Thanks Be to God! He Gives Us the Victory through Jesus Christ Our Lord!
Thanks Be to God! He Gives Us the Victory through Jesus Christ Our Lord!
Text: 1 Corinthians 15:51-57
It hurts, doesn’t it? Death. It hurts. A lot. To see your grandmother lying lifeless, to see your father no longer able to play catch or give piggyback rides—it hurts. To have your sister, your child here and then gone—it hurts. To see the person you love so much reduced to a pile of ashes in an urn—it hurts. A lot.
We human beings are so smart and so advanced. We have phones that talk to us and computers that solve problems for us. We can split atoms. We can fly in planes. We can walk on the moon. We have cures for all kinds of sicknesses and diseases and miracle anti-aging creams and gels. But we can’t seem to stop death. It doesn’t matter who you are or how powerful you or how rich you are. You can’t stop death. Ponce de Leon’s fountain of youth in St. Augustine is as pointless as paying the money to see the cheap tourist trap. Everyone will die. And it hurts. A lot.
Death devastates us. Death shakes our equilibrium and shatters our spirits. It brings oceans of tears and waves of emotions. It leaves gaps in our lives and holes in our hearts. Death hurts. It aches. It burns. It stings. A lot.
Where does this powerful sting of death come from? The apostle Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:56: “The sting of death is sin.”
God never intended for people to die. When he created Adam and Eve, he made them in his own image—perfect, holy, imperishable, and immortal. Adam and Eve were never going to die. They were going to go on living in paradise forever.
But then they sinned. They disobeyed God and lost the perfection he had given them. In Genesis we hear a very stark contrast in Adam’s family line. Genesis 5 tells us Adam, “had a son in his own likeness, in his own image.” From that point forward, no person was ever perfect again. All human beings thereafter have been born in the sinful likeness and image of their parents.
This is a problem. A big problem. God says, “The wages of sin is death.” The cost, the price to pay for sinning against God is death. That’s why none of us can avoid death. The powerful sting behind death is sin, and we all are sinners.
Where does sin get its power from? The apostle Paul tells us this too in verse 56: “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.”
The law means everything that God demands and requires from us. The Ten Commandments for example. Loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Love your neighbor as yourself. These are the kinds of things that God requires of us. This is God’s law. When we disobey God’s law, the power of that law is that we sin. And the stinging power of sin is that we then die. That hurts. A lot.
I know a man who lost his son in a motorcycle accident and decades later still struggles with overwhelming sadness. I know of a woman who lost her husband too early for her liking and distraught with sorrow and gushing tears nearly threw herself on the casket. I know a man who lost his first wife to cancer more than twenty years ago and is still today angry with God. I know of a family, a pastor’s family no less, that lost two of their four children—one an 11-month-old and one a 14-year-old—within three years.
That’s not fair! Why do we have to suffer so much? Why do we have to have so much pain? Isn’t God a loving God? I’m a pretty good person! Why do I have to suffer so much?
But are we really that good? Do we really love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength? Is God our first thought in the morning and our last thought in the evening? Do we do everything for him and for his glory? Or could God be a bit of an afterthought sometimes? Might God fit into our lives, but only when we have time or aren’t busy? Why is it that we dress up extra nice, go all out, give special gifts, and pack pews on Easter Sunday, but every other Sunday isn’t really that big of a deal?
Do we really love others as we love ourselves? You may have stopped to help that single mother who dropped her groceries while juggling three kids. You may have donated items to our community rummage sale yesterday or our food bank. You may help support a family member in need. But how do you feel about that weird family across the street? How do you feel about the terrorists that are trying to kill you? How do you feel about those who have different political views than you? Our neighbor is everyone and God wants us to love everyone as we would love ourselves.
Do we really obey God’s law, his commands as much as we think? Maybe you haven’t murdered anyone and you have been faithful to your spouse and you haven’t knocked off a bank before. But have you ever blown your top at someone before? That’s murder. Have you ever had your eyes open when watching TV? Lust is adultery. Have you ever been even a little bit greedy, or jealous of what others have? Greed is stealing.
If we were really that “good” then we wouldn’t ever suffer and we wouldn’t ever die. But we do suffer and we will die because, “The wages of sin is death.” Not just big sins. Not just lots of sins. All sins. Every sin. Big sins. Little sins. My sins.
“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.” Why do we suffer? Why is this life tough? Why do we have pains and problems? Why do we die? Because I am a sinner and so are you. That hurts. A lot.
There’s only one solution to this problem. There’s only one way to fix this mess. If somehow sin could be taken away, then there would be no sting. If somehow sin and its sting could be taken away, then there would be no sting or power in death. If somehow death and its stinging power and hurt could be taken away, then we would only have joy, happiness, and peace.
