The Real Jesus Gives Real Hope for a Real Life
The Festival of Easter
The Real Jesus Gives Real Hope for a Real Life
Text: 1 Corinthians 15:19-26
Just imagine . . .
Imagine there’s no heaven, it’s easy if you try. No hell below us, above us only sky. Imagine all the people living for today.
Some people can’t imagine a life without the Beatles. But John Lennon infamously challenged the world to do more: Imagine a world with no religion. Imagine no hell. Imagine no heaven. Imagine people living just for the here and now today in this world.
The apostle Paul imagined once what that would be like. Here’s what he said in the second lesson this morning: “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.”
If those things were true, we Christians sure waste a lot of time! What a waste of time reading and studying a Bible that is just as true and real as Harry Potter! What a waste of time helping out others and serving the church! I could have done so many other things in life instead of spending time at a church! What a waste of time going to worship on Sundays! What a waste of time on Easter morning! I could be prepping my Easter ham right now. I could be at the beach with my kids on a beautiful day! I could be getting my chips and dip ready to watch the last day of the Masters and opening weekend of baseball season! What a waste of money! All those gifts and offerings! My car could be paid off. I could have more stashed away for retirement. I could be a little more comfortable.
Just imagine. Imagine no religion. Imagine no hell or heaven. Imagine Jesus being only a good role model or teacher to follow. Imagine if Jesus had died and not risen and life in this world was all we had.
Imagination is one thing. But what is reality? What is the reality of how we live our daily lives? Do we live as if John Lennon’s imagination is our reality?
The old saying goes, “Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die.” It’s a statement that’s been around for thousands of years, and people today live it as much as ever. Why not live it up and party and sow your wild oats? You’re only young once! Why not use a little sign language to tell the other driver what you think or really let that waitress have it? You might never get a chance to express how you feel again! Why not enjoy life? Eat what you want. Buy what you want. Do what you want. Life is short. Have some fun!
Oh but we’re not that bad, right? Maybe we get a little carried away now and then. Maybe we’re a little excessive here and there. Maybe we make a couple bad choices. But we Christians are not that bad, right?
Have you ever done a percentage check on your life? What percentage of your life do you spend on your relationship with the Lord? Let’s say that you spend 30 minutes every single day reading the Bible, you attend one midweek Bible study every week for one hour, and you attend church every single Sunday. I would say that is “pretty good” for the average Christian. Yet that is still barely 3% of your week’s time. What if you don’t read your Bible every day or attend church regularly? What is your percentage then?
Or how do you think your amount of time in church or personal Bible reading compares to the amount of time you spend watching TV? How many of us might watch more TV in a day than we spend with the Lord in a week? Did you burn through reading Hunger Games or The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks? When was the last time you were so passionate about reading God’s Word that everything else took a back seat? When was the last time you parents boldly took the lead and said, “NO! No video games and no board games until we have a devotion together as a family!”?
Dare I ask when the last time was that you did a real, good, godly budget breakdown for your family? What percentage do you give back to God or to help the needy, when God gave you everything in the first place? Note: God does not require any specific amount or percentage of offerings! But how many of us spend more on Big Macs, or cell phone bills, or Red Box rentals than we do in giving thanks to the Lord?
So what is imagination and what is reality? We Christians skeptically laugh at John Lennon’s song Imagine. Mr. Lennon, “Or course there is a heaven. Of course there is a hell. And I’ll be in the first one and not the second one.” But do we Christians actually live as if there is nothing more important in this life than our relationship with God and what happens to us after this life?
What do we say about such sinful living? What do we say about the “this-world-only” living we slip into? What do we say about the “me-centered” thinking that focuses on me and now and now God and heaven? Well, the apostle Paul knew what to say. Again: “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.”
If we think the only purpose of Jesus is to make us feel good about ourselves, to fill our wallets, and to fill our tummies, then we don’t really know who the real Jesus is. If we think that this world is all we have to look forward to, then we don’t really know what real hope is. And if we only treasure our “things” here and now and live for this life, then we don’t really know what real life is.
That’s not the real Jesus. That’s not real hope. That’s not real life.
But, says Paul in verse 20, “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead.” This verse, this fact of Jesus’ resurrection, changes everything.
Plenty of wacky people have walked this earth claiming to be some sort of Messiah. Jimmy Jones and the People’s Temple, Charles Manson, David Koresh in Waco, Texas are just a few of the recent self-proclaimed Messiahs. Jesus also proclaimed that he was the promised Messiah and Savior of the world. Then he was arrested, crucified and died.
So was he the Messiah? Did it work? Did he save people? Did he bring forgiveness? YES! We know it’s true because he rose from the dead! That’s a fact. Just a few verses before this section of 1 Corinthians 15 Paul says that over 500 people saw Jesus alive after he had died. He is the Messiah. He did rise from the dead.
