Ericsson calls effortful study. You have to be continually stretching yourself to reach beyond your current limits, not doing the same thing over and over and over. . . . To be able to flow, to derive optimal enjoyment from what you are doing, you need to be working on something that is challenging, but not beyond your limits. It has to stretch your skills, without being beyond them.*
There are at least two things we Christians can learn form this. One, since we are sinners at birth, given half of the child’s time is spent sleeping, that means we become expert sinners by the time we are 2. No wonder we call them the terrible twos.
Two, glory does not come easily or without effort and even pain.
Christmas is the beginning, but it does not save us.
Easter is the victory proclamation, but it does not save us.
Good Friday is what saves us – the Passion of the Christ, the death of God. "It is finished!" Jesus cries, and gives up His spirit. And you are saved because it is the death and condemnation you deserve – the punishment that you could never bear, being forsaken, left alone, by the Father. That is something that would utterly destroy you. But thanks be to God and His one and only Son, it something that never has to happen to you – unless you insist on it. For you have been baptized, forgiven of your expertise as a sinner – and delivered from it.
Take a look at what your Baptism means. Turn to page 325 in your hymnal. Look at the Second Part under the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. What benefits does Baptism give? Say it with me, please. "It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare." [Keep your place.]
If your baptism does all that, why jump back into that from which you have been rescued? Why become slaves of sin, death and the devil again?
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?
Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin.
Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God i n Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. (Rom 6:1_13 NKJ)
Now look at the Fourth Part under the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. What does such baptizing with water indicate? Please readi it out loud with me again. "It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever."
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Eph 2:4_7 NKJ)
So why, if Christ has raised into the heavenly places do we insist on diving back into the lowly places wallowing back in the muck of our sin and avoiding the very place where he continues to forgive our sins, bath us in His righteousness, train us for good works, and even give us His very body and blood that we may participate in His resurrection until we receive our own resurrected body?
It’s because church isn’t glorious enough for us.
But, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, [we see where His glory and ours really is to be found]. [F]or the joy that was set before Him [Jesus] endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: "My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives." (Heb 12:2_6 NKJ)
Just as Jesus’ glory came by way fo the cross, so to does ours. Jesus’ glory is in His suffering and death. You want proof?
To this day, the resurrected Jesus insists on showing you His wounds. How did the disciples know the resurrected Jesus was the same Jesus they had followed and seen crucified? He showed them His wounds. He even had Thomas place his finger and hand inside those wounds.
How do you know the resurrected Jesus is here for you? For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes.
(1 Cor 11:26 NKJ)
The glory you seek in the world is in fact all that Jesus left behind. Those things that keep you away from church, it is precisely those things from which Jesus is risen – for you! So I suppose there is a third lesson to be learned from the ten year, 10,000 hours of practice theory – it takes perfect practice to make perfect. If you practice error and mistakes, you will just ingrain those errors and mistakes. No wonder we are so good at sin, eh?
For us the only perfect practice is that which is performed by Christ.
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Eph 2:8_10 NKJ)
This being the case, if we want to become accomplished Christians, we need to be where Christ puts His work into play. For it is only His work that forms us into the people he would have us to be for the sake of our neighbors – our friends, relatives, and the acquaintances with whom we come into contact during our every day lives. God doesn’t need our work, and nothing we do can approach His glory. But our neighbors do benefit from our work, whether for the daily bread of the world, or for the spread of the Gospel good news of Christ.
You want glory? Every Lord’s Day, and wherever and whenever the Word of God is proclaimed for the forgiveness of sins, glory is here for you – in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Please rise.
* From "Make Yourself an Expert," Shards of Consciousness, October 23rd, 2006 by Richard Cockrum,

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