Christian friends, hear the most glorious and triumphant words. 1 Corinthians 15:54-57: “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But Thanks Be to God! He Gives Us the Victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Do you need to conquer imperfection? Jesus lived with perfection. Do you need to pay for your sins? Jesus did when he suffered and died on the cross. And that hurt, a lot. Do you need to conquer death? Jesus did when he rose back to life.
There is one who avoided the power of sin because he didn’t sin. There is one who avoided the sting of death because the grave could not hold him. There is one who holds the victory over death and hell. Jesus Christ. And Thanks Be to God! He Gives Us the Victory through our Jesus Christ Our Lord. Because Jesus rose victorious, we are victorious.
Here then is the result of that victory: Judgment Day will not bring us punishment and eternal death. Now that we have victory in Jesus, something completely different will take place for us. Verse 51: “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will all be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.”
Because Jesus lives, we will live. We will not lie in the sleep of death forever. When Jesus returns on Judgment Day we will all be changed in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye. It will be instantaneous and immediate. How will we be changed? Our dead, perishable bodies will be raised as new, imperishable bodies. Our aging, aching, arthritic, diseased, distressed, mortal bodies will be raised as new, immortal and perfect bodies. We will be changed to be just like our Savior Jesus Christ.
Imagine that! A time when you will have no pains, no seasonal allergies, no backaches or headaches, no gray hair, no lost hair, no wrinkles, no love handles—only perfect life for all eternity.
How could that be? No sin? No death? Forever? Yes! Verse 54: “When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.” When we are in heaven we will never again experience imperfection, suffering, sin, or death because death has been swallowed up in our Easter victory. Thanks Be to God! He Gives Us the Victory through Jesus Christ Our Lord!
And thanks be to God, that victory through Jesus is not just for some distant day in the future. That victory is not only for when you die or when Judgment Day comes. That victory through Jesus Christ our Lord is for you to enjoy right now.
While we are still alive in this world, we will still have sadness. We will still have troubles and trials and suffering and sorrow. And unless Jesus comes back first, we will still experience physical death. But that is exactly why God gave us the victory through Jesus—so that we can have peace and joy now.
Many of you know Jacob Hoff who was our vicar, or intern, last year. His mother-in-law is still suffering from the brain tumor and cancer they found last fall. Her days are very limited. Yet she still calls her brain cancer her “gift from Jesus” because she gets to be an example of faith every day and will see Jesus sooner than expected.
I know of another pastor’s wife who died from cancer a few years ago. Yet shortly before her death she insisted that her funeral be filled with upbeat hymns of praise and joy because she was not defeated. She was victorious through Jesus Christ.
There was another pastor 400 years ago who had four of his five children die. Then his wife died, leaving him alone with his six-year-old son. Yet when thinking about Christ’s resurrection he wrote this:
This is a sight that gladdens—What peace it does impart!
Now nothing ever saddens the joy within my heart.
No gloom shall ever shake, no foe shall ever take
The hope which God’s own Son in love for me has won.
This makes me think also of my friend Pastor Ben Pederson across the state in Spring Hill, Florida. Pastor Pederson is about five years older than I. This time of year is always a busy and stressful time for pastors. But he didn’t expect it would be this busy or stressful. Several weeks ago they found out that his wife Emily has leukemia. Not just any cancer, either. She needs a bone marrow transplant. They have five children. Yet here is what Ben wrote in an Email to me two days ago:
We . . . are so thankful that as the Lord has answered [prayers] (as he always does), his will has been for Emily to respond to the treatments. The big trial will be the transplant. Much more painful and about 4 months away from home. That’s a little hard sometimes, sitting here in March and thinking she won’t really be home (outside of a few weeks in April) until September. But the Lord will bring us through this as well . . . Some would think, what a week to have all this going on! You poor soul! [But] you know as well as I do [Phil that] it’s just the opposite. What week would be better to have all this going on! The Lord kept his biggest promise, the tomb is empty. He’ll keep every promise.
It does sting, it does hurt to live in this world. Sometimes a lot. That’s because we and this world are sinful. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have joy or peace. We do. Every day. Our sins are forgiven. Eternal life awaits.
Live in joy. Live in peace. Live in hope. Because, Thanks Be to God! He Gives Us the Victory through our Jesus Christ Our Lord.
Posted on March 31, 2013, in Church, Sermons and tagged 1 Corinthians, 1 Corinthians 15, Church, Death, Die, Easter, Hurt, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Law, LORD, Love the Lord, Love Your Neighbor, Risen, Sermons, Sin, Sting, Ten Commandments, Terrorists, Victory. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.