And this resurrection proves that Jesus is the Son of God. It proves that he forgave sins. It proves that he conquered death. And, it proves that you will rise to a new life too. Look one more time at verse 20: “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”
In Old Testament times the Israelites brought firstfruits offerings at the beginning of the grain harvest. This offering was a guarantee of the crops that would rise to life at harvest time. So Jesus is the firstfruits. He is the guarantee that we believers who fall asleep in death will rise to new life in heaven.
Here’s more proof, in verses 21-22: “For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” Just as sin and death entered the world through Adam in the Garden of Eden, and thus all of us became sinners doomed to eternal death, so also through Jesus Christ all sins are forgiven and we have the sure and certain hope of eternal life.
Easter morning changes everything. We do have something better than this life. We do have something more valuable than worldly things. We do have something to look forward to.
Jesus once said, as it says on your service folder cover, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” Jesus won for us eternal life. He proved it on Easter morning and guaranteed that because he lives we also will live.
So why focus on earthly things and waste time with things that don’t matter? Sure a good book here and there or an episode of American Idol once a week might be nice. And yes, it’s alright to have a flat screen TV. But why not then focus most of our time, talents, and treasures on what truly matters—Jesus our Savior from sin?
Why not read the Bible daily to learn about the God who loved you enough to die for you? Why not come weekly to worship and praise the God who saved you? Why not join with other Christians in Bible studies and fellowship to learn more about the salvation that is yours? Why not give your best in offerings to him? We can’t keep any of our money anyways, why not give our best to him who gave us his Son? Why not talk about Jesus’ forgiveness with your neighbor? If there is something to look forward to after this life, why not someone or invite them to church?
Jesus’ resurrection changes the way we live in this life. The Real Jesus Gives Real Hope for a Real Life in heaven. Suddenly our focus shifts. It shifts away from ourselves. It shifts away from this world and its problems. It shifts to the eternal life that is to come.
So as we look forward to what is to come, Paul gives us some more to chew on to boost our excitement. He gives us a little timeline for what will happen on the Last Day, Judgment Day, when Jesus comes back. Verse 23: “But each [will be raised] in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.” So Christ is the first to be made alive like this. Then, when he comes back on Judgment Day, believers will be raised to life as well.
That is the end of all things. Verse 24: “Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” The Father sent his Son Jesus to accomplish a task—to redeem mankind and to destroy all dominion, authority, and power led by Satan. When this mission is accomplished, that will be the End.
Dear friends, we’re getting close. Jesus already crushed Satan at the cross. Jesus already conquered death. Jesus already has put his enemies under his feet. We’re getting close. But on the Last Day, that will be the final destruction. That will be when Satan is finally defeated for all time. That will be when the last enemy, death, will be destroyed for all time.
Wow! What a majestic, glorious, and powerful King we have! Easter morning was just the beginning of it! Now we have a King that sits on his throne in heaven with enemies under his feet, caring for us, comforting us, and strengthening us. And soon we have a King that will come back, and all at once on the Last Day will raise our bodies from the dead and destroy all our enemies once and forever. That is the Real Jesus Who Gives Real Hope for a Real Life forever.
What possibly could be more important than that? What possibly could we value more than that? What possibly would we want to spend all our time on more than knowing more about that?
Just imagine . . . don’t imagine what John Lennon sang about. That’s the real waste of time because it is just that—imagination. No. Imagine something real. Imagine this: The loud trumpet blasts and booms through the skies. Christ the King rides triumphantly from the heavens as King of kings and Lord of lords. He raises you to give you a new and glorious body with no aches or pains or wrinkles or love handles, a body glorious like his. You watch as he destroys every last enemy, casting them to hell for all eternity.
You join in tumultuous shouts of praise and alleluia and look around to se a countless band joining you in song. There’s Abraham and Moses and David and Elijah and Peter and John and Paul and your grandfather and your mother and your sister and your son. Yes, with all these believers who fought the long-hard fight of faith and with all angels you join to sing: This is the feast of victory for our God! Alleluia! You fall at the feet of the Lamb who was slain and you join to worship the risen Christ for all eternity in unending joy and peace.
Just imagine. Just imagine it, because it is real. It is true. It is a fact. Because Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Posted on April 9, 2012, in Church, Sermons and tagged 1 Corinthians, 1 Corinthians 15, Charles Manson, Church, Daved Koresh, Easter, Easter Sunday, End Times, Heaven, Heaven & Hell, Hell, Jimmy Jones, John Lennon, Judgment Day, Last Day, Messiah, Resurrection, Savior, Sermons. